Student Resources

Review / Test Questions for Introducing Judaism

  1. What features and concerns does Kabbalah share with Neoplatonic philosophy?
  2. How did rabbis explain the Bible's use of the divine names "Lord" (the tetragrammaton) and "God" (Elohim)?
  3. Summarize Maimonides' concept of "negative theology." 
  4. Outline the typical attitude of east European Hasidism to physical and sensual pleasures.
  5. In what ways did the Hasidic doctrine of the Zadik emerge from the movement's commitment to the common folk? 
  6. What features of the Ba'al Shem Tov's teachings provoked antagonism from the religious leadership of the time?
  7. Describe the role of the Messiah within the broader context of Jewish eschatological beliefs.
  8. At what point do we find an intersection between Jewish afterlife and eschatological doctrines?
  9. What were the subjects of the six "orders" of the Mishnah?
  10. Describe the impact of the biblical King David on later manifestations of Judaism.
  11. What distinguishes the "Prophets" (Nevi'im) section of the Hebrew Bible?
  12. What is designated by the term "Apocrypha"?
  13. Which genre of rabbinic literature deals primarily with interpretations of the Bible?
  14. Which individual does Judaism consider the greatest prophet? Can you think of reasons for this view?
  15. Describe the literary character of the Zohar.
  16. Discuss some of the factors that may have contributed to the rabbis' cultivation of an "oral Torah" alongside the written Torah.
  17. Arrange the following in chronological order: Abraham; David; Ezra; Judah the Prince; Samson Raphael Hirsch; Maimonides; Mendelssohn; Moses; Rashi. 
  18. In what way has the climate of Israel contributed to the religious character of Judaism?
  19. In what ways has the encounter with Zoroastrianism created new challenge s  for the self-definition of Jewish religious belief?
  20. What is the principal way through which Jews uphold their obligations in the divine covenant, according to traditional Judaism?
  21. What is the number of the negative and positive commandments of the Torah according to the standard rabbinic enumeration?
  22. Explain how and why catastrophic (apocalyptic) and utopian themes became constituent elements in the Jewish visions of the "end of days."
  23. Why was the observance of rituals a problematic issue for Jewish rationalists? 
  24. Why did Philo of Alexandria introduce the concept of the "Logos" into his interpretation of the Torah?
  25. What is the connection between the lighting of lamps and the historical events commemorated on Hanukkah? 
  26. What is the origin of the term "anti-Semite"?
  27. What were the main grounds for the prophets' criticisms of their contemporaries?
  28. Describe the main functions of the Hebrew priests [kohen / kohanim].
  29. In what important ways did the Sephardic and Ashkenazic rabbis differ in their ways of studying the Talmud?
  30. Outline two events or developments that can be regarded as "beginnings" of the Jewish Middle Ages.
  31. Which features of ancient Greek philosophy were perceived as attractive to medieval Jews?
  32. Note some of the ways in which the Qumran (Dead Sea) scrolls have changed or enriched our understanding of Second Temple Judaism.
  33. How did Maimonides justify his publication of the Guide of the Perplexed in light of the rabbinic strictures against the public teaching of esoteric lore?
  34. Summarize the distinctive ideas of the Ra'ayah Meheimna and Tikkunei Hazohar.
  35. How does the Kabbalah express   the tension between divine justice and mercy?
  36. How did the Shabbatian movement justify their leader's conversion to Islam?
  37. Why was European society so slow in implementing the Emancipation with regard to the Jews?
  38. What aspects of Jewish eschatological belief were perceived as antagonistic to the ideals of the Emancipation?
  39. According to Moses Mendelssohn, how was Judaism more universalistic than Christianity?
  40. What is herem and why did Mendelssohn seek its abolition?
  41. Why did eastern European Judaism not produce a major movement for religious reform?
  42. How did the second generation of German Reform differ from the first?
  43. How did the European Reform movement deal with the restrictions of the Sabbath?
  44. What was S. R. Hirsch's attitude towards the historical development of Judaism?
  45. What were the main differences between the Pittsburgh and Columbus Platforms of the American Reform movement?
  46. What are the main controversies currently dividing Conservative Judaism?
  47. Discuss some examples of the integration of music into modern Jewish movements.
  48. Summarize the impact of Rabbi J. D. Soloveitchik on American Orthodoxy.
  49. How did Maimonides explain the origins of idolatry?
  50. Explain the main differences between the traditional and philosophical understandings of God's "oneness."
  51. From the perspective of Judaism, can heretical opinions deprive people of their status as Jews? 
  52. Why would Jewish philosophers be uncomfortable with the existence of miracles?
  53. What is the prevalent Jewish attitude towards medical healing?
  54. Which features of conventional Jewish eschatology were absent or downplayed in philosophical versions?
  55. What is the literal meaning of the word "mashiah" (messiah)?
  56. In what way do the eschatological descriptions at Qumran contradict Josephus's account of the Essenes?
  57. How does the holiness of Jerusalem find expression in Jewish thought and practice?
  58. In what distinctive ways did Lurianic Kabbalah formulate the theme of redemption?
  59. Summarize the place of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook in the context of Zionist ideological thought.
  60. How have questions of religious messianism influenced Israeli politics since 1967?
  61. Which biblical passages served as the main precedents for later Jewish mystical schools?
  62. Describe the standard imagery of the Heikhalot mystical texts.
  63. Why was the pursuit of mystical experience perceived as dangerous?
  64. In what ways can medieval philosophy be characterized as a mystical discipline?
  65. Discuss some of the factors that contributed to the rise of peshat exegesis in the Middle Ages.
  66. How did the Wissenschaft des Judentums ("Science of Judaism") movement promote the ideological interests of the Enlightenment and the Reform movement?
  67. In which respects can the Tosafot be perceived as continuations of the Talmud's discourse?
  68. Give two main differences between the Mishneh Torah and the Shulhan Arukh. 
  69. Why is the Responsa literature especially useful as a historical record?
  70. How do Josephus's descriptions of the Second Temple sects' views on free will compare with the evidence from other documents?
  71. Illustrate the rabbinic understanding of the concept of shalom, peace, in connection with domestic and military settings.
  72. How did the traditional elementary school curriculum in France and Germany typically differ from that of Sephardic communities? 
  73. What was the chief form of worship according to the Bible?
  74. What are the qualifications for being a kohen (Hebrew priest).
  75. Where might sacrifices be offered according to Jewish practice?
  76. What are the main activities that are carried out in a synagogue?
  77. How did the place of women in the synagogue change between ancient and medieval times?
  78. How does the role of a modern rabbi differ from the traditional definition?
  79. Viewed historically, what is the typical Jewish attitude towards polygamy?
  80. From which class of commandments did talmudic law exempt women?
  81. Which religious observances were traditionally associated especially with women?
  82. When was the rabbinic liturgy given its first definitive formulation?
  83. Describe the format of a "blessing" (berakhah).
  84. Outline the main themes of the Shema.
  85. What are the three principal sections of the Tefillah (Eighteen Blessings).
  86. Why was the concept of prayer problematic to rationalist theologians in the medieval era?
  87. What ethical or moral explanations have been proposed for the Jewish dietary laws?
  88. What is the function of salting in the preparation of kosher meat?
  89. Why is a traditional Jewish kitchen likely to have at least two separate sets of dishes and utensils? 
  90. What is the main difference between the standard rabbinic calendar and that of the Qumran sect?
  91. Why do traditional Jewish communities outside the land of Israel add extra days to most biblical holy days?
  92. At what times of day does the Sabbath begin and conclude?
  93. Why did the Torah require the eating of matzah (unleavened bread) on Passover?
  94. According to rabbinic teaching, what event is commemorated on the festival of Shavuot?
  95. What are the "four species" that are used in the observance of the Sukkot holiday?
  96. What are the three special themes of the Additional Service on Rosh Hashanah?
  97. Why is Yom Kippur perceived as a joyous day?
  98. State two of the traditional observances associated with Purim.
  99. How was the date for Holocaust Memorial Day chosen?
  100. At what age is a Jewish ritual circumcision normally performed?
  101. Compare the stages of betrothal and marriage according to traditional Jewish law.
  102. Why is it customary for a mourner to recite the Kaddish for eleven months after the death of the loved one?