The English part of the book starts here.
In this book, you will find many different kinds of questions on Torah topics. Some questions are relatively easy to answer, but many are difficult. Besides answering the actual question, we often provided additional information that can be useful or interesting, so that even a knowledgeable reader can learn something new in many if not most of the answers.
The book is divided into two sections. Section one consists of serious questions about the Jewish holidays including a few interesting questions dealing with halacha, although this book is primarily not about practical halacha. In section two there are riddles, questions that require erudition, as well as puzzling and trick questions on miscellaneous topics including some multiple-choice questions.
The author tried to keep the answers brief, as the attention span of most readers or listeners can be short. However, some topics raised in the first section are very deep and can be expanded greatly. In many cases there are other legitimate answers to the question, besides the one given by the author. At times the reader may disagree with the answer given, and the author will be glad to receive feedback. The author will be happy to get any responses including constructive criticism, and to answer follow up questions. In many cases, we brought only some of the sources in the answer in order to keep it brief, and will be glad to provide additional sources if requested. With all questions and comments, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Section one: questions about holidays.
Questions about Chanukah
1. How many branches did the Temple Menorah have? Why does our Chanukah Menorah have a different number of branches that the Menorah in the Temple?
The Temple Menorah had seven branches. It is forbidden for us to make a similar Menorah outside the Temple (Yore Deah 141:8). Moreover, while in the Temple all seven candles were lit every day, during Chanukah we light the number of candles that corresponds to the specific day of the holiday, and therefore altogether we have eight branches plus a branch for the shamash.
2. When are the Chanukah candles lit? And when were they lit in the Temple?
In the Temple, the Menorah was lit before sundown and burned all night, as the Temple Menorah burned inside and was not for public view, though according to Rambam (Tamidin Umusafin 3:12), it was lit again in the morning. We light Chanukah candles in order to publicize the miracle. Therefore we lit the candles at nightfall when they can be visible, and they only burn for about half an hour since this is when most passers-by could see them. (In our day when many people are on the streets even late at night, some say it’s preferable that the Chanukah candles also continue burning for longer than half an hour, see Tshuvos Vehanhagos 1:390; Dirshu edition of Mishna Berura 672:16.)
3. The Talmud (Shabbos 21b) records a dispute between Bais Shamai and Bais Hillel. Bais Shamai say that one needs to light eight candles on the first night and one less on each subsequent night, and Bais Hillel say the opposite. It is easy to understand the opinion of Bais Hillel since we want the light to always increase. But how can we understand the shita of Bais Shamai?
The Talmud gives two explanations of the opinion of Bais Shamai. According to one, we light fewer candles each night day, just as fewer bulls was brought each day during Sukkos (see also Aruch Hashulchan 760:5 regarding the connection between Chanukah and Sukkos holidays). The other explanation is that the number of candles lit represents the days remaining. Bais Shamai see the amount of darkness as constantly decreasing, and hence less light is necessary to dispel it (see also Chidushei Agados of Maharal, Shabbos 21b; R. Tzadok Hakohen, Resisei Layla, 56; Bnei Issachar, Kislev 3:19; Ohen Yisroel, Chanukah).
4. What material was the Temple Menorah from? And from what material was the Menorah that Chashmonaim made? Why?
The Temple Menorah was golden as the Torah states, but our sages teach that the Menorah can be kosher from other metals as well. During the purification of the Temple, the Chashmonaim were so poor that they first made a Menorah from iron (and according to some opinions from wood, see Menachos 28b).
5. What was the height of the Temple Menorah?
18 tefachim (Menachos 28b, this is somewhere between 56 and 72 inches).
6. How many times and in what context is the Chanukah festival mentioned in the Mishnah?
The festival itself is mentioned six times. It is mentioned in connection with the prohibition of fasting or mourning (Taanis 2:10, Moed Katan 3:9); in discussions of what Torah portion to read on this day (Megillah 3:4, 3:6), in the context of sending messengers to Babylon in order that that they know when was Rosh Chodesh Kislev and can celebrate Chanukah on time (Rosh Hashanah 1:3). Chanukah is also mentioned as the latest time to bring the first fruits (Bikurim 1:6).
7. How many times and in what context does the Mishnah mention Chanukah candles?
Only once, in the context of a candle that brought damage by igniting the straw on a passing animal (Bava Kama 6:6).
8. Why is the actual miracle of Chanukah not mentioned in the Mishnah?
According to R. Reuven Margolies (Yesod Hamishna Va'arichasah), mentioning Chanukah uprising and victory could lead the Romans to forbidding the entire Mishna. After all, the Jewish people just rebelled against the Rome twice and the government was watching out very carefully for further signs of revolt. Another explanation is brought in the name of the Chasam Sofer, that since Rebbe who composed the Mishna was from the house of Dovid, he didn’t want to mention the Chashmonaim who were not of Davidic descent and made themselves kings against the law (Taamei Haminhagim, Chanukah 847, see also Ramban, Bereishis 49:10, see also the footnote to Moadim uZemanim, Chanukah, 137 for another explanation). Note also that there may have existed a minor Maseches Chanukah (see Rav Poalim from the son of GR”A), that was similar to other “Masechtos Ketanos” like “Mezuzah,” “Tzitzis,” “Geirim,” that are printed after Avoda Zara.
9. What Torah portions do we read on Chanukah? Why were these passages chosen?
We read the end of Parshas Naso and the beginning of Behaaloscha. It mentions the "Chanukah" (dedication) of the Tabernacle in the desert (see Bemidbar 7:84). Interestingly, according to Chazal (Pesikta, 6) the construction of the construction of the Mishkan was completed on the 25th of Kislev, but in that generation they waited for the first of Nisan to dedicate the Tabernacle in the month of our redemption. The day of 25th Kislev was instead reserved for a later dedication. In addition, the passages we read on Chanukah begin with the blessings of Cohanim, and end with the laws of lighting the Temple Menorah.
10. On which day of the month does the last day of Chanukah fall?
Sometimes there is one day of Rosh Chodesh Teives but most of the time there are two. Depending on this, the last day of Chanukah can fall on the second or third of Teives. As a consequence, the third of Teives is the only day of the calendar on which sometimes Hallel and at other times Tachanun is recited! Note that when observing the Yortzait or celebrating the Bar Mitzvah, which day of Chanukah this is does not make a difference and only the day of the month matters. For example, the one born of the second of Teives will turn 13 also on that day whether it is the seventh or the eighth day of Chanukah. A more interesting question is when to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah if the person was born on the 30th of Kislev, but in the year he turns thirteen, there is no such day in the calendar, as there is only one day of Rosh Chodesh Teives? In that case, he becomes an adult on the first of Teives (see Mishna Berura 55:45).
11. When the Torah is read on Rosh Chodesh Chanukah, how many Torah scrolls are used, and how many people are called to each scroll? Why?
Three people are called to read the passage about Rosh Chodesh, and the fourth is called to read the portion about Chanukah. The reason for this is that Rosh Chodesh is more common (tadir) than Chanukah, so more people are called to read the Rosh Chodesh passage. Note that there is another opinion in the Talmud that three people are called to the passage about Chanukah, like on any other day of Chanukah, and the fourth is called to read about Rosh Chodesh. This is to show that the fourth aliyah is precisely because it is Rosh Chodesh, otherwise on a regular Chanukah day only three people are called to the Torah (see Megillah 29b).
12. When the Shabbos of Chanukah falls on Rosh Chodesh, how many Torah scrolls are taken out, and how many people are called to each scroll? Why? On what other days are there as many Torah scrolls taken out?
This is one of the rare cases when three scrolls are taken out. We read the weekly portion from the first one, the portion about Rosh Chodesh from the second one, and about Chanukah from the third one. The reason for this order is that the last portion read (called Maftir) should be related to the Haftorah, and since we read the Haftorah of Chanukah, and not of Rosh Chodesh, we have to read the Chanukah portion from the last scroll. There are three other cases when three scrolls are taken out: if Rosh Chodesh Adar or Rosh Chodesh Nisan falls on the Shabbos, and also on Simchas Torah.
13. Why is it that on Rosh Chodesh we read the incomplete Hallel, but on Chanukah complete Hallel is read?
Hallel is read on holidays or to commemorate the special deliverances of Hashem. Rosh Chodesh is not a holiday, and no miracles are associated with it. The custom to read incomplete Hallel on Rosh Chodesh originated from the town of Sura in Babylon, and over time this custom spread among the Jewish people (see Taanis 28b). Note that most Sephardim don’t even make a blessing over this Hallel, and according to Rambam (Laws of Chanukah 3:7, see Taanis 28b) if one is praying without a minyan, there was no obligation to say the Hallel on Rosh Chodesh.
14. Where is Chanukah hinted to in Hallel?
In 115th and 118th psalms, the "house of Aharon" is mentioned three times. In total, Aharon is mentioned 9 times in the entire book of Psalms, but in other places it is Aharon himself who is mentioned. Aharon's house is mentioned only in Hallel and once again in 135th psalm (which our sages called Hallel Hagadol). If it were not for the events of Chanukah, then why mention the house of Aharon in Hallel? After all, the entire Jewish people were already mentioned in the verse before. In general, the last four psalms of Hallel fit perfectly to the Chanukah story. You will find many hints to this if you read these psalms carefully. I will mention here only a few examples, which are especially suited to the events of Chanukah: "Why do the nations say: where is their G-d?" The Jews, who were giving up their lives for the sake of keeping the commandments were mocked and ridiculed: why does not the Most High stand up for them? "But our G-d is in Heaven, He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are the works of human hands, they have mouths, but they do not speak." The rebellion of Chanukah began when Matityahu refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. In 116th Psalm we give gratitude to Hashem for the great salvation from danger. Hashem protects the simple (pesaim). This may hint to the fact that the rebellion started in utter simplicity. The Jewish rebels didn’t have any training in war, they did not possess sophisticated weapons, and they didn’t have strategists who know how to plan war tactics. They simply went to war because they had no other choice. They could not know whether Hashem would save them or not, after all there were other times in our history when we didn’t deserve a miracle. But they did what they could and amazingly were able to win over the armies that greatly outnumbered them as we say in our prayers: “You gave the many into the hands of few, the strong into the hands of the weak.” 117th Psalm is the shortest psalm with just two verses. In my opinion it hints to the events when the Temple is purified by the Chashmonaim and everyone recognized how Hashem has been so kind to us. It is quite possible that it also hints to the alliance made between the Chashmonaim and the Romans. This treaty of mutual help in case of war was ratified by the Roman Senate and at first the Roman did keep their part of the deal, but later they conquered Yehuda and started ruling over it (see Avoda Zara 8b, see also Rashi, Shir Hashirim 6:12). Even after the Chanukah miracle the war did not finish. Hence the 118th psalm again describes the dangers of many enemies surrounding us as bees. The psalm ends with gratitude for Hashem’s full salvation and our Thanksgiving to Him.
15. According to our sages, the Chanukah miracle is hinted in the passage of Menorah in the beginning of Parshas Behaaloscha (see Ramban Ramban, Bemidbar 8:2, see also Nefesh Hachaim, end of first gate). There is also another hint in the same Parsha to the actual deliverance from the enemy at the hands Cohanim. Where?
In verses Bemidbar 10:8-9 the Torah describes that if a war will come to our land, the sons of Aharon should blow the trumpets and be remembered before Hashem and saved from the enemy. This summarizes the entire Chanukah story. Notice how the miracle was specifically in the Land of Israel as opposed to the Purim miracle; indeed according to our sages this is one of the reasons why we say Hallel on Chanukah but not on Purim. Chashmonaim were blowing trumpets during that war as described by Josephus (Antiquities 7:7:4) and in the Book of Maccabees (1:3:54). What is even more amazing is that if you count from the last letter “Mem” of the word åÇäÂøÅòÉúÆí (should blow) skipping of every six letters you will get the name Matisyahu. Indeed this is the shortest equidistant skip for Matisyahu in the entire Chumash! The number six may correspond to Matisyahu and his five sons.
16. What other revolution besides Chanukah was done by the hands of the priests (descendants of Aharon)?
Yehoyada HaCohen's revolt against queen Atalia (see Melachim 2, 11th chapter, and Daas Sofrim ibid.)
17. What is the main difference between the events of Purim and Chanukah and the commemoration of these holidays?
One of the main differences between Purim and Chanukah is that before Purim, our people were threatened with physical destruction, and during the events before Chanukah miracle – with spiritual assimilation (see Levush, Orach Chaim 670 and Rav Elchanan Wasserman in his essay "Maasai Lemelech"). For this reason, the mitzvos of these festivals are so different: most of the Purim mitzvos are physical. We organize a delicious meal, send food to friends, and give gifts to the poor, so that they can also have a good time on this day. On Chanukah, since the danger was spiritual, the mitzvos are also spiritual: reading the Hallel and lighting the candles.
18. Why did the miracle of Chanukah happen in the winter?
Perhaps this is to show how a weak candle can bring light even on a long, cold night. All the Biblical holidays are celebrated during the half a year between spring and fall, when the days are long. Their main mitzvos also apply primarily during daytime, except for the Pesach Seder where “night shines like day” (see GR”A’s commentary to Haggadah, “Halayla Haze”). Chanukah however is celebrated when the nights are very long, and the main mitzvah of this holiday is at night!
19. Why is there no book in Tanach that describes the miracle of Chanukah?
The miracle of Chanukah occurred after the prophetic era came to close.
20. What is the correct vowel to pronounce in the blessing Shehechiyonu: “Lizman Hazeh” or “Lazman Hazeh?”
though many poskim including the Mishna Berura (676:1) write that the correct
pronunciation is with chirik (“Lizman”), most contemporary Ashkenazi and Sephardi
poskim (see Dirshu and Ish Matzliach editions of Mishna Berura, Piskei Teshuvos
676:3, Yalkut Yosef 676:4) consider “Lazman” to be the correct pronunciation,
and this is what is printed in almost all siddurim (except Chabad).
Questions about Purim
1. In a leap year, when there are two months of Adar, when do we celebrate Purim and why?
We always celebrate Purim one month before Pesach, so that one salvation is celebrated next to the other. Therefore, on a leap year Purim is celebrated in the second Adar. As we mentioned before, all the Biblical holidays are during the spring, summer and fall. So if the whole year is treated as one long day, they correspond to the morning (Pesach), afternoon (Shavuos) and evening (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos). If Pesach is equivalent to sunrise, Purim corresponds to Amud Hashachar (the beginning of light in the east). Indeed our sages compare Ester to the morning star visible at the end of the night before sunrise (Yerushalmi, Berachos 1:1).
2. Why is Hashem’s Name not mentioned in the Megillah? In what other books of Tanach are there no names of Hashem? And what Biblical book does not have the main Four Letter Name of Hashem, but has other names?
According to one explanation, since a copy of the Megillah was kept in Persian archives, Ester and Mordechai didn’t want to mention Hashem’s name in it, lest the Persians change it to the name of their idol (see Ibn Ezra 1:1). In addition, originally the Megillah was a letter to Jews in all Persian provinces, and we do not mention Holy Names in letters lest they be discarded later. Also, since the miracle of Purim was hidden, the Creator is not openly mentioned (see Chulin 139a, Maharal, “Chidushei Agados” ibid).
According to some opinions, there are no names of the Creator in the Shir Hashirim, but according to others, one Name is mentioned in verse 8:6, if “Shalheves Y-H” is to be written separately (see Ibn Ezra and Minchas Shai ibid). In Koheles, the name Elokim is mentioned numerous times, but not the Main Name of Hashem.
3. Why did Ester have two names: Ester and Hadassah?
Some explain that Ester was her Persian name, and Hadassah – her Hebrew name (see Ibn Ezra 1:10 and GR”A 2:6).
4. Riddle: how can it be that one should not recite “al hanisim” in the second blessing of Birkas Hamazon after the Purim meal?
On Purim Meshulash (when Shushan Purim falls on Shabbos) in Yerushalayim, the main meal is eaten on Sunday, but this day is no longer Purim, and "al hanisim" is pronounced only at the end, in the requests of "Harachaman" (Piskei Teshuvos). Also if one started the meal during daytime and already prayed Maariv and now is reciting Birkas Hamazon, he does not say “al hanisim” (see Mishna Berura, 188:32).
5. Riddle: Father and son usually spend the Purim meal and Pesach Seder together. However, when they meet on Purim, only the son says "al hanisim" and when they meet on Pesach, only the father makes a blessing on the matzah. How is this possible?
For example, if the son lives in Bnei Brak, and the father in America, but he visits his son on the holidays and stays in Jerusalem. When the father comes to his son for a meal on Purim in Bnei Brak, only the son says "al hanisim," since the father celebrates Shushan Purim in Yerushalayim. And when the son visits his father in Jerusalem on the second night of Seder, only the father makes the blessing on the matzah since for the son it’s Chol Hamoed.
6. Why does Orach Chaim end the laws of Purim with a quote from Sefer Mishlei?
In the end of Orach Chaim, Rema writes that according to some opinions there is a mitzvah to have a meal even on Purim Katan (the 14th of the first Adar during the leap year). Hence the verse from Mishlei (15:15): "a kind heart constantly makes merry" is appropriate. However many commentators note that Rema chose this verse to end his Orach Chaim commentary for several other reasons. The full verse reads: “all the days of a poor man are bad, but a kind heart constantly celebrates.” Our sages teach (Bava Basra 145b) that the first part of the verse refers to the one who is studying in a way that does not lead to understanding practical Halacha, and the second – to the one that learns Halacha (see Rashbam ibid). According to this, maybe Rema wanted to conclude his glosses by emphasizing the importance of studying practical Halacha (see Piskei Teshuvos). In addition, Rema may be hinting to “partying” in spiritual sense (see Kaf Hachaim). Happy is the one who knows how to learn, studies the Torah and keeps its commandments. His kind heart always celebrates.
7. The Rambam (end of Laws of Megillah) brings an interesting Midrash, that during the times of Moshiach, all the books of the prophets will no longer apply, except for the Megillah. (Another version of the Midrash is that all the holidays will be annulled, except for Purim). What is the meaning of this statement? And where does the Shulchan Aruch make a similar statement with respect to prayer? (Hint: see Orach Chaim, chapter 51.)
Perhaps in the future the main study of the written Torah will not be from the books of prophets and writings, but only from Chumash and Megillas Ester (Yerushalmi, Megillah 1:5). In addition, in the future life will be so good that the Biblical holidays will differ little from ordinary days, but even then, Purim will be a special day (see also Shu”t Radbaz 666, see another explanation in Shu”t Rashba, 1:93, see also the footnote to Moadim uZemanim, Chanukah, 137). The Shulchan Aruch says that in the future the only offering will be Korban Toda - the thanksgiving offering. There will be no more sins and we will only have to thank the Creator.
8. According to the Talmud (Megillah 12b), Memuchan is Haman, but according to some Midrashim, Memuchan is another person, one of the greatest tzadikim. Who is Memuchan according to the second opinion?
There is an opinion that Memuchan is Daniel (Midrash Chaseros Veyeseiros, Midrash Panim Acherim).
9. What was the relationship between Ester and Mordechai?
The simple meaning of Megillah (2:7) is that Ester was Mordechai's cousin (daughter of his “dod” – uncle). However there is a tradition according to which Ester was his niece (see Ibn Ezra 8:1, Aramaic translation to 7:6), and according to this maybe the word “dod” sometimes meant “brother.” In addition there is an opinion in the Talmud that Ester was also Mordechai’s wife (Megillah 13a, see also Ramban in Milchamos Hashem on Rif, Sanhedrin 18a).
10. How could Ester hide from the king that she was Jewish? Didn’t the king know she was raised in Mordechai's house?
Mordechai had a big household with many servants and other members, and it was not at all obvious to the king’s officials which ones were Jewish.
11. And Haman said to king Achashveirosh: “there is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the provinces of your kingdom … and it is not worthwhile for the king to tolerate them” (3:8). Did Haman tell Achashveirosh which people he is talking about?
According to the GR"A, Haman never told the king that he is talking about the Jewish people, because he was afraid that Achashveirosh might love Mordechai and will not agree to punish them. However, according to Chazal, Achashveirosh knew that Haman is talking about the Jews, and hated them no less than Haman (Megillah 14a).
12. In the Chumash, the Jews are usually called the "Children of Israel," but in the book of Ester we are called Yehudim. And where else in Tanach does the word Yehudim occur and why?
Yehudim technically means Jews from the tribe of Yehuda. At the end of the First Temple period, and even more so after its destruction, the bulk of the Jews were from Yehuda, and the word Yehudi became synonymous with the Jewish people, (the English word “Jew” also comes from it). The word "Yehudim" is mentioned in in the books of Melachim, Yirmiyahu and Nechemiah.
13. Where else is Mordechai mentioned to Tanach?
Mordechai is mentioned in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and according to Chazal (Megillah 16b) it is the same Mordechai.
14. Which name is mentioned the most in Megillas Ester?
The name Mordechai appears in the Megillah 58 times, Ester - 55 and Haman – 54 times. By the way, for this reason and also because the number of letters in the sons of Haman is also 54, the GR"A’s nusach of “al hanisim” prayer has 54 words (he has åäùáåú ìå àú âîåìå òì øàùå instead of åäùáåú ìå âîåìå áøàùå).
15. What is the longest verse in the Megillah?
The longest verse in Megillas Ester is 8:9 and it has 43 words. This is the longest verse by the number of words in the entire Tanach.
16. Which letters in the Megillah are large, and which are small?
Letters æ, ù, ú in the list of ten hanged sons of Haman are small, possibly hinting to the year when the ten Nazi criminals were hung, (there is also an unusual Vav there possibly hinting to the millennia when this occurred). In other parts of Megillah, letters ç and ú are large, possibly hinting to the year of Chmielnicki massacres.
17. The day Haman was hung is hinted to in the book of Yehoshua. Where?
says in Yehoshua (5:12) that Haman (the Manna) was finished on the next
day after Pesach, and according to many opinions Haman was hung on that day
too. Some have a custom to commemorate this on the second day of Pesach (see
Magen Avraham in the beginning of Siman 490). Note in general that there is a
dispute whether our ancestors fasted on the 14th, 15th
and 16th (see Rashi, Ester 4:17 and on Talmud, Megillah 15a and
16a), or on 13th, 14th and 15th (Ester Rabbah
9:2, Pirkei Derabbi Eliezer, Perek 49 but in Radal’s edition it’s Perek 50).
While Seder Olam (Perek 29) brings that Haman was hung on the second day of
Pesach, apparently Targum on verse 5:1 and Pirkei Derabbi Eliezer (see Radal
there) hold that he was hung on the 17th of Nisan.
Questions about the three sad weeks and the Ninth of Av
1. How many fasts do we have to fast throughout the year?
Six: Yom Kippur, 4 fasts commemorating the destruction of the Temple and the fast of Ester. There is also a fast of the first-born before Pesach.
2. Which prophet mentions the fasts commemorating the Temple destruction?
Zechariah (8:19). The prophet mentions the months but not the days and later some disputes arose regarding the exact days when we have to fast (see Tosefta, Sotah 6:7).
3. Is there a difference between the laws of Yom Kippur and Tisha Beav?
Of course, both fasts are full day fasts that start from the previous evening, and on both days there are additional prohibitions, (e.g. against washing and wearing leather shoes). However there are also major differences. Yom Kippur (unlike the 9th of Av) is similar to Shabbos in regards to the prohibition against doing work. Also, since fasting on Yom Kippur is a Torah law, one can eat only if fasting is dangerous to his life, but on the ninth of Av a sick person does not have to fast, and does not have to eat small amounts every nine minutes. In addition, children usually start fasting on Yom Kippur before Bar Mitzvah (see the details in Orach Chaim 616:2), but they do not have to fast on the ninth of Av (Mishna Berura 550:5, see detailed discussion in “Chinuch Yisroel,” page 164). Also, if Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, we fast, but the fast of 9th of Av is postponed to Sunday. The most important difference is in the nature of the fasts. The Ninth of Av is a day of mourning; therefore, we sit on the floor and are forbidden to study Torah except for the sad topics. Yom Kippur is a happy holiday, when the Almighty forgives our sins. This difference leads, among other things, to the fact that before the Yom Kippur, it is a mitzvah to eat a festive meal, and before the 9th of Av, we eat only a simple meal with one type of hot food, and while sitting on the floor.
4. If a person wants to eat in the morning before the fast of 17th of Tammuz, when and under what conditions can this be done?
One can only eat before the dawn, and it is necessary to make a condition before going to sleep that he is planning to get up at night to eat (Orach Chaim, 564).
5. What are the special laws when the Ninth of Av begins on Sunday?
Firstly, there are no laws limiting what one eats during the meal before fasting, as this is a Shabbos meal, but it must be finished before sunset. Havdalah is performed on the night after the fast without fire and fragrances, but the blessing on the fire is made during the previous night, after Shabbos is over. In addition, if the ninth of Av falls on Shabbos and is postponed to Sunday, there are certain leniencies especially for pregnant women who are feeling weak (see Biur Halacha 559, see also Piskei Teshuvos 554:5).
6. What special laws apply to the day after the Ninth Av?
Ashkenazim and most Sephardim do not eat meat and do not drink wine (or grape juice) until noon, and some Sephardim – all day. Also, one should not wash clothes and get a haircut, but there are exceptions to this rule especially when Tisha Beav falls on Thursday. If the ninth of Av falls on Shabbos, one can eat meat and drink wine on Monday morning (Orach Chaim 558 and commentators ibid).
7. On what day was the First Temple destroyed and when was the Second Temple destroyed?
There are two dates mentioned in Tanach regarding the destruction of the First Temple: in Sefer Melachim (2:25:8), the seventh of Av is mentioned, but in Yirmiyahu (52:12), the tenth of Av is specified. The Talmud (Taanis 29a) tells us that the enemy was able to capture the Temple on the seventh but they didn’t ignite the building until the evening of the ninth, and the Temple kept burning the entire tenth of Av. Interestingly, there was an opinion in the Talmud (ibid) that it would be better to commemorate the Temple destruction by fasting on the tenth of Av, but we don’t follow this opinion. Regarding the second Temple, our sages mention that it was destroyed on the ninth of Av, but probably it also kept burning throughout the tenth of Av. This explains why Josephus mentions the tenth as the day of the destruction.
Since then many other sad events happened on the ninth of Av or on the days close to it, including the fall of Beitar at the end of Bar Kochba’s revolt, exiles of British and of Spanish Jewry and possibly the saddest day in recent history: the beginning of World War I. This bloody war caused tremendous upheavals in the established Jewish communities which brought quick decline in traditional observance. The Soviet revolution, the terrible wave of pogroms in Ukraine and ultimately the WWII and the Holocaust of European Jewry were just some of the disasters that happened in the aftermath of WWI.
8. On what year was the Second Temple destroyed?
There is a dispute in the Rishonim if this happened in year 3828 or 3829. In addition, according to Rambam, Chazal counted the years starting with one year later than we do. If this is so, the year when the Temple was destroyed may be 3830 according to our count.
There is actually a Halachic corollary of this dispute: which year is Shemita (see GR”A, Choshen Mishpat 67:8). The general encyclopedias quote the year of Temple destruction as 70 according to the non-Jewish calendar. Indeed, this corresponds to the Rambam’s opinion, and this is the opinion that we follow in regards to Shemita. According to this, the Second Temple was destroyed in year 3830 according to our present calendar, which according to Rambam, Chazal would have called year 3829. That year was the year of Shemita. When the Talmud mentions that the Temple was destroyed a year after Shemita, our sages meant that next year was Motzee Sheviis, since most of that year passed already (see GR”A ibid). Hence, year 5775 (2015) which was the year of Shemita was exactly 815 Shemita cycles after year 70, when the Temple was destroyed.
Questions about Pesach
1. During the Seder, the children ask four questions. And which of these questions was not asked during the Temple times, and what question was asked instead?
During the Temple times people generally ate while reclining, so they could not ask: “why do we recline on this night?” Instead they asked why we eat only roasted meat on this night (see Mishna, Pesachim 10:4).
2. Where does the Torah mention the four sons that we discuss in the Haggadah?
The Torah mentions four times how we should reply to our children, and our sages learned from the context that the Torah is talking about four different kinds of children in these passages. Three of the four places are in the end of Parshas Bo, and one is in Parshas Vaeschanan. Depending on what the Torah says to tell these sons, our sages understood what kind of a son is he. In the paragraph which does not specify what our children will ask, the Torah is talking about the son who is too young and does not know what to ask. In a different paragraph, the child doesn’t “ask” but simply states rhetorically: “ma haavoda hazos lachem” (why are you doing all this?) He is not interested in the answer and does not even mention Hashem’s name, so these verses are describing the wicked son. In the paragraph where the simple question is: “ma zos,” we are dealing with the simple son. In Pashas Vaeschanan the question is the most detailed and the son mentions Hashem’s Name, so it is the question of the wise son (GR”A on Haggadah).
3. What does the word Pesach mean?
Generally this word is associated with “passing or skipping over” (see for example Melachim 1:18:21). However Rashi (Shemos 12:13) also brings an additional explanation that the word Pesach comes from the word “Mercy.” In addition, the word “Pesach” hints to Peh Sach (talking mouth) alluding to the mitzvah of talking about the Exodus (Arizal, Pri Etz Chaim; Ramchal on the Torah, Parshas Bo).
4. Why do we call matzah – "lechem oni" ("bread of poverty")?
The poor people generally eat simple unleavened bread, (see also Pesachim 115b-116a; see also the next question). Both Pesach and Sukkos are holidays that emphasize simplicity: on Pesach we eat plain food, and Sukkos we live in a simple dwelling. Indeed, the matzah used for the mitzvah cannot be “matzah ashira” – rich matzah, baked with anything but water and flour. In addition, our sages teach that the word “oni” alludes to “answering,” since we answer many questions before eating this bread (ibid).
5. Why do we say that our forefathers ate matzah while in Egypt? Didn’t they eat matzah during the exodus?
The slaves were actually fed matzah in Egypt as well, while high quality leaven bread was reserved for the masters (GR”A on Haggadah).
6. Why do we say that the reason for eating matzah is that we left Egypt so quickly that our dough did not have time to rise? Were we not commanded by the Almighty to eat matzah before we even left Egypt?
Actually the command of the Torah to not eat chametz originally did not apply after the first day of Pesach (and according to Malbim even after Pesach night), and if they had baked chametz they could eat it on the next day. However they were delivered from Egypt so quickly that the dough didn’t have time to rise and that’s why they baked matzah (see Ran on Rif 25b, Rid, Pesachim 116b). Another possibility is that the command of the Torah was given since Hashem knew that we would ultimately leave Egypt quickly, and the dough would not have time to rise (Abudraham in his Seder Agada, in the name of R. Yosef Kimchi, see detailed discussion in Shaarei Aharon, Shemos 12:34, see also Ramban, Shemos 12:39, Haemek Davar, Shemos 12:34).
7. Pesach always falls on the same day of the week as another special day. Which one and where is this hinted? What custom is associated with this?
Pesach falls on the same day as the ninth of Av, and this is hinted when the Torah associates matzah with the bitter maror (see Shulchan Aruch 428:3). For this reason, the Rema brings a custom to eat eggs during the Seder, as eggs are symbolic of mourning (Shulchan Aruch 476:2).
8. Eating matzah is a mitzvah from the Torah even in our time, but eating maror is only a rabbinic commandment. Why is this so, does not the Torah command us to eat both matzah and maror (Shemos 12:8)?
The command of the Torah to eat maror applies only when there is the Pesach offering. However regarding eating matzah, the Torah mentions it even outside of the context of the Passover offering (Shemos 12:18, see Talmud, Pesachim 120a). Note however that there is an opinion in the Talmud that the commandment to eat matzah in our day is only Rabbinical, but halacha doesn’t follow this opinion.
9. Why does the Torah state in Devarim 16:8 that we need to eat the matzah for six days?
The simplest explanation is that the Torah is talking about a person who left the Temple after the first day of Passover. The Torah tells us that he is not allowed to eat the chametz for the remaining six days (see Haksav Vehakaballah and Abarbanel). In addition, our sages teach that the Torah here emphasizes that during the last six days, one can eat matzah from the new crop, after Omer offering was brought (see Yerushalmi, Pesachim 40a, see also Malbim). In addition, our sages learn based on this verse that only eating matzah on the first day is fully obligatory, but for the remaining six days there is no obligation to eat matzah, and it is only forbidden to eat chametz (see Pesachim 120a, see however Pnei Yehoshua 28b that there may be a dispute about this, see also “Maase Rav” from the GR”A, 185).
10. Most people have a custom at the end of the Seder is to fill another glass of wine, but not to drink it. What is the name of this glass and why?
This is called Kos Shel Eliahu, since Eliyahu Hanavi will announce future redemption (see Malachi 3:23). Another explanation is that Eliyahu will answer all the outstanding halachic questions, and since according to some opinions one should drink 5 cups during the seder instead of 4, we fill the fifth cup until Eliyahu will tell us whether we should drink it (GR”A).
11. Today we call the piece of matzah, which we eat at the end of the Seder – Afikoman. And what does the word Afikoman actually mean?
Afikoman meant desert. During the Seder, we eat the last piece of matzah as “desert” so that its taste will remain with us (see Mussaf Haaruch, see Pesachim 119b, see also Tiferes Yisroel on Mishna 10:8).
12. If a person has last year's matzah, can it be used for the Seder?
According to most opinions, yes (see Nitei Gavriel, Laws of Pesach 1:36:6 and Piskei Teshuvos, 458:3).
13. Riddle: one winter day a certain rabbi was staying at someone’s house, and the owner showed him his "shtar" (document) of last year’s sale of chametz. When the rabbi checked this paper, he said the sale was valid, but still refused to continue eating in that house. Why?
The rabbi follows the opinions of some poskim that if the vessels are sold to a non-Jew, they need to be immersed in the mikvah once they are bought back (see for instance Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim 109, Shu”t Shivas Tzion 11, Chochmas Adam 73:3, “Tosafos Maase Rav” from the GR”A, 47). The rabbi saw that that the “shtar” of this person included the sale of all chametz dishes and after he found out these dishes were not immersed, he was not able to eat in that house.
14. Why do we recite an incomplete Hallel on the last day of Pesach? Is not this a time of a miracle when the sea split?
The Egyptians were also Hashem’s creatures, and since on this day they perished, we should not show our gladness by reciting the complete Hallel (Bais Yosef in the name of Pesikta, Mishna Berura 490:7). In addition, the Mekubalim write that the time of Sefiras Haomer is sad, and complete joy does not come until Shavuos.
15. Why do we read Shir Hashirim on Pesach?
The Exodus is hinted in this book (1:9). In addition, Pesach is a holiday of the kindness of the Creator, Who redeemed us before we had sufficient merit. In general, Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos correspond to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov (see Tur, Orach Chaim 417) who represent Kindness, Strength and Splendor. Similarly, Shir Hashirim is a song of kindness and love.
16. In most laws, Sephardim follow the Rif and the Rambam whereas Ashkenazim follow the Rosh. And for which halacha during the Seder is the opposite is true?
Ashkenazim make a brocha on each of the four cups, following the Rif, whereas Sephardim make the blessings only on the first and the third cups of wine, following the Rosh (Orach Chaim, 474; note that there are some Ashkenazi Rishonim who agree with the Rif and some Sephardic Rishonim that agree with the Rosh, see Bais Yosef ibid).
17. Riddle: someone had much less than a kezais of wheat flour that was kosher for Pesach and found a way to fulfil the mitzvah from the Torah. How?
He made matzah from wheat and rice. According to the Shulchan Aruch (453:2) and many Rishonim, if the matzah has the taste of wheat, even when there is less than a kezais of wheat flour, and the rest is rice, he fulfills his obligation (see Chok Yakov 452:10). This is based on the concept of “grira,” – the wheat “draws” the rice and turns the entire kezais into kosher matzah. (Needless to say this question is theoretical, and presented as a riddle. In practice Ashkenazim don’t eat rice on Pesach, though it is possible that in a case when there is no way to get a kezais of wheat, it would be permissible to make matzah with wheat and rice, if this is the only way to fulfil one’s obligation from the Torah.)
Questions about Shavuos
1. What does the word "Shavuos" mean?
Answer: Shavuos means “weeks,” since this holiday is always 7 weeks after Pesach. Of course, the word Shavua comes from the word “shiva” – seven.
2. What are the other names that the Torah calls this holiday?
Answer: Yom Habikurim – the day of new fruits, and Hag Hakatzir – the holiday of harvest (of wheat). In Israel, barley is usually gathered around Pesach, and wheat ripens around Shavuos time. For this reason, the day after Pesach, a barley offering from new crop was brought, and on Shavuos, two breads from wheat were symbolically shaken and divided among the Cohanim. In addition, Chazal often call Shavuos – “Atzeres.”
3. Is there any connection between the word "Shavuos" and its homonym "Sh'vuos" (oaths)?
Answer: Yes, the word “oath” in Hebrew has a clear connection to the word “seven” (see for example R. Bachye and Rekanati to Bemidbar 30:3). Maybe for this reason our sages often use the expression: our nation “swore” at Mount Sinai that we will keep the commands. According to this, the name Shavuos can also hint to the oath we took (see also R. Chaim ben Avraham Hacohen, “Tur Barekes”, 494). This may be another reason why we read the Haftorah of the second day from Habakuk, which includes an allusion to (3:9) “sh’vuos matos” (oath of the tribes, see Ibn Ezra). Interestingly, some people have a custom to study Maseches Sh’vuos between Pesach and Shavuos since it has exactly 49 dafs (see “Minhag Yisrael – Torah”).
4. How many times does the Chumash mention the name of the holiday as “Shavuos?”
Answer: The Torah calls this holiday Shavuos in four places: Shemos 34:22, Bemidbar 28:26, Devarim 16:10 and 16:16.
5. In our day, the first day of Shavuos always falls on the 6th of Sivan. When else could the day of Shavuos fall in the times when Rosh Chodesh was determined based on when the witnesses saw the new moon?
Answer: 5th or 7th of Sivan. The months of Nisan and Iyar could have been 29 days each, and then Shavuos would fall on the seventh of Sivan, or they could be 30 days each, and then Shavuos would fall on the fifth of Sivan.
6. In the description of the Mussaf offering of Shavuos, the word "sin offering" is not mentioned (see Bemidbar 28:30). Why is that?
Answer: If we accept the Yoke Torah on ourselves, we would not need any other atonement (see Chizkuni ibid in the name of Yerushalmi, Rosh Hashanah 21a). Note, that there was a goat brought on Shavuos for a sin offering, but the word “hataas” (sin) is not mentioned in regards to this offering on Shavuos, as opposed to all other holidays.
7. On Shavuos two loaves of chametz bread were offered in the Temple. What was their meaning and what was done to them?
Answer: These breads were shaken in different directions in the way we shake the Lulav, and then they were divided between the cohanim. They were not offered on the altar since the Torah forbids bringing sacrifices from leaven bread. Before this procedure, all the grain offerings had to be from the harvest of the previous year, and only after the offering of this new wheat, could menachos be brought from the new harvest.
8. In some siddurim, two goats for sin offering are mentioned in Mussaf of Shavuos, rather than one as in other holidays. Why is that?
The reason is that besides for the goat that was brought as regular Mussaf offering, there was a goat brought along with various other offerings to accompany the two breads (see “Shaar Hakollel” to Tehilas Hashem siddur, page 91).
9. What is the basis of tradition that it was on Shavuos that our people heard the "Aseres Hadibros" at Sinai?
This tradition is based on the counting of days after we arrived to Sinai (on the first of Sivan) and the six days that passed before the actual revelation. However this is not the only opinion regarding when the revelation happened (see Magen Avraham, beginning of Siman 494).
10. "Aseres Hadibros" literally translates as “Ten Sayings,” but are often incorrectly referred to as "The Ten Commandments." How many Commandments are there in "Aseres Hadibros?”
There are more than 10 commandments in "Aseres Hadibros." For example, a number of different commandments are included in the second “Dibur,” including the prohibitions against believing in other gods, worshiping them, bowing before them, or making other “icons” (see Sefer Hachinuch, 26-29) Similarly, Shabbos includes a number of different mitzvos, for example the prohibition to do work, the obligation to make this day special, and according to some authorities the mitzvos of letting our children, servants and animals rest on the Shabbos day are considered separate commandments (see Sefer Hamitzvos of R. Saadia Gaon, mitzvos 34-37, see also Yereim, 226).
11. How does the Torah call “Aseres Hadibros,” and where is this expression mentioned?
The Torah mentions “Aseres Hadvarim” in Parshas Ki Sisa, Vaeschanan and Ekev, but does not mention this expression in Parshas Yisro.
12. When "Aseres Hadibros" are being read, it is customary in most communities to stand up, but there were Rabbis who are against this custom. Why is that?
In the times of the Second Temple, some sectarians used to claim that only the “Ten Commandments” were given to us (see Berachos 12a and Rashi there). For this reason it is forbidden to publically read “Aseres Hadibros” every day (Orach Chaim 1:5). Since all the words of Torah are equally holy, some authorities felt that we should not overemphasize the “Ten Commandments” by standing up when they are read (see Yechave Daas, 1:29 in the name of Rambam). However, the prevalent custom is to stand up, and it is preferable to get up some verses before the reading of “Aseres Hadibros,” so that it will not be noticeable that one got up for these specific verses. As a side note, our sages teach us to observe all commands of the Torah with great diligence and not pick and choose only those commandments that we think are the “most important.”
13. There are two different ways to read "Aseres Hadibros," and depending on the reading, the pronunciations of some words differ. Why is that?
One way is to read the regular verses printed in the Chumash, and the other – is to read each “Dibur” as a separate verse. This makes some verses very long, and some very short (e.g. “Don’t steal”). Since some vowels and “dageshes” in those words that are in the exact middle or end of the verse, differ than in other places in a verse, the difference in the verse divisions causes a difference in pronunciation. For example, if “Do not murder” is a separate verse, it is pronounced: “Lo Tirtzoch,” and if it is part of a longer verse, it is pronounced: “Lo Sirtzach” (Tav without dagesh, and with pasach under Tzadee, see Mishna Berura, Biur Halacha, 494 starting with words “mibechodesh hash’lishi”).
14. Why is it a custom to read the Megillas Rus on Shavuos?
The simplest explanation is that we all became geirim (converts) at Mount Sinai, when we accepted the Torah, and so the story of a righteous giyores is read on that day. (Note that the gematria of “Rus” is 606=613-7 – the number of additional commandments a ger takes, see GR”A on Berachos 7b). Also the main events in the book of Rus took place during the harvest of barley and wheat, around Shavuos time. In addition, according to Jerusalem Talmud (Beitza 11a), Dovid died on Shavuos, and since one of the purposes of the Book of Rus is to trace Dovid’s lineage, we read it on his Yortzait.
15. What is the earliest source for the custom to decorate the synagogues with flowers on Shavuos?
A somewhat similar practice is referred to in Aramaic translation of the book of Esther. According to the Targum Sheni (3:8), Haman told Achashveirosh how Jews celebrate every holiday, and in particular, how they throw flowers on Shavuos and later gather them up and ask Hashem to gather them from exile (see Birkei Yosef 494:6, Yechave Daas 4:33).
Questions about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
1. Why is the Jewish “New Year” in the seventh month?
According to some opinions, originally, the months were also counted from Rosh Hashanah, but after the Exodus from Egypt in spring, the Torah wanted to make the month of our redemption special, and ordered us to count the months from it (see Ramban, Bereshit 8:5). Rosh Hashanah still remained in the fall, though it was now in the seventh month. Note that in general there is a dispute if Adam was created in Tishrei or Nissan, and according to the second opinion, the main “Rosh Hashanah” was always in spring. However, in regards to some laws, the new year starts in Tishrei according to all opinions. For example, the laws of Shemita are kept from one Rosh Hashanah to the next one (see the beginning of tractate Rosh Hashanah).
2. Why is Rosh Hashanah even in Israel celebrated for two days?
Rosh Hashanah is the only holiday that falls on the first day of the month. When the calendar was not fixed, people could not know when the witnesses of new moon would come, and had to start celebrating on the first expected day, even if the witnesses would end up arriving on the second day. In addition, occasionally the witnesses of would come too late in the day to bring the appropriate korbanos of Rosh Hashanah, and in such a case, both days were celebrated as Rosh Hashanah (see Rosh Hashanah 30b, see also Milchamos on Rif daf 3a).
3. The Torah never calls Rosh Hashanah the "New Year." How is this holiday called in Torah?
It is called the day of remembrance [through] blowing or simply the day of blowing [the Shofar].
4. In which books of the Torah are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur mentioned?
While other holidays are mentioned in four books of the Chumash (except for Bereishis), Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are only mentioned in Vayikra and Bemidbar. The other three holidays are “regalim,” when it was a mitzvah to come to the Temple and hence they are mentioned much more often.
5. The Torah does not mention that the blowing on Rosh Hashanah should be with the Shofar. From where do we learn this?
Even though the Torah does not say what we should blow on Rosh Hashanah, it does mention (Vayikra 25:9) that on Yom Kippur of the Jubilee year we should blow the Shofar, and Rosh Hashanah blowing is learned from there (Rosh Hashanah 33b).
6. Which animal’s horns are kosher for the Shofar?
Any kosher animal except for the bull (Orach Chaim, 586).
7. The laws of kosher Shofar are described in the Shulchan Aruch in a chapter whose number may have special significance. What is it?
These laws are described in chapter 586, which is the same gematria as “Shofar.”
8. Which verse in the Torah has 4 consecutive words that start with the same letters as Shofar - ùåôø?
Verse 29:17 in Parshas Nitzavim (which is read before Rosh Hashanah): Shoresh Poreh Rosh Velaana, since through Shofar, the crooked heart can be straightened (see “Mayana shel Torah”). This is the only verse in the Chumash whose four consecutive words start with the same letters as “Shofar.” Of course this Parsha warns about our sins and then discusses our repentance.
9. How many blessings are there in Mussaf of Rosh Hashanah?
There are nine blessings and this is the only prayer when we make nine blessings.
10. What event mentioned in the Torah happened on Rosh Hashanah (besides the creation)?
According to some opinions, Akeidas Yitzchak happened on Rosh Hashanah (see Zohar 3:18a, see however in Shemos Rabbah 15:11 that the Akeida was in Nissan).
11. Which other books of Nach (Neviim or Kesuvim) mention Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur?
Rosh Hashanah is mentioned in Nechemia (8:2) and Yom Kippur is not mentioned at all after the Chumash.
12. Which law regarding Rosh Hashanah is learned from Nach?
The prohibition of fasting on Rosh Hashanah is learned from Nechemia 8:10 (see GR”A 597:2). Surprisingly in the times of Gaonim and Rishonim there existed a custom to fast on this day (see Taz 597:1 in the name of Trumos Hadeshen, 278) but most authorities rejected it.
13. Which of the five prohibitions of Yom Kippur are from the Torah?
The Torah forbids eating, drinking and doing work on Yom Kippur. There is a dispute if the rest of Yom Kippur prohibitions are Biblical or Rabbinic (see Shaarei Hatziyun 611:1-2).
14. What days can Yom Kippur fall on? Why?
Yom Kippur never falls on Friday or Sunday so as not to have two days in a row when all work is forbidden. In addition, Yom Kippur does not fall on Tuesday, so that Hoshanah Rabbah would not fall on Shabbos, otherwise we would not be able to perform the special mitzvah with aravos branches.
15. What event mentioned in the Torah happened on Yom Kippur?
Moshe came down from Sinai with new luchos (see however Tosafos, Bava Kama 82a).
16. What is the meaning of the Kol Nidrei prayer and what does it have to do with Yom Kippur?
Kol Nidrei is a prayer that either annuls certain last year’s oaths, or tries to cancel the oaths we will make in the coming year (see Tur, 619). The reason we say it during Yom Kippur is because many people may accidentally take upon themselves obligations in form of oaths or vows and not realize this, or later forget about them, and we don’t want to have these sins upon us. (Needless to say that not all oaths can be annulled this way, and generally it only helps if one promised to do some mitzvah but does not want this to be considered a vow.)
17. While the Torah mentions that there are ten Hadibros, how many “Principles of Mercy” there are in Shemos 34:6-7, is not mentioned in the Torah. It is well known and stated in the Talmud that there are 13 of these principles. Still according to some of our sages the number of Principles of Mercy is not 13. How many principles are their according to the other opinions?
Midrash Tehillim (end of 93rd Psalm) mentions the opinion of Rav, that there are 11 principles, and that of some other Rabbis that there are 10 principles of mercy.
18. How many people are called to the Torah on Yom Kippur? Why?
Six. One would expect the number of people called to Torah on Yom Kippur to be greater than on Shabbos, and indeed there is such an opinion in the Talmud. However we follow the opinion that since the penalty for breaking Shabbos is more severe than for violating Yom Kippur, fewer people are called to Torah on Yom Kippur (see Megillah 22b).
19. What passages of the Torah do we read in Yom Kippur? Why?
We read passages from Parshas Acharei Mos. In the morning we read the beginning of this Parsha since it describes the Yom Kippur service, and in the afternoon we read about the most sever prohibition of forbidden relations from the end of the Parsha (see also Tosafos, Megillah 31a for additional reasons this passage was chosen).
20. What is the right day to be called the “Judgment Day?”
Even though it is common to call Yom Kippur the “Judgment Day” in English, literally, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, and Rosh Hashanah can be called the “Judgment Day.” Still, the term “Judgement Day” is not inappropriate for Yom Kippur as well, since it is the end of judgement when the verdict is sealed (Rosh Hashanah 16a-b, see also GR”A, Orach Chaim 582:9).
21. When, besides Yom Kippur, do they pray to Neila?
In our day we don’t recite Neila except on Yom Kippur, but in the old times this prayer was also recited on certain public fasts (see Rambam, Taaniyos 4:18).
22. If a person went to asleep on Yom Kippur afternoon and when he awoke, there is not enough time to pray Mincha and Neila, which prayer should he pray?
According to R. Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Sicha 1, page 538) and R. Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 4:13, 5:67, 6:80 and 10:17) one should pray Mincha. Moreover, R. Wosner writes that even if one prayed Neila without praying Mincha, his prayer is still considered to be Mincha since the differences between the two prayers are minor, and one automatically is considered to have prayed the next obligatory prayer which is Mincha.
23. If one didn’t pray Neila, can one compensate for this by praying Maariv twice?
While Pri Megadim writes that Neila can be compensated and some of our sages agreed with this psak, most poskim argue with this (see Dirshu edition of Mishna Berura, 623:1, Kaf Hachaim 108:12 and Shevet Halevi ibid).
24. During the Ten Days of Repentance we change the chasima (ending) of two of the blessings to “Hamelech Hakadosh” and “Hamelech Hamishpat.” For what other blessing is there a different chasima in some Ashkenazic siddurim?
Some Ashkenazim end the last blessing with “Oseh Hashalom.” Apparently this Nusach actually existed throughout the year as the Nusach of Israeli Jews, and it was preserved by Ashkenazim during the High Holidays (see also Aruch Hashulchan 582:4). The ancient Nusach of Eretz Yisrael was similarly preserved when many Ashkenazim change the ending of the seventeenth brocha when the blessing of Cohanim is recited to: “Sheoscha Levadcha Beyirah Naavod,” and in Yom Tov piyut called “Maaravis,” the ending of the blessing after Shema was “Tzur Yisrael Vegoalo” (see introduction to Siddur Hamefurash).
25. What is the correct correspondence between three types of sin (cheit, avon, pesha) and three types of forgiveness (selicha, mechila and kapara)?
There are many opinions about this. Ashkenazi machzorim have selicha for chataim, mechila for avonos and kapara for peshaim and this is the opinion of Yerushalmi (end of Yoma). A different opinion is that kapara applies to chataim since kapara is the greatest forgiveness and it is therefore applicable only to mistaken sins; mechila applies to avonos, and selicha (the minimal forgiveness) to the greatest sins committed as an act of rebellion – peshaim (Vayikra Rabbah 3:3, Machzor Vitri, Shulchan Aruch Harav 607:7, Aruch Hashulchan 607:6, Shaarei Teshuva 607:3 in the name of Shela and Rema; however Magen Avraham 607:3 and Be-er Heitiv quote in their name that selicha applies to avanos and mechila – to peshaim and indeed that is what is printed in Darkei Moshe 621:4 and this is what Hasidic Machzorim “Nusach Sfard” have). Sephardic Machzorim have mechila for chataim, kapara for avonos and both selicha and mechila for peshaim. Note that on Rosh Chodesh we say in Mussaf mechila for chet, selicha for avon and kapara for pesha, and in the prayers before going to sleep and the prayers in the morning section of korbanos there are other combinations.
Questions about Sukkos
1. Is it possible to use a Sukkah, which has been standing since last year?
One needs to move or shake some of the s’chach a little before the holiday and then it is kosher (see details in Orach Chaim 636:1).
2. Can bunk beds be used in the Sukkah?
Only if the vertical distance between them is less than 10 tefachim, otherwise only the top bed can be used (Shu”t Shevet Halevi 7:36).
3. Why do our sages (Sukka 28b) compare the rain on the first night of Sukkos to a master who spilled out the wine mixed with water prepared by his servant?
The GR”A (likutim in the end of Dvar Eliyahu on Iyov, Yahel Ohr on Zohar 3:256b) explains that this parable is exact. Wine represents the Side of Judgement (Gevurah) and water – the Side of Kindness (Chesed). Similarly Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are times of judgment, followed by Sukkos – time of Divine Mercy. If Hashem does not want to accept our sitting in the Sukkah on the very first day of the holiday, it is as if He does not allow softening the Judgment by mixing it with Chesed (see also Tzafnas Paneach on Rambam, Sukka 6:2 why eating in the Sukka on the first night is so important).
4. What event mentioned in the Torah happened on Sukkos?
According to GR”A (Shir Hashirim 1:4), the clouds of glory returned to protect our nation once we started building the Tabernacle. Since Moshe came down with second luchos on Yom Kippur and it took three days to gather materials for the construction, the clouds returned on Sukkos, and we commemorate this by sitting in the shadow of s’chach.
5. Why do we take out one Sefer Torah on Chol Hamoed Sukkos, but two on Chol Hamoed Pesach?
Parshas Pinchas describes the Temple offerings and every day of Sukkos, a different number of bulls were brought. Therefore the reading of the Torah is also different every day. However on Chol Hamoed Pesach, if we would only read about the Pesach offering from Parshas Pinchas, then every day four people would be reading the same short passage four times. Therefore we read different passages about Pesach from one Sefer Torah, and only one person is called to read the passage about the offering from the second scroll. In addition, there are many different passages in the Torah dealing with Pesach, enough for all the days of Chol Hamoed, but there are much fewer passages that mention Sukkos.
6. Why do we read Koheles on Sukkos?
The book of Koheles perfectly corresponds to the main theme of the holiday: not chasing after the pleasures of this world. In addition, according to Chazal, Sukkos is hinted in this book (11:2).
7. Why is the last day of Chol Hamoed called Hoshanah Rabbah?
On this day we encircle the Bimah seven times, while saying longer prayers “Hosha Nah” (Save us).
8. What Biblical prophecy was revealed on this day? How does it relate to our custom of beating the willow twigs?
On the 21st of Tishrei, Chagai (2:1) received a Divine revelation that soon the Second Temple will be built and Hashem will shake Heavens and Earth (Chagai 2:6, see Ben Ish Chai, first year, Vezos Haberacha, 9). It is possible that our custom of shaking and beating with Aravos is symbolic of this prophesy. Our sages call this a “prophetic custom” – minhag neviim (Steven Weiner, “What Did the Willows Ever Do to Deserve Such a Beating”).
9. Why does Hoshanah Rabbah never fall on the Shabbos?
It is so important to perform the custom with Aravos that the sages made sure we can do it every year.
10. Why is Yizkor prayer recited on Shemini Atzeres?
We read the passage in Parshas Re’eh on the last days of Pesach and Shavuos, as well as on Shemini Atzeres. This passage mentions the mitzvah of tzedaka and it is customary to recite Yizkor on these days, so that people will pledge money for the souls of the departed (Levush, 470).
11. If a person praying on Shemini Atzeres said “Chag Hasukkos,” did he fulfill his obligation?
There are different opinions about this (see Mishna Berura 668:2), and in general, if one already finished the blessing, he does not go back (see Piskei Teshuvos ibid). The same is true about Kiddush. However, according to the accepted contemporary Sephardic poskim, one does not fulfil his obligation if he said “Chag Hasukkos” on Shemini Atzeres (R. Ovadia Yosef, Chazon Ovadia, Sukkos, page 451; see R. Ben-Tzion Abba Shaul, Ohr Letzion, vol 4).
12. Why do we recite the Shehecheyonu blessing during Kiddush on Shemini Atzeres, but not on the last day of Pesach?
The last day of Pesach is not a new holiday, but Shemini Atzeres is technically not part of Sukkos. Indeed according to the Torah law we only need to sit in the Sukkah for seven days. The relationship of Shemini Atzeres to Sukkos is similar to the relationship of Shavuos to Pesach (see Ramban, Vayikra 23:36), and Chazal generally called Shavuos – “Atzeres.” In both cases we have seven days of a holiday with special mitzvos (matzah or sukkah with lulav), and then the culmination of one day holiday without any additional mitzvos. The difference is that in case of Pesach, it takes seven weeks to reach the final rectification on Shavuos, whereas in case of Sukkos, the Shemini Atzeres follows immediately after the holiday. According to the GR”A (Aderes Eliyahu, Parshas Emor), these Chagim correspond to the four letter of the Divine Name in the opposite order. Pesach (last Hei), Shavuos (Vav), Sukkos (first Hei) and Shemini Atzeres (Yod).
13. Why do we sit in the Sukkah on Shemini Atzeres outside the Land of Israel?
Since all holidays are kept for two days outside the Land of Israel, the last day of Sukkos lasts for one additional day into Shemini Atzeres.
14. Why do we not pick up the Lulav on Shemini Atzeres?
Since picking up the Lulav after the first day is only a rabbinical commandment, the sages did not institute to pick it up for an extra day outside the Land of Israel. For the same reason we don’t light Chanukah candles for nine days outside of Israel.
15. Do we need to sleep in Sukkah on the first day of Shemini Atzeres outside the Land of Israel?
Most people don’t sleep in the Sukkah on Shemini Atzeres, but according to the GR”A one should (see Mishna Berura 668:6).
16. The second day of Shemini Atzeres is called Simchas Torah. What is the earliest source for calling this day “Simchas Torah?”
The Talmud nowhere mentions the term “Simchas Torah,” but it does appear in the Zohar (3:256b). Apparently the custom to conclude the Torah cycle on this day was not universal and according to R. Reuven Margolies (Nitzutzei Zohar, Megillah 30b), the original Minhag in the Land of Israel was to end the Torah reading cycle on the Shabbos before Yom Kippur. The Talmud does mention that outside the Land of Israel, Vezos Haberacha is read on the second day of Shemini Atzeres (Megillah 31a) and indeed this Parsha is very appropriate for the day at the conclusion of the holiday season, with a final blessing before parting. Similarly, Shlomo blessed the Jewish people at the end of Sukkos, and for this reason according to the Talmud (ibid) the haftoras on these two days include Shlomo’s prayer and blessing from Sefer Melachim. Our custom however is to conclude the entire Torah on this day and therefore to read the haftorah from the beginning of Yehoshua (this may explain the question of Tosafos ibid, see also Levush 669 and Moadim Uzemanim 2:132 for additional reasons for finishing reading the Torah on Simchas Torah).
Section Two. Torah riddles, puzzles, trick questions.
Topic 1: Riddles on Tanach
1. Find a similar saying in Tanach: “Money can’t buy love.”
Shir Hashirim 8:7: “If a man gives all his possessions [in exchange] for love, he will simply be scorned.”
2. Find a similar idea in Tanach: “Words can kill.”
Mishlei 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
3. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Which Torah passage that we recite every day is related to this concept?
We say in Shema: “So that you don’t wander after your eyes and after your hearts” (Bemidbar 15:33). Rashi explains that what our eyes see causes our hearts to desire and our bodies to sin (see also Talmud, Sotah 8a).
4. Find a similar saying in Tanach: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
Mishlei 17:28: “Even a fool when quiet can appear as wise, and the one who shuts his lips as a man of understanding.”
5. Find a similar idea in Tanach: “Two heads are better than one.”
Koheles 4:9: “Two are better than one.”
6. Love is blind. It is believed that for the first time in the world literature this idea is found in Plato: "The lover is blinded about the beloved.” However this idea is expressed much earlier in the Torah. Where?
Mishlei 10:12: “Love covers all sins.”
7. “Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are.” According to some interpretations, a similar verse in Tanach can be paraphrased as: "Tell me who your ideals are, and I'll tell you who you are." Where is this verse?
Mishlei 27:21. According to R. Yonah (Shaarei Teshuva 3:148) this verse can be translated as: “the refining pot is for silver and furnace is for gold, but a man is according to whom he praises,” meaning, you can tell what kind of a person this is, based on whom he praises.
8. Where does the Torah mention "birthday" (yom huledes)?
Bereishis 40:20, in regards to pharaoh.
9. Who is the longest living person mentioned in the Tanach after Moshe, whose lifespan is mentioned explicitly in the Torah?
Yehoyada – 130 years (Divrei Hayamim 2:24:15).
10. This word appears in the Chumash only 14 times, but we pronounce it numerous times each day. It is the same in many languages and has become one of the most important words during prayer.
Amen. The Torah mentions this word 12 times in the passage dealing with blessings and curses that the Jewish people accepted at mounts Gerizim and Eival as well as two times in the passage of Sotah (suspected adulteress).
11. What is the longest word in the Chumash? In Tanach?
åáîùàøåúéê (Shemos 7:28). It has 10 letters. In Tanach there are some words with 11 letters, in Megillas Ester (9:3) and Yechezkel (16:47 and 20:44). Interestingly, Rambam (Sefer Tora 7:6 quoted in Yore Dea 273:4) mentions a scribe writing a word that is more than 10 letters. Since there are no such words in the Chumash, he may be talking about Megillas Ester.
12. What is the longest verse in the Chumash?
The verse with greatest number of words is in Shemos 32:1 (34 words), and with greatest number of letters is in Devarim 13:6 (127 letters).
13. The expression: "forbidden fruit is sweet" seems to come from the story of Adam and Chava. However, the Torah does not say that the desire for the fruit was caused by the fact that it was proscribed. Where in the Tanach is an explicit verse that says that what’s forbidden tends to be more desirable?
Mishlei 9:17: “Stolen waters are sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
14. Find a name in Chumash that can be transformed into another name by permuting its letters?
éåñó (Yosef) – åôñé (Vofsi, see Bemidbar 13:14).
15. Military operations are often planned at the time the enemy changes the guards. Perhaps the earliest example of such an operation is in Tanach. Where?
Shoftim 7:19: Gideon made sure to attack the Midianites, who vastly outnumbered his troops, at the time they were changing guards (see also the commentary of Malbim).
16. About which Biblical book is there greatest uncertainty regarding when it was written?
The book of Iyov. Some say he lived in the times of the patriarchs and the book was written my Moshe making it one of the earliest Biblical books, but others say Iyov lived in the Second Temple time making it one of the latest books (see Bava Basra 15b).
17. What living being is cited as an example of a hard worker in the book of Proverbs and in the world literature?
Ant (Mishlei 6:6).
18. Which animal is commonly used in Talmudic parables and various proverbs around the world, but for some reason is not mentioned in the book of Proverbs?
Fox. While fox is mentioned in the Tanach, it is never mentioned in Mishlei.
19. What is the maximal number of consecutive words in the Chumash that start with the same letter?
Eight. There are two verses that have 8 consecutive words that start with Vav: Bemidbar 32:3, Devarim 16:14. Also in Bereishis 24:35 the last seven words and the first word of the next verse make up another sequence of 8 words that start with Vav. Of course, words that start with Vav are very common, and especially common are verses that start with Vav, as most of the verses in the Book of Rus, so if we exclude sequences of words that start with Vav, then the longest sequence of words that start with the same letter is six words that start with Aleph. This is found in Bereishis 42:21 and Shemos 3:6.
20. The word riddle (chida in Hebrew) is used only in two stories in Tanach. One riddle of Shimshon (Shoftim 14:12) is well known. And which other prophet used the term chida?
Yechezkel in chapter 17 uses a riddle about two eagles hinting to Nevuchadnetzar and the Pharaoh of Egypt.
21. What is the shortest word in the Torah?
Letter Hei in Haazinu (verse 32:6) is considered a separate word (see Minchas Shai).
22. There are two inverted letters “nun” in the Chumash. And where else in Tanach are there inverted “nuns?”
In Tehillim 107 there are seven inverted “nuns” (in verses 23-28 and verse 40).
23. The most common verse in the Chumash is “Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe Leimor” (and Hashem spoke to Moshe). And regarding what other people does the Tanach use the expression “Vayedaber Hashem el?”
Generally the expression “Vayedaber Hashem el” is only used in regards to Moshe since his prophecy was the more direct and lucid compared to other prophets (see Yevamos 49b). Other prophets generally use the expression: “Ko amar Hashem,” (thus speaks Hashem). However, in one case the expression “Vayedaber Hashem el Yehoshua” is used in Sefer Yehoshua (20:1), since Yehoshua had to finish Moshe’s command of separating the cities of refuge (see also Makos 11a). There is also an additional exclusion in Divrei Hayamim (1:21:9), where “Vayedaber Hashem el Gad” is used (but in the parallel place in Shmuel 2:24:11, a different expression is used). Maybe the usage in Divrei Hayamim is due to the language differences by the times of the Second Temple when Divrei Hayamim was written. Note also that there is an analogous expression in Melachim (2:33:10) that Hashem spoke to Menashe through prophets, but it is not similar as this was not direct communication between Hashem and Menashe. It is possible that the expression “Vayedaber” is used because Hashem so much wanted Menashe to do teshuva.
24. The books of Tehillim has 150 Psalms. Why then does the Jerusalem Talmud (Shabbos 79b) mention that there are only 147 Psalms as the years of Yakov?
Some of the Psalms that we have split into two were considered one, for example the first two Psalms were one, (see Berachos 9b, see detailed discussion in R. Dovid Cohen, “Ohel David” vol. 2, Kuntras “Mispar Mizmorim shebesefer Tehillim”). It is possible that once an extra blessing was added to the Shemone Esre prayer, the first psalm was split into two. This way, the verse that we say at the end of Shemone Esre (“Yiyu Leratzon,” see Berachos 9b) that used to be at the end of the eighteenth psalm, was now at the end of the nineteenth (see “Shaar Hakollel” to “Tehilas Hashem” siddur, page 6 and page 98).
25. Which book of Tanach starts with the same verses as another book ends?
The Book of Ezra starts with what Divrei Hayamim ended: the declaration of Koresh (Cyrus the Great) that permits the Jewish people to return to their homeland.
26. Which two books of Tanach end in the same way?
Melachim and Yirimiyahu both describe at the end how after the death of Nevuchadnetzar, king Yechonia was taken out of prison and given some privileges in the Babylonian Court.
27. “Be as bold as a leopard, as light as an eagle, as swift as a deer and as strong as a lion to do the will of your Father in Heaven” (Pirkei Avos 5:24). According to the GR”A this statement is hinted in one verse of Mishlei. Where?
In Mishlei 18:10 it says îÄâÀãÌÇì òÉæ ùÑÅí ä' áÌåÉ éÈøåÌõ öÇãÌÄé÷ åÀðÄùÒÀâÌÈá: “migdal oz shem Hashem bo yarutz tzadik venisgav” – Tower of might is the name of Hashem, the righteous will run in it and be strengthened. Migdal (high tower) corresponds to being as light as an eagle, Oz – to be bold as a leopard (òÇæ – bold is written the same way as òÉæ - strength), Yarutz (will run) corresponds to being as swift as a deer and Nisgav (strong) corresponds to being as strong as a lion. All four qualities are actually hinted by the four letters of Divine Name, that is why the verse states that “shem Hashem,” the name of Hashem, hints to these four qualities. The first letter of the Divine name corresponds to the positive commandments – the actions the Torah requires as to do. The second letter corresponds to the negative commands – what the Torah tells us to abstain from doing, this is called the left side – the side of judgment. The third letter corresponds to learning Torah, and the fourth to Tefillah – prayer. Note that the Baal Haturim starts his work with this Mishna in Pirkei Avos, and it is possible that his division of the Jewish laws into “Arba Turim” (four rows) corresponds to the four qualities in the Mishna: Orach Chaim (positive actions), Yore Deah (Torah), Choshen Mishpat (abstaining from damages) and Even Haezer (the feminine aspect of Tefillah, see Berachos 31). Similarly, Aruch Hashulchan (1:16) writes that the four qualities correspond to the four basic elements (see also the beginning of Tanya in the name of Shaarei Hakedusha” of R. Chaim Vital).
28. The Greeks used to call people of other nations – barbarians, because their language sounded like gibberish (bar-bar-bar) to them. And who does our Aramaic translation of Psalms call “barbarians?”
In Hallel (Psalms 114:1) áÌÀöÅàú éÄùÒÀøÈàÅì îÄîÌÄöÀøÈéÄí áÌÅéú éÇòÂ÷Éá îÅòÇí ìÉòÅæ (When Israel came out of Egypt, the House of Yakov from a foreign nation), the Aramaic translation uses the words îòîé áøáøàé (from a barbarian nation).
29. Baal Haturim (Bereshit 38:18) brings that one of the objects Yehuda gave Tamar was Tefillin (hinted by the word “ôÀúÄéìÆêÈ”, see also Tiferes Shlomo on Parshas Vayeshev and on Chanukah). There is actually an interesting direct hint to this in the words of the Chumash. Where?
In verse 38:23 Yehuda says: let [Tamar] keep [the signs that he had given here] … (úÌÄ÷ÌÇç ìÈäÌ ôÌÆï ðÄäÀéÆä), the first letters are the same as inúôìï (Tefillin). This is the only place in the Chumash where the first letters of consecutive words are the same as Tefillin (without vowels). As a side note, what our sages meant by explanations of this type that seem anachronistic, is that Yehuda also had some kind of a Tefillin, some signs that he wore, possibly on his head and arm that reminded him about Hashem. Obviously, Yehuda’s Tefillin would not say the passages about the Exodus from Egypt, but would relate other miracles that happened to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov (for instance, Avraham’s exodus from Ur Kasdim).
30. “The one digging a pit will fall into it” (Mishlei 26:27). Find a similar verse in Koheles.
“The one who digs a pit will fall into it, and the one who breaks a fence will be bitten by a snake” (Koheles 10:8).
31. “… and rejoice with the wife of your youth” (Mishlei 5:18). Where is a similar verse in Koheles?
“See life with the wife whom you love” (Koheles 9:9).
32. Which Parsha has as many verses as the Gematria of its name?
Parshas Tzav has 96 verses.
33. Which book of Tanach has no commentary of Rashi?
Divrei Hayamim (see Artscroll and Moznaim introductions to this Sefer). The commentary that is printed on this book is not Rashi, it sometimes quotes Rashi and even argues with him. (There are also other books of Tanach where it is questionable if the commentary attributed to Rashi is really Rashi, for example Ezra and Nechemia.)
34. Our present division of each Parsha into seven aliyos is of late origin. Indeed in some cases there are different customs regarding how to divide the Parsha. However there is one Parsha whose division is from the time of Chazal. Which Parsha is this?
The song of Haazinu was divided in a way to be sung by the Leviim on different Shabbosim in the Temple and hence its division is from the Temple times (see Rosh Hashanah 31a).
35. The word Totafos refers to the Tefillin Shel Rosh. And what other word does the Torah use for the Tefillin on the head?
Zikaron – remembrance (see Shemos 13:9).
36. Aharon is the only person whose Yortzait is known directly from Chumash. However it is not mentioned in Parshas Chukas, where his death is first described. Where is it mentioned?
In Parshas Massei (Bemidbar 33:38).
37. Regarding Miriam, the month of her Yortzait is mentioned but not the day. Where is this mentioned and what opinions exist for her Yortzait?
In Bemidbar 20:1 it mentions that Miriam died in the first month. According to some opinions this was on the first day of Nisan, but according to others she died on the tenth (see Seder Olam, ninth and tenth chapters and the notes of GR”A and Yavetz on it; see also Midrash Pisron Torah, Chukas).
38. Where is the first place that the Torah mentions Miriam by name?
Miriam is not mentioned by name in the beginning of Shemos. She is first mentioned by name when she leads the women in thanking Hashem for His deliverance after the miracle at the sea (Shemos 15:20).
38. And where in Tanach is there a man by the name Miriam?
In Divrei Hayamim 1:4:17 (see Radak and Metzodos Dovid ibid, however, according to the Targum it seems this verse is talking about Miriam, the sister of Moshe).
39. Two different creatures are mentioned by this name in Parshas Shemini. One is on the list of forbidden birds and one is on the list of unclean small animals (sheratzim). What are these creatures?
Tinshames. The first (in Vayikra 11:18) is probably as a type bat (or owl), and the second (11:30) might be a mole. Maybe both have the same name since they look somewhat similar (Rashi, Vayikra 11:18). In addition, both can’t see well during day time (regarding the mole, see Moed Katan 6b based on Tehillim 58:9, and Rashi there).
39. Where does the Torah mention the “seven Canaanite nations?”
The only place in the Chumash where the seven nations are listed is in Devarim 7:1. Even though the Canaanite nations are mentioned many times in the Torah, in most cases the list does not include all seven (see also GR”A on Divrei Hayamim 1:1:13).
40. How many seasons are there according to the Torah?
Six (see Bereishis 8:22, see also Bava Metzia 106b).
41. The mnemonic for first new moon, from which we count all lunar months is áäø"ã (second day, fifth hour, 204 Chalakim, Siman “Beharad,” see Rambam, Kidush Hachodesh 6:8). According to R. Bachye, Beharad is hinted in the beginning of the Torah. Where?
If you start with the first letter of Torah and count every 42 letters you will get áäø"ã (R. Bachye, Bereishis 1:2, see also GR”A to Tikunei Zohar, end of 4th Tikun). It is from here that R. Weissmandl got his idea that later became popularly known as Torah Codes.
42. Which prophet mentions Noach, Daniel and Iyov together?
These three righteous people are mentioned together in Yechezkel (14:14), though it’s not clear if Daniel mentioned is the same as Daniel in the books of Daniel (see “Daas Mikra” and “Living Nach” from Moznaim).
43. In some communities in Spain, the minhag was to consider one of our weekly Torah Parshios as two. Which one?
Parshas Mishpatim was split into two weekly portions, the second starting with verse “if you land money to My people” (Shemos 22:24). One can see this from the fact that R. Bachye starts this Parsha with a verse in Mishlei, as he usually does in the beginning of weekly portions. Similarly, Sefer Hachinuch starts this Parsha by enumerating the number of commandments in it, and later refers to Parshas “Im Kesef” when discussing various mitzvos (e.g. 284, 327, 471 and 489).
Topic 2: Riddles on the Talmud and the Jewish Law
1. Find a similar saying in the Talmud: “There is no smoke without fire.”
See Moed Katan 18b: A person is suspected of something only if he did it, or at least partially did it, or thought of doing this, or was happy when he saw others who did this. The Talmud goes on to show that this rule does not always apply, and there are cases when haters spread false rumors.
2. Find a similar saying in the Talmud: “In the East or West, home is best.”
See Sotah 47a: one of three types of “Chen” (special attraction) is the attachment one has to the place of his residence.
3. What is the link between the expressions "Way of Life" and "Teaches Understanding?”
These are two first parts of Shulchan Aruch: Orach Chaim and Yore Deah.
4. The Talmud (Eiruvin 19a) mentions that there are seven names for Gehinom and that there are seven names of Yetzer Hara (Sukka 52a). Is there a connection between the two?
According to the Zohar (2:263a) indeed the seven “levels” of Gehinom are ruled by seven types of Satan/Yetzer Hara with different names.
5. If the top of the esrog breaks off, fulfilling the mitzvah becomes impossible. And how can it happen that after the top of the esrog broke, even someone who already used it for a mitzvah is considered to retroactively not fulfill the commandment?
If one borrowed an esrog with condition that he will return it (matana al menas lehachzir), and later the top broke off, the condition is not met at the time of return, and so he did not fulfil the mitzvah retroactively.
6. As you know, many Sephardic Jews and Hasidim wear two Tefillin simultaneously. Interestingly, there is an opinion in the Mishnah that under certain circumstances any Jew is obliged to put on two Tefillin. When is there such a situation?
Mishna in Eiruvin 10:1 discusses when many pairs of Tefillin are found on the street on Shabbos, how to bring them to a safe place. According to one opinion, two pairs should be put on at once. However the halacha doesn’t follow this opinion.
7. The Torah forbids eating parts of a living animal, but milk and eggs are permitted. Drinking kosher milk is permitted, since the Torah refers to the Land of Israel as a land “flowing with milk and honey.” And where is it hinted that eating eggs is also permitted?
When the Torah lists forbidden birds, one of them is “Bas Hayana” (a daughter of an ostrich) which according to Chazal means an egg (Chulin 64a-b). We thus learn that only an egg of non-kosher species is forbidden, and it must be that eggs of kosher birds are permitted (see Tosafos ibid starting with words “Sheim Rikma”). Another proof is from the mitzvah to send away a bird that hovers over its eggs, but the eggs themselves can be taken, presumably for consumption (see Chizkuni, Devarim 22:7).
8. How can it be that because of the birth of Cohen, someone will not be allowed to eat Truman (holy food only a Cohen and his family can eat)?
If a woman who is a daughter of a cohen whose husband is not a cohen gets divorced or her husband dies, if she has no descendants from him, she can eat Truma. Thus if her own daughter married a cohen and had a child from him, that grandchild who is a cohen will make it forbidden for his grandmother to eat Truma (even when her daughter dies). Thus the birth of a cohen actually makes his grandmother not be able to eat Truma (see Yevamos 70a).
9. How can it be that the firstborn brother has his Bar Mitzvah after the brother who was born later?
If twins were born, one came out before sundown at the end of the First Adar, and the second was born at night, in the beginning of the Second Adar. If when they turn thirteen there is one Adar, their Bar Mitzvos will be in the opposite order.
10. In many cases the Ashkenazim say “Shehecheyonu” blessing, when the Sephardim do not. For example, Ashkenazim say Shehecheyonu on the morning reading of Megillah, and on the blowing of the Shofar on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. And when do Sephardim say Shehecheyonu and most Ashkenazim do not?
Sephardim recite Shehecheyonu during Bris Milah.
11. Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 60:7) mentions that Lavan’s name is a paradox. Why?
Usually the name of righteous is mentioned after the word “name,” whereas the names of wicked are mentioned first, before the word “name” (i.e. such and such is his name). Lavan’s name is mentioned in the Torah (Bereishis 24:29) “And his name is Lavan” as if he was righteous (see Rus Rabbah 4:3) and this is a paradox.
12. Our Shmone Esre prayer has 19 blessings after the blessing against heretics was added. However in the Land of Israel even after the new blessing was added, the total number of blessings remained 18. How is that possible?
In Israel they combined the fourteenth (Bone Yerushalayim) and the fifteenth (Matzmiach Keren Yeshua) blessings into one (see Tosefta, Berachos 3:25, GR”A, Berachos 4:3, Yerushalmi, Berachos 17a, 33b, see also Tosafos Rid, Taanis 13b, Aruch Hashulchan 557). For this reason the piyutim composed in Israel (for example, Krovetz for Purim) do not have any addition for the blessing “Matzmiach Keren Yeshua.”
13. It is well known that there are times when our custom is not to marry, for example, during the three sad weeks between the seventeenth of Tamuz and the ninth of Av. According to Rema, there is a month during which some people did not get divorced. Which month is this?
The month of Iyar because there is an uncertainty as to how to write it in a “Get,” with one Yod or with two (see Rema, Even Haezer 126:6).
14. Where in the Talmud is the proverb “too many cooks in one kitchen” mentioned?
Eiruvin 3a. The exact expression is: “a pot that belongs to many partners is neither hot nor cold.”
15. A story in the Talmud (Bava Kama 50b) relates how a person who was throwing stones from his yard to the street. According to the GR”A this story is also an allegory. What does this story hint to according to the GR”A?
One man was throwing stones from his domain to the street. A sage told him: “Empty one, why are you throwing stones from the area that is not yours to the area that is yours?” He laughed at the sage’s words, but later he had to sell his property and ended up walking on the street and stumbled by one of the stone he had thrown out. This hints to how some people live in this world without performing the mitzvos and committing various sins, and by doing so they “set up stumbling blocks” in their Olam Haba. But they think only about this world and don’t realize that one day when they will reach the Thereafter, they will stumble by what they created when being here.
16. Is it possible that someone ate a certain amount of food and was obligated to make a blessing after eating, but once he ate a little more, he will not be able to make any “brocha achrona” according to halacha.
According to many poskim indeed this is possible. If one ate half a kezais of cheese and half a kezais of grapes, according to Mishna Berura (210:1) he would have to make “Bore Nefashos” blessing. If he now ate some more grapes until he ate one third of an egg size, he cannot make any brocha. The reason for this is that 1/3 of an egg is considered a kezais according to many opinions, and so there is an uncertainty if he ate a kezais of grapes or not. If indeed he ate a kezais, the proper brocha achrona is “Al Haetz Veal Pri Haetz,” but if he didn’t eat a kezais of grapes, he still has to make “Bore Nefashos” blessing. So he cannot make either brocha because of this uncertainty (see Piskei Teshuvos 210:6).
17. Which tractate has a page (amud) of Gemora with just Tosafos printed on it?
18. On which tractate is there a Gemora on some Perakim but not on others?
Tamid. All other tractates have either a full Gemora Bavli or none. Note that Yerushalmi also has tractates where the Gemora is incomplete, for example Shabbos and Niddah.
19. On which tractates did Rashi not finish writing his commentary?
Makos and Bava Basra. Makos commentary was finished by Rashi’s son in law Rivan, and Bava Basra – by Rashi’s grandson Rashbam. Note that some tractates don’t have Rashi’s commentary at all, as the commentary printed to Tamid is not from Rashi and in case of Meila, Taanis, Nedarim, Nazir, Horayos and Pirkei Avos there is an uncertainty if the printed commentary belongs to Rashi (see S’dei Chemed, K’lalei Haposkim: Rashi and Nitzutzei Ohr, Horayos).
20. What is the longest tractate in the Gemora Bavli?
Shabbos. Even though Bava Basra has the most pages in our printed edition, it is about as long as Bava Metzia, (Bava Kama is slightly shorter). Shabbos however has 35% more words than Bava Basra. The reason Bava Bastra takes so many dafs is that most of the tractate is printed with Rashbam’s commentary that is a lot lengthier than Rashi.
21. On which holiday do we read the same Torah passage two days in a row?
On the first two days of Sukkos we read the same portion from Parshas Emor (see Talmud, Megillah 31a).
22. On which Yom Tov do we read during two subsequent days two passages that follow each other in the Torah?
On the two days of Rosh Hashanah we read two subsequent passages from Parshas Vayerah. It is possible that this is done intentionally to emphasize that the two days of Rosh Hashanah have “one kedusha” (see Orach Chaim 496:2).
23. It is known that according to the GR”A the six blessings contained in Birkas Cohanim (two in each posuk) correspond to the six words in the last brocha of Shemone Esre: Shalom, Tova, Beracha, Chen, Chesed and Rachamim. And in which addition to Shemone Esre do we also mention the same six blessings?
According to the GR”A (in his commentary to Yale Veyavo, usually printed in the beginning of the third volume of Orach Chaim), Yale Veyavo prayer also includes the same six blessings: Letova, Lechen, Lechesed, Lerachamim, Lechaim, Leshalom.
24. Rambam usually concludes each of his Halachos with some fundamental principle or important Mussar. This is especially true when he is finishing an entire Sefer of “Yad Hachazaka.” And which volumes does he conclude with the fundamental principles regarding the reasons for observing the mitzvos?
In the end of Hilchos Meila (conclusion of Sefer Avoda) and the end of Hilchos Temurah (conclusion of Sefer Korbanos), Rambam discusses the need to look for reasons of commandments, still emphasizing our obligation to keep the mitzvos whether we understand their reasons or not, see his golden words there.
25. In most cases the differences between prayers of Sephardim and Ashkenazim are minor and certainly after the fact one fulfills his obligation if he prayed from a Siddur with a different Nusach. However there is exclusion to this. When is it that an Ashkenazi who prayed from a Sephardic Siddur, according to some opinions did not fulfil his obligation?
In Mussaf of Yom Tov or Chol Hamoed, Sephardim do not mention the specific korbanos of the day, and according to Rabeinu Tam one is not fulfilling his obligation (see Tosafos, Rosh Hashanah 35a).
26. The Shulchan Aruch generally is not a Mussar book, and mostly deals with purely Halachic issues. And where does the Shulchan Aruch talk about the general Mussar issue of doing everything Leshem Shamaim?
In chapter 231, after all the laws of blessings and before the laws of Mincha, the Shulchan Aruch discusses afternoon napping, and goes on to explain how everything we do should ideally be performed for the Sake of Heaven.
27. Some important laws like the prohibitions against gossiping and against counting the Jewish people were omitted from the Shulchan Aruch, and a major commentator – Magen Avraham brought them together in one Siman. Which one?
In Siman 156, Magen Avraham brings together tens of laws as well as Mussar statements on all miscellaneous topics. This is the longest “Magen Avraham” (over fifteen hundred words) and it is very important to study it (see Kaf Hachaim 156:9).
28. What is the two longest periods during the year when we read the Haftoras from the same scroll every week?
The longest period is starting with Shabbos Chazon when we read from the beginning of Yeshayahu and then continuing for seven more weeks to read from the second half of Yeshayahu. Another time when we read up to 5 Haftoras from the same scroll, is from Trei Asar starting with Parshas Toldos, assuming it does not fall on erev Rosh Chodesh Kislev. The Haftoras are from Malachi, Hoshea, Ovadia (in some congregations also Hoshea), Amos and on most years when Miketz is the Shabbos of Chanuka – Zecharia.
Topic 3: Miscellaneous riddles and funny stories
1. How is it possible that a woman can say to a man: “How are you my brother? How is your father who is my son’s brother?”
Yakov married Dina, daughter of Leah, and his son Reuben married Leah. Yakov had a son Shimon, and Leah had a son Levi. Dina can say to Levi: How are you my (maternal) brother? How is your father (Reuben) who is my son’s (paternal) brother?” (Ben Ish Chai, first year of learning, Parshas Shoftim, 20).
2. These three fruits are from the same family. The name of the first comes from Aramaic, the second – from a non-Jewish language, and the third is a Modern Hebrew word, an abbreviation of two words from Biblical Hebrew. The common name of the entire family in Modern Hebrew is the same as the Biblical name of the first of them. What fruits are these?
Esrog, Lemon and Orange. Esrog is an Aramaic word (Ramban, Vayikra 23:40). Lemon is “Limon” in Hebrew and this word (with its variations) is used already in the Middle Ages (see for instance Tshuvos HaRosh 22:2). Orange is called today “Tapuz” which is short for Tapuach Zahav (golden apple). The name of citrus family is Hadar in Modern Hebrew which is how the Torah calls the Esrog.
3. A person says to someone: you are my cousin, your father is also a cousin of mine, and your mother is my cousin. How is this possible?
For example, if there are three brothers: Reuben, Shimon and Levi, Shimon married one daughter of Reuben and the son of Levi married his other daughter. Levi’s grandson (who is also a grandson of Reuben through his mother) is a maternal cousin of Shimon’s son (through the other daughter of Reuben). His father (son of Levi) is a paternal cousin of Shimon’s son. And his mother (daughter of Reuben) is a paternal cousin of Shimon’s son (Yevamos 97b).
4. The abbreviation of the name of a famous Rabbi is a riddle. Who is this Rav?
Chida: R. Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai. His abbreviation means a riddle in Hebrew. (Although his name ends with aleph, and “riddle” ends with hei, they are pronounced similarly.)
5. This three letter abbreviation is used for two different sages. One was a great Sephardi Kabbalist and the other didn’t concentrate on Kabbala and in his commentaries to the Talmud even contradicted the concept of gilgul. Who are these sages?
Rashash. One Rashash (R. Shalom Sharabi) was a Kabbalist from Yemen. The other (R. Shmuel Strashun) was a Talmudic commentator. His commentary against gilgul is in Bava Metzia 107a.
6. This title of this Halachic book is taken from Parshas Tetzaveh and the author first lived in Germany and later in Spain. What book is this?
Arba Turim (or simply Tur). In this fundamental book, on which the Shulchan Aruch is based, R. Yakov the son of Rabeinu Asher divides all the laws that apply to us today into four sections, and hence the name: Arba Turim – four rows.
7. This Halachic commentary is named after the title of the previous book but also hints to a verse in Shir Hashirim. What commentary is this?
R. David Halevi Segal wrote a commentary to the Shulchan Aruch which also quotes and comments on the Tur, and he called it Turei Zahav (Golden Columns, abbreviated as Taz). The name also hints to “torei zahav” – necklets of gold in Shir Hashirim (1:11), though “torei” is spelled with Tav and Turei Zahav – with Tes.
8. What is the name of the super-commentary to the previous commentary whose name is also based on Parshas Tetzaveh? And what is the name of the critique to the previous commentary, whose name is taken from Shir Hashirim?
Pri Megadim is a super-commentary to various commentaries to Shulchan Aruch. His super-commentary to Taz is called Mishbetzos Zahav (Golden Rosettes, see Shemos 28:11). In addition, the author of Shach wrote a critique (hasagos) to Taz on Yore Deah and called it Nekudos Hakesef (silver dots on the necklets of gold, see Shir Hashirim ibid).
9. Dr. Cohen has a brother named Gershon, but Gershon has no brothers. How is this possible?
Dr. Cohen is a woman.
10. I can stick out my tongue and touch the Tefillin while it is on my head. How is that possible?
I didn’t say I can touch my Tefillin “with the tongue.” I can simply touch it with my hand while sticking the tongue out.
11. Four days ago the number of days left till Shabbos was the same as the number of days after Shabbos will be the day after morrow. What day is today?
Sunday. Four days ago was Wednesday, and it was 3 days before Shabbos. Two days later will be Tuesday, that is 3 days after Shabbos.
12. A certain person always lies but he always says the truth on Shabbos (see Yerushalmi, Damai 16b). On which days can he say “I lied yesterday and will lie tomorrow?”
On Friday, Shabbos and Sunday. On Friday and Sunday he can say that lied the day before and will lie tomorrow, since this will be a lie. On Shabbos he can say that he lied the day before and will lie again the next day, and it will be true. On any other day, he can’t say this, as this is true and he does not say the truth on weekdays.
13. And when can he say: “I was truthful yesterday and will be truthful tomorrow?”
He can say this on any weekday, as this is false. He cannot say this on Shabbos as this is false and he does not say falsehood on Shabbos.
14. If in addition he is always truthful on Yom Tov, when can he say: “This week I am telling the truth three days in a row?”
He can say this on almost any weekday since it’s false. Also, if on a certain week there are two days of Yom Tov before Shabbos, then he can say this on Shabbos or Yom Tov of that week, and it will be true.
15. This person has a twin brother who always says the truth. We know one of the two brothers is called Shimon. I met one of them on a weekday. How can I ask one short question to find out if the person before me is Shimon or not?
I can ask him: does Shimon say the truth today? If the answer is yes, then the person before me is Shimon. This is so even if Shimon is the liar, if Shimon is before me he will then say that Shimon says the truth, as this will be the lie. If however the person before me is not Shimon, he will answer “no” to my question, whether Shimon is the liar or the truthful brother.
16. Once a Rabbi, explaining the laws of baking matzah, was misunderstood. As a result, the next day everyone lined up to get pure water for kneading the dough from him. What exactly did he say?
He said that for matzah you need to use “mayim shelanu,” i.e. water, that was kept inside overnight to cool down. He was misunderstood as “shelanu” can mean “our” water (Pesachim 42a).
17. When the atomic catastrophe happened in Chernobyl due to gross negligence of the workers, radiation spread to the neighboring countries. An American Rabbi then used a very appropriate expression from a Mishna in Negaim. What did he say?
Negaim 12:6: “Oy leRussia, Oy lesh’cheino” – oy to the evil man, (pun on the word “Russia”), oy to his neighbors.
18. The Talmud in Maseches Megillah (7b) tells us that during the Purim Seuda, Rabbah cut the neck of R. Zeira, and later prayed for him to recover. Next year when Rabbah again invited him to join for the Purim meal, R. Zeira refused saying that not every time a miracle happens. How can we explain this strange Agadah?
Many explanations were already offered and I will offer my own. I believe Rabbah was trying to show R. Zeira a trick, how one can make it look like he slaughtered someone, while in reality it is only an illusion, and some red water is used that looks like blood. To perform this trick one needs to quickly move the knife on someone’s neck to make it look like slaughtering was done. However, since Rabbah drank some wine before, he was not able to do the trick properly, and actually wounded R. Zeira (see R. Avraham ben Harambam on Agados that he didn’t actually kill him, but inflicted a wound; see also Hagahos Yavetz for a somewhat similar to my explanation). As a side note, regarding illusionist tricks in general, some poskim forbid performing them due to the prohibition of “Achizas Einaim” (see for instance Chochmas Adam 89:6), but many poskim permit this on condition that the one doing so, clearly informs everyone that this is simply a trick of hands that everyone can learn (see T’shuvos Vehanhagos 1:455, Divrei Yatziv, Yore Deah 57). Even according to those who forbid this, it may have been permitted on Purim, just as according to some opinions, certain other actions that are forbidden throughout the year were permitted on Purim (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 696:8).
19. The Talmud (Berachot 15b) lists various words in Shema that end the same way as the next word begins. Many authorities including the GR”A (Tikunei Zohar, page 38b) learn from this that the original pronunciation in Babylon didn’t differentiate significantly between Bais and Vais, Pei and Fei etc, hence the need to make a small pause between the words “Eiseiv” and “Besad’cha,” or “Hakanaf” and “Petil.” What additional point can be made based on the same Talmudic passage regarding pronunciation of “tzeirei?”
There is a great difference in pronunciation of tzeirei between different communities, and this pronunciation does not change when yod follows this vowel. Sephardi Jews pronounce it as “e,” the Litwishe pronounce it as “ey” and Hungarians pronounce it as “i” (like in the word mine). Based on the above sugia, since “Bney Yisrael” is not listed in the Gemora as a pair of words where the first ends on the same letter as the second begins, it seems that the Babylonian Jews pronounced “tzeirei” like the Sephardim do today, and yod in “Bney” was not pronounced. There was therefore no need to make a pause between the words “B’ne Yisrael.”
Multiple choice questions
1. Which of these names in the Chumash does not belong to two different people?
a) Yosef b) Korach c) Eliezer d) Elazar e) Reuel
Answer: Besides for well-known Yosef, there is another Yosef – father of one of the spies (Yigal ben Yosef, see Bemidbar 13:7). Besides for Korach, the cousin of Moshe, there was another Korach among the descendants of Eisav (see Bereishis 36:14). Eliezer is the name of Avraham’s servant and of Moshe’s second son. Reuel is actually a name of three different people: Moshe’s father in law, a descendant of Eisav (Bereishis 36:14) and a father of one of the princes (Bemidbar 2:14). The correct answer is d). There is only one person named Elazar – the son of Aharon mentioned in the Chumash.
2. Which of the following pairs of names are never mentioned in Tanach as different names of the same person?
a) Yov - Yashuv b) Gershon - Gershom c) Deuel - Reuel d) Hoshea - Yehoshua e) Eliezer - Elazar
The correct answer is e). Eliezer and Elazar are two different names. Gershon, the son of Levi is once called Gershom (see Divrei Hayamim 1:6:1). Yehoshua is often called Hoshea. Reuel and Deuel are names of the same person (see Ramban, Bemidbar 2:4) and so too are Yov and Yashuv (see Baal Haturim, Bemidbar 26:24).
3. What is the longest book of the Tanach (in terms of the number of words)?
a) The Book of Samuel b) in the Book of Psalms c) Bereishis d) Divrei Hayamim e) Melachim
Answer: e) Melachim has more words than any other book (though the number of verses is greatest in Psalms).
4. What is the longest tractate of the Mishnah?
a) Sanhedrin b) in Shabbos c) Yevamos d) Bava Basra e) Keilim
Answer: e) Keilim is the longest tractate that has 30 chapters. Interestingly, Tosefta of Keilim is divided into three parts or gates: Bava Kama, Bava Metzia and Bava Basra, much like Nezikin was divided in our Mishna into three tractates, 10 chapters each.
5. Which of these books has an expression similar to: “constant dropping wears away a stone?”
a) Book of Mishlei b) Koheles c) Iyov d) Tehillim e) Yeshayahu
Answer: c) Iyov (14:19). However the meaning of this expression in Iyov has various interpretations and is probably not the same as that of the Latin proverb.
6. Which book has the parable similar to: "Birds of a feather flock together"?
a) Book of Mishlei b) Tehillim c) Bemidbar d) Ben Sira e) Yehoshua
Answer: d) Ben Sira (27:9), see also Tosafos on Bava Kama 92b.
7. Which of these prophets uses the parable similar to: "Jumping from the frying pan into the fire?"
a) Amos b) Hoshea c) Micha g) Zephaniah d) Zechariah
Answer: a) Amos (5:19): “As if a man ran from a lion only to meet a bear, then escaped into a house, leaned his hand against the wall, and was bitten by a poisonous snake.”
8. Which of the following sayings is not in the book of Koheles?
a) The end is better than the beginning
b) Working is better than resting
c) Better the rebuke of the wise than the song of fools
d) Good name is better than good oil
e) Two are better than one
Answer: b) “Working is better than resting” – there is no such statement. The other statements are all in the book of Koheles: 7:8, 7:5, 7:1 and 4:9.
9. Which of these objects of mitzvah that we perform today is literally mentioned in Chumash in relation to that mitzvah?
a) Esrog b) Shofar c) Tefillin d) Menorah e) Tzitzis
Answer: e) Tzitzis. All the other objects of mitzvah are not called this way in the Torah. Esrog is called Hadar, Shofar is not mentioned in regards to Rosh Hashanah, Tefillin is called Os and Totafos, Menorah is not mentioned in regards to Chanukah as this a later rabbinical enactment.
10. Which of these bodies of water is not mentioned in the Torah by this name:
a) Lake Kinneres b) The Yarden River c) The Salt Sea (Yam Hamelech) d) The Mediterranean Sea (Hayam Hatichon) e) Zered River.
Answer: d. In the Torah the Mediterranean is called the “Great Sea” (Hayam Hagadol) and sometimes “Yam Haacharon” (literally the “Last Sea,” see Haemek Davar on Devarim 11:24 for an explanation of this expression).
11. Arrange these people in chronological order, from the one birth first to the one born last: R. Akiva, Hillel, Rambam, Ramban, R. Shimon Bar Yochai, R. Yohanan Ben Zakai, Arizal, R. Yosef Caro.
a) Hillel, R. Akiva, R. Shimon Bar Yochai, R. Yohanan Ben Zakai, Rambam, Ramban, Arizal, R. Yosef Caro.
b) Hillel, R. Akiva, R. Yohanan Ben Zakai, R. Shimon Bar Yochai, Rambam, Ramban, Arizal, R. Yosef Caro.
c) Hillel, R. Yohanan Ben Zakai, R. Akiva, R. Shimon Bar Yochai, Rambam, Ramban, R. Yosef Caro, Arizal.
d) R. Akiva, Hillel, R. Yohanan Ben Zakai, R. Shimon Bar Yochai, Rambam, Ramban, R. Yosef Caro, Arizal.
e) Hillel, R. Yohanan Ben Zakai, R. Akiva, R. Shimon Bar Yochai, Rambam, Ramban, Arizal, R. Yosef Caro.
The correct answer is c). Hillel was a teacher of R. Yohanan Ben Zakai whose students were teachers of R. Akiva, and R. Shimon bar Yochai was R. Akiva’s student. Rambam (R. Moshe ben Maimon) lived a couple of generations before Ramban (R. Moshe ben Nachman). R. Yosef Caro was born before Arizal even though Arizal died earlier.
12. Find the pattern: Passover - 4, Purim - 3, the Ninth of Av - 2. Rosh Hashanah -?
a) 1 b) 2) c) 3 d) 4 e) 5
Answer: d). The numbers represent the number of letters in the month when this holiday is celebrated.
13. Passover - 4, Shavuos - 4, Rosh Hashanah - 2. Yom Kippur -?
a) 1 b) 2) c) 3 d) 4 e) 5
Answer: b). The numbers represent the number of biblical books where this holiday is mentioned. Passover and Shavuos are mentioned in all books of the Torah except Bereishis. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are only mentioned in Vayikra and Bemidbar.
14. Passover – 2,3, Sukkos – 3,3, Rosh Hashanah - 1,1, Shavuos -?
a) 2,4 b) 2,5 c) 3,4 d) 4,5 e) 3,3
Answer: b). These are the books of Chumash from where we read the Torah portions during the first two days of the holiday. On Shavuos we read from Shemos and Devarim (2,5).
15. All of the following prayers use acrostic in alphabetical or opposite to alphabetical order. However there are some Jewish communities that don’t use acrostic in one of these. Which one:
a) Pesukei Dezimra b) Berachos of Shema c) Shmone Esre d) Viduy
Pesukei Dezimra has alphabetical acrostic in Ashrey, Berachos of Shema in the first brocha, Viduy is also in acrostic. However Shmone Esre only has an acrostic in Mussaf of Shabbos and some communities (in Morocco and other places) don’t recite than nusach (see also Tur, Orach Chaim, 286). Correct answer is c.
16. According to our sages, who said the following statement and to whom it was said: "We are suffering with the first ones, and you come to add to them?"
a) Moses addressing to the Jewish people b) the Jewish elders addressing Moses c) Almighty, addressing Moshe d) Aharon addressing Moshe e) Yakov addressing Yosef
Correct answer is d (see Rashi, Shemos 18:2).
17. What is the next letter in this sequence: _ , ð,à,ñ,ú,à,à
a) à b) á c) ð d) ñ e) ú
These are first letters of the names of the Hebrew months (Nisan, Iyar … Elul). The next month is Tishrei, so the correct answer is e.
18. What is the next letter in this sequence: _ , à,ç,é,ã,à,ä,ç
a) à b) á c) ã d) î e) ú
These are first letters of the names of the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch: Orach Chaim, Yore Deah, Even Haezer and Choshen Mishpat. The correct answer is d.
 These ideas are primarily my own, but the source that connects Chanukah to Hallel is in the fact that Rambam places the laws of Hallel in the laws of Chanukah, see also Pesikta Rabbati, 2 and P’ri Tzadik to Chanukah.
 The idea to look for the shortest equidistant skip of “Matysiahu” came to me based on the following: Michael Dov Weissmandl found this name in the very end of the Torah with 50 letter skips (see “Toras Chemed” page 8). He saw this as a hint that the last of the miracles to be commemorated by additional commandments in the Jewish Law is hinted in the end of the Torah. I decided to check where Matisyahu appears with the shortest skip and was amazed to see that the verse summarizes the Chanukah victory.