How well do you know the Jewish faith?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Does a girl have a bar mitzvah? Is 'Hasidic' just another word for Orthodox? Delve into the traditions and terminology of this ancient, yet still vital, faith with our quiz!

Which day of the week is Shabbat?

For Christians, the Sabbath is Sunday; for Jews, it's Saturday. But on one thing we can agree: We all hated Rebecca Black's "Friday" (Sorry, RB! Honestly, we know you were just 13!).


What does a Jewish groom step on at a wedding?

There are several explanations for this tradition. One says it reminds the assembled of the destruction of the Temple. Another says it reminds us that the world is broken and we must fix it.


The word "Yiddish" refers to a ...

Yiddish was the language of many central and eastern European Jews -- as distinct from Hebrew, the language of the Bible and religious observances. It has given loanwords to English, like "schmaltzy" (overly sentimental) and "schlemiel" (a hapless or foolish person).


One of the most important symbols of Rosh Hashanah is the shofar. What is a shofar?

A ram's horn (or that of another kosher animal) is blown at the beginning of services during Rosh Hashanah (except on the Sabbath). The powerful sound acknowledges God's dominion over the world and focuses the attention on prayer and repentance.


The High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with ____________.

The High Holy Days last for ten days. They are also called the "Days of Awe," referring to the fear of God and the remembrance of death.


A seder is the meal eaten on ___________.

It's estimated that more Jews in North America celebrate Passover than do Hanukkah. God's intervention in leading his people out of Egypt is highly meaningful, as are the rituals that commemorate it.


Which holiday celebrates the actions of people called the Maccabees?

The Maccabees were Hebrews who led a rebellion against the ruling Syrians in 175 BCE. Throwing out statues of Hellenic gods, they restored the Temple for the worship of YHWH. The most recognizable symbol of Hanukkah today is the menorah, a nine-armed candelabra on which the Hanukkah candles are lighted.


Which of these is NOT one of the three patriarchs?

You could be forgiven for thinking Adam is one of the patriarchs: He's the father of us all in the Jewish (and Christian) tradition. But the patriarchs are Abraham and his son and grandson.


If someone gives you "gelt," is this a good thing?

"Gelt" is the Yiddish term for money. If someone gave you "gelt," they might have literally given you money, or perhaps chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil as a Hanukkah gift.


Which of these is not a major branch of Judaism?

The four branches of Judaism are Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative. Reconstructionism is the youngest movement, having grown out of Conservatism, but being less strict in its teachings.


Pesach is the formal name for which holiday?

"Pesach" means Passover. One of the rituals of Pesach is getting rid of leavened bread and bread products; some families shut away these items in a special closet until after Passover, rather than literally disposing of them.


What is the name of the Jewish mystic tradition that has captivated celebrities like Madonna?

Hasidism is also spiritual, but it was kabbalah that had a vogue among celebrities in the 2000s. Unfortunately, for the casual spiritual seeker, kabbalah study is meant to cap a longtime study of Torah overall. It's not entry-level.


Does the word "kosher" only apply to food?

Though gentiles most often think of "kosher" in relation to the Jewish dietary laws, it is a word generally meaning "clean" or "acceptable." Sex, too, can be kosher. meaning it is performed in ways prescribed by Torah.


The oral teachings that interpret the Torah are called the _________.

Of course, the Talmud is no longer strictly oral; these teachings have been written down. Nonetheless, they are extra-Biblical teachings.


Which of these is NOT a book of the Hebrew Bible?

"Acts" or "Acts of the Apostles" is a book in the Christian Bible; more specifically, the New Testament. It's a faux pas to refer to books in the Hebrew Bible as part of "the Old Testament" -- there is no Old and New Testament in Jewish scripture.


What is a shiksa?

The term "shiksa" was popular in the days of Borscht Belt comedians, who used it to refer to a sexy goy seductress, the girl who was fun but couldn't be taken home to Mother. You won't hear it as often nowadays.


Is Hanukkah considered to be a major or a minor holiday?

Generally speaking, Hanukkah does not have the cultural relevance that Passover, Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur do. But because Hanukkah falls at the same time of year as Christmas, it's sometimes equated with that major Christian holiday, giving it extra prominence.


If someone calls you a "maven," is this a compliment?

A maven is a very knowledgeable person or an expert. It's one of the loanwords that Yiddish has given to English.


What is the name for a humanoid figure created by a learned man to do his bidding?

According to legend, a learned man can shape a golem out of clay and give it life, though the golem is never fully human. Modern fantasy writers have used the idea of the golem in fiction, including TV shows like "The X-Files" and "Supernatural."


In which festival is drinking -- frankly, becoming inebriated -- encouraged?

At Purim, one tradition is to drink until you don't remember if you're "cursing Haman or blessing Mordecai" (the villain and hero, respectively, of the Purim story). Purim celebrates the events of the book of Esther, a queen who saved her people through her beauty and cleverness.


Jews perform shiva after what event?

"Shiva" is the Hebrew word for "seven." Shiva, sometimes called "sitting shiva," begins on the day of burial and continues for seven days.


If you are davening, what are you doing?

To "daven" is to recite prayers. You might not hear this term much outside Orthodox or Conservative homes.


The best translation of "Torah" is _______.

Torah is considered the Law. The first five books of the Bible are equated with the Torah, followed by the prophets (Nevi'im) and the writings (Ketuvim).


Which of these is a word for the first five books of the Bible?

The first five books of the Bible are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They have great significance to both the Jewish and Christian faiths.


The word for a Jewish divorce is a _____.

While divorce is certainly not encouraged under Judaism, religious law provides for the dissolution of a marriage. In the Orthodox and Conservative branches, a legal divorce must be accompained by a get, so that the next marriage is not considered adulterous.


Ashkenazi are Jews who trace their roots to where?

The Ashkenazi are from Germany and Eastern Europe (sometimes France). They gave the Jewish world the "mame loshen" or "mother tongue" of Yiddish.


Which book of the Bible does not mention God?

The story of Esther provides some moral problems for modern readers. Esther submits to a beauty contest to become queen and conceals her Jewishness from the king. All of Haman's sons are later hanged, along with their father, for his plot against the Jews -- an outsized and gruesome fate.


Is "Hasidic" a synonym for "Orthodox"?

This is a common misconception. Hasids have a distinctive and traditional way of dressing, including their signature "earlocks," but not all Orthodox Jews are Hasidim. In fact, the Hasidic approach to Judaism is actually known for stressing the emotional side of faith, or the heart's relationship to God.


What is a mikvah?

A mikvah is a ritual bath. In Orthodox Judaism, women visit the mikvah to cleanse themselves after they are finished menstruating. Biblical scholars have suggested that the bath which Bathsheba was taking on her rooftop, when King David saw her, was a mikvah.


Does a girl have a bar mitzvah?

A girl has a "bat mitzah." This celebration of approaching adulthood happens when the girl is 12 years old, whereas boys wait until they're thirteen.


Is Lilith in the Bible?

Lilith is part of Jewish mythology, appearing in the Talmud but not the Bible. She was the first wife of Adam, created from clay like him, not from one of his ribs.


Which of these is part of a traditional Yom Kippur meal?

While food and drink are central to many Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is marked by fasting.


A megillah is best defined as a ________.

Megillah is a Hebrew word for "scroll." The Esther story is referred to as "the megillah" and read in its entirety at Purim.


Broadly speaking, a mitzah is a/an __________.

A mitzvah (plural mitzvot) is a commandment, and Torah lays out 613 mitzvot that observant Jews should follow. The terms "bar mitzvah" and "bat mitzvah" mean a son or daughter of the commandment.


Jews descended from Southern European or Near East ancestors are known as ________.

Sephardim are Jews who trace their roots to Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and other nearby regions. The Sadducees and Essenes were sects, defined by their beliefs, not their geographic origins.


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