Written by Rifki Orzech
Jeopardy! is an American television game show with a specific quiz format. Contestants, competing for prize money, are presented with general knowledge answers and must phrase their responses in the form of questions.
On one occasion a back-to-school episode was televised featuring fifteen of America’s brightest students. Kids aged 11-12 demonstrated their knowledge in categories pertinent to tweens and their own personal interests.
Children generally do like trivia…and asking lots of questions. What makes this format perfect for Jewish kids is that they have to curb their natural inclination to answer a question with a question; and instead answer an answer with a question.
- Is it the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday with perhaps the most traditions?
- Is it referred to as Chag Ha’Aviv in the Torah, the spring festival?
- When the Bet Hamikdash stood, was it one of the pilgrimage festivals, the Shalosh Regalim, one of the three times a year when Jews made the journey to Jerusalem?
- Is anything allowed to happen till after Pesach?
- Is it the commemoration of the epic story of the Exodus, as told by Dreamworks in the animated drama, The Prince of Egypt, based loosely on the book of Exodus?
- Is it the culmination of weeks of cleaning, where we remove all leaven, chametz, from our homes?
- What’s the festival with the most preparation?
Legend has it that when the final plague struck the royal household, Pharaoh ran to Moshe in the middle of the night begging the Jews to leave. (Hence the children’s classic.) As the Jews left the next morning, they were commanded to observe this day for every generation, and we did…and we do….
Seder night, where we do all that commemorating, is an order of experiential events steeped in custom and ritual where the festive meal is almost an afterthought. We read the Haggadah, because we are obligated to talk to our children about the historic event that shaped our nation when the Jews were in Jeopardy.
We talk…a lot. We do some singing. We read about the four sons who may or may not be in jeopardy depending on if they tidied their rooms or not. We talk about the ten plagues that God inflicted on the Egyptians just prior to our freedom. We even inflate the miracle by talking about the different opinions the sages had on how many plagues actually occurred.
The commandment to talk about Pesach isn’t fulfilled unless we mention the Pesach sacrifice (not the one where you lost your nails scrubbing the oven), and the paschal lamb, which the Israelites ate in haste with unleavened bread and bitter herbs the night before their freedom. We read aloud the drama that presents a fundamental principle that pops up throughout the Bible: God hears the cry of the oppressed (which obligates us in turn not to oppress others.)
After Seder night you have a week of matza, unleavened bread, and special Pesach dishes, because the festival lasts the entire week from the Exodus to the crossing of the Red Sea. Traditionally, we spend time with our families on these interim days on expeditions. Some go to zoos and some check out local museums; we’re all free people just getting along with our families and our dramas that are no less important than crossing the Red Sea.
Rifki Orzech is an olah, a mother of three and a content writer with five years’ experience. She is passionate about women learning Torah and has completed the Susi Bradfield Educational Leadership Programme for Jewish women at the London School of Jewish Studies.