Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jewish Word List – a RonyPony Glossary of Jewish Life

I’ve said all along that I wouldn’t create a glossary for my blog, because there are many great sites out there that do that, and because I’m too lazy to write one… however, I never said I wouldn’t FIND a glossary, already written, just sitting on my hard drive for the last 10 years, just waiting to be posted somewhere where maybe it can do some good.  I have left in the original, 10-year-old links, though I have no clue if any still work (they point to jewfaq.org, which IS still up).  As always, if this list is helpful to you, please let me know!

13 Principles

The most widely accepted list of Jewish beliefs, compiled by Rambam.

40

Days Moshe was up on har Sinai and other things too

613

Commandments. Judaism teaches that G-d gave the Jews 613 commandments, which are binding on Jews but not on non-Jews.

Aaron

Older brother of Moses. Founder of the priesthood, and the first Kohein Gadol (High Priest). He helped Moses lead the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.

Abortion

Judaism permits abortion in certain, rare circumstances; sometimes (even more rarely) it may even be required.

Adoption

There is no formal procedure for adoption in Judaism, but one who raises another person's child is acknowledged as the parent in many important ways.

Adoshem

A substitute for a name of G-d.

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.

Afterlife

Contrary to popular belief, Judaism does believe in an afterlife, but it is not the primary focus of our religion and there is a lot of room for personal opinion about the nature of the afterlife.

Agunah

Lit. anchored. A woman whose husband disappeared without divorcing her.

Akiva

One of the greatest rabbis recorded in the Talmud.

Al Cheit

Lit. for the sin. A confession of community sins recited repeatedly on Yom Kippur.

Alef-Bet

The Hebrew alphabet. The name is derived from the first two letters of the alefbet.

Aliyah

Lit. ascension. 1) Reading from the Torah; (or reciting a blessing over the reading) during services, which is considered an honor (generally referred to in English as having or getting an aliyah). 2) Immigrating to Israel (generally referred to in English as making aliyah – see my other blog, Adventures in AliyahLand). There are customarily 7 aliyot on Shabbos, plus “maftir,” an additional reading, plus the “haftorah.”

Amidah

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

Amud

A lower lectern found in some synagogues. Not to be confused with the bimah, which is the primary podium from which the Torah is read.

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 L-rd" during Sukkot.

Ark

The English translation of aron kodesh, lit., holy chest. The cabinet where the Torah scrolls are kept. The word has no connection with Noah's Ark, which is "teyvat" in Hebrew.

Aron Kodesh

Lit. holy chest. The cabinet where the Torah scrolls are kept.

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.

Ashkenazim

Jews from eastern France, Germany and Eastern Europe, and their descendants.

Avelut

The year of mourning after the burial of a parent.

Avraham

The first Jew, the founder of Judaism, the physical and spiritual ancestor of the Jewish people. One of the three Patriarchs of Judaism.

B’nai Yisrael

Lit, “Children of Israel” Refers to the Jews as a nation, meaning a group of people with a shared history and a sense of a group identity.

Ba'al Shem Tov

Lit. Master of the Good Name. Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer. The founder of Chasidic Judaism.

Bar Kokhba

Aramaic: Son of a Star. Simeon ben Kosiba, the leader of the last and most successful Jewish rebellion against Rome in 132-135 C.E. He died in battle when the rebellion was defeated. Rabbi Akiba believed he was the Moshiach (Messiah).

Bar Mitzvah

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.

Bashert

Yiddish: fate, destiny. 1) A soul mate, an ideal, predestined spouse. 2) Any good or fortuitous match, such as the perfect job or the perfect house.

Bat Mitzvah

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.

Beis Hamikdash

Central place of worship in ancient Jerusalem, where sacrifices were offered, destroyed in 70 C.E.

Beit 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 Hillel

Lit. House of Hillel. A school of thought during the Talmudic period, generally contrasted with the stricter, more legalistic views of Beit Shammai.

Beit Knesset

Lit. house of assembly. A Hebrew term for a synagogue.

Beit Midrash

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.

Beit Shammai

Lit. House of Shammai. A school of thought during the Talmudic period, generally contrasted with the more lenient, humanistic views of Beit Hillel.

Bentsch

Yiddish: bless. To recite a blessing. Often means recitation of birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals).

Beta Israel

The black Jews of Ethiopia, sometimes referred to as Falashas.

Bible

Also referred to as the Tanakh. The Jewish Bible more or less corresponds to what non-Jews call the "Old Testament."

Bimah

Pedestal on which the Torah scrolls are placed when they are being read in the synagogue, the pulpit.

Binah

Intuition, understanding, intelligence. A quality that women supposedly have in greater degree than men. Also, in kabbalistic thought, one of the Ten Sefirot.

Birkat Ha-Mazon

Lit. blessing of the food. Grace after meals. The recitation of birkat ha-mazon is commonly referred to as bentsching.

Birth Control

Jewish law permits certain methods of birth control in appropriate circumstances.

Kli Rishon / Sheini

Vessel on the fire, secondary vessel – terms used to determine whether an action is considered cooking on Shabbat

B'nai Mitzvah

Lit. children of the commandment. Plural of Bar Mitzvah.

B'nei Noach

Non-Jews who have consciously accepted the responsibility of following the Seven Laws of Noah.

Bracha

A blessing. A prayer beginning with the phrase "barukh atah..." (blessed art Thou...).

Brit Milah

Lit. covenant of circumcision. The ritual circumcision of a male Jewish child on the 8th day of his life or of a male convert to Judaism. Frequently referred to as a bris.

Burnt Offering

A type of sacrifice that represented complete submission to G-d's will. It was completely consumed by fire on the altar. In Hebrew, it was called an olah.

Calendar

Judaism uses a lunar/solar calendar consisting of months that begin at the new moon. Each year has 12 or 13 months, to keep it in sync with the solar year. Years are counted from the date of Creation.

Caro, Rabbi Joseph

Author of the Shulchan Arukh, the last of the great medieval codes of Jewish law, and one of the most respected compilations of Jewish law ever written.

CE / BCE

Before the Common (or Christian) Era. Another way of saying B.C. Also Common (or Christian) Era. Used instead of A.D., because A.D. means "the Year of our L-rd," referring to Jesus.

Chag Sameach

Hebrew. Literally, joyous festival. A greeting for any holiday, but especially Sukkot, Shavu'ot and Pesach (Passover).

Chai

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.

Chalitzah

Ceremony of removing a shoe, performed by a redeemer of a woman whose husband has died leaving her childless, if the redeemer doesn’t want to marry her.

Challah

A sweet, eggy, yellow bread, usually braided, which is served on Shabbat and holidays.

Chametz

Lit. leaven. Leavened grain products, which may not be owned or consumed during Passover.

Chanukkah

Lit. dedication. An eight day holiday celebrating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was defiled by the Selucid Greeks.

Chanukkat Ha-Bayit

Lit. dedication of the house. A brief ceremony dedicating a Jewish household, during which the mezuzah is affixed to the doorposts. The procedure and prayers for affixing the mezuzah is available.

Chanukkiah

A name sometimes use for a Chanukkah menorah.

Charoset

A mixture of fruit, wine and nuts eaten at the Passover seder to symbolize mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt.

Chassidim / Chassidic

From the word "Chasid" meaning "pious." A branch of Orthodox Judaism that maintains a lifestyle separate from the non-Jewish world.

Chatat

A sin offering. A type of sacrifice used to atone for and expiate unintentional sins.

Chazal

Abbreviation for “chachamim, zichronam livracha,” (our sages of blessed memory). The sages. Refers to the greatest Jewish minds of all time.

Chazzan

Cantor. The person who leads the congregation in prayer. May be a professional or a member of the congregation.

Chelev

The fat surrounding organs, as distinguished from the fat surrounding muscles. Forbidden to be eaten under the laws of Kashrut.

Chevra Kaddisha

Lit. holy society. An organization devoted to caring for the dead.

Children of Israel

The most common designation of the Jewish people used in Jewish literature. It signifies the fact that we are descended from Jacob, who was also known as Israel.

Chillul Ha-Shem

Lit. profanation of the Name. Causing G-d or Judaism to come into disrespect, or causing a person to violate a commandment.

Chol Ha-Mo'ed

The intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot, when work is permitted.

Cholent

A slow cooked stew of beef, beans and barley, which is served on Shabbat.

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

Lit. five. A compilation of the first five books of the Bible and readings from the prophets, organized in the order of the weekly Torah portions.

Chuppah

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

Bris Milah

Literally, covenant. Removal of the foreskin, a commandment in Judaism performed on the 8th day of a male child's life or upon conversion to Judaism.

Commandments

Judaism teaches that G-d gave the Jews 613 commandments, which are binding on Jews but not on non-Jews.

Conservative

One of the major movements of Judaism, accepting the binding nature of Jewish law but believing that the law can change.

Contraception

Jewish law permits certain methods of birth control in appropriate circumstances.

Conversion

Judaism does not seek out converts, and actively discourages converts (because a person does not need to be a Jew to be righteous in G-d's eyes), but conversion to Judaism is possible.

Daf Yomi

Lit. page of the day. Refers to the practice of studying a page of Talmud every day.

Dagesh

A dot found in the center of some Hebrew letters in pointed text, used as an aid to pronunciation.

Daniel

A book of the Torah, or the writer of that book. The book is included in the Writings, not the Prophets, because by definition prophecies are meant to be proclaimed, and his visions were meant to be written, not proclaimed.

Dati

Orthodox Jews in Israel.

Daven

Yiddish: Pray. Observant Jews daven three times a day, in addition to reciting blessings over many common activities.

Days of Awe

Ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, a time for introspection and considering the sins of the previous year.

Death

In Judaism, death is not a tragedy, even when it occurs early in life or through unfortunate circumstances. Death is a natural process.

Diaspora

Any place outside of the land of Israel where Jews live. Refers to the fact that Jews were dispersed from the land of Israel by the Romans after the last Jewish War. The Hebrew/Yiddish term for this is "galut" (pronounced gah-LOOT or gah-LOOS).

Divorce

Judaism has always accepted divorce as a fact of life, albeit an unfortunate one, and permits divorce for any reason, but discourages divorce.

Dreidel

A top-like toy used to play a traditional Chanukkah game.

Dreyfus, Captain Alfred

A Jewish officer in the French military who was unjustly convicted of passing secrets to the Germans. His trial sparked a wave of anti-Jewish sentiment that inspired the early Zionist political movement.

Ein Sof

Lit. without end. In Jewish mysticism, the true essence of G-d, which is so transcendent that it cannot be described and cannot interact directly with the universe.

Elokaynu

A substitute for a name of G-d.

Esau

Son of Isaac; older twin brother of Jacob (Israel). He had little respect for the traditions of his ancestors, and sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.

Essenes

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

Esther

One of the heroes of the story of Purim. Also, the book in the Bible that tells her story.

Ethiopian Jews

The Jews of Ethiopia, whose customs and practices are somewhat different than those of Ashkenazic or Sephardic Jews.

Etrog

A citrus fruit native to Israel, used to fulfill the commandment to "rejoice before the L-rd" during Sukkot.

Euthanasia

Euthanasia, suicide and assisted suicide are strictly forbidden by Jewish law, because life is so precious.

Blech

Stove covering used on Shabbat mainly to ensure that fire (heat) will not be adjusted.

Falashas

The black Jews of Ethiopia, who prefer to be known as the Beta Israel.

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 ha-mishpachah.

Fast Days

Several Jewish holidays are fasts, upon which we may neither eat nor drink.

Fleishig

Yiddish: meat. 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.

Four Species

Fruit and branches used to fulfill the commandment to "rejoice before the L-rd" during Sukkot.

Free Will

Humanity was created with a dual nature: an impulse to do what is right an a selfish (evil) impulse. Free will is the ability to choose which impulse to follow.

Galut

Lit. 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.

Gan Eden

Lit. Garden of Eden. A place of spiritual reward for the righteous dead. This is not the same place where Adam and Eve lived.

G-d

A way of avoiding writing a name of G-d, to avoid the risk of the sin of erasing or defacing the Name.

Gehinnom

(or Gehenna) A place of spiritual punishment and/or purification for a period of up to 12 months after death. According to most sources, the period of punishment or purification is limited to 12 months, after which the soul ascends to Olam Ha-Ba or is destroyed (if it is utterly wicked).

Gemara

Commentaries on the Mishnah. The Mishnah and Gemara together comprise the Talmud.

Gematria

In Hebrew, all letters have a numerical value, and numbers are written using letters. Jewish “numerology.”

Gematria

A field of Jewish mysticism finding hidden meanings in the numerical value of words.

Get (GET)

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

Gezeirah

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

Glatt

A standard of kashrut that requires an additional degree of stringency in the inspection of the lungs of cattle, to determine whether the lungs are free from adhesions.

Golem

Lit. an unformed thing. 1) A term used in the Talmud to describe Adam before he had a soul. 2) A creature of Jewish folklore, a man made of clay and brought to life.

Goy

Lit. nation. A non-Jew, that is, a member of one of the other nations. There is nothing inherently insulting about the term; the word "goy" is used in the Torah to describe Israel.

Grace After Meals

Referred to in Hebrew as Birkat Ha-Mazon. It is one of the most important prayers in Judaism, one of the very few that the Bible commands us to recite.

Grager

A noisemaker used to blot out the name of Haman during the reading of the Megillah on Purim.

Guide for the Perplexed

Rambam's masterpiece of Jewish philosophy and theology, written from the perspective of an Aristotelian philosopher.

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.

Gut Shabbes

Yiddish. Literally, good Sabbath. A general, all-purpose shabbat greeting.

Gut Yontiff

Yiddish. Literally, good holiday. A general, all-purpose holiday greeting.

Haftarah

Lit. conclusion. A reading from the Prophets, read along with the weekly Torah portion.

Haggadah

The book read during the Passover Seder, telling the story of the holiday.

Halacha

Lit. “the way,” or “going.” Jewish Law: The complete body of rules and practices that Jews are bound to follow, including biblical commandments, commandments instituted by the rabbis, and binding customs.

Halakhah

Lit. the way, walking. Jewish law. The complete body of rules and practices that Jews are bound to follow, including biblical commandments, commandments instituted by the rabbis, and binding customs.

Hallel

Lit. praise G-d. Psalms 113-118, in praise of G-d, which are recited on certain holidays.

Haman

The villain of the story of Purim.

Hamentaschen

Lit. Haman's pockets. Triangular, fruit-filled cookies traditionally served or given as gifts during Purim.

Haredi

Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel.

Ha-Shem

Lit. The Name. The Name of G-d, which is not pronounced. The phrase "ha-Shem" is often used as a substitute for G-d's Name.

Hatafat Dam Brit

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.

Ha-Tikvah

Lit. The Hope. The anthem of the Zionist movement and the state of Israel.

Havdalah

Lit. separation, division. A ritual marking the end of Shabbat or a holiday.

Heaven

The place of spiritual reward for the righteous dead in Judaism is not referred to as Heaven, but as Olam Ha-Ba (the World to Come) or Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden).

Hell

The place of spiritual punishment and/or purification for the wicked dead in Judaism is not referred to as Hell, but as Gehinnom or She'ol.

Herzl, Theodor

The founder of the Zionist political movement in the late 1800s.

High Holidays

The holidays of Rosh Hashanah, the Days of Awe and Yom Kippur are commonly referred to as the High Holidays or the High Holy Days.

Hillel

One of the greatest rabbis recorded in the Talmud. His more liberal views of Jewish law are often contrasted with the stricter views of Shammai. Also: a Jewish college student organization under the auspices of B'nai Brith.

Hiloni

Secular Jews in Israel.

Homosexuality

Homosexual orientation is not a sin in Judaism, but homosexual acts are. Male-male sex is forbidden by the Torah. Lesbian sex is not prohibited by the Torah, but is generally considered prohibited as "licentiousness."

Hoshanah Rabba

Lit. great hosanna. The seventh day of Sukkot, on which seven circuits are made around the synagogue reciting a prayer with the refrain, "Hosha na!" (please save us!).

Interfaith Marriage

Marriage to a non-Jew is not recognized as "marriage" in Jewish law. The increasing frequency of intermarriage is a source of great concern to traditional Jews.

Isaac

Son and spiritual heir of Abraham. Father of Jacob (Israel). One of the three Patriarchs of Judaism.

Ishmael

Firstborn son of Abraham by Sarah's Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. According to both Muslim and Jewish tradition, he is the ancestor of the Arabs.

Israel

1) The land that G-d promised to Abraham and his descendants. 2) The northern kingdom that was home to the "ten lost tribes." 3) Alternate name for Jacob. 4) A country in the Middle East located in the ancient homeland that has a predominantly Jewish population and government.

Jacob (Israel)

Son of Isaac. Father of twelve sons, who represent the tribes of Judaism. One of the three Patriarchs of Judaism.

Jew

A person whose mother was a Jew or who has converted to Judaism.

Joseph

Son of Jacob (Israel). Ancestor of two of the tribes of Israel. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, but became powerful in Egypt and paved the way for his family's settlement there.

Kabbalah

Lit. tradition. Jewish mystical tradition.

Kaddish

Aramaic: holy. A prayer in Aramaic praising G-d, commonly associated with mourning practices.

Kapparot

Lit. atonements. A custom during the Days of Awe.

Kareit (kah-REHYT)

The penalty of spiritual excision, imposed by G-d. Certain sins, such as failure to circumcise, are so severe that one who violates them has no place in the World to Come.

Kashrut

From a root meaning "fit," "proper" or "correct." Jewish dietary laws.

Kavanah

Concentration, intent. The frame of mind required for prayer or performance of a mitzvah.

Kavod Ha-Met

Lit. respect for the dead. One of the purposes of Jewish practices relating to death and mourning.

Keriyah

Lit. tearing. The tearing of one's clothes upon hearing of the death of a close relative.

Ketubah

Lit. writing. The Jewish marriage contract.

Kiddush

Lit. sanctification. A prayer recited over wine sanctifying Shabbat or a holiday.

Kiddush Ha-Shem

Lit. sanctification of The Name. Any deed that increases the respect accorded to G-d or Judaism, especially martyrdom.

Kiddushin

Lit, “sanctification.” Betrothal, the first part of the two-part process of Jewish marriage, which creates the legal relationship without the mutual obligations.

Kiddushin

Lit. sanctification. The first part of the two-part process of Jewish marriage, which creates the legal relationship without the mutual obligations.

Kippah

Skullcap head covering worn by some Jews at all times, more commonly known as a yarmulke.

Kitniyot

Foods that are prohibited during Pesach (Passover) by the rulings of Ashkenazic rabbis. Sephardic Jews do not follow these restrictions. Includes rice, corn, peanuts, and legumes (beans).

Kittel

The white robes in which the dead are buried, worn by some during Yom Kippur services.

Knaydelach

Yiddish: dumplings. Commonly refers to matzah balls. Can also be used as a term of affection for small children.

Knish (KNISH)

Yiddish. A potato and flour dumpling stuffed with potato and onion, chopped liver or cheese.

Kohen / Kohanim

Priest. A descendant of Aaron, charged with performing various rites in the Temple. This is not the same thing as a rabbi.

Kol Nidre

Lit. all vows. Evening service before Yom Kippur, with the prayer annulling vows

Korban / Korbanos

From a root meaning to draw near. A sacrifice or offering.

Kosher

Lit. fit, proper or correct. Describes food that is permissible to eat under Jewish dietary laws. Can also describe any other ritual object that is fit for use according to Jewish law.

Kugel

Yiddish: pudding. A casserole of potatoes, eggs and onion, or a dessert of noodles, fruits and nuts in an egg based pudding.

Ladino

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.

Lag b'Omer

The 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer. A minor holiday on which the mourning restrictions of the Omer period are lifted.

Lashon Ha-Ra

Lit. the evil tongue. Sins against other people committed by speech, such as defamation, gossip, swearing falsely, and scoffing.

Latkes

Potato pancakes traditionally eaten during Chanukkah.

L'Chayim

Lit. to life. A common Jewish toast.

Leah

Wife of Jacob. Mother of six of his sons. Sister of Rachel. One of the Matriarchs of Judaism.

Leap Year

A year with an extra month, to realign the Jewish lunar calendar with the solar year.

Levayah

Short for “Levayat Ha-Meit” – a funeral. The dead must be buried in the earth, not cremated, and must be buried in a simple coffin, simply dressed.

Levi / Levi’im

1) A descendant of the tribe of Levi, which was set aside to perform certain duties in connection with the Temple; 2) Son of Jacob (Israel). Ancestor of the tribe of Levi.

Pikuach Nefesh

Saving a life. In Judaism, life is valued above almost all else, and all but three commandments can be violated to save a life (exc idol worship, sexual immorality and murder).

Life after Death

Contrary to popular belief, Judaism does believe in an afterlife, but it is not the primary focus of our religion and there is a lot of room for personal opinion about the nature of the afterlife.

Tzeit Hakochavim

Lit. “when the stars come out,” when three stars have appeared and Shabbos ends.

L-rd

A way of avoiding writing a name of G-d, to avoid the risk of the sin of erasing or defacing the Name.

L'Shanah Tovah

Lit. for a good year. A common greeting during Rosh Hashanah and Days of Awe.

Lubavitch

A sect of Chasidic Judaism that is active in outreach to other Jews and has a high media presence.

Lulav

Lit. palm branch. A collection of palm, myrtle and willow branches, used to fulfill the commandment to "rejoice before the L-rd" during Sukkot.

Ma'ariv

Evening prayer services.

Machzor

A special prayer book for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Maftir

Lit.additional. Generally the person who reads or blesses the reading of the last part of the Torah reading and the entire haftarah reading.

Magen David

The six-pointed star emblem commonly associated with Judaism, also known as the Magen David, the Shield of David or the Star of David.

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 Jewish scholars. Commonly referred to by the acronym 'Rambam'.

Mamzer

Lit. bastard. The child of a marriage that is prohibited and invalid under Jewish law, such as an incestuous union.

Manasseh

1) Son of Joseph. Ancestor of one of the tribes of Israel; 2) The tribe that bears his name.

Marriage

Marriage is vitally important in Judaism, and refraining from marriage is considered unnatural. Marriage is not solely for the purpose of procreation, but is primarily for the purpose of love and companionship.

Masechet/ta

A “book” of the Mishnah and Talmud.

Mashgiach

A person who certifies that food is kosher.

Masorti

Jews in Israel who are traditionally observant but not Orthodox.

Matzah

Unleavened bread traditionally served during Passover.

Matzah Meal

Crumbs of matzah, commonly used in Jewish Cooking in much the same way that other cultures use flour or bread crumbs.

Mazel Tov

Lit. good luck. A way of expressing congratulations. Note that this term is not be used in the way that the expression "good luck" is used in English.

Meal Offerings

An offering of meal or grain.

Mechitzah

The wall or curtain separating men from women during religious services.

Megillah

Lit. scroll. One of five books of the Bible (Esther, Ruth, Song of Songs, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes). The remaining books are referred to as sefers (books). Usually refers to the book of Esther. In Yiddish, the term can be used to refer to something that is long, drawn out and excessively detailed.

Melacha

Mistranslated as “work.” Activities involving creation or exercise of control over the environment, which are prohibited on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

Melachah

Lit. work. Work involving creation or exercise of control over the environment, which is prohibited on Shabbat and certain holidays.

Menorah

A candelabrum. Usually refers to the nine-branched candelabrum used to hold the Chanukkah candles. Can also refer to the seven-branched candelabrum used in the Temple.

Messiah

Anglicization of the Hebrew, "moshiach" (annointed). A man who will be chosen by G-d 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. It is better to use the Hebrew term "moshiach" when speaking of the Jewish messiah, because the Jewish concept is very different from the Christian one.

Messianic Age

A period of global peace and prosperity that will be brought about by the messiah when he comes.

Mezuzah

Lit. doorpost. A case attached to the doorposts of houses, containing a scroll with passages of scripture written on it. The procedure and prayers for affixing the mezuzah is available.

Midrash

From a root meaning "to study," "to seek out" or "to investigate." Stories elaborating on incidents in the Bible, to derive a principle of Jewish law or provide a moral lesson.

Mikvah

Lit. gathering. A ritual bath used for spiritual purification. It is used primarily in conversion rituals and after the period of sexual separation during a woman's menstrual cycles, but many Chasidim immerse themselves in the mikvah regularly for general spiritual purification.

Milchig

Yiddish: dairy. Kosher foods that contain dairy products and therefore cannot be eaten with meat.

Minchah

1) Afternoon prayer services. 2) An offering of meal or grain.

Minhag

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.

Minyan

The quorum necessary to recite certain prayers, consisting of ten adult Jewish men.

Miriam

Older sister of Moses and Aaron, and a prophetess in her own right. She helped Moses and Aaron lead the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.

Mishnah

An early written compilation of Jewish oral tradition, the basis of the Talmud. Divided into six “books” or “Seders”

Mishneh Torah

A code of Jewish law written by Rambam. One of the most respected compilations of Jewish law ever written.

Mitnagdim

Lit. opponents. Orthodox Jews who are not Chasidic.

Mitzvah / Mitzvos

Lit. commandment. Any of the 613 commandments that Jews are obligated to observe. It can also refer to any Jewish religious obligation, or more generally to any good deed.

Mohel

Lit. circumciser. One who performs the ritual circumcision of an 8-day-old male Jewish child or of a convert to Judaism.

Months (12)

Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Teves, Shevat, Adar, (Adar 2), Nissan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul

Mordechai

One of the heroes of the story of Purim.

Moses

The greatest of all of the prophets, who saw all that all of the other prophets combined saw, and more.

Moshiach

Lit. anointed. A man who will be chosen by G-d 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. Generally translated as "messiah," but the Jewish concept is very different from the Christian one.

Motzaei Shabbat

The night after Shabbat. Shabbat ends at nightfall on Saturday; the term motzaei shabbat is used to refer to the period on Saturday night after shabbat ends.

Motzi Sheim Ra

A person who "spreads a bad report"; that is, who tells disparaging lies. It is the worst of the sins involving speech.

Mourning

Judaism has extensive mourning practices broken into several periods of decreasing intensity.

Musaf

An additional prayer service for Shabbat and holidays.

Mysticism

Mysticism and mystical experiences have been a part of Judaism since the earliest days, but specific beliefs in this area are open to personal interpretation.

Nachman of Breslov

An 18th century Chasidic tzaddik and founder of the Breslover Chasidic sect.

Nachmanides

Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, one of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars. Commonly referred to by the acronym 'Ramban'.

Candlelighting

Time when work must cease before Shabbat; 18 minutes before sunset, or earlier in Yerushalayim.

Navi

From niv sefatayim meaning "fruit of the lips." A prophet. A spokesman for G-d, chosen to convey a message or teaching. Prophets were role models of holiness, scholarship and closeness to G-d. Also: A section of the Tanakh containing the writings of the prophets.

Ne'ilah

Lit. closing. The closing service of Yom Kippur.

Ner Tamid

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.

Nesekh

An offering of undiluted wine.

Neshama

Lit. Soul

Neshama Yeseira

(or Yeteira) The belief that we are given an “extra soul” on Shabbat

Niddah (nee-DAH)

The separation of husband and wife during the woman's menstrual period. Also refers to a woman so separated. Also referred to as taharat ha-mishpachah or family purity.

Nihum Avelim

Lit. comforting mourners. One of the purposes of Jewish practices relating to death and mourning.

Nikkud; pl. N'kkudim

A system of dots and dashes used to indicate vowels and other pronunciation in Hebrew.

Nisuin

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.

Offerings

Jewish practices of sacrifices and offerings were extensive in ancient times, but have not been practiced since our Temple was destroyed, because we are not permitted to bring offerings anywhere else.

Olah

Derived from a root meaning ascention. A burnt offering, a type of sacrifice that represented complete submission to G-d's will. It was completely consumed by fire on the altar.

Olam Ha-Ba

Lit. The World to Come. 1) The messianic age; 2) the spiritual world that souls go to after death.

Omer

The counting of the days between Passover and Shavu'ot.

Omer

A unit of measure, often translated as "sheaf." The period between Passover and Shavu'ot is known as the Omer period, because we count the days from the time that the first omer of barley was brought to the Temple.

Onah

The wife's right to have regular sexual relations with her husband, a right that is fundamental to every Jewish marriage and that cannot be diminished by the husband.

Oral Torah

Jewish teachings explaining and elaborating on the Written Torah, handed down orally until the 2d century C.E., when they began to be written down in what became the Talmud.

Order

A division of the Mishnah and Talmud.

Original Sin

Judaism completely rejects the doctrine of original sin.

Orthodox

One of the major movements of Judaism, believing that Jewish law comes from G-d and cannot be changed.

Parah Adumah

Red Heifer. An animal used as an offering in an unusual and mysterious ritual to purify from the defilement of contact with the dead.

Parah Adumah

Lit. red heifer. An animal used as an offering in an unusual and mysterious ritual to purify from the defilement of contact with the dead.

Pareve

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).

Parshah

A weekly Torah portion read in synagogue. To find this week's portion, check the Current Calendar.

Passover

Holiday commemorating the Exodus from Egypt. The holiday also marks the beginning of the harvest season.

Patriarchs

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The forefathers of Judaism.

Peace Offering

A type of sacrifice expressing thanks or gratitude.

Perutah

A small copper coin, sufficient to acquire a wife by money.

Pesach

Lit. exemption.1) Holiday commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, known in English as Passover. The holiday also marks the beginning of the harvest season. 2) The paschal lamb that, in Temple times, was sacrificed on this holiday.

Pharisees

A movement of Judaism that began approximately 2200 years ago. It is the forerunner of rabbinic Judaism, which encompasses all of the movements of Judaism in existence today.

Pidyon HaBen

Lit. redemption of the son. A ritual redeeming the firstborn son from his obligation to serve in the Temple.

Pirkei Avot

Lit. Chapters of the Fathers. AKA Ethics of the fathers. A tractate of the Mishnah devoted to ethical advice from many of the greatest rabbis of the early Talmudic period.

Nekudot

Lit Points. Marks used to indicate vowels and other pronunciation tips in certain Hebrew texts. Texts with such marks are referred to as "pointed texts."

Priest

A descendant of Aaron, charged with performing various rites in the Temple. This is not the same thing as a rabbi.

Prophets

1) A spokesman for G-d, chosen to convey a message or teaching. Prophets were role models of holiness, scholarship and closeness to G-d; 2) A section of Jewish scripture containing the writings of the Prophets.

Purim

Lit. lots (as in "lottery"). A holiday celebrating the rescue of the Jews from extermination at the hands of the chief minister to the King of Persia.

Pushke

A box in the home or the synagogue used to collect money for donation to charity.

Rabbi

A religious teacher and person authorized to make decisions on issues of Jewish law. Also performs many of the same functions as a Protestant minister. When I speak generally of things that were said or decided by "the rabbis," I am speaking of matters that have been generally agreed upon by authoritative Jewish scholars over the centuries.

Rachel

Favorite wife of Jacob. Mother of Joseph and Benjamin. One of the Matriarchs of Judaism.

Rechilus

Tale Bearing. Derived from a word meaning trader or merchant. A serious sin in Judaism.

Rambam

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, one of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars. Also known as Maimonides.

Rashi

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, one of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars.

Rashi Script

A style of writing used to distinguish commentary from the text it comments upon. Named for Rashi, the greatest commentator.

Rebbe

Usu. translated Grand Rabbi. The leader of a Chasidic community, often believed to have special, mystical power.

Rebbetzin

The wife of a rabbi.

Rebecca

Wife of Isaac. Mother of Jacob and Esau. One of the Matriarchs of Judaism.

Reconstructionism

One of the major movements of Judaism, an outgrowth of Conservative that does not believe in a personified deity and believes that Jewish law was created by men.

Reform

One of the major movements of Judaism, believing that Jewish law was inspired by G-d and one can choose which laws to follow.

Reincarnation

Belief in reincarnation is not in conflict with Judaism. Many Chasidic sects and other mystically-inclined Jews believe in reincarnation, either as a routine process or in extraordinary circumstances.

Responsa

Answers to specific questions of Jewish law, written by the most respected rabbis of their time.

Resurrection

Belief in the eventual resurrection of the dead is a fundamental belief of traditional Judaism.

Rosh Chodesh

Lit. first of the month. The first day of a month, on which the first sliver of the new moon appears.

Rosh Hashanah

Lit. first of the year. The new year for the purpose of counting years.

Ruach

Lit. Spirit – often used as another term for Neshama, soul, or as in “ruach hakodesh,”the spirit of G-d

Sabbath

A day of rest and spiritual enrichment.

Sacrifice

Jewish practices of sacrifices and offerings were extensive in ancient times, but have not been practiced since our Temple was destroyed, because we are not permitted to bring offerings anywhere else.

Sadducees

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

Sandek

“Godfather.” The person given the honor of holding the baby during a ritual circumcision.

Sarah

Wife of Abraham. Mother of Isaac. One of the Matriarchs of Judaism.

Schach

Lit. covering. Material used for the roof of a sukkah during the holiday of Sukkot.

Scriptures

The Jewish Bible, also referred to as the Tanakh. More or less corresponds to what non-Jews call the "Old Testament."

Seder

Lit. order. 1) The family home ritual conducted as part of the Passover observance. 2) A division of the Mishnah and Talmud.

Sefardim

Jews from Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East and their descendants.

Sefer K'ritut

Lit. scroll of cutting off. A writ of divorce. Also called a get.

Sefer, Sifrei

Lit, “book(s)” – used to refer to holy book(s), sifrei kodesh

Sefirot

Lit. emanations. In Jewish mysticism, the emanations from G-d's essence that interact with the universe.

Selichot

Prayers for forgiveness, especially those that are added to the liturgy during the month of Elul, as the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approach.

Semikhah

Essentially, a rabbinical degree, authorizing a person to answer questions and resolve disputes regarding Jewish law.

Se'udat Havra'ah

Lit. the meal of condolence. The first meal that a family eats after the burial of a relative, prepared by a neighbor.

Seudat Mitzvah

Lit. commanded meal. Meal eaten on particular occasions of religious significance, including bris, pidyon haben, wedding and a siyum, following completion of study of a section of Talmud.

Shabbat / Shabbos

Lit. end, cease, rest. The Jewish Sabbath, a day of rest and spiritual enrichment.

Shabbat Shalom

Hebrew. Literally, sabbath peace or peaceful sabbath. A general, all-purpose shabbat greeting.

Shacharit

Morning prayer services.

Shalach Manos

Lit. sending out portions. The custom of sending gifts of food or candy to friends during Purim.

Shalom

Hebrew. Literally, peace. A way of saying "hello" or "goodbye."

Shalosh Seudos

Or shalosheudos. Literally, “three meals.” A reference to the command to eat three meals on Shabbos. Most often used to refer to the third Shabbos meal itself.

Shammai

One of the great rabbis of the Talmud. His stricter views of Jewish law are often contrasted with those of Hillel.

Shammus / Gabbai

Lit. servant. 1) The candle that is used to light other Chanukkah candles; 2) the janitor or caretaker of a synagogue.

Shavua Tov

Hebrew. Literally, good week. A greeting exchanged at the end of shabbat.

Shavuot

Lit. weeks. A festival commemorating the giving of the Torah and the harvest of the first fruits.

Shaygetz

A derogatory term for a non-Jewish male.

Shechinah

The Divine Presence of G-d, generally represented as a feminine quality.

Shechitah

Lit. destruction or killing. Kosher slaughter.

Shema

One of the basic Jewish prayers.

Shemini Atzeret

Lit. the eighth (day) of assembly. The day (or two days) after Sukkot.

Shemoneh Esrei

Lit. eighteen. A prayer that is the center of any Jewish religious service. Also known as the Amidah or the Tefilah.

She'ol

A place of spiritual punishment and/or purification for a period of up to 12 months after death. Often referred to as Gehinnom.

Sheva Brakhos

Lit. seven blessings. The seven blessings recited during the nisuin portion of the Jewish wedding ceremony. Also, the seven dinner meals a bride and groom attend following their wedding.

Shevarim

One of four characteristic blasts of the shofar (ram's horn).

Shevatim (12)

Lit, “tribes.” Sing it! “Reuvain, Levi, Shimon, Yehudah, Yissachar, Zevulun, Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher, Yoseph, Binyamin – these are the twelve shevatim!” These are the 12 sons of Jacob.

Shield of David

The six-pointed star emblem commonly associated with Judaism.

Shiksa

A derogatory term for a non-Jewish female.

Shiva

Lit. seven. The seven-day period of mourning after the burial of a close relative.

Sh'lamim

Lit. peace [offering]. A type of sacrifice expressing thanks or gratitude.

Shloshim

Lit. thirty. The thirty-day period of mourning after the burial of a close relative.

Shochet

Kosher slaughterer.

Shofar

A ram's horn, blown like a trumpet as a call to repentance.

Shomerim

Lit. guards, keepers. People who sit with a body between the time of death and burial.

Shoresh

Lit. “root,” root word. A set of (usually) three consonants that conveys the central meaning of a Hebrew word. Prefixes, suffixes and vowels added to the root clarify the precise meaning.

Shul

The Yiddish term for a Jewish house of worship. The term is used primarily by Orthodox Jews.

Shulchan Arukh

A code of Jewish law written by Joseph Caro in the 16th century. The last of the great medieval codes of Jewish law, and one of the most respected compilations of Jewish law ever written.

Siddur

Lit. order. Prayer book.

Sidrah

Lit. order. A weekly Torah portion read in synagogue.

Simkhat Torah

Lit. rejoicing in the law. A holiday celebrating the end and beginning of the cycle of weekly Torah readings.

Sin Offering

A type of sacrifice used to atone for and expiate unintentional sins.

Slander

Slander is a serious sin in Judaism, even if the disparaging comment is true.

Sofer STAM

Abbreviation: “sifrei torah u’mezzuzot” One who writes these holy documents (torahs and mezuzahs).

Stones on Graves

It is customary in some Jewish communities to place small stones or rocks on a gravesite. I have heard two explanations of this custom: 1) it's a like leaving a calling card for the dead person; or 2) it was a substitute for a tombstone in areas where tombstones tended to get desecrated.

Sukkah

Lit. booth. Temporary dwellings for the holiday of Sukkot.

Sukkot / Sukkos

A festival commemorating the wandering in the desert and the final harvest, known to Jews as Sukkot. Sometimes called “Feast of Tabernacles.”

Synagogue

From a Greek root meaning "assembly." The most widely accepted term for a Jewish house of worship. The Jewish equivalent of a church, mosque or temple.

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

A shawl-like garment worn during morning services, with tzitzit (long fringes) attached to the corners as a reminder of the commandments. Sometimes called a prayer shawl.

Talmud

The most significant collection of the Jewish oral tradition interpreting the Torah. Consists of Mishnah (central text) and Gemarah (commentaries)

Tanakh

Acronym of Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings). Written Torah; what non-Jews call the Old Testament.

Tashlikh

Lit. casting off. A custom of going to a river and symbolically casting off one's sins.

Tefillah

Prayer. Sometimes refers specifically to the Shemoneh Esrei prayer.

Tefillin

Leather pouches containing scrolls with passages of scripture, used to fulfill the commandment to bind the commandments to our hands and between our eyes. Jews refer to them as tefillin. The Greek term "phylacteries" literally means "amulets" and is offensive to some.

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 blasts of the shofar (ram's horn).

Teruah

One of four characteristic blasts of the shofar (ram's horn). Another name for RH is Yom Teruah

Teshuvah

Lit. return. repentance.

Tevilah

Immersion in the mikvah, a ritual bath used for spiritual purification. It is used primarily in conversion rituals and after the period of sexual separation during a woman's menstrual cycles, but many Chasidim undergo tevilah regularly for general spiritual purification.

Tikkun Olam

Reparation of the World. The purpose of every human being is to join with Hashem in this immense task.

Tisha B'Av

Lit. The Ninth of Av. A fast day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as well as other tragedies.

Torah

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.

Parsha

Portion. 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.

Torah Shebal Peh

Oral Torah. Later recorded as the Mishneh and Gemarah (together known as Talmud).

Torah She’bi’ktav

Written Torah. The scripture that non-Jews call the Old Testament.

Tractate

A subdivision of the Mishnah and Talmud.

Transliteration

The process of writing Hebrew using the Roman (English) alphabet. More an art than a science.

Treyf

Lit. torn. Food that is not kosher.

Trope

Cantillation. The distinctive melodies used for chanting readings from the Torah and Haftarah.

Tu B'Shevat

Lit. 15th of Shevat. The new year for the purpose of counting the age of trees for purposes of tithing.

Tzaddik

Lit. righteous person. A completely righteous person, often believed to have special, mystical power.

Tzaddik

Extremely righteous person

Tzedakah

Lit. righteousness. Generally refers to charity.

Tzelem Elokim

Image of G-d. Humanity was created in the image of G-d, which means we have the ability to reason and discern; however, G-d has no physical form or image. Humanity is in the image of G-d, in that we have the ability to think, reason and understand. Humanity was created with a dual nature: an impulse to do what is right an a selfish (evil) impulse. Free will is the ability to choose which impulse to follow.

Tzimmes

Yiddish. A sweet stew. The word can also refer to making a big fuss over something.

Tzitzis / Tallis Kattan

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 corners of our garments.

Tzitzit

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

Ufruf

The groom's aliyah on the Shabbat before his wedding.

Unpointed Text

Hebrew text written without vowel points. Hebrew should be written without vowels; however, many texts add vowel points to aid pronunciation and comprehension.

Unveiling

It is a custom in many Jewish communities to keep a deceased's tombstone covered for the first twelve months after death, and to ceremonially unveil the tombstone on the first anniversary of the death.

Vowels

Traditionally, Hebrew is written without vowels. However, the rabbis developed a system of vowel markings as an aid to pronunciation.

Weitzman, Chaim

A founder of the Zionist political movement, and the first president of the State of 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. Commonly known as the Wailing Wall.

Olam Haba

Lit, “world to come.” 1) The messianic age; 2) the spiritual world that souls go to after death.

Writings

A section of Jewish scripture containing various writings.

Ya'akov

Jacob (Israel). Son of Isaac. Father of twelve sons, who represent the tribes of Judaism. One of the three Patriarchs of Judaism.

Yad

Lit. hand. Hand-shaped pointer used while reading from Torah scrolls.

Yahrzeit

Yiddish: lit. anniversary. The anniversary of the death of a close relative.

Yarmulke

From Tartar "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.

Yasher koach

Hebrew. Literally, straight strength. Figuratively, may you have strength, or may your strength be increased. A way of congratulating someone for performing a mitzvah or other good deed. Appropriate response is “Baruch Tihyeh.” (may you be blessed)

Yehudah Ha-Nasi

Compiler of the Mishnah.

Yemenite Jews

The Jews of the Middle Eastern country of Yemen, whose customs and practices are somewhat different than those of Ashkenazic or Sephardic Jews.

Yetzer HaRa

Lit. evil impulse. The selfish desire for satisfaction of personal needs, which can lead a person to do evil if not restrained by the yetzer tov.

Yetzer Tov

Lit. good impulse. The moral conscience, which motivates us to follow G-d's law.

Yiddish

The "international language" of Ashkenazic Jews, based primarily on German with words taken from Hebrew and many Slavic languages, and written in the Hebrew Alphabet.

Yitzchak

Isaac. Son and spiritual heir of Abraham. Father of Jacob (Israel). One of the 3 Patriarchs of Judaism.

Yizkor

Lit. may He remember... Prayers said on certain holidays in honor of deceased close relatives.

Yochanan ben Zakkai

Founder of the school at Yavneh, which became the center of Jewish learning for centuries.

Yom Ha-Atzmaut

Israeli Independence Day.

Yom Ha-Shoah

Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Yom Ha-Zikkaron

Israeli Memorial 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 Tov

Lit, “good day.” Holy day on which work except cooking is forbidden. Sometimes used for other holidays as well.

Yom Yerushalayim

Holiday celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem in the hands of the modern state of Israel.

Zionism

A political movement to create and maintain a Jewish state. The word is derived from Zion, another name for Jerusalem.

Zohar

The primary written work in the mystical tradition of Kabbalah.

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