This Jewish glossary (dictionary) of Basic Jewish Terms and Concepts offers a collection of Jewish, Hebrew and Yiddish words and expressions along with information, definitions and other details
This Jewish glossary (dictionary) of Basic Jewish Terms and Concepts offers a collection of Jewish, Hebrew and Yiddish words and expressions along with information, definitions and other details used within the Torah, the Judaism, Jewish traditional, Jewish heritage and culture, Jewish philosophy and Jewish religion sources.
Abishte. A Hasidic name for God.
adam kedmon. Original man.
Adar. The twelfth month of the Jewish year, occurring in February/March.
Afikomen. From Greek, meaning "dessert." A half piece of matzo set aside during the Passover seder, which is later hidden by children and then ran- somed by parents. It is eaten as the last part of the meal.
aggadah. Nonlegal rabbinic interpretation, or midrash, of the Bible, including homilies, stories elaborating Scripture, stories about rabbis, and other genres.
aliyah. (1) Immigration to Israel, "going up" to Jerusalem. It refers to each wave of immigration, beginning in 1882. (2) "Going up" to the Torah when it is publicly read, an honor given to indi-
Al Cheit. (AHL CHAYI) Lit. for the sin. A confession of community sins recited repeatedly on Yom Kippur.
alef-bet. (AH-lef-bet) The Hebrew alphabet. The name is derived from the first two letters of the alef-bet.
amidah. The central part of die Jewish service, during which congregants stand and pray silendy as a way of recreating die Temple service in dieir hearts and minds. Also known as the Shemoneh Esrei or the T’filah. Aninut The period of mourning between the time of death and the time of burial.
Arbah Minim. Lit. four species. Fruit and branches used to fulfill the commandment to "rejoice before the Lord" during Sukkot.
Aron Kodesh. (AH-rohn KOH-desh) Lit. holy chest. The cabinet where the Torah scrolls are kept.
AshkenazicJews. (ahsh-ken-AH-zik) Jews from eastern France, Germany, and Eastern Europe and their descendants.
Ashkenaz. The Jewish name first applied in the ninth century to the area of Franco-Germany and later Poland, too. It is derived from the Bible. It is contrasted with Sepharad, the Jewish name for Spain, the other major community of European Jews.
Atonement, Day of. The solemn day for expurgating the sins of the Jewish people, observed on the tenth day of the New Year, known in Hebrew as Yom Kippur.
auto-da-fe. The Portuguese term for "act of faith," referring to the exposure of Christian heretics, many of them converted Jews, during the Church’s Inquisition.
angel. From die Greek word meaning "messenger from God."
Aramaic. The common Jewish language 2,000 years ago.
atbash. Form of gematria in which die first letter of die Hebrew alphabet is transposed widi die last, die second letter is transposed widi die second to last, etc.
Av. The fifth month of the Jewish year, occurring in July/August.
Avelut. The year of mourning after the burial of a parent.
avinu malkaynu. A traditional Rosh Hashanah prayer diattranslates as "our fadier, our king" or "our parent, our ruler."
avodat haliv. Reciting prayers widi belief and convictions; lit. service of die heart.
avodat hat’sfaytiyim. Reciting prayers one doesn’t believe; lit. lip service. Baallashon hara A repeat offender of lashon hara.
baal. From the Hebrew "master, lord, warrior," used as a generic word for a pagan god.
Ba’al Shem Tov. (bahl shein tohv) Lit. master of the good name. Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer. The founder of Hasidism.
ba’al t’shuva. Literally, a returnee, or a "master of repentance;" a Jew who returns to religious practice and observance.
badhan. The Hebrew term for "jester," an entertainer at Jewish wed- dings and other festivities, from the Talmudic period on.
bar. Aramaic for "son" (hen in Hebrew), used in the n~mes of many Jews in Greco-Roman times.
bar mitzvah. Coming of age for a Jewish boy at age 13, at which time he becomes fully responsible for performing the commandments (mitzvot).
bat. Hebrew for "daughter," used in forming traditional Jewish names (e.g., Esther bat Avihayil).
bat mitzvah. Coming of age for a Jewish girl, traditionally at age 12, at which time she becomes fully responsible for performing the commandments (mitzvot).
ben. Hebrew for "son," used in forming traditional Jewish names (e.g., David ben Yishai).
Bet Din. The Hebrew term for a "house of judgment," a rabbinic court.
bet ha-midrash. A traditional "house of study," harking back to Roman times.
bilu. A movement of eastern European Jews in the first aliyah (immigration wave) to Israel in 1882 named for the initials of a Biblical phrase meaning "House of Jacob, come, let us go."
bimah. A platform in the center or front of a synagogue on which the Torah is read.
Bal Shem Tov. The founder of the Hasidic movement.
bechirat hofshi. Free will.
Beit ha’Mikdash. The proper name of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem.
Beit Haknesset. Synagogue.
Beit Midrash. A yeshiva study hall.
benoni. An average, ordinary Jew.
beracha Blessing; pl. berachot.
bubbe. Affectionate term for grandma.
Bar Mitzvah. (BAHR MITS-vuh) Lit. son of the commandment. A boy who has achieved the age of 13 and is consequently obligated to observe the commandments. Also, a ceremony marking the fact that a boy has achieved this age.
Bat Mitzvah. (BAHT MITS-vuh) Lit. daughter of the commandment. A girl who has achieved the age of 12 and is consequently obligated to observe the commandments. Also, a ceremony marking the fact that a girl has achieved this age.
B.C.E. Before the Common (or Christian) Era. (See also C.E.) beginning of day A day on the Jewish calendar begins at sunset. When a date is given for a Jewish holiday, the holiday actually begins at sundown on the preceding day.
Beit Din. (BAYT DIN) Lit. house of judgment. A rabbinical court made up of three rabbis who resolve business disputes under Jewish law and determine whether a prospective convert is ready for conversion.
Beit Knesset .(BAYT K’NESS-et) Lit. house of assembly. A Hebrew term for a synagogue.
Beit Midrash. (BAYT MID-rahsh) Lit. house of study. A place set aside for study of sacred texts, such as the Torah and the Talmud, generally a part of the synagogue or attached to it, and another name for the synagogue as well.
bentsch. (BENTSCH) Yiddish: bless. To recite a blessing. Usually refers to the recitation of the birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals).
Berakhah. (B’RUHKH-khah; b’ruhkh-KHAH); pI: Berakhot (b’ruhkh-KHOHT) A blessing. A prayer beginning with the phrase barukh atah (blessed art Thou).
Bimah. (BEE-muh) The pedestal on which the Torah scrolls are placed when they are being read in the synagogue-that is, the pulpit. Birkat-Ha-Mazon (BEER-kaht hah mah-ZOHN) Lit. blessing of the food. Grace after meals. The recitation of birkat ha-m/lzon is commonly referred to as bentsching.
Brit Milah. (BRIT MEE-lah) Lit. covenant of circumcision. The ritual circumcision of a male Jewish child on the eighth day of his life or of a male convert to Judaism. Frequently referred to as a bris.
caliph. The Anglicized form of the Arabic term for a ruler, literally "deputy" of God.
C.E. Common Era, Used instead of A.D., because A.D. means "the Year of our Lord," and Jews do not believe that Christ is our Lord.
Chai. (KHAHY, rhymes with hI) Lit. living or life. The word is often used as a design on jewelry and other ornaments. Donations to charity are often made in multiples of 18, the numerical value of the word.
challah. (KHAH-luh) A sweet, eggy, yellow bread, usually braided, which is served on Sabbaths and holidays.
chalutzim. Singular chalutz, pioneers, specifically the ear~est settlers of Israel in modem times.
Chevra Kadisha. (KHEV-ruh kah-DEESH-uh) Lit. holy society. An organization devoted to caring for the dead.
Chilul Ha-Shem. (khil-LOOL hah SHEM) Lit. profanation of the Name. Causing God or Judaism to come into disrespect or causing a person to violate a commandment.
Chol Ha-Mo’ed. (KHOHL hah MOH-ed; KHOHL hah moh-AYD) The intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot, when work is permitted.
cholent. (TSCHUH-lent) A slow-cooked stew of beef, beans, and barley, which is served on Sabbaths.
chuppah. (KHU-puh) The wedding canopy, symbolic of the groom’s house, under which the nissu’in portion of the wedding ceremony is performed.
circumcision. The removal of the foreskin of the male organ, practiced in Judaism on all males, on the eighth day of birth or at the time of conversion, symbolizing the covenant between God and the Jewish people and accordingly called berit milah (covenant of circumcision).
cohen (or kohen). A priest descended from the tribe of Levi. In traditional Judaism, kohanim (pl.) serve certain ritual functions.
conversos. Jews "converted" to Christianity in Spain and Portugal during the Middle Ages. Some continued to practice Judaism in secret.
Council of the Four Lands. The Jewish self-governing body in Russia-Poland originating in the sixteenth century. Named for the four regions of Major Poland, Minor Poland, Red Russia, and Lithuania, it was called in Hebrew Va’ad Arba Aratzot.
Chabad. Founded by Rabbi Shneur Zalman, perhaps the best-known branch of the Hasidic world known to secular and orthodox Jews; also Lubavitch Hasidus.
challah. The traditional yeast-leavened, twisted bread eaten on the Sabbath and on holidays.
chavrusa. Spiritually committed Torah study partner.
chavurah. Gathering of spiritually committed Jewish friends.
chazzan. Prayer leader.
cofer ha-ikur. One who denies the basic point of Judaism that God exists and created the Torah.
Dead Sea Scrolls. Scrolls and fragments of parchment found in caves above the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. They contain texts of the Hebrew Bible as well as original works preserved and copied by a cominunity of Jews who lived there in Roman times.
decalogue. From the Greek for "ten" and "word," referring to the Ten Commandments, which represent ten words or major principles.
desecration of the host. A libel leveled by medieval Christians against Jews alleging that Jews had desecrated the bread that Christians believed had become in the Eucharist the body of Jesus. As in cases of blood libel, Christians would often attack Jews on the basis of the charge.
diaspora. An overall term designating the aggregate of Jewish communities living outside the land of Israel. Because such communities often originated through an expulsion from Israel, the term is Greek for "dispersion."
disputation. An argument over doctrine, grounded in the interpretation of Scripture, between Christian groups or between Christians and Jews, especially in the medieval period.
daf yomi. The process of reading a page a day of the Torah, which comes out to be about seven and a half years; lit. a page a day.
Dati (DAH-tee). Orthodox Jews in Israel.
Days of Awe. The ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, a time for introspection and consideration of the sins of the previous year.
davar. 1. thing 2. word
davening. The traditional approach to Jewish prayer.
derech eretz. Respect.
din v’heshbon. A judgment and accounting for our lives before God.
drash. The textual analysis of text in which analogies and connections to other aspects of life can be found.
dreidel. A toplike toy used to playa traditional Hanukkah game.
dvekut. The concept of adhering to God with joy; achieving piety and nobility of spirit through happiness, dancing, great fervor in prayer, and great enjoyment in the simple pleasures of life.
emancipation. The extension of fundamental civil rights to Jews in Europe beginning in the early nineteenth century.
Eretz Israel. The "Land of Israel," the biblical name for what is later sometimes called Palestine.
Ethics of the Fathers. A special section of the Talmud quoting the ethical, moral teachings, and maxims of ancient sages.
etrog (ET-rohg). A citrus fruit native to Israel, used to fulfill the commandments to "rejoice before the Lord" during Sukkot.
Exilarch. The title of the appointed head of the Babylonian Jewish community in the first millennium C.E., resh galuta (head of the exile) in Aramaic. Tradition had it that the exilarch was descended from King David.
Esther. Jewish wife of King Ahasuerus who succeeds in convincing her husband not to follow Haman’s plans to exterminate the Jews.
Exodus. The movement of the freed Jewish people out of Egypt and into the desert.
fahrbrengens. An all-night series of talks given by the late Lubavitcher Rebbi, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, at Brooklyn’s Lubavitch headquarters.
Family Purity. Laws relating to the separation of husband and wife during the woman’s menstrual period. Also referred to as the laws of niddah or taharat hamishpachah.
farbissinie. Somebody who is depressed, moody, and just plain difficult to be around.
Fleishig (FLAHYSH-ig). Yiddish: meat. Used to describe kosher foods that contain meat and therefore cannot be eaten with dairy.
Four Questions. A set of questions about Passover, designed to encourage participation in the seder. Also known as Mah Nishtanah (Why is it different?), which are the first words of the Four Questions.
gaon, geonic. The gaon, or eminent one, was the head or dean of a rabbinical academy in Babylonia from the sixth through the eleventh centuries.
gam zu l’tovah. A concept that states that everything happens with a sense of ultimate.
G-d. A way of avoiding having to write a name of God, to avoid the risk of the sin of erasing or defacing the Name.
Gefilte fish (g’-FIL-tuh). Yiddish: lit. stuffed fish. A ttaditionalJewish dish consisting of a baIlor cake of ground fish.
Gehinnom (g’hee-NOHM); Gehenna (g’HEHN-uh). A place of spiritual punishment and/or purification for a period of up to 12 months after death. Gehinnom is the Hebrew name; Gehenna is Yiddish.
Gemara. The edited commentary on and discussion of the Mishnah incorporated into the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds. The term is Aramaic for "learning."
gematriya. An ancient method of interpretation by which the letters of a Hebrew word are decoded according to an assigned numerical value and then equated with another word of the same numerical value. The term is probably derived from the Greek "gamma = tria" (the third letter of the alphabet = three).
genizah. The "store room" of a synagogue used since the early Middle Ages for discarding unused Hebrew books and documents. The Genizah is the rich mine of medieval source material discovered in the late nineteenth century in the synagogue of Old Cairo.
get (GET). A writ of divorce. Also called a seier k’ritut.
ghetto. Originally a walled quarter of a city in which all Jews were compelled to live; the first such ghetto was that in Venice in 1516. Recently, it refers to any urban area with a particular ethnic concentration.
grager (GREG-er; GRA G-er). A noisemaker used to blot out the name of Haman during the reading of the Megillah on Purim.
habimah. "The Stage," Jewish theater group originating in 1917 and evolving into the national Israeli theater company, based in Tel Aviv.
Hadassah. The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, founded in 1912 by Henrietta (Hadassah) Szold and named for her in 1914. Active in providing medical and educational services to Israel, it is the largest Zionist organization.
haggadah. The "narration" of the Exodus at the Passover meal, the seder. The book incorporating the entire liturgy of the seder is called the Haggadah.
Halachah. Traditional Jewish law based on rabbinic interpretation (midrash) of the Bible and later decided on the basis of rabbinic codes and precedents.
Hallel Lit. praise God. Psalms 113-118, i~ praise of God, which are recited on certain holidays.
Hanukkah. The eight-day Jewish holiday at the onset on winter commemorating the "rededication" of the Jerusalem Temple by the Maccabees in 165 B.C.E. It is observed by kindling lights for eight nights in thanksgiving to God for delivering the few and weak from the hand of the numerous and powerful.
Hanukkahiah. (KHAH-noo-KEE-ah) A name sometimes used for a Hanukkah me norah.
Hanukat Habayit. (KllAH-noo-KAHT hah BAHY-eet) Lit. dedication of the house. A brief ceremony dedicating a Jewish household, during which the mezuzah is affixed to the doorposts.
hasidism. The Jewish religious revivalist movement originating in eastern Europe in the late eighteenth century. It maintains many characteristics of early modern Polish life, including its dress. There are diverse sects of Hasidim.
haskalah. European Jewish "enlightenment," which introduced Jews to modern ways of expression and thoughts from about 1750 to about 1880.
Hasmonean. The family of the second-century B.C.E. nationalist Jewish priest from Modin, Mattathias, father of Judas (Judah) the Macabee.
"HaTikvah" The song of the Zionist movement and the national anthem of the State of Israel; Hebrew for "the hope."
herem. A "ban" of excommunication from the Jewish community imposed occasionally in the Middle Ages.
Herut. The right-wing Israeli political party inspired by Zev Jabotinsky and formed in 1948.
High Holy Days. The English term for the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah (New Year), and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), a period of penitence falling around September.
Holocaust. The Western term meaning "fully burned" sacrifice, designating the destruction of European Jewry during World War II. The parallel Hebrew term, Sho’ah, means "annihilation."
Hoshana Rabba. The seventh day of the fall festival of Sukkot (Booths), on which worshippers encircle the synagogue seven times carrying the four species-myrtle, willow, palm, and etrog-and reciting hosannas.
Hovevei Zion. "Lovers of Zion," the ninetheenth-century Russian Jewish Zionist movement.
huppah. A Jewish wedding canopy, and by extension, the wedding ceremony itself.
ha’olam haba. The afterlife; lit. the world to come.
ha’olam hazeh. The world we live in, as compared to ha’olam haba.
Haftorah. A reading from the Prophets that follows the Torah reading during Sabbath mornIng servIces.
Haggadah. The scripture read at the Seder during the first two nights of Passover that recounts the plagues Moses brings upon Egypt and the Jewish Exodus.
halachah. Jewish law. Derived from the Hebrew word meaning "the way to go."
Haman. Advisor to King Ahasuerus who seeks to have the Jews exterminated. His plan is foiled, however, by the King’s Jewish wife, Esther, and Haman is hanged. The Jewish victory is celebrated during Purim.
Hamantaschen. (HAH-men-TAH-shen) Lit. Haman’s pockets. Triangular, fruit-filled cookies traditionally served or given as gifts during Purim.
hametz. (KHUH-mitz) Lit. leaven. Leavened grain products, which may not be owned or consumed during Passover.
Haredi. Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel.
haroset. (khah-ROH-set; khah-ROH-ses) A mixture of fruit, wine, and nuts eaten at the Passover seder to symbolize mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt.
ha-Shem. (hah SHEM) Lit. The Name. The Name of God, which is not pronounced. The phrase ha-Shem is often used as a substitute for God’s Name.
Hasid. An observant Jew and member of the Hasidic sect, one of the many groups that sprung up in the small towns of Eastern Europe in the eighteenth century. Hasidic men traditionally wear long black coats, side curls, and wide-brimmed black hats; var. Chassid.
Hasidism. (KHAH-sid-ism); Hasidic (khah-SID-ic) From the word hasid, meaning "pious." A branch of Orthodox Judaism that maintains a lifestyle separate from the non- Jewish world.
Hatafat Dam Brit. (hah-tah-FAHT DAHM BRI1) A symbolic circumcision of a person who has already been circumcised or who was born without a foreskin. It involves taking a pinprick of blood from the tip of the penis.
Havdalah. (hahv-DAH-luh) Lit. separation, division. A ritual marking the end of the Sabbath or a holiday.
Hazzan. (KHAH-zen) Cantor. The person who leads the congregation in prayer. May be a professional or a member of the congregation.
Hechsherim. The little symbols on food packages that indicate that a particular item has been produced in accordance with Jewish dietary law. The most common hechsher is a U in a circle, which indicates that the food has the approval of the Orthodox Union, a leading body of orthodox rabbis. Other individual rabbis have different symbols to represent their own imprimatur, so a person who is careful about kashrut may accept hechsherim of some individual rabbis but not others.
hekdaish. The act of leaving all property to the temple instead of heirs.
Hillel. One of the greatest of the Talmud’s authors.
Inquisition. The investigation by Christian church officials into whether Jewish converts to Christianity were true to their new faith or were secredy practicing their former religion.
Israel. Formerly the land of Canaan, now the Jewish state in the Middle East.
Israelite. A Hebrew; a Jew.
Iyar. The second month of the Jewish year, occurring in April May.
Jacob. (Israel) Son of Isaac. Father of twelve sons, who represent the twelve tribes of Judaism. One of the three patriarchs of Judaism.
Jethro. Moses’ father-in-law.
Jewish star. The six-pointed star emblem commonly associated with Judaism, also known as the Magen David, the Shield of David, or the Star of David.
Jew. A person whose mother was a Jew or who has converted to Judaism.
Judah. (1) Son of Jacob (Israel). Ancestor of one of the tribes of Israel; (2) the tribe that bears his name.
Judah Ha-Nasi. aDO-dub hah NAH-see) Compiler of the Mishna.
Kabalah. The esoteric tradition passed on among Jewish mystics beginning in Roman times and continuing in diverse forms through the Middle Ages and into the modern era.
Kaddish. (KAH-dish) Aramaic: holy. A prayer in Aramaic praising God, commonly associated with mourning practices.
kahal. Hebrew for "congregation," used to denote the organized Jewish community in eastern Europe in the pre-emancipation era.
kashrut. The commandments and traditions regarding the preparation and serving of food and drink.
katagor. The "prosecutor" who lists a person’s sins in the judgment of the soul after death.
kavanah. (kuh-VAH-nuh; kah-vah-NAH) Concentration, intent. The frame of mind required for prayer or performance of a mitzvah.
kehillah. The local communal organization of eastern European Jewry.
kedusha. A morning prayer acknowledging the holiness of God; lit. holiness.
kelipot. In Kabbalah study, the shells of light that held individual sefirot in order to keep the emanations of God from intermingling.
keriah. (KREE-yuh) Lit. tearing. The tearing of one’s clothes upon hearing of the death of a close relative.
Ketubbah. (KTOO-buh) Lit. writing. The Jewish marriage contract.
kibbutz galuyot. Hebrew for "in-gathering of the exiles."
Khazar. One of the tribes that comprised Russia in the eighth century.
Kiddush. Ha-shem Literally, sanctification of the name (of the Almighty); is the Hebrew term for the act of martyrdom.The pronouncement of the blessings over the wine that inaugurates the Sabbath day; lit. "declaration of holiness."
Kiddush Ha-Shem. (ki-DOOSH ha SHEM) Lit. sanctification of The Name. Any deed that increases the respect accorded to God or Judaism, especially martyrdom. Kiddushin Lit. sanctification. The first part of the two-part process of Jewish marriage, which creates the legal relationship without the mutual obligations.
kipa. A small, round head-covering for men worn by Jews during services, and by some Jews at all times, more commonly known as a yarmulke.
Kislev. The ninth month of the Jewish year, occurring in November/December.
kittel. A white burial shroud worn by men on Yom Kippur that symbolizes the purity to which the soul is restored.
kohen. Priest; pl. kohenim. A descendant of Aaron, charged with performing various rites in the Temple. This is not the same thing as a rabbi.
kohen gadol. High priest.
Kol Nidre. The evening service of Yom Kippur or the prayer that begins that service.
Korach. Leader of an unsuccessful rebellion against Moses after the Exodus.
korait. The most severe punishment mentioned in the Bible, that of one’s soul being cut off from one’s people.
klezmer. From the Hebrew k’ley zemer-musical instruments-the term for profes- sionalJewish musicians specializing in tunes that are part of Jewish heritage.
kosher. The Hebrew term meaning "fit," referring to food that is permitted according to Jewish religious law. The term has entered modern English in the sense of "legitimate." The Jewish laws relating to food and drink. Kosher is an adjective ("Don’t eat that-it isn’t kosher!"), and kashrut is the term for the overall system of laws regarding food.
kugel. (KOO-gul; KI-gu/) Yiddish: pudding. A casserole of potatoes, eggs, and onion, or a dessert of noodles, frnits, and nuts in an egg-based pudding.
Kuzari. Yehuda ha-Levi’s book about the king of the eighth-century Khazars who converted, along with his entire people, to Judaism.
kvittel. Yiddish term meaning individual prayer; lit. "short letter"; pl. kvitlach.
Ladino. (Luh-DEE-noh) The "international language" of Sephardic Jews, based primarily on Spanish, with words taken from Hebrew, Arabic, and other languages, and written in the Hebrew alphabet.
landsmannschaften. The Yiddish name for associations of eastern European Jewish immigrants from the same town formed for the purpose of economic assistance.
lashon hara. Gossip.
lashon kodesh. Hebrew; lit. the holy tongue.
latkes. (LAHT-kuh; LAHT-kees) Potato pancakes traditionally eaten during Hanukkah.
L’Chayim. (l’-KHAHY-eem) Lit. to life. A common Jewish toast. leap year A year with an extra month, to realign the Jewish lunar calendar with the solar year.
Levi. (LAY-vee); Levite (LEE-vahyt) (1) A descendant of the tribe of Levi, which was set aside to perfonn certain duties in connection with the Temple; (2) Son of Jacob (Israel). Ancestor of the tribe of Levi.
L’shanah Tovah. (li-SHAH-nuh TOH-vuh; li-shah-NAH toh-~H) Lit. for a good year. A Common greeting during Rosh Hashanah and Days of Awe. lulav Lit. palm branch. A collection of palm, myrtle, and willow branches, used to fulfill the commandment to "rejoice before the Lord" during Sukkot.
Levite. Member of the tribe of Levi, or one of his descendants.
maasei breishit. The creation of the universe.
maaser. In ancient Israel, the act of taking the first fruits of harvest to the Temple as an offering.
Ma’ariv. (MAH-reev) Evening prayer services.
Maccabee. In Hebrew, "hammer," describing the members of the family of Mattathias and his sons, heroes of the Hanukkah story.
Magen David. The "Shield of David," often called the "Star of David," a six-pointed star used as a symbol of Jewishness since the seventeenth century. This emblem commonly associated with Judaism.
Magic Carpet. The operation in 1949-1950 to airlift about 30,000 Jews from Yemen to the newly independent State of Israel.
Mah Nishtanah. Lit. Why is it different? A set of questions about Passover, designed to encourage participation in the seder. Also known as the Four Questions.
Maimonides. Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, one of the greatest medieval Twelfth-century Jewish scholars. Commonly referred to by the acronym "Rambam." He wrote the Yigdal.
Makhzor. Prayerbook used during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
mal’ach. An angel; lit. one who is charged with a mission; pl. malachim.
mamzer. (MAHM-zer) Lit. bastard. The child of a marriage that is prohibited and invaIid under Jewish law, such as an incestuous union.
manna 1. the food, obtained by way of miracle, that the Jews lived on during their 40 years in the desert. 2. divine or spiritual nourishment.
marrano. The Christian name for Jews in Spain and PortUgal who converted to Christianity but continued to practice Judaism in secret and their descendants; Spanish for "pig."
maskil. A Jew participating in the Enlightenment (see haskalah).
Mashgiach. A person who certifies that food is kosher.
Mashiach. The Jewish Messiah, who will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and usher in an era of world peace.
matzo. Unleavened crackerlike bread eaten on the festival of Passover. According to the Torah, matzo commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt when they were too hurried to let their bread rise.
Meah brachot. The practice of saying 100 blessings for God each day.
mechitzah. (m’-KHEE1Z-uh) The wall or curtain separating men from women during religious services.
Megillah. Hebrew for "scroll," one of the five biblical books that are read on special days; the Book of Esther is read on the festival of Purim from a parchment scroll and is accordingly known as the Megillah.
Melachah. (m’-LUH-khuh) Lit. work. Work involving creation or exercise of control over the environment, which is prohibited on Shabbat and certain holidays.
menorah. "Candelabrum," the seven-branched solid-gold lamp that, according to the Torah, stood in the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle in the wilderness after the Israelites left Egypt and in the first and second Temples. It was the main symbol of Judaism in antiquity and remains an important one. An eight-branched menorah is used on the holiday of Hanukkah.
Messiah. The "anointed" king from the House of David, understood from the Hellenistic period on as a savior who would rule the community Israel in the end of days. 2. A man who will be chosen by God to put an end to all evil in the world, rebuild the Temple, bring the exiles back to Israel, and usher in the world to come.
Messianic Age. A period of global peace and prosperity that will be brought about by the Messiah when He comes.
mezuzah. Literally "doorpost," it is a small case containing a parchment on which the Shema is inscribed, traditionally affixed beside the door of one’s home and rooms in which one dwells. 2. Parchment containing verses from Deuteronomy that is rolled up and hung outside a dwelling. The procedure and prayers for affixing the mezuzah is available.
midrash. The "searching" of Scripture to discover divinely encoded meaning. The term comes to refer to all classical rabbinic interpretations of the Bible and is used to designate collections of such interpretation. 2. Rabbinical insights into Bible stories; also, collections of such insights are called by the same name.
mikdash ma’at. Miniature holy place carried by Jews in their hearts after the destruction of the second Temple.
mikva. A purifying bath, often used after sexual relations or after coming into contact with an impure substance, but many Chasidim immerse themselves in the mikvah regularly for general spiritual purification.
milchig. (MIL-khig) Yiddish: dairy. Used to describe kosher foods that contain dairy products and therefore cannot be eaten with meat.
Minchah. (MIN-khuh) Afternoon prayer services.
minhag. (MIN-hahg) Lit. custom. A custom that evolved for worthy religious reasons and has continued long enough to become a binding religious practice. The word is also used more loosely to describe any customary religious practice.
minhag. A law that is specific to the customs of a particular group of Jews; pl. roinhagim.
minyan. An official "quorum" for public prayer, traditionally comprising ten men (bar mitz- vah age or above); more recendy in some communities, it includes women, too.
Mishnah. The edition of rabbinic legal traditions and teachings by Rabbi Judah ha- Nasi in Israel around 200 C.E. The Mishnah forms the basis of the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmudim, which take it as their starting point. The Hebrew term means "teaching."
Mishnah torah. Literally, a "second Torah;" the master work on Jewish Law written by Maimonides.
Mishnah Berurah. The commentary on the Shulchan Aruch or guide to Jewish law, written by the Chafetz Chaim as a guide on behavior and practice, which is even today a staple in most observant Jewish homes around the world.
Mishpachah. The Hebrew, as well as the Yiddish, word for family.
mishkan. The prefab tabernacle that accompanied the Jews for their 40 years in the desert.
Mitnagdim. "Opponents" of the emerging Hasidic movement, formed after Rabbi Elijah the ~on of Vilna placed the Hasidim under ban (see herem) in 1772. The division into Hasidic and Mitnagdic camps persists among ultra-Orthodox Jews.
mitzvah. A "commandment" of the Torah, traditionally incumbent upon all Jews. Pl. mitzvot, the term used to describe a Divine commandment.
Mizrahi. The Orthodox Zionist movement founded in Vilna in 1902. The name, meaning "eastern" (i.e., Zion-oriented), is abridged from Merkaz Ruhani (Spiritual Center).
Mohel. (Maw-y’l, rhymes with oil) Lit. circumciser. One who performs the ritual circumcision of an eight-day-old male Jewish child or of a convert to Judaism.
Mordecai. (MOR-duh-khahy) One of the heroes of the story of Purim.
Moses. The name given to the Jewish leader by the daughter of Pharaoh, from the word "drawn," because she said, "From the water I have drawn him," when she saved him from the Nile.
moshav (pl., moshavim). Cooperative agricultural "settlements," established in the land of Israel since 1921, in which land and large machinery are owned commonly.
motzi. The blessing over bread.
motzi shame hara. Slander; to give someone a bad name.
Mount Sinai. Location where Moses and the Jewish people received the Torah from God.
musaf. The additional amidah spoken on special service days (Sabbath, new moon, and festivals) in remembrance of and in recollection of the additional service once held in the Temple.
musar shmooze. A rabbinical lecture on a character trait such as honesty, courtesy, friendliness, or respecting one’s fellows.
Mussar. The movement in Jewish education, begun by Rabbi Israel Salanter, that emphasized the development of character and ethics in addition to the usual concentration on Jewish law.
mysticism. The practice of human beings reaching up to God.
nasi. Usually rendered "prince," the term refers in the Bible to the head of a tribe and in Roman times designates the chief of the rabbinic court or Sanhedrin.
Nazarene. A Jewish follower of Jesus, named after Jesus’ home in Nazareth.
nazir. From the Hebrew "to separate." A nazir is someone who chooses to voluntar- ily separate himself from wine and the cutting of hair in order to gain closer kinship with God because of his voluntary acceptance of greater strictures on his behavior.
nach. The Hebrew acronym meaning nivi’im and ketuvim, the Prophets and the Writings.
ne’ilah. The final hour of prayer on Yom Kippur.
Ner Tamid. (NAYR tah-MEED) Lit. continual lamp. Usually translated "eternal flame." A candelabrum or lamp near the ark in the synagogue that symbolizes the commandment to keep a light burning in the Tabernacle outside of the curtain surrounding the Ark of the Covenant.
niddah. The guidelines regarding sexuality and marriage. The separation of husband and wife during the woman’s menstrual period. Also refers to a woman so separated. Also referred to as taharat hamishpachah, or "family purity."
Nihum Avelim. Lit. comforting mourners. One of the purposes of Jewish practices relating to death and mourning.
Nissan. The first month of the Jewish year, occurring in Marchi April. nissu’in Lit. elevation. The second part of the two-part Jewish marriage process, after which the bride and groom begin to live together as husband and wife.
Noahic Commandments. Seven commandments given to Noah after the flood, which are binding on both non-Jews and Jews.
Olam Ha-Ba. (oh-LAHM hah-BAll) Lit. The World To Come. (1) The Messianic Age; (2) The spiritual world that souls go to after death.
Oral Torah. (TOR-ruh) Jewish teachings explaining and elaborating on the Written Torah, handed down orally until the second century C.E.
Oral Law. The rabbinic interpretation of the written Torah (Pentateuch), understood traditionally as having been revealed together with the written Torah to Moses and transmitted from generation to generation. In Hebrew, Torah she-be’al peh.
Og. King of Bashon, a group that the Israelites defeated during their time in the desert.
Pale of Settlement. The area to which Jews were restricted to reside in czarist Russia.
parasha. A weekly reading from the Torah; pl. parashiyot.
pardes. The "garden" of connotations, created by using the first letter from each of the levels of meaning of the Bible. From this word comes the English "paradise."
Pareve. (PAHR-ev) Yiddish: neutral. Used to describe kosher foods that contain neither meat nor dairy and therefore can be eaten with either.
Parokhet. The curtain inside the Ark (cabinet where the Torah scrolls are kept).
Parsha. (PARR-sbab) A weekly Torah portion read in synagogue.
Passover. See Pesah.
patriarchs. Hebrew forefathers of the Israelite people about whom we read primarily in the Book of Genesis-Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve sons of Jacob, most prominent among whom are Judah and Joseph. The wives of the patriarchs are the matriarchs, principally Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel. Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The forefathers of Judaism.
Pentateuch. The Bible’s Five Books of Moses, known in Judaism as the Torah.
Pentecost. A festival commemorating the giving of the Torah and the harvest of the first fruits, known to Jews as Shavuot.
Pesah (passover). The biblical festival celebrating the land’s renewed fertility and the exodus of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage. 2.Holiday commemorating the night that God sent a plague on the firstborn of Egypt, but "passed over" the homes of the Jews. 2. The paschal lamb that, in Temple times, was sacrificed on this holiday.
Pharisees. A party of Jews that originated in the second century B.c.E., affirming such doctrines as resurrection of the dead and a high degree of ritual purity. The rabbis of the late first and subsequent centuries C.E. are Pharisees, a term (Hebrew, perushim) referring to "separation" from the impure.
phylacteries. See Tefillin.
Pidyon Ha-Ben. (Peed-YOHN bab-BEHN) Lit. redemption of the son. A ritual redeeming the firstborn son from his obligation to serve in the Temple.
Pirkei Avot. (PEER-kay ab-VOH7) Lit. Ethics of the Fathers. A tractate of the Mishna devoted to ethical advice from many of the greatest rabbis of the early Talmudic period.
Pogrom. A Russian term used to designate a violent, unprovoked attack on a Jewish community. Though the term took on this usage only in the nineteenth century, it has come to be applied to anti-Jewish attacks in earlier times, too.
Potiphar. The husband of the woman who tried to seduce Joseph, resulting in his being thrown in jail.
predicate theology. For those who do not believe in God, the practice of asking, "If there were a God, what would God want from us?"
prophecy. The words of God, spoken in Biblical times through the mouth of a devout believer.
prophet. One who is so attuned to God that God can actually speak through that person; there were thousands of such individuals in Biblical times, a small numbers of whose prophecies were recorded in the Bible.
prophetic religion. A religion founded when God speaks to one or more individuals; as opposed to a "mystical" faith that begins when individuals make a decision to contact and get to know God.
prosdor. The Talmudic word for this world, from the Greek for "entry hall." This world is considered just an entry hall to the palace, which is the afterlife or "world to come."
"Protocols of the Elders of Zion". Spurious tract composed by an anti-semite in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century describing an international conspiracy for Jewish domination of the world. Confirming common anti-Jewish stereotypes, the work has fueled antisemitism and has remained in circulation among Arabs and even in the West until today.
Purim. The late winter/early spring holiday celebrating the success of ancient Persian Jewry in overcoming an attempt to annihilate them by anti-Semites. The Scroll of Esther, narrating the biblical story, is read aloud, and merrymaking as well as charity are ordained.
Pushke. (PUSH-kub) A box in the home or the synagogue used to collect money for donation to charity.
Rabbi. A religious teacher and man authorized to make decisions on issues of Jewish law.
Rashi. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, one of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars. Eleventh-century commentator of the Torah and Talmud whose words remain an integral part of scripture study.
rechillut Gossip; repeating to A what B has said about A.
rebbe. Yiddish for "rabbi," used by Hasidim. The leading rebbe of a Hasidic sect (also known as the zaddik) is often held to possess wondrous mediatory powers with the divine.
Rebbetzin. (REB-i-tsin) The wife of a rabbi.
Rosh Chodesh. (ROHSH CHOH-desb) Lit. first of the month. The first day of a month, on which the first sliver of the new moon appears.
remez. A second layer of deeper textual meaning; lit. hint.
Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year, literally "Head of the Year," beginning the 10 Days of Repentance culminating in the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
rosh yeshiva, The head of a Jewish school.
roach hakodesh. The Holy Spirit.
Sabbath. See Shabbat.
sabra. The name of a fruit that is tough on the outside and sweet on the inside; it is the most popular way to describe a native-born Israeli.
Sandek. (SAN-dek) The person given the honor of holding a baby during a ritual circumcision. Sometimes referred to as a godfather.
Sanhedrin. The Hebraized Greek word for "council," applied to the chief judicial and legislative body of the Jews in the land of Israel in late Greek and Roman times. In 1807 it was the name given to the Jewish assembly convoked by Napoleon in Paris.
sanegor. The "defense attorney" during the judgment of the soul after death.
sar. A princely angel who looks after a nation’s interests and keeps God "informed" of what is happening with that nation.
Sarah. Wife of Abraham. Mother of Isaac. One of the matriarchs of Judaism.
Scriptures. The Jewish Bible, also referred to as the Tanach. Contains all the books commonly referred to by Christians as the Old Testament.
Second day of holidays. An extra day is added to many holidays because in ancient times, there was doubt as to which day was the correct day.
seder. The traditional ceremonial meal observed on Passover. The seder (order) involves an elaborate recitation of the exodus story (see haggadah) and a number of symbols that recall the ancient temple practices and reflect the themes of the festival. 2. A division of the Mishna and Talmud.
sefirot. In Kabbalah study, a series of 10 emanations, comprised of God’s traits, that created the universe.
Sephardic. Pertaining to the Jews whose ancestors lived in Spain and Portugal, most of whom were expelled in the 1490s, and their culture, which is distinguished from that of Ashkenaz (Franco-Germany; see previously).
Sforno. Fifteenth-century Biblical commentator, physician, and philosopher who lived around 1470-1550 in the northern Italian city of Bologna. "The Sforno," as the rabbi is colloquially called, is one of the most frequently read authors, even 500 years later.
Shabbat 1. the Sabbath, or holy day. 2. The tractate consisting of 24 chapters of laws for the Sabbath.
Shacharit (SHAHKH-reet) Morning prayer services.
Shalach manos (SHAH-/ahkh MAR-nohs) Lit. sending out portions. The custom of sending gifts of food or candy to friends during Purim.
Shammus (SHAH-mis) Lit. servant. (1) The candle that is used to light other Hanukkah candles; (2) the caretaker of a synagogue.
shaliach. An emissary sent to make contacts in a local community, find donors, create a synagogue, and offer religious services, Sabbath and holiday meals, and classes, emphasizing traditional Judaism and especially the Lubavitch way; pl. shluchim.
Shavuot. The festival of the receiving of the Torah celebrated in late spring.
Sh’ma. The line from Deuteronomy that summarizes the Jewish concept of spirituality and the monotheistic concept of God.
Shema. Three paragraphs from the Torah developing the theme of covenant obligations between God and Israel, a centerpiece of the daily morning and evening liturgy. The recitation begins with Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One."
shechinah. The concept of trying to understand what it means to have God "dwelling" and "present" in the world; lit. the dwelling place of God.
Shechitah. Kosher slaughter.
shedim. According to Rabbi Chaim Luzzato, intermediate beings that exist between the spiritual and physical worlds.
shekel. 1. in Biblical times, a unit of weight. 2. the currency of Israel.
Shemini atzeret. The eighth day of Sukkot, known as the "Zionist holiday."
Shemoneh Esrei. (sh’MOH-nuh ES-ray) Lit. eighteen. A prayer that is the center of any Jewish religious service. Also known as the Amidah or the T’filah. Shevarim (she-vahr-EEM) One of four characteristic blasts of the shofar (ram’s horn).
shevirat ha’kelim. In Lurianic kabbalism, the moment during the creation of the universe when the kelipot shattered, scattering pure light everywhere; lit. the breaking of vessels.
shivah. The initial period of mourning the loss of an immediate relative, ordinarily "seven" days, beginning at the time of burial. The seven-day mourning period during which guests come to the house of the mourner.
Shoa. The Hebrew word for Holocaust.
shochet. A ritual slaughterer.
shofar. The "horn" of an animal, usually a ram, made into a trumpet to announce the approaching New Year and to symbolize the call to repentance during services on Rosh Hashanah. 2. Ram’s horn blown in remembrance during the Hebrew month of Elul, on the High Holy Days and in times of war.
shtetel. "Little town" in Yiddish, the eastern European village in which many Jews lived in the early modern period.
shtibl. "Little house" in Yiddish, the small eastern European synagogue in early modern times, transported by Hasidim to their new communities in Israel and the West.
shul. The name commonly used to describe a synagogue, from the German/Yiddish word shut, or school, emphasizing its main function as a house of study.
shule. A Yiddish tenn for synagogue, derived from the Gennan word for "school," since a synagogue or temple typically doubles as a schoolhouse.
Shulhan Arukh. The code of Jewish law compiled by Rabbi Joseph Caro in Israel around 1542 and amended for use by European Jews by Rabbi Moses Isserles. It remains the standard source for traditional observance.
siddur. The "arrangement" of the Jewish liturgy, hence, the daily prayer book. A prayerbook, from the Hebrew word meaning "order" (similar to "Seder," the Passover meal).
Sidrah (SID-ruh). Lit. order. A weekly Torah portion read in synagogue.
sofer. A scribe who writes religious texts.
Simchat Torah. The celebration of the law that concludes the New Year holiday season each fall and which marks the time where Jews both complete and begin to reread the Bible.
sinal hinam. Senseless hatred.
sod. The deepest level of contextual meaning containing the Bible’s greatest secrets. stiff-necked The Bible’s tenn for the Jewish people, who frequently resisted God’s will with great stubbornness.
Sivan. The third month of the Jewish year, occurring in Mayl]une.
Sukkah. (SUK-uh) Lit. booth. The temporary dwellings we live in during the holiday of Sukkot.
Sukkot. The feast of Tabernacles.A festival commemorating the wandering in the desert and the final harvest.
synagogue. This Greek term for a house of "assembly," corresponding to the Hebrew heir knesset (house of assembly), designates the building in which Jews would gather to study, worship, or otherwise meet.
Tabernacles. A festival commemorating the wandering in the desert and the final harvest, known to Jews as Sukkot.
tachrichin. The religious garb placed on the dead; its color, white, is meant to symbolize purity.
taharat hamishpacha. The laws governing family purity.Taharat Ha-Mishpachah Lit. family purity.Laws relating to the separation of husband and wife during the woman’s menstrual period. Also referred to as the laws of niddah.
Takkanah. A law instituted by the rabbis and not derived from any biblical commandment.
tallit. Prayer "shawl" with fringes (tzitziyot) on the four corners, as ordained by the Torah. pl. talleisim. The great, vast compendium of Jewish law, lore, custom, and history.
tallit katan. (TAB-lit kub- TARN) Lit. small tallit. A four-cornered, poncho-like garment worn under a shirt so that we may have the opportunity to fulfill the commandment to put tzitzit (fringes) on the comers of our garments.
Talmud. The "teaching" of Jewish law a:nd lore presented as the discussion of the Mishnah by rabbinic sages in the academies of Israel and Babylonia. The Palestinian Talmud was completed by the end of the fourth century C.E., the far more extensive Babylonian Talmud by the seventh century.
Talmud chachim. Talmud scholar.
Tammuz. The fourth month of the Jewish year, occurring in June – July.
Tanach. Acronym of Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings). Written Torah; what non-Jews call the Old Testament.
Tanya. The basic text of Chabad Chasidus.
Tashlich. Lit. casting off. A custom of going to a river and symbolically casting off one’s sins. See Rosh Hashanah.
tefilah. Prayer, in the sense of "attachment."
T’filah Prayer. Sometimes refers specifically to the Shemoneh Esrei prayer.
tefillin. A series of leather boxes and straps worn primarily by Jewish men during weekday morning services. 2. Tefillin Phylacteries. Leather pouches containing scrolls with passages of scripture, used to fulfill the commandment to bind the commandments to our hands and between our eyes.
Tekiah. One of four characteristic long blasts of the shofar (ram’s horn).
Temple. The Latin-derived term for the ancient "house" of God (Hebrew, beit hamigdash, "house of the holy") in Jerusalem serving as the central holy place of the ancient Israelites and the Jewish people. The Temple built by King Solomon in the late tenth century B.C.E. was destroyed by Babylonia in 587/586 B.C.E.; the second Temple, rebuilt in 515 B.C.E. and refurbished by King Herod around the turn of the era, was destroyed by Rome in 70 C.E.ln the nineteenth century, Reform Jews began calling their synagogues temples. Jewish tradition looks forward to rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple in the Messianic Era. 2. The central place of worship in ancient Jerusalem, where sacrifices were offered, destroyed in 70 C.E. Reform Jews commonly use the term temple to refer to their houses of worship.
Ten Commandments. More properly, the "ten statements" comprise the set of positive and negative injunctions delivered by God to Israel at Mount Sinai and recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
teraphim. Pagan household idols of biblical times.
Teruah. One of nine characteristic short blasts of the shofar (ram’s horn).
Tisha b’Av. The "ninth of (the Hebrew month of Av)," the traditional date on which the first and second Temples were destroyed and on which these national and religious catastrophes as well as others are commemorated by a day-long fast.
teshuva. Lit. return, Repentance, lit. "turning to God."
Tevet. The tenth month of the Jewish year, occurring in DecemberlJanuary. Tisha B’ Av (TISB-ub BAHV) Lit. Ninth of Av. A fast day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as well as other tragedies.
Tisha B’av. The day the first and second Temples were destroyed. In subsequent years, persecutors have chosen this day to inflict further punishment on the Jews as a way of intensifying an already grim day. For example, the Jews were expelled from Spain on Tisha B’av in 1492, and during World War II, the Nazis perfonned many of their most sadistic actions against the Jewish population; lit. the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av.
Tishri. The seventh month of the Jewish year, during which many important holidays occur.
Toiter Chassidim. "Dead" Hasidim, so named because they are the only group that has never sought to replace their rebbe, Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, with another individual.
Torah. Literally, divine "instruction," Torah broadly embraces all religious sources and teaching; more narrowly, it refers to the written Torah revealed by God, traditionally to Moses, and embodied in the Pentateuch, as well as the oral Torah, believed traditionally to be the concurrent unwritten yet revealed interpretation of the written Torah. 2. In its narrowest sense, Torah, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, sometimes called the Pentateuch. In its broadest sense, Torah is the entire body of Jewish teachings.
Torah readings. Each week, a different portion of the Torah and the Prophets are read in synagogue.
Torah scroll. The Torah (Bible) that is read in synagogue is written on parchment on scrolls.
Tosafot. The commentaries written in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that expounded and further clarified Rashi’s original texts.
Tractate. A subdivision of the Mishna and Talmud.
Treif. Lit. tom. Food that is not kosher.
Trope Cantillation. The distinctive melodies used for chanting readings from the Torah and Haphtarah.
Tsuris. A Yiddish term meaning nuisance or annoyance.
Tu B’shuvat. The New Year of the Trees, a holiday that generally occurs in February, the planting season in the Holy Land. Jewish children traditionally mark the occasion by "purchasing" trees in memory of loved ones through the Jewish National Fund. 2. Lit. Fifteenth of She vat. The new year for the purpose of counting the age of trees for purposes of tithing.
tzaddik. A righteous person. The leader of a Hasidic community, often believed to have special, mystical power. Also called a rebbe.
tzaddik v’ralo. A righteous person to whom evil occurs.
TZAHAL. An acronym for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
tzimtzum Withdrawal. a term from Lurianic Kabbalah.
Tzedakah. Lit. righteous. Generally refers to charity.
Tzimmes. Yiddish. A sweet stew. (The word can also refer to making a big fuss over something.)
Tzitzit. Fringes attached to the comers of garments as a reminder of the commandments.
Ufruf. (UF-ruf) The groom’s aliyah on the Shabbat before his wedding.
ulpan. The name of the course to teach the Hebrew language to new immigrants in Israel.
Western Wall. The western retaining wall of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, which is as close to the site of the original Sanctuary as Jews can go today. Formerly known as the Wailing Wall.
Ya’akov. Jacob (Israel). Son of Isaac. Father of twelve sons, who represent the twelve tribes of Judaism. One of the three Patriarchs of Judaism.
Yad. Lit. hand. Hand-shaped pointer used while reading from Torah scrolls.
Yad Va-Shem. Hebrew for "memorial-monument," the name of the Israeli institution authorized to research and educate concerning the Sho’ah (Holocaust), memorialize the six million Jewish victims, and honor the Jewish resistance fighters and the "righteous Gentiles" who rescued Jews. Officially called the Israel Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance, Yad Va-Shem is a many-faceted museum and memorial in Jerusalem.
Yahrzeit. Yiddish: lit. anniversary. The anniversary of the death of a close relative.
Yarmulke. From Tartar for skullcap or from Aramaic yirei malka (fear of the King). The skullcap head covering worn by Jews during services and by some Jews at all times. Also known as a kippah.
yeshiva. A school for training younger students in traditional Jewish sources and an academy for training older students in Talmud and codes to prepare them as rabbis.
Yiddish. A Jewish language that developed beginning in the Middle Ages as Jews who were pushed eastward from Germany wove many Hebrew and some Slavic terms into the Germanic base of the language that they preserved as their ethnic tongue. Yiddish was spoken among Jews in eastern Europe and in places to which they migrated.
Yitzhok. Isaac. Son and spiritual heir of Abraham. Father of Jacob (Israel). One of the three patriarchs of Judaism.
Yizkor. Lit. may He remember Prayers said on certain holidays in honor of deceased close relatives.
yetter hara. An evil inclination in a person’s character.
Yigdal. The 13 principles of faith, written by Maimonides, that are still sung each week at the conclusion of Sabbath services.
Yisrael. The name by which the Jewish people are known; lit. to wresde with God.
Yom Ha-Atzma’ut. (YOHM hah ahu-mah-OO1) Israeli Independence Day.
Yom Ha-Shoah. (YOHM hah shah-All) Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Yom Kippur. Lit. Day of Atonement. A day set aside for fasting, depriving oneself of pleasures, and repenting from the sins of the previous year.
Yom Yerushalayim. (YOHM y’-roo-shah-IAH-yeem) Holiday celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem in the hands of the modem state of Israel.
zaddik (or tzaddik). A "righteous man," leader of a Hasidic sect. (See also Rebbe) More generally, a person who displays exceptional generosity and other personal qualities. Legend holds that the world exists by virtue of 36 zaddikim.
Zionizm. The political movement, initiated in the mid-nineteenth century in Europe, to reestablish a Jewish state in the land of Israel, or "Zion" in one of its biblical names; more generally, support of the State of Israel.
Zohar. The major work of the Jewish mystical tradition, a commentary on the Torah incorporating traditional and innovative ideas of Kabalah. Meaning "shining, splendor," the book is traditionally attributed to the second-century sage Simeon bar Yohai, but it is ascribed by historians to Moses de Leon in thirteenth-century Spain.
A kabbalistic text whose name is derived from the Hebrew word for "illumination."
zadie. Affectionate term for grandpa.