Mayim Bialik in her
Mayim Bialik in her "Jeopardy!" debut, May 31, 2021. (Screenshot from ABC via JTA)

Mayim Bialik, the show’s host, explained the dish’s roots in the prohibition on lighting fires on Shabbat.

(JTA) — Contestants on an episode of “Jeopardy!” that aired Wednesday night were stumped when presented with a photo of cholent, a stew traditionally cooked by observant Jews over the course of Shabbat.

The clue, for $400 in the “Sabbath” category: “Exodus 35:3 bans doing this on the Sabbath, hence the Jewish dish ‘cholent,’ which can go on the stove Friday and cook until Saturday lunch.”

The contestants got close with guesses of “What is cooking?” and “What is work?” but failed to name the exact Shabbat prohibition Mayim Bialik, the show’s temporary host and herself an Orthodox Jew, was looking for.

In the end, Bialik explained the answer: “What is ‘lighting a fire?’ And the word ‘cholent’ is from the French ‘chaud lent,’ [meaning] ‘cooks a long time.’”

Explaining cholent on national television was a fitting role for Bialik, the first Jew to host the popular quiz show.

Bialik, who starred in “The Big Bang Theory,” served as a celebrity host during the search for longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek’s replacement and was named a host for primetime specials in August. After Mike Richards, the show’s executive producer who was selected to host the show full-time, was revealed to have made offensive comments about women and Jews, Bialik was temporarily promoted to full-time host. While Jeopardy producers continue to search for Richards’ permanent replacement, Bialik has said she’d like to keep the gig permanently.

Bialik frequently writes about her Jewish identity and posted a video about her Jewish identity to Twitter Wednesday as part of a social media campaign organized by Hillel International to help Jewish college students feel proud of their Jewish identity. Bialik produced a series of videos for My Jewish Learning this year.

By Shira Hanau

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