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Q&A

General Q&A about Judaism, Jewish texts, and Jewish life. This site does not give personal advice.

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Who protected the women and children of Reuven, Gad, and 1/2 Menashe during the conquest?

The conquest of the land described in the book of Yehoshua took seven years (Arakhin 13a).1 It is only at the end of the conquest that Yehoshua dismisses the "shock troops". We know from Yehoshua 1...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by robev‭

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Is it preferable to not say Mincha early on a fast day?

On a fast day during Shacharit (the morning prayer), individuals do not say עננו / Aneinu (a special fast-day prayer), in case they don't complete the fast, and instead say it during Mincha (the af...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Mithical‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Isaac Moses‭

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Why do Egyptian priests keep land while Levites don't get any

In Gen 47:22, during the years of famine, Joseph takes land from everyone except the Egyptian priests. This is in direct contrast to the Jewish priests who will not own land in the Land of Israel....

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by ckoppelman‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by simyou‭

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Doubling up on a Siyum

Asking for a friend: If I learn with a Chavrusa and we both finish a Masechta together, assuming that we wait until different days to make the Siyum (whether permitted or not), if we each attend th...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by רבות מחשבות‭  ·  edited 2y ago by רבות מחשבות‭

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Why is it necessary to ask a Rabbi?

In various places on this site, including the FAQ, we have the following disclaimer: Like Wikipedia, this site makes no guarantee of validity, and does not offer professional (particularly rabbini...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by System‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by System‭

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(When) can one listen to Christian music, according to Igrot Moshe?

A post elsewhere cites Igrot Moshe (Yoreh De'ah 2:56) as saying that listening to (hearing?) Christian music is forbidden (asur). A comment there elaborates: He states that the restriction is r...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by user8078‭

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What happened to the end of the Aleph-Beis in Kol Mekadesh?

One of the songs commonly sung on Friday night, which begins Kol Mekadesh Shevi'i, follows an alphabetic acrostic. After the introductory stanza, each stanza contains four phrases: the first three ...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by ploni‭

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How obligatory is Eicha on Tish'ah b'Av?

On Tish'ah b'Av, it's a universal (I think) tradition to read megillat Eicha at night (and some also read during the day); see Shulchan Aruch 559:2. Generally, this is read in a communal setting, b...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by magicker72‭  ·  edited 2y ago by magicker72‭

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Who was Yitzchaki?

In his commentary on Beresheet 36:31, Ibn Ezra writes: "ואלה המלכים. יש אומרים כי בדרך נבואה נכתבה זאת הפרשה. ויצחקי אמר בספרו כי בימי יהושפט נכתבה זאת הפרשה. ופי' הדורות כרצונו הכי קרא שמו יצחק כ...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Harel13‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by user8078‭

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Why is Shlissel Challah permissible?

In ancient times, the Roman pagan holiday of Saturnalia included a practice of baking some type of cake with a fava bean hidden inside, with a prize for whoever got the piece containing the bean. I...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭  ·  edited 2y ago by msh210‭

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Examples of derivations

At the end of Korbanos during davening there is a Baraisa that starts with רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל אוֹמֵר. It tells us of different methods of derivation that can be used throughout Tanach. Does anyone ...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Dani‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Lo Ani‭

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Read the wrong haftara. Now what?

Suppose someone started reading a haftara for a different week, or according to a different custom for the same week, or a piece of navi that's not a haftara at all. What should the community do? ...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by msh210‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by ploni‭

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Is there any connection between the Sotah, the Mizbeiach, and the Beis HaMikdash keychain?

In exactly three contexts, the Mishnah notes that there was an amah square marble slab with a ring, using exactly the same language each time. The first is in Sotah 2:2, regarding the Sotah procedu...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭

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Blowing a Shofar with a mask over the wide end

Last night, as part of his weekly livestream COVID update, Rabbi Dr. Glatt quoted Rav Mordechai Willig that one should put a mask over the wide end of the Shofar while blowing to prevent spreading ...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by eliyahu‭  ·  edited 2y ago by MTL‭

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Why didn't Yitzchak help his father?

In Bereishis 22, the story of the עקידת יצחק (binding of Isaac) takes place. When Avraham sets up the altar in Bereishis 22:9, the Pasuk says: וַיָּבֹ֗אוּ אֶֽל־הַמָּקוֹם֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָֽמַר־ל֣וֹ הָאֱל...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Dani‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Harel13‭

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How did accidental killers sustain themselves while living in the cities of refuge?

An accidental killer flees to one of the cities of refuge for an indeterminate time (until the death of the kohein gadol, or even longer if the timing is unfortunate). The cities of refuge are cit...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Alaychem‭

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Why not immerse in the early morning on erev Rosh Hashana?

Chaye Adam 138:5 writes: וראוי לכל אדם לטבול במקוה או בנהר ולא יקדים לטבול עד שעה קודם חצות היום In my own translation: It's seemly for every man to immerse in a ritualarium or a river [on the d...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by msh210‭  ·  edited 2y ago by DonielF‭

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Naming a daughter when there's no minyan around

Normally in my experience, a baby girl is named in the presence of a minyan, generally at a Torah reading. If her parents are not expecting to be with a minyan for the foreseeable future, should th...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by msh210‭  ·  edited 2y ago by msh210‭

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Is it better to not tell someone she's Jewish if she won't follow it?

This is a hypothetical question; it doesn't apply to anyone I know, but I heard an anecdote and it led me to wonder. Suppose someone discovers that her maternal grandmother was in fact Jewish, but...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Why aren't weddings on specific days?

In Mishnah Ketubot 1:1, it says: בְּתוּלָה נִשֵּׂאת לַיּוֹם הָרְבִיעִי, וְאַלְמָנָה לַיּוֹם הַחֲמִישִׁי. A virgin is married on the fourth day [of the week] and a widow on the fifth day Why don't...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Dani‭  ·  edited 2y ago by DonielF‭

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Why is "life from confusion" included in the agricultural Hoshana-prayer?

The theme of the "Adama mei-arer" Hoshana-prayer that we say on Hoshana Rabba appears to be asking God to protect our agriculture. With one possible exception, every element appears to be about the...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Isaac Moses‭

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What is the status of a human-mermaid offspring?

Bechorot 8a discusses a species called dolfinim, which, in Rashi's understanding, are merpeople and can bear viable offspring with humans. Let's suppose that merpeople actually exist as Rashi descr...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭

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Should the repetition of the amidah be discontinued?

My understanding is that the repetition of the prayer popularly referred to as the Shmoneh Esrei was instituted to assist people who were illiterate and could not say the prayer themselves. Since t...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by withoutatrace‭  ·  edited 2y ago by DonielF‭

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Do Felt Garments Require Tzitzit?

Various halachic authorities (see e.g. Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank in Responsa Har Tzvi 1:9, and discussion here) exempt garments produced from sheets of synthetic materials (e.g. nylon) from Tzitzit, ...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by רבות מחשבות‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Isaac Moses‭

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How does one pray Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur alone?

I'm somewhat competent in praying alone on weekdays and Shabbat, with the current pandemic providing a forcing function. I prefer to be part of a community and be able to rely on the sh'liach tzib...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Where did Bnei Yisroel get slaves in the desert?

In several locations (example: Yoma 75a.14 ), Chazal mention that Bnei Yisroel had slaves even while they were in the midbar. Where did they get them from? Did they take them from Egypt? Did they t...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Silver‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by manassehkatz‭

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For taking challah, (how) do you account for the flour in sourdough starter?

I understand that one should take challah when baking bread made with at least 10 cups of flour. (That article says 14 for saying the b'racha but down to 10 for taking at all.) How does this requ...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by msh210‭

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Is one in violation of Lifnei Iveir for setting himself up to sin later?

Avodah Zarah 6a.16-6b.1: והתניא: אמר רבי נתן, ״מנין שלא יושיט אדם כוס של יין לנזיר ואבר מן החי לבני נח? ת"ל (ויקרא יט, יד) ולפני עור לא תתן מכשול.״‏ It was taught in a Braisa: R' Nassan said, "Fro...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by robev‭

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Taking pills with letters on Shabbos

There are many medicines which are permitted to be used on Shabbos in various situations. However, some of them have letters written or engraved on them. Is it permitted to take these pills on Shab...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by ploni‭

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Can a terminally-ill patient give up his ventilator to save another?

Last week I took a class on priorities in triage -- one ventilator, two people who will die without it, who gets it? We reviewed sources in talmud and later commentaries, some of which I remember ...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Dani‭

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Are flowers muktzah on Shabbat?

If one had placed a bouquet of flowers in a vase prior to Shabbat, is it considered muktzah? In what scenario would it be permissible to move it on Shabbat?

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by ploni‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by msh210‭

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Why is cholam sometimes pronounced like segol (Chabad, Yom Kippur)?

I learned what I understand to be a S'fardi or maybe Israeli pronunciation of Hebrew. I'm aware of the differences between this and the usual Ashkenazi pronunciation. My question is about variati...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by msh210‭

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Does the nascent Sanhedrin in Israel sanctify the new moon with witnesses?

In 2004, a group of rabbis in Israel attempted to begin the process of re-establishing the Sanhedrin using the Rambam's method of universal consensus to re-establish the line of semikha. Rabbi Mosh...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Daniel‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Harel13‭

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Did any ancient Jewish writers address the differences in Jeremiah's source texts?

The Septuagint's version of Jeremiah is one eighth shorter than the Masoretic Text's version. In the Dead Sea Scrolls is evidence of both versions. Did any ancient Jewish writers (such as in the M...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by curiousdannii‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Harel13‭

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What is the purpose of God asking Adam to name the animals?

In Bereishit 2:19 God brings all the animals to Adam to see what he will name them. This has long puzzled me, because: God created them and already knows their functions (He doesn't need Adam to ...

4 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by msh210‭

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What's wrong with salmon skin?

I bought a package of frozen salmon filet pieces in Israel; they'd been imported from Poland. The package reads, in part: מטעמי הכשרות חובה לשטוף את העור או להסירו לפני השימוש.‏ In my own tra...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by msh210‭  ·  edited 2y ago by msh210‭

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Does the narrator of Numbers assert that the Anakim come from the Nephilim?

The Nephilim are named only in two verses in the Bible, in Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33. Numbers 13:33 says that the Anakim come from the Nephilim, but different translations render this in a vari...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by curiousdannii‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by user8078‭

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May one name a secular object using a Divine Name?

Once upon a time, I was on a trip up in north Georgia and stumbled across this gem: a security service branding itself as "Adonai Security, LLC." The tagline proceeds to make a pun in the same vei...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Alaychem‭

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Can a Rabbi lose his ordination?

Suppose Reuven is ordained as a Rabbi (receives semicha). His teacher, Rabbi Yaakov, decides that he is learned enough and of the right character to serve as a Rabbinic authority and proclaims that...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭  ·  edited 2y ago by DonielF‭

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Was Sigd part of historical Jewish observance?

I noticed that my (paper) calendar reports that 29 Cheshvan is "Sigd". Curious about this day (on the Jewish calendar; they style secular stuff like Election Day differently) that I'd never heard ...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Can a woman blow the shofar during Elul for herself? Can anyone?

Does a woman fulfill the obligation to hear the shofar during Elul if she blows it for herself, or is this one of the mitzvot where a man (must? should?) perform the action on behalf of others? Fo...

3 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by manassehkatz‭

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Why does the incense offerer get a chosen buddy?

Mishnayot Tamid 6:3 says that the kohen who wins the right to offer the daily incense brings a buddy with him to hold one of the vessels and help him retrieve any dropped incense: מִי שֶׁזָּכָה בַ...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Isaac Moses‭

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Can a man father legal children after death?

If semen was extracted from a dead man, and then used to impregnate a woman, is the offspring a legal son (let's limit it to male) of the dead man? Or, more simply put, is a child born of ones seme...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Dr. Shmuel‭  ·  edited 2y ago by DonielF‭

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What happened to the fruit brought by the spies?

Kind of a weird question. Does anyone have any idea what happened to the fruit brought by the spies from Israel to the desert? Was it eaten by specific people? Buried? Left behind?

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Harel13‭

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Why is מוציא לחם more of a problem than מתיר אסורים or מלביש ערמים?

The Gemara (Berachot 38a) cites a dispute whether the blessing on bread is המוציא or מוציא. The issue is that the blessing must reflect the past tense; while everyone agrees that מוציא is past tens...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by simyou‭

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Seeking list of prohibitions which force one to do an action

Generally speaking, whenever the Torah tells us "do not do X," the context is "do not do a specific action" (don't eat non-Kosher, don't do work on Shabbos, etc.). In a select few prohibitions, how...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭  ·  edited 2y ago by DonielF‭

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Which tallis should be kissed?

If there is someone who does not yet own a Tallis (prayer shawl), and he is davening for the amud (so he wears a shul tallis), when he gets to the places in davening where you are supposed to kiss ...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Dani‭

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When does not forgiving become holding a grudge?

Yoma 87a and Rambam Hilchot Teshuvah 2 both describe requirements for doing teshuva and gaining forgiveness. According to them, the one doing teshuva must first make restitution and then, in front...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Why is "chinam" translated as "baseless"?

Everywhere that the term חנם appears, as far as I can tell, it always means "without personal benefit": a שומר חנם (Bava Metzia 7:8) watches an object without receiving anything in return; a Jewish...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by DonielF‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Dev-iL‭

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Purity and Channukah

I'm trying to figure something out about Channukah: When the victorious Jews cleaned the temple they found only enough oil to light the menorah for 1 day and it took another 7 days before they had...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by rosends‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by robev‭

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