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BASIC TERMS IN JUDAISM

A B C D E F G H I K L M N P R S T W Y Z


ADAR
  February/March.

AFIKOMEN 
  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
meal. 

AGGADAH
  Non-legal literature in Talmud i.e. legends, history,
proverbs, etc.

ALIYAH
  Reading from the Torah during services, relocation of a
Jew to Israel from Diaspora.

AMORAIM
  The scholars in Israel and Babylon, 3rd to 6th centuries,
who compiled the Gemara section of the Talmud.

AMIDAH
A prayer that is the center of any Jewish religious service.
Also known as the Shemoneh Esrei or the Tefilah.

ANI MAAMIN
  "I Believe"- first words of each of the 13 Principles of
Faith by Rambam (Maimonides).

ANINUT
  The period of mourning between the time of death and the
time of burial. 

ARON KODESH
  Holy Ark where Torah is kept in synagogue.

ASHAM 
  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. 

ASHKENAZ
  Jewish culture based on Nuash Ashkenaz prayer arrangement
adopted by medieval Franco-German Jews.

AV
  July/ August.

AVELUT 
  The year of mourning after the burial of a parent.

AVINU
 Our Father.

AVODA ZARA
  "Strange worship"- idol worship.



BAAL SHEM TOV 
  Master of the Good Name. Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the
founder of Chasidic Judaism. 

BAR MITZVAH
  Ceremony marking the initiation of a boy at the age of 13
into the adult community.

BASHERT
  Yiddish for destiny.  A soul mate or any good or fortuitous
match, such as the perfect job or the perfect house.

BAT MITZVAH
  Ceremony marking the initiation of a girl at the age of 12
into the adult community.

BERAKAH
  Blessing.

BENTSCH 
  Recite a blessing. Traditionally, to the recitation of the
birkat ha-mazon.

BEREISHIS
  Genesis.
 
BET DIN
  Rabbinic Court of Religious and Talmudic Law.

BET HA-KNESSET
  Synagogue.

BET HA -MEDRASH
  Study hall, often serves as a Synagogue.  

BIMAH 
  The pedestal on which the Torah scrolls are placed when
they are being read in the synagogue

BINAH
  Intuition, understanding, intelligence. A quality that
women supposedly have in greater degree than men.

BIRKAT HA-MAZON
  Grace after meals.

BNAI NOACH
  Movement of non-Jews who have consciously accepted the
responsibility of following the Seven Laws of Noah. 

BRIT
  Abbreviation of 'berit milah', the covenant of 
circumcision, being the physical sign of the 
covenant between Avrohom and G-d.



CANTOR
  Professional singer who leads the chanting of the 
prayers.

CHAG SAMEACH
  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.

CHILLUL HASHEM
  Profaning of the Name. Causing G-d , Torah, or Judaism to
come into disrespect. Also causing a person to violate a
commandment.

CHUKKIM
  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. 

CHUMASH
  Five books of the Torah and readings from the prophets,
rendered into weekly Torah portions. 

CHUPPAH 
  Wedding canopy, symbolic of the groom's home, under which
the nisuin portion of the wedding ceremony is performed. 



DAF YOMI 
  Page of the day. The study of a page of Talmud every day.

DAVEN
  To pray.

DAYAN
  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. 

DIN
  A legal judgement, process, or lawsuit.

DIASPORA
  The dispersion of Jews outside of Israel.



ELUL
  August/Septmeber.

ERETZ ISRAEL
  Land of Israel.

ESSENES
  Movement of Judaism that began approximately 2200 years
ago. It died out shortly after the destruction of the Temple.
 


FLEISHIG
  Kosher foods that contain meat and therefore cannot be
eaten with dairy.

FRUM
  Observant.



GABBAI
  Honorary Synagogue officer.

GALUT 
  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.

GEHINNOM (GEHENNA) 
  Place of spiritual punishment and/or purification for a
period of up to 12 months after death.

GEMARA
  The second and supplementary part of the Talmud (oral law),
including discussions, rulings, and commentary of the
Mishnah, the code of Jewish law.

GET 
  A writ of divorce. Also called a sefer k'ritut. 

GEZEIRA
  A law instituted by the rabbis to prevent people from
unintentionally violating commandments



HAGGADAH
  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.

HALACHA
  The legal and regulatory portions of Jewish traditional
lore.

HASHEM
  G-d, literally 'The Name'.

HA-TIKVA
  The national anthem of the State of Israel (means literally
"The Hope").

HAVDALLAH
  Blessing over wine, candle and spices, marking the close of
the sabbath and festivals.

HESHVAN
  October/November.



IYAR
  April/May.



KABALAH
  The Jewish mystical tradition.

KADDISH
  Aramiac prayer, offering praise to g-d, recited at close
of principle segments of the service. Also recited by
mourners.

KARAITES
  8th century denomination that rejected Rabbinic Judaism,
accepting only the Bible as authoritive.

KASHER (KOSHER)
  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.

KAVVANAH
  Devotion in prayer.

KETUBBAH
  Marriage contract outlining the obligations of bride and groom
to each other.

KIDDUSH
  Blessing over wine on the Sabbath and festivals.

KIPPA
  Yarmulke or skullcap worn by observant Jews.

KISLEV
  November/December.

KOHEN
  A descendant of the priestly tribe.

KOTEL
  The Western (Wailing) Wall, last surviving remnant of the
Second Temple destroyed in 70 CE.



LAG BE-OMER
  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.

LEVITE
  Descendant of the tribe of Levi. Given the honor of being
called to the Torah after the Kohen.



MATZA
  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).

MAZEL TOV
  "Good luck", congratulatory greeting on joyous occasions.

MEGILAT ESTHER
  Parchment scroll containing the Book of Esther which tells the
story of how the Jews were saved in ancient Persia, recited
on Purim.

MENORA
  7-branch candelabrum that stood in the Temple.

MEZUZA
  Decoratively encased parchment with hand-written Bible
quotations affixed to the door posts of the front door
(and other doors) in Jewish homes.

MIDRASH
  Interpretation of Scripture. May teach a moral or legal concept.
Also refers to collections of sermonic interpretations.

MIKVEH
  A ritual bath intended to cleanse one of impurity. 

MINHAG
  Traditional custom or practice.

MINYAN
  Quorum of 10 Jewish males, aged 13 or over, required for
communal prayer.

MISHNAH
  Compilation of the legislative portions of the oral tradition,
completed in 210 CE.

MITZVAH
  Precept, commandment, good deed, religious obligation, or duty.

MOHEL
  Person authorised to perform ritual circumcision.

MOSHIACH
  Messiah.



NAVI
  Prophet.

NER TAMID
  A lamp which is always kept burning, usually hung above the 
Holy Ark.

NIDDAH 
  The separation of husband and wife during the woman's menstrual period. Also refers to a woman so separated.  

NIGUN
  A traditional folk melody.

NISSAN
  March/April.

Nisuin
  The second part of the two-part Jewish marriage process, after which the bride and groom begin to live together as husband and wife



PAROCHES
  Curtain which covers the Ark containing Torah in synagogue.

PASUK
  Verse.

PENTATEUCH
  The Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.

PESACH (PASSOVER)
  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.
  
PESUKIM
  Verses.

PIDYON HABEN
  '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.

POSEK
  A Rabbi authorised to give a halachic decision.

PURIM
  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.



RAMBAM
  Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon  12th century scholar,
author of 'Mishnah Torah', 'Guide to The Perplexed', and other
writings.

RAV
  Rabbi, ordained clergymen who serves as spiritual leader of
a congregation.

REBBE
  A rabbi or spiritual leader, especially used in Chasidic circles.

ROSH CHODESH
  New Moon, the first day of the Hebrew month (lunar calendar).

ROSH HA-SHANAH
  The Jewish New Year, 2-day holiday at the beginning of the
Hebrew month of Tishrei (Sept or Oct).



SANHEDRIN
  Supreme Jewish court in Talmudic times.

SEDER
  Cermeonial meal on the eve of Passover at which the Haggadah
is read and special symbolic foods are eaten.

SEFER TORAH
  Handwritten parchment scroll containing the 5 Books of Moshe.

SHABBATH
  The Sabbath, seventh day of the week, Day of Rest.

SHALOM
  "Peace"; an informal greeting and parting.

SHAVOUT
  '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).

SHEMA
  'Hear!'. The first word of Deut 6:4, being the proclamation of
the unity and 'Oneness' of G-d.

SHEVAT
  January/February.

SHIVA
  Seven days of mourning following the burial of a close relative.

SHOFAR
  Ram's horn sounded in the Synagogue service on Rosh Ha-Shanah,
and at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.

SIDDUR
  The daily prayer book.

SIMCHAT TORAH
  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.

SIVAN
  May/June.

SUCCA
  '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.

SUCCOT
  7-day Festival of Tabernacles, fall harvest festival;
traditionally, all meals are eaten in the Succa throughout the
week.



TAHARAT HA-MISHPACHAH  
  Laws relating to the separation of husband and wife during the woman's menstrual period. Also referred to as the laws of niddah. 

TAKKANAH 
  Law instituted by the rabbis and not derived from any biblical commandment.

TALLIT
  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.

TALMUD
  The Oral Law (Mishanah and Gemara) as compiled and developed
by generations of scholars over a period of several centuries
(200 to 500 CE).

TALMUD TORAH
  Elementary school for religious instruction.

TAMMUZ
  June/July.

TEFILLIN
  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.

TEVET
  December/January.

TEFILLIN
  Phylacteries, small leather boxes containing parchment
passages from Scriptures and affixed on the forehead and
arm by observant male Jews during morning prayers.

TESHUVA
   Repentance

TISHA B'AV
  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. 

TISHREI
  September/October.

TORAH
  Pentateuch, the 5 Books of Moshe; also hand-written parchment
scroll that is read in the Synagogue.

TU BI-SHEVAT
  The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat (January-February),
the New Year for Trees, customary to plant trees and to eat fruit.

TZADDIK
  Righteous person.

TZEDDAKA

TZITTZIT
  Fringes attached to the corners of garments as a reminder of the commandments
  Charity.



WAILING WALL
  Western Wall. Last living remnant of Temple in Jerusalem.



YARZHEIT
  'Years Time'. Anniversary of the death of a parent or close 
relative.

YARMULKE
  See Kippa.

YESHIVA
  Talmudic school of higher learning.

YIDDISH
  'Jewish'. Originally a Jewish dialect of German with a mixture of
Hebrew and Slavic words. Primary language of eastern European Jews at
one time.

YOM HAMISHI
  Thursday.

YOM HASHOAH 
  Holocaust Remembrance Day.
  
YOM KIPPUR
  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.

YOM REVI'I
  Wednesday.

YOM RISHON
  Sunday.

YOM SHABBATH
  Saturday.

YOM SHENI
  Monday.

YOM SHISHI
  Friday.

YOM SHLISHI
  Tuesday.



ZIONISM
  Modern political movement to re-establish a Jewish state in
area known as Palestine. Founded in 1897 by Theodor Herzl.

ZOHAR
  The main text of the Kabbalist writings, containing commentary
on the Torah and stories of the 'mystical life' of Simeon bar 
Yohai.