Friday, April 15, 2011

How much do you know about Passover?

It’s Friday, time yet again for another posting of Interesting Jewish Stories & Facts. Today, just in time for Passover, I offer a little holiday treat.

Passover, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, celebrates the deliverance of the Children of Israel from Egyptian enslavement over 3,000 years ago. The story has stood the test of time. The holiday, which begins at sunset on Monday, is unquestionably the most observed religious holiday by Jews in America.

Highlights of the Passover story, including characters and events that have become part of Western culture, are examined in the quiz below. Unless otherwise noted, each correctly answered question is worth 10 points. Let me know how you do.

1. Most everyone knows that Moses was the man chosen by God to deliver the Children of Israel from Egyptian slavery. But who was the man God said would accompany Moses, and what was this man’s primary mission?

2. The Hebrews are referred to in the Torah as the Children of Israel. Why?

3. The Children of Israel weren’t always disliked and enslaved by the Egyptians. In fact, when they were the new guys on the block, they were honored by being presented a parcel of choice land to inhabit. What was this land called?

4. Why were the Hebrews enslaved? Bonus points. Take an extra five points if, within 10 years, you know the number of years the Hebrews were slaves in the Land of Egypt.

5. Moses used a series of plagues to force the release of the Hebrews. Most everyone knows that there were 10. But how many can you remember? Give yourself one point for each one named.

6. The Hebrews were instructed to do this during the last plague. Hint: It involved a brush, a lamb, little artistic talent, and the name of Passover is linked to what occurred.

7. Along with the spoils of Egypt, the Hebrews carted off the bones of one of their ancestors when they began the trek to the Promised Land. Who was the ancestor and why was he taken from Egypt?

8. What did God do to help the Children of Israel when they found themselves trapped between the Red Sea and the might of the Egyptian army?

9. In a rush to leave Egypt while the getting was good, the Children of Israel did not take time to allow their bread to rise. This special bread is still eaten by observant Jews today during the festival of Passover. What is it called?

10. This meal is the focus of the Passover observance, taking its Hebrew name from the carefully constructed order in which the meal and accompanying ceremony are played out.

11. The Passover meal is filled with symbolic food and rituals which are meant to remind Jews of the sadness and pain of captivity and the joy of freedom. Give yourself two points for each of the items you can identify below:

A. This vegetable, usually green, such as parsley, symbolizes spring and rebirth.
B. This is a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, wines and spices, meant to symbolize the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used to make bricks.
C. This is a bitter herb, usually ground horseradish, symbolizing the bitterness of slavery.
D. A roasted egg, symbol of springtime, fertility and the festival sacrifice offered by the ancient Hebrews at The Temple in Jerusalem.
E. A roasted bone, symbol of the Passover sacrifice.

12. This question, the first of four questions examining and explaining the significance of Passover, is generally asked by the youngest child. What is the question?

1. Moses raised all sorts of objections when told by God to travel to Egypt and free the Hebrews. Among the problems mentioned by Moses was his inability to speak. So God said he would have Moses’ brother Aaron go with him and serve as his spokesman.

2. Because they are the descendants of Jacob, who was renamed Israel after battling with an angel.

3. Goshen.

4. After a generation or so, many Egyptians became fearful of the Hebrews, worried that they might take up arms with another foreign power and make war against Egypt. So they pleaded with Pharaoh to enslave the Children of Israel. Although biblical scholars disagree on the exact number of years of enslavement, most agree that it was about 210 years.

5. The 10 plagues, from first to last, are: Blood, frogs, vermin, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and death of the first born.

6. The Hebrews were told to brush lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their homes so the angel of death would know to “pass over” their dwellings.

7. Joseph. He asked that his body be removed from Egypt and buried alongside his father, Jacob, in Canaan.

8. God caused a strong east wind to part the waters.

9. Matzo

10. The Seder

11. A. Karpas B. Haroset C. Maror D. Beitzah E. Zeroa

12. Why is this night different from all other nights?

under 50: If you have a Jewish Bible it’s probably being used as a doorjam.
50-120: Congratulations! You managed to stay awake in Sunday school.
above 120: If you’re not already a rabbi, you’re thinking about it.

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