Quiz 5: Jewish practices and customs

See how high you score on Jewish customs and practice. Go on, give it a go!

1. It is customary for Jewish people to give money to charity...

A. at Saturday (Sabbath) morning services

B. before the beginning of each Sabbath

C. during the synagogue service on the Sabbath day

D. before Sabbath on at least one occasion a year

Answer: B
In traditional Jewish homes, there will nearly always be at least one charity box for the needy. Jewish tradition encourages charity to be put aside just before the candles are lit on a Friday night (because money should not be handled on a Sabbath) or during a special occasion. The goal is to remind people to do something concrete for others who are less fortunate.

2. Although it occurs every week, the Jewish Sabbath (“Shabbat”, which means “rest” in English) on a Saturday is an important holy day for Jews. It traditionally lasts from...

A. midnight Friday to midnight Saturday

B. evening Friday to sunset Saturday

C. dawn Saturday to dawn Sunday

D. dawn Saturday to sunset Saturday

Answer: B
The Torah (Book of Jewish Law) describes creation as "And there was evening, and there was morning, one day." So according to Judaism, a new day begins at sunset. So the Jewish Sabbath, like all days (as far as Judaism is concerned) begins at sunset the previous evening. The Sabbath ends when three stars are visible, some 40 minutes after sunset.

3. On the eve of the Sabbath, it is customary in a Jewish home to light...

A. a candle

B. two candles

C. two or more candles

D. no candles

Answer: C
Right before sunset (no later than 18 minutes before), the lady of the house lights at least two candles each Friday in a Jewish home. This serves to welcome in peace and blessing to their homes and to the world. At least two are lit to signify the two commandments to “remember” the Sabbath and to “keep” the Sabbath day holy.

4. When naming a child, Jewish parents...

A. are forbidden from naming the child after themselves

B. name them with one first name only

C. use a name chosen from a specific list provided by the Rabbi

D. use a name chosen by a grandparent or handed down (should the grandparent no longer be alive when the child is born)

Answer: A
Jewish Law forbids the naming of children after their own living parents. (So if the father's name is David, none of his sons can be named David.) Jewish children are usually given at least two names; one is a full secular name and the other is a full Hebrew name. The full secular name is the one used in daily life—both personal and official. The Hebrew name, used for ceremonies in the synagogue, is one usually based on (but not after) the parent.

5. The small metal cylinder that can be seen on the doorpost of Jewish homes, the mezuzah...

A. is for decoration

B. is traditionally made from solid silver

C. is to assist the Rabbi with identifying his congregants' homes

D. contains a small house blessing

Answer: D
A mezuzah is a piece of parchment that is put in a decorative case and inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah. These verses comprise the Jewish prayer, "The Shema", beginning with the phrase: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One". The parchment is written on by a qualified scribe who uses black indelible ink with a special quill pen. It is then rolled up and placed inside the case.

6. If passing a broken-down motorist on the motorway, some Jewish people will say "nebach". This is an adverb of Yiddish origin...

A. to empathise with an unlucky person

B. and an exclamation of relief that it is not them

C. to apologise that they could not stop to assist

D. and is a good luck statement to ward off the possibility of it happening to them

Answer: A
According to Babylonian experts, "nebach" translates as an unlucky or unfortunate person. However, it also means, "It's a pity." It is often apologetically used in situations when the user is unable to help but wants to offer condolences.

7. In order to maintain a kosher kitchen (where meals prepared with dairy products are separated from meals made with meat), Orthodox Jews will...

A. not bring meat into the kitchen

B. not bring dairy products into the kitchen

C. use separate cooking and food utensils for meat and dairy dishes

D. be strictly vegetarian

Answer: C
Orthodox Jewish homes normally have separate equipment, drawers and cupboards for dairy and meat cooking and eating. Depending on the level of Orthodoxy, this may extend to a dual kitchen, where there will be two of everything (cutlery, pots and pans, crockery, cooker, microwave and dishwasher). The ultra-observant Orthodox will sometimes extend this as far as having two kitchens, one for the preparation of meat meals and one for the preparation of dairy product meals.

8. The abstinence from work on the Jewish Sabbath and High Holy days means...

A. not going to work

B. not driving

C. not watching television

D. all three (and even more)

Answer: D
In the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth Book of Moses and the Old Testament (5:12-15), the commandment to "observe" the Sabbath is to ensure that no creature, not even animals, will work without respite. In the modern world, very religious Orthodox Jews have interpreted this to include using any appliance or piece of equipment that requires energy in order to function. This includes lighting a fire, cutting paper with scissors, switching on the radio, going shopping or even writing. As a result, in strictly observant homes, meals for the Sabbath or High Holy Day will be prepared in advance, and if needed to be served hot, will be placed on a low cooker light the previous evening. Also, to make hot drinks during the Holy Day, a "Sabbath kettle" will be boiled prior to the Sabbath or High Holy Day and left undisturbed on a low light for the duration of the day. It is any work that would have been carried out when building the Mishkan.

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