BASIC TERMS IN JUDAISM
A B C D E F G H I K L M N P R S T W Y Z
From Greek meaning "dessert." A half piece of matzah set
aside during the Passover Seder, which is later hidden by
children and then ransomed by parents, or hidden by parents
and found by children. It is eaten as the last part of the
Non-legal literature in Talmud i.e. legends, history,
Reading from the Torah during services, relocation of a
Jew to Israel from Diaspora.
The scholars in Israel and Babylon, 3rd to 6th centuries,
who compiled the Gemara section of the Talmud.
A prayer that is the center of any Jewish religious service.
Also known as the Shemoneh Esrei or the Tefilah.
"I Believe"- first words of each of the 13 Principles of
Faith by Rambam (Maimonides).
The period of mourning between the time of death and the
time of burial.
Holy Ark where Torah is kept in synagogue.
A guilt offering. A type of sacrifice used to atone for
sins of stealing things from the altar, for when you are not
sure whether you have committed a sin or what sin you have
committed, or for breach of trust.
Jewish culture based on Nuash Ashkenaz prayer arrangement
adopted by medieval Franco-German Jews.
The year of mourning after the burial of a parent.
"Strange worship"- idol worship.
BAAL SHEM TOV
Master of the Good Name. Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the
founder of Chasidic Judaism.
Ceremony marking the initiation of a boy at the age of 13
into the adult community.
Yiddish for destiny. A soul mate or any good or fortuitous
match, such as the perfect job or the perfect house.
Ceremony marking the initiation of a girl at the age of 12
into the adult community.
Recite a blessing. Traditionally, to the recitation of the
Rabbinic Court of Religious and Talmudic Law.
BET HA -MEDRASH
Study hall, often serves as a Synagogue.
The pedestal on which the Torah scrolls are placed when
they are being read in the synagogue
Intuition, understanding, intelligence. A quality that
women supposedly have in greater degree than men.
Grace after meals.
Movement of non-Jews who have consciously accepted the
responsibility of following the Seven Laws of Noah.
Abbreviation of 'berit milah', the covenant of
circumcision, being the physical sign of the
covenant between Avrohom and G-d.
Professional singer who leads the chanting of the
Joyous festival. A greeting for holidays.
CHANUKAH (FEAST OF LIGHTS)
Eight day festival (December), during which candles are
lit on the Chanukiya (or Chanukah menorah). One candle is
lit at sundown on the first day, two on the second, etc.,
for the eight consecutive days. This is in commemoration
of the victory of Judah Macabee over the Greeks
(168-165 BCE), and to celebrate the miracle of the tiny
jug of oil that kept burning in the Temple for eight days.
Profaning of the Name. Causing G-d , Torah, or Judaism to
come into disrespect. Also causing a person to violate a
Jewish religious laws for which no reason is given in the
Torah. Some believe that they are meant to show our
obedience to G-d.
Five books of the Torah and readings from the prophets,
rendered into weekly Torah portions.
Wedding canopy, symbolic of the groom's home, under which
the nisuin portion of the wedding ceremony is performed.
Page of the day. The study of a page of Talmud every day.
Member of Rabbinic Court.
DAYS OF AWE
Ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, a time for
introspection and considering the sins of the previous year.
A legal judgement, process, or lawsuit.
The dispersion of Jews outside of Israel.
Land of Israel.
Movement of Judaism that began approximately 2200 years
ago. It died out shortly after the destruction of the Temple.
Kosher foods that contain meat and therefore cannot be
eaten with dairy.
Honorary Synagogue officer.
Exile or captivity. Any place outside of the land of
Israel where Jews live. Refers to the fact that Jews
were exiled from the land of Israel by the Romans after
the last Jewish War.
Place of spiritual punishment and/or purification for a
period of up to 12 months after death.
The second and supplementary part of the Talmud (oral law),
including discussions, rulings, and commentary of the
Mishnah, the code of Jewish law.
A writ of divorce. Also called a sefer k'ritut.
A law instituted by the rabbis to prevent people from
unintentionally violating commandments
The tale of the Exodus from Egypt-the deliverance from
slavery to freedom in the Promised Land- recited over the
festive Seder meal on the eve of Passover. In a broader sense,
all non-legal contents of Talmud and Midrash.
The legal and regulatory portions of Jewish traditional
G-d, literally 'The Name'.
The national anthem of the State of Israel (means literally
Blessing over wine, candle and spices, marking the close of
the sabbath and festivals.
The Jewish mystical tradition.
Aramiac prayer, offering praise to g-d, recited at close
of principle segments of the service. Also recited by
8th century denomination that rejected Rabbinic Judaism,
accepting only the Bible as authoritive.
Jewish laws regulating suitability for use. Food prepared
in accordance with traditional Jewish dietary laws, including
ritual slaughter, and separation of meat and dairy products.
Devotion in prayer.
Marriage contract outlining the obligations of bride and groom
to each other.
Blessing over wine on the Sabbath and festivals.
Yarmulke or skullcap worn by observant Jews.
A descendant of the priestly tribe.
The Western (Wailing) Wall, last surviving remnant of the
Second Temple destroyed in 70 CE.
33rd day of the period between Passover and Shavout (usually
about May), associated with the Bar Kochba uprising (132-135 CE)
against the Romans. Nowadays celebrated with bonfires.
Descendant of the tribe of Levi. Given the honor of being
called to the Torah after the Kohen.
Flat unleavened bread eaten during the Passover holiday, in
memory of the haste in which the Hebrews left Egypt (i.e.
there was no time to allow the baked bread to rise).
"Good luck", congratulatory greeting on joyous occasions.
Parchment scroll containing the Book of Esther which tells the
story of how the Jews were saved in ancient Persia, recited
7-branch candelabrum that stood in the Temple.
Decoratively encased parchment with hand-written Bible
quotations affixed to the door posts of the front door
(and other doors) in Jewish homes.
Interpretation of Scripture. May teach a moral or legal concept.
Also refers to collections of sermonic interpretations.
A ritual bath intended to cleanse one of impurity.
Traditional custom or practice.
Quorum of 10 Jewish males, aged 13 or over, required for
Compilation of the legislative portions of the oral tradition,
completed in 210 CE.
Precept, commandment, good deed, religious obligation, or duty.
Person authorised to perform ritual circumcision.
A lamp which is always kept burning, usually hung above the
The separation of husband and wife during the woman's menstrual period. Also refers to a woman so separated.
A traditional folk melody.
The second part of the two-part Jewish marriage process, after which the bride and groom begin to live together as husband and wife
Curtain which covers the Ark containing Torah in synagogue.
The Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
7-day spring festival commemorating the Exodus from Egypt. The
first night is marked by a ceremonial meal (Seder) at which the
Haggadah is read.
'Redemption of the first born'. A short ceremony conducted when
a male is 30 days old. The father donates a small sum of money,
symbolic of the biblical injunction of Exod 13:1-16, to redeem
the first-born son.
A Rabbi authorised to give a halachic decision.
Festival commemorating the salvation of the Jews from the
hands of Haman, as recorded in the Book of Esther. Purim
traditions include wearing fancy dress costumes and sending
gifts of food to family and friends.
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon 12th century scholar,
author of 'Mishnah Torah', 'Guide to The Perplexed', and other
Rabbi, ordained clergymen who serves as spiritual leader of
A rabbi or spiritual leader, especially used in Chasidic circles.
New Moon, the first day of the Hebrew month (lunar calendar).
The Jewish New Year, 2-day holiday at the beginning of the
Hebrew month of Tishrei (Sept or Oct).
Supreme Jewish court in Talmudic times.
Cermeonial meal on the eve of Passover at which the Haggadah
is read and special symbolic foods are eaten.
Handwritten parchment scroll containing the 5 Books of Moshe.
The Sabbath, seventh day of the week, Day of Rest.
"Peace"; an informal greeting and parting.
'Weeks'.Pentecost Festival, second of the Three Annual Pilgrim
festivals. Commemorates the giving of the Torah and the Feast
of the Harvest and Fruits (May or June).
'Hear!'. The first word of Deut 6:4, being the proclamation of
the unity and 'Oneness' of G-d.
Seven days of mourning following the burial of a close relative.
Ram's horn sounded in the Synagogue service on Rosh Ha-Shanah,
and at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.
The daily prayer book.
The festival of Rejoicing of the Law, the last day of Succot,
marking the completion in the Synagogue of the annual cycle of
reading the Torah.
'Tabernacle' or 'Booth'Temporary booth (tabernacle) constructed
for the Succot holiday to commemorate the Hebrews' 40 years of
wandering in the wilderness without permanent dwellings.
7-day Festival of Tabernacles, fall harvest festival;
traditionally, all meals are eaten in the Succa throughout the
Laws relating to the separation of husband and wife during the woman's menstrual period. Also referred to as the laws of niddah.
Law instituted by the rabbis and not derived from any biblical commandment.
Four-cornered prayer shawl with fringes (Tsit-tsit) at each
corner, worn by all male adults during morning services and
by those officiating afternoon and evening services.
The Oral Law (Mishanah and Gemara) as compiled and developed
by generations of scholars over a period of several centuries
(200 to 500 CE).
Elementary school for religious instruction.
Leather cases with straps worn by adult males in morning service
(except on Shabbat)containing parchment with 4 portions from Torah:
Exod 13:1-10, Exodus 13:11-16, Deut 6:4-9, and Deut 11:13-21. Cases
are placed on forehead and left arm.
Phylacteries, small leather boxes containing parchment
passages from Scriptures and affixed on the forehead and
arm by observant male Jews during morning prayers.
The 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, a fast day to mourn the
destruction of the first and second Temples, and other historical
tragedies that have afflicted Israel.
Pentateuch, the 5 Books of Moshe; also hand-written parchment
scroll that is read in the Synagogue.
The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat (January-February),
the New Year for Trees, customary to plant trees and to eat fruit.
Fringes attached to the corners of garments as a reminder of the commandments
Western Wall. Last living remnant of Temple in Jerusalem.
'Years Time'. Anniversary of the death of a parent or close
Talmudic school of higher learning.
'Jewish'. Originally a Jewish dialect of German with a mixture of
Hebrew and Slavic words. Primary language of eastern European Jews at
Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Day of Atonement, a fast day, the holiest day in the
Jewish calendar marks the end of the "10 Days of Repentence"
starting on Rosh Ha-Shanah.
Modern political movement to re-establish a Jewish state in
area known as Palestine. Founded in 1897 by Theodor Herzl.
The main text of the Kabbalist writings, containing commentary
on the Torah and stories of the 'mystical life' of Simeon bar