In Plain Language: Jewish Literacy - the answers!

As important as it is to answer the questions, it’s equally important to question the answers.

jliteracy 521 (photo credit: Wikimedia commons)
jliteracy 521
(photo credit: Wikimedia commons)
I write this follow-up column with mixed emotions (Note: Some Jews are so religious that they’re not allowed to have mixed emotions).
On the one hand, I am gratified by the overwhelming response to this little quiz; apparently there is a great deal of interest out there in accumulating Jewish knowledge and improving our grasp of the essentials. But on the other hand, I am disappointed that so many people have turned to me for the answers, rather than rolling up their brain-sleeves and doing the research themselves. For the search for knowledge may eclipse even the knowledge itself; the things we find while looking for other things can open the door to so many undiscovered treasures of wisdom. I heartily recommend it next time around.
Having said that, I reluctantly supply the answers, confident that most of you dear readers knew the majority of them anyway and I am only “filling in the blanks.”
JEWISH PRACTICE: 1. Which one of the seven major Jewish holidays of the year does not include candle-lighting? Purim. (The seven major holidays are Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succot, Hanukka, Purim, Passover and Shavuot.) 2. What exactly is written on the parchment inside a mezuza? The first and second paragraphs of the Shema.
3. What is the longest Jewish holiday, both in Israel and the Diaspora? In Israel, Hanukka and Succot/Shmini Atzeret are each eight days long; in the Diaspora, Succot/ Shmini Atzeret is nine days.
4. What is the most important of all blessings? Birkat Hamazon, the blessing after eating bread. It is the only blessing that all agree is a Torah commandment (“And you shall eat, be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God”).
5. There are six fast days in the Hebrew calendar – two major, four minor. Name them.
Major: Yom Kippur, Tisha Be’av. Minor: Fast of Gedalia, Asara Betevet, Fast of Esther, Shiva-Asar Betamuz.
6. How long is a Jewish leap year? 13 months; we add Adar II to the calendar seven out of every 19 years.
7. Which, if any, of the foods (or drinks) that we eat are required by Jewish law? Matza is biblically required at the Passover Seder; bitter herbs and four cups of wine are rabbinically required. On the eve of Shabbat and holidays (Rosh Hashana, Succot, Passover and Shavuot), we sanctify the event through kiddush on wine or grape juice (bread/halla may also be used for kiddush). Chicken soup is recommended, but not obligatory.
8. Which of the Ten Commandments is neither a “do” nor a “don’t?” The first one: “I am the Lord your God.”
9. What is technically the first holiday of the Jewish year? Passover, since the month of Nisan is designated in the Torah as the first month of the year, in honor of our Exodus from Egypt and our start as a nation.
10. How long is a Jewish month? Twenty- nine or 30 days. (Bonus: Ask your kids which Hebrew month has 28 days.
Answer: All of them!) 11. Name three things that are broken as part of Jewish custom. The glass at a wedding; a plate at betrothal ceremonies; the middle matza at the Passover Seder.
12. What is the first thing that must be built in any Jewish community, and why? A mikve; in fact, a synagogue may even be sold in order to afford the building of a mikve. Jewish law requires immersion in a mikve before sexual relations, and building a family trumps building a beit knesset.
THE BIBLE 1. Adam and Eve had three children.
Name them. Cain, Abel, Seth.
2. The first (Hebrew) letters of the names of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs spell out which name? Yisrael (yud from Yitzhak and Ya’acov; shin from Sara; resh from Rivka and Rahel; alef from Avraham; lamed from Leah).
3. The patriarchs had seven wives among them. How many of them can you name? arah, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Hagar, Bilhah, Zilpah.
4. Name four people in the first book of the Bible whose names were changed. Avram to Avraham; Sarai to Sara; Ya’acov to Yisrael; Ben-Oni to Binyamin (acceptable: Yosef was known in Egypt as “Tzafnat- Pa’aneah”).
5. How many children did Jacob have? 13; the 12 Tribes plus daughter Dinah.
6. Who named Moses, and what does his name mean? Bitya, daughter of Pharaoh, named him; the name means “drawn from the water.”
7. Who among the 12 tribes received a double-portion inheritance? Joseph, via his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. They each received a full share when the land was divvied up.
8. Only one mitzva in the entire Torah was given to the Jewish people in Israel proper. Which one? Brit mila, given to Abraham in Israel.
9. What non-human creatures in the Bible speak? The snake in the Garden of Eden and Balaam’s donkey.
10. Two great people in the Bible give credit to their father-in-law and motherin- law, respectively. Name all four individuals.
Moses gives credit to Jethro; Ruth gives credit to Naomi.
11. Who brought down the house? And who brought down the city? Samson brought down the house (or temple) of the Philistines; Joshua brought down the city of Jericho.
12. What are the two oldest cities – that still exist – mentioned in the Bible? Jerusalem (originally called “Salem”) and Damascus JEWISH HISTORY 1. Who was the first king of Israel? Saul.
2. Who built the two Temples (batei hamikdash)? Solomon built the first; Ezra and Nehemiah built the second (Herod added greatly to it).
3. After the Ten Tribes were lost, which three Tribes still remained? Judah, Benjamin and a portion of Levi.
4. Significant events in Jewish history occurred in 1812 BCE, 1310 BCE, 587 BCE, 70 CE, 1095 CE and 1648 CE. What were they? Birth of Abraham; Exodus from Egypt; destruction of the First Temple; destruction of the Second Temple; start of the Crusades; Chmielnitzki massacres.
5. Did the Hanukka events take place during the First or Second Temple period? Second Temple: 167 BCE.
6. What does the name “Macabee” stand for? Name three of the five Macabee brothers.
“Macabee” can either mean “hammer,” or be an abbreviation for “Mi kamocha b’eilim ad*nai” (“Who is like you, oh God?”). The five brothers are: Judah, Elazar, Jonathan, Simeon, Johanan.
7. How many members made up the Sanhedrin? 71.
8. What non-Jewish king was known as the “great builder of Israel?” Name two things he built. Herod (37-4 BCE). He built Caesarea, Herodion and Masada, and renovated the Second Temple.
9. Who took it upon himself to put the Oral Law into writing? Rabbi Judah the Prince.
10. “From Moses to Moses there was none like Moses.” Explain. This phrase describes the greatness of Rabbi Moses Ben-Maimon, or Maimonides.
11. The name of what famous 19th-century Jewish writer is also a prayer? Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916). Real name: Sholom Rabinovich.
12. What was the term for Jews who petitioned to leave Russia in the mid-20th century? Refuseniks.
THE HOLOCAUST 1. What event is considered the start of the Holocaust? Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” November 9-10, 1938.
2. Name three death camps other than Auschwitz. Majdanek, Dachau, Treblinka, Sobibor, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Ravensbruck.
3. At what conference was the Final Solution decided upon? The Wannsee Conference.
4. In what city did Anne Frank live? Amsterdam.
5. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began on what Jewish holiday? Passover.
6. The majority of Righteous Gentiles come from what country? Poland.
7. Who was the Righteous Gentile credited with saving the most Jews in the Shoah? Raoul Wallenberg of Sweden.
8. Which two of these countries saved the majority of their Jewish citizens: Holland, Ukraine, Denmark, Sweden, Bulgaria? Denmark and Bulgaria. Sweden was neutral; Ukraine and Holland were particularly vicious in assisting the Germans in the murder of their Jewish populations.
9. What Hungarian survivor became known as “the voice of the Holocaust”? Elie Wiesel.
10. In which city was the trial held for the most-wanted Nazi war criminals? What else is that city known for during the Shoah? Nuremberg.
In that same city, the Nazi regime’s anti- Jewish laws were passed in 1935.
11. What happened at Babi Yar? During Rosh Hashana in 1941, more than 33,000 Ukrainian Jews were rounded up and shot there, then buried in massive pits.
ISRAEL AND ZIONISM 1. What country was Herzl from? Did he ever visit Israel? Austria; he visited Israel one time only.
3. What country was originally proposed by England to be the Jewish state? Uganda.
4. Who revived the modern Hebrew language? Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922).
5. Who named Israel “Palestine,” and why? The Romans, in an attempt to erase any record of Israel’s presence in the land.
6. Which of these Israeli leaders are not currently on an Israeli banknote: Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett, S.Y. Agnon or Yitzhak Ben- Zvi? Golda Meir; she was on the NIS 10 bill, until it was taken out of circulation 7. Three of the top 10 cities in Israel (population- wise) begin with the letter “R.” What are they? Ramat Gan, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion 8. What do St. Louis, Exodus and Altalena have in common? All were ships that attempted to reach Israel.
9. Who was the only person ever executed in Israel? Adolf Eichmann, coordinator of the Nazis’ Final Solution extermination apparatus; executed in 1962. (Another possibility: Meir Tobianski, summarily executed after court-martial by the IDF in 1948 on charges of spying for Jordan. He was later exonerated by Ben-Gurion and buried in the Mount Herzl military cemetery.
Thanks to Rina Yellin and David Smith for pointing this out.) 10. What role did Naftali Imber play in the creation of Israel? He wrote “Hatikva,” the Israeli national anthem.
11. “Operation Magic Carpet” brought what community of Jews to Israel? Also known as “On Wings of Eagles,” it brought 49,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel in 1949-1950.
12. What was the first law the Knesset passed after the establishment of the state? The Law of Return, granting Israeli citizenship to any member of the Jewish faith who wishes to live in Israel.
Finally, in the spirit of wisdom-seeking, always bear in mind the following adage: As important as it is to answer the questions, it’s equally important to question the answers.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.
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