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This glossary contains words that we use on this blog, in the Tzadik class, during Torah Parasha discussions, and among ourselves in conversation. For an extensive dictionary of Hebrew words from the English, visit “My Hebrew Dictionary.”

A B C D E G H K L M N O P R S T V Y Z

A

Acharit haYamim

Literally “the end of days.” The Hebrew term equivalent to the Greek term "eschatology," study of the last things, when Olam Hazeh comes to a close and Olam Haba begins.

Adon Olam

Literally "Eternal L-rd." A liturgical hymn often sung at the close of Shabbat and Festival services its place of honor is shared with Yigdal, as both are sung during the Kol Nidre service in Yom Kippur.

Aggadah

Literally "tales or lore." A compendium of Rabbinic stories, particularly in the Talmud and Midrash, that incorporate folklore, historical anecdotes, moral exhortations and practical advice on nearly all topics. A Midrash is often categorized as either Halachic or Aggadic.

Aleinu

Literally "our duty." A prayer attributed to Joshua, Moshe Rabbeinu’s successor, traditionally recited three times a day, which includes among other duties, our hope for Mashiach Yeshua’s return when the world will be set "straight" again, tikkun olam.

Aliyah

Each Torah portion is divided into seven sections, plus the maftir. Each of these is called an aliyah (first aliyah, second aliyah, third aliyah, and so on). Aliyah literally translates to “going up,” because on Shabbat, a man is called up to read an aliyah. He “goes up” to the front of the room and reads his section. Aliyah is also the term used for someone who has decided to move to Israel permanently. They are “making aliyah.”

Amoraim

Literally “those who retell.” Jewish scholars who retold the teachings of the Oral Law (See Mishnah) from 200 CE to 500 CE. Two of the most famous are Abba Arika, aka the Rav, and his debating partner, Rabbi Shmuel.

(a-mor-a-EEM)

Am Yisrael

The people of Israel. A popular song in Hebraic and Messianic circles is Am Yisrael Chai – “the people of Israel live.”

Amidah

The Standing Prayer. In each of the three prayer services (Shacharit, Minchah, and Ma’ariv), we do the Amidah. At this point, we stand together and take three steps forward, as a symbol of entering the presence of G-d. There are eighteen different blessings, ranging from our health to the rebuilding of Jerusalem (the Amidah is sometimes called the Shemoneh Esrei – Eighteen Benedictions – because of the eighteen blessings). The Amidah is still prayed on Shabbat, but the blessings are slightly different, and some are removed, because Shabbat is a picture of the World to Come, and we do not pray for healing or our wellbeing on that day.

Apostolic Writings

The “New Testament.” This is, perhaps, the best way to refer to the “New Testament,” so that you don’t unconsciously introduce the negative undertone of Old vs. New. Also referred to as Apostolic Scriptures or Greek Scriptures.

Ashkenazi

The community of Jews which flourished in Western Europe who emigrated from Babylon via northern routes controlled by Christians. The Ashkenazi Hebrew dialect pronunciation translates the letter Tav (“T”) with an “S” sound, unless it has a dagesh, resulting in Shabbos instead of Shabbat. See Sephardi.

B

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B’ezrat HaShem

Literally “with the help of HaShem.” Often, this phrase is reduced to a two-letter shorthand – B”H. Many use it to replace “I hope,” or “if G-d wills,” or “please G-d.” For instance, I’ll be there tomorrow, B”H.

B’reisheet

Genesis. Literally “In the beginning,” taken from the first word of Genesis in Hebrew.

Beit Lechem

Literally “house of bread.” Bethlehem.

BaMidbar

Numbers. Literally “in the wilderness,” taken from the first verse of Numbers in Hebrew.

Bar Kochba

A religious zealot pronounced to be the Messiah by Rabbi Akiva after the destruction of the Temple, culminating in the final Jewish revolt in 133 CE, and ultimately the dispersion of G-d’s people out of the Land of Promise.

Baruch HaShem

Literally “Bless HaShem.” This is a Jewish exclamation with positive connotation. The day was excellent? Baruch HaShem! Nothing went wrong during an event or performance? Baruch HaShem! You get to go to Israel this year? Baruch HaShem!

Bayit

Literally “house.” Bayit Rishon, Bayit Sheni, and Bayit Shlishi are the First, Second, and Third Temples, respectively.

BCE

Before the Common Era. Gentiles call this period BC, Before Christ.

Ben

Son. The Bible frequently gives us genealogies, using the “son of” formula; this is also how a man is called up to read Torah on Shabbat: “Rise, Yosef ben Yosef”.

Birkhat HaMazon

Literally “blessing of the nourishment.” This is the blessing we recite after eating, sometimes referred to as the Grace After Meals, or Blessing After Meals. It is traditional to pray before we eat, but we are commanded to pray afterward, to thank G-d for what He has given us (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Brit Chadashah

Literally “New Covenant.” This is an incorrect way to refer to the “New Testament,” as it is actually more Scripture about the new covenant. See Tanakh and Apostolic Writings.

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CE

Common Era. Gentiles call this period AD, Ano Domini, the year of our L-rd.

Chag HaMatzot

Literally “Festival of Unleavened Bread.” This holiday is seven days long, beginning on Nisan 15. Both the first and seventh days are Yom Tovs (like Shabbats). Throughout this festival, G-d forbids us to have any leaven in our dwelling places, and commands us to eat matzah (unleavened bread) all week long.

Chag Sameach!

Literally “holiday happiness.” This is a traditional greeting, used universally on all of the festival days, to wish people a joyful festival. It’s almost like saying, “Happy holidays!”

Chametz

Leaven. The Torah prohibits us from owning, eating or benefiting from chametz during the week of Chag haMatzot. The question of what is considered chametz is broad. Some consider anything with yeast, while others refrain from wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats (the five grains) because they plump when in contact with water for more than 18 minutes.

(kha-METZ)

Chazal

A Hebrew acronym for Chachameinu Zikronam Livracha (Our Sages of Blessed Memory). This refers to the worthy sages in Jewish history who shaped the thoughts and beliefs of the masses. We always use this word in plural (i.e., “Chazal say,” not “Chazal says“).

Chazzan

The leader of the prayer service, Cantor. The chazzan is responsible to lead the congregation through the prayers, keeping everyone together, even while we pray to ourselves.

Chesed

Literally “lovingkindness.” Chesed is one of the most important attributes of the believer’s walk.

Chiastic Structure

A literary structure used in the Scripture and ancient texts using symmetry to draw focus or attention to a point or topic.

Chukot

Literally “ordinances.” A chuk (singular of chukot) is a commandment from G-d for which we have no rational explanation. One of the best examples of this are the laws of the red heifer. For some reason, killing a red cow in a specific way, burning it to ashes, mixing the ashes with some water, and putting it on people will cleanse them from ritual impurity from contact with death. Why? How does that work? We don’t know. But we do it anyway. G-d said it, that settles it.

Chumash

A book containing the Torah with commentary from the sages. Chumash comes from the Hebrew word for five, because Torah is composed of five books.

Circumlocution

A system of name substitution used to honor G-d’s name and avoid casual usage, thus keeping the third commandment. The most common circumlocution is “L-rd”. In the Septuagint, the Greek kurios is used exclusively to translate the Tetragrammaton. In the Hebrew Scriptures the word Adonai is substituted for HaShem. Others include HaMakom (the Place), Shamayim (Heaven) and of course, HaShem (the Name).

Cohen

Priest. Plural is cohanim. Sometimes spelled kohen, kohanim.

Cohen Gadol

The High Priest. Sometimes spelled Kohen Gadol.

Counting the Omer

We are commanded to ‘count the Omer’ between Pesach and Shavu’ot each year. On the second day of the Chag HaMatzot, we start counting the days. For seven weeks, we count up, until finally, we reach the 50th day, which is Shavu’ot. Omer is usually translated as “sheaf” in the Bible.

D

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Days of Awe

The ten days between Rosh Hashanah (Tishrei 1) and Yom Kippur (Tishrei 10). The sages teach that these days are when G-d is opening the books and inspecting each soul. They are intense days of repentance and prayer, building up to Yom Kippur.

Devarim

Deuteronomy. Literally “words,” taken from the first verse of Deuteronomy in Hebrew.

Drash

A teaching or sermon. The word is a shortened form of “Midrash.” See Pardes.

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Eloheinu

Literally “our G-d.” This word, and derivations of it (like Elohei [my G-d] or Elohim [G-d]) are names of HaShem. It is sometimes spelled elokeinu to honor G-d’s Name.

Elohim

Literally “G-d.” This word can be grammatically singular or plural. When singular, it refers to the G-d, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the plural it refers to other gods.

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Gabbai

The one who calls each man forward to read an aliyah. The gabbai directs the entire Torah service, choosing which men will read which aliyah, blessing them after they read, and watching to make sure they read correctly.

Galut

Exile. There have been three so far. The first was Galut Mitzrayim (Egyptian Exile), from which we received salvation via Pesach. The second was Galut Bavli (Babylonian Exile) from which we received zeal for obedience, the Men of the Great Assembly and salvation via Mashiach Yeshua, with Pesach as His yahrzeit. The third was Galut Edom (Roman Exile) in which we still live, longing for Mashiach to come and establish His kingdom.

Gaon

A Torah or Talmudic genius. These men often were selected to lead the Torah Academies in Sura and Pembudita in Babylon from 500 CE to 1000 CE. Two of the most famous are Sa’adya al Fayumi and Rabbeinu Gershom. The plural as Geonim.

(gay-o-NEEM)

Gemara

Commentary on the Mishnah by rabbis of note. The Gemara is also part of the Talmud.

Gematria

Assignment of numeric value to each Hebrew letter and using calculations to draw insights from the Scripture.

Ger

One who has joined himself to Israel’s people and Israel’s G-d. See Ger Toshav.

Ger Toshav

A Gentile choosing to live with/among the people of Israel, living in obedience to the Torah. This term is translated most often in the Septuagint as proselutos (proselyte), but should not be confused with the current meaning of proselyte (convert). This is the Scriptural term describing non-Jewish members of the body of Messiah that are obedient to Torah.

(gair to-SHAV)

Ger Tzedek

A Gentile in today’s Judaism that has formally put himself under the so-called Noachide Laws. Known as a Righteous Gentile.

(gair TZE-dek)

Goy

Gentile. Plural would be Goyim, which is also a way to refer to the nations. The Goyim are basically everyone outside Israel. At the basic Hebrew level, a Goy must become Ger to have a place in the Olam Haba. See Ger Toshav.

(goy, goy-EEM)

H

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Haftarah

The reading from the “Old Testament” (Tanakh), usually from the Prophets, we read each week with the Torah portion. This section of Scripture was hand-picked by the rabbis for a specific reason, normally because of obvious connections to the portion. For instance, the Haftarah for the Torah portion “BaMidbar,” which is the first few chapters of Numbers, is the story of Samson in Judges. The rabbis chose this because BaMidbar delineates the laws of the Nazirite, and Samson was a Nazirite from birth.

Hagaddah

Literally "to tell." A guide to the Pesach Seder. Reading the hagaddah at the Seder table allows us to fulfill the mitzvah to "tell your son" of the exodus from Mitzrayim.

(ha-GAH-duh)

Halachah

Literally “walking.” Our Halachah is how we walk out our faith, almost a legal description of sorts. For example, it is our halachah to wait 3 hours after a meat meal before we have a dairy meal. A Midrash is often categorized as either Halachic or Aggadic.

HaMazon

See Birkhat HaMazon.

HaShem

Literally “The Name.” This is a title for G-d, a circumlocution for His divine four-letter, ineffable Name written in the Scriptures.

Havdalah

Literally “separation.” This is a ceremony performed at the end of each Shabbat to signify that we are transitioning from the holy to the common – from Shabbat to one of the six days of work. Havdalah traditionally includes lighting a candle (since we don’t light a fire during Shabbat, this is a good symbol of the end of that day), smelling fragrant spices (to remember the sweetness of Shabbat), a blessing, and the extinguishing of the candle in wine (usually from an overfilled cup, signifying that “our cup overflows”).

High Holy Days

See Days of Awe.

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Kabbalah

A highly mystical collection of Jewish writings.

(ka-BA-lah)

Kabbalat Shabbat

Literally “receiving of Shabbat.” This is a service done shortly before Erev Shabbat to “receive” the Shabbat with the appropriate honor. It is made up of several blessings and songs, celebrating the arrival of Shabbat.

Karaite

In about 750 CE, Anan ben David, a disgruntled Jew who had been passed over for the position of Jewish authority in the Diaspora, declared himself the ruler. He was sentenced to death for sedition by the reigning Muslim Kalif. His defense was that while he was the ruler of his faith, it was NOT Judaism. His faith practiced much like the Sadduccees and rejected all rabbinic authority. Followers of his faith call themselves karaites. Their rebellious nature makes them good bedfellows with fringe groups or those against anything rabbinic, such as the Two House movement and the Sacred Name groups. In stark contrast, followers of Yeshua were considered a sect of Judaism in the first century CE.

(KA-rite)

Kashrut

The dietary laws established for G-d’s people in Leviticus 11. Food consistent with dietary law is said to be "kosher," meaning "fit," as in "fit to eat." Food that is not fit to eat is called "treif." Traditionally, animals must be slaughtered using a special method of slaughter called shechita. Food prepared in accord with kashrut laws are given a hechsher seal. In order to receive hechsher, a mashgiach must supervise the preparation. Hecsher seals often use letters to indicate many aspects of the product, such as the type (Meat, Dairy, Pareve), whether it is kosher for Pesach (no chametz) as well as its origin or age (i.e. grain harvested before the previous Passover, from Jewish-owned dairy farms, baked in part by Jews, etc.)

(kahsh-ROOT)

Katzir

Hebrew for the harvest season.

(kaht-ZEER)

Kere Ketiv

The scribe’s custom of adding incongruous vowel markings to each appearance of HaShem in the Hebrew manuscripts of Scripture, with a marginal gloss for pronunciation. When you read these four letters, yod-hay + vav-hey, say "Adonai."

Khetuvim

Often spelled Chetuvim. See Tanakh.

(khet-oo-VEEM)

Kiddush Levanah

Literally “sanctification of the moon.” The prayers associated with Rosh Chodesh, normally prayed just after Shabbat, before Havdalah.

Kippah

The small, flat, round head covering worn by men. This skull cap is called a yarmulke, in Yiddish.

(KEE-pah)

Kohen

See Cohen.

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L

L’Shanah Tovah!

Literally “to a good year.” This is a traditional greeting on Rosh HaShanah, to wish everyone a happy new year.

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Ma’ariv

The evening prayer service. The prayer services were implemented to mirror the morning and afternoon sacrifices G-d commanded, after the Temple was destroyed and those could no longer be done. Our prayers are our sacrifices until a time when we can physically bring our offerings to HaShem. Ma’ariv prayers allow us to begin the day in prayer and remember the patriarch Jacob’s frequent evening prayers.

Maftir

The last three verses of the Torah portion. These are separated from the other seven sections and given their own title – maftir. Special honor is given the person who reads the maftir portion, because they then get to read the haftarah portion, as well.

(maf-TEER)

Malach

Angel. Plural would be malachim.

(mah-LAKH, mah-lah-KHEEM)

Malki-Tzedek

Melchizedek! This character appears only once in Tanakh, visiting Abraham after he rescues Lot. Melchizedek literally means “king of righteousness,” and he is described as the king of Salem (a city meaning “peace”) and a priest of G-d, giving rise to the common belief that he was the pre-incarnate Messiah (or, at the very least, a type of Messiah). David and Messiah are both members of the Melchizedekian priesthood.

Mashiach

Messiah! Literally it translates to “anointed.” Our English word, Messiah, is a transliteration of the Hebrew. The Greek word, Christos (where we get Christ), is a made-up word to try to communicate the idea of anointing something or someone. The Greek language simply didn’t have that concept, so a new word had to be coined.

(ma-SHEE-akh)

Matzah

Unleavened bread. Normal bread would be “lechem.” This pseudo-cracker is commanded fare during Chag HaMatzot (hence the name); it also provides a beautiful picture of our Messiah, being pounded flat, striped, and pierced. Plural is matzot.

Megillah

Literally “scroll.” Plural would be megillot. There are five megillot in Tanakh: Ruth, Esther, Lamentations, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. On Purim, it is traditional to “read the megillah” – Esther. Traditionally each megillah is read on specific holidays. The concept of doing something in its entirety on one evening or day gave rise to the popular expression, “the whole megillah.”
Megillah is also a tractate of the Mishnah, dealing with the laws of Purim.

Melech

King. A phrase frequently heard in blessings is “melech ha-olam” – King of the universe. Plural would be melachim.

(MEH-lekh, meh-lah-KHEEM)

Men of the Great Assembly

An assembly of 120 scribes, sages and prophets, listed in the Mishnah, who lived after the Babylonian galut until the destruction of Bayit Sheni. In Hebrew they are Anshei K’nesset haGedolah. These men are attributed with establishing the canon of Scripture, dividing the study of Mishnah into Midrash, Halachot and Aggadot, introduction of the Feast of Purim, and institution of the Shemoneh Esrei.

Mezuzah

Literally “doorpost,” but this is what we call those little boxes we hang on our doorframes. They are filled with Scripture (usually the Sh’ma), and tilted slightly inward. This is how we fulfill G-d’s command to “write these words on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates” (Deuteronomy 6 and 11). It is traditional to touch the mezuzah with the first two fingers of your right hand, and kiss your fingers, as you enter the room or house.

Midrash

A teaching or sermon. See Pardes.

Mikveh

Literally “gathering.” This is a gathering of waters used for Tevilah.

Minchah

The afternoon prayer service. The prayer services were implemented to mirror the morning and afternoon sacrifices G-d commanded, after the Temple was destroyed and those could no longer be done. Our prayers are our sacrifices until a time when we can physically bring our offerings to HaShem.

(MING-khah)

Minhag

Literally "custom." The local customs and prohibitions involved with a particular halachah. The word appears twice in the Tanakh, both times in the same verse, regarding the habit or custom of Jehu’s chariot driving (2 Kings 9:20). Here are some examples:

  • The halachah is that we do not eat chametz during Chag haMatzot. Our minhag is that we allow items made from the five grains.
  • The halachah is that we eat kosher. Our minhag is to wait three hours after a meat meal before consuming dairy.
(min-HAHG)

Mishkan

The tabernacle in the wilderness. This does not refer to the Temple – only the tabernacle.

Mishnah

The core of the Talmud. The Mishnah outlines laws and rulings, and the Gemara comments on them.

Mishpachah

Family.

(mish-PAH-kuh)

Mitzvah

Literally “commandment.” Commonly used as a term for any good deed.

Mo’edim

The appointed times. This word is used in Leviticus 23, when G-d tells us about all of His holidays – and the Sabbath. He calls them His “appointed times” (mo’edim). Singular would be mo’ed.

Moshe Rabbeinu

Most commonly translated as “Moses our Teacher,” the phrase literally means, “Moses our Great One.” Moses is highly revered in Judaism, as he should be throughout all of Christianity.

Motzi

Literally “to bring forth or to come out.” This refers to the blessing before bread, because of the last line in that blessing, “ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.”

(MO-tzee)

Motzi Shabbat

Literally “coming out of Shabbat.” A time on Saturday night, after Havdalah, when commands regarding the first day of the week may be performed.

N

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Navi

Prophet. Plural is Nevi’im. Used commonly as a suffix, or title, on someone’s name, like Eliyahu haNavi (Elijah the Prophet). Nevi’im is also the name of one of the sections of Tanakh. There are six major Nevi’im: Eliyahu, Elisha, Yesha’yahu, Yir’meyahu, Ekez’kel, Daniel. There are 12 minor prophets, known as the Trei Asar. All the prophets prophesied during Bayit Rishon (1000 – 1500 BCE).

(nah-VEE, nev-ee-EE)

Netilat Yadayim

Ritual hand washing. See Tevilah.

Netzarim

The name given to followers of Yeshua haNotzri, Yeshua of Nazareth. This would the equivalent of Nazarenes, in English.

(net-zah-REEM)

Nevi’im

See Tanakh.

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Olam Haba

The World to Come. This is the destination for all who have joined themselves to Israel and put their faith in Messiah.

Olam Hazeh

This World. G-d defines two distinct timeframes, or ages, in Scripture – This World and the World to Come.

(oh-LAHM ha-ZAY)

Omer

See Counting the Omer.

Oneg

Literally “delight.” This word is used several times in Isaiah 58 to describe a believer’s attitude toward Shabbat. We use it most often to refer to the meal we have after our Shabbat prayer service, at around noon.

Onkelos

See Targum.

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Parasha

The portion of the Torah we read each week. There are 54, thus allowing us to read the entire Torah every year. When it’s not a leap year on the Hebrew calendar, we double up some of the portions to finish in time. All of Judaism is reading the exact same parasha as we are each week – this brings unity! Plural is parshiot.

Pardes

A Hebrew acronym for P’shat (pe-SHOT), Remez (rem-EZ), Drash (drahsh), and Sod (sode). Pardes is also the Hebrew word for orchard, so this is sometimes how we refer to it. Pardes is a concept of understanding Scripture, and of digging deeper to find more truths below the surface. P’shat is the simple, literal meaning of the text. That’s the first level. Remez is like a hint, drawing our minds back to another passage we’ve read before, and forming connections and possibilities between them. Drash, as seen above, is a teaching on or expounding of the text, for learning purposes. Sod is the mystical, secret meanings hidden deep within the wording and value of what is written. The most important thing to remember is that none of the levels of Pardes can ever contradict the P’shat – the literal meaning of the text.

Pareve

Food that is neither Meat nor Dairy, and can usually be eaten with either food group.

Parsha

A contraction of Parasha.

Parve

A contraction of Pareve.

Pesach

Passover! This is the first of the Biblical festivals (besides Shabbat) outlined in Leviticus 23. It is actually a point in time, “between the twilights” on Nisan 14. We are commanded to remember the exodus from Egypt, and not eat chametz (leaven) or have any in our homes.

Pirkei Avot

The title means "Sayings of the Fathers" or "Ethics of the Fathers." A collection of proverbial sayings from some of the greatest rabbis and sages in Jewish history. It is traditional to read one chapter each Shabbat during the Counting of the Omer.

R

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Rabbeinu

Literally “our Great One,” but most commonly used as “our Teacher.” It is a title of deep respect and veneration.

Rambam

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, a great Torah scholar, phsyician and philosopher of about 1150 CE. His name, like many Sages, is an acronym. When translated into Greek, the Hebrew “ben Maimon” (son of Maimon) is converted into the suffix “ides.” Therefore he is known to the Greek world as Maimonides. One of his greatest works is Mishneh Torah, a codification of Jewish Law. It is known in Hebrew as Sefer Yad haChazaka, the Book of the Strong Hand. A popular medieval saying regarding his rabbinic writings was, “From Moshe to Moshe, there was none like Moshe.” That is, from Moshe Rabbeinu to Moshe ben Maimon, there was none like Moshe. His 13 Principles of the Faith are read each morning from the Siddur. His writings about Greek philosophy (Guide to the Perplexed) influenced some of his Biblical commentary. He is not to be confused with another great Sage, Ramban.

(ROHM-bom)

Ramban

Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, a great Torah scholar, physician and philosopher of about 1250 CE. His name, like many Sages, is an acronym. When translated into Greek, the Hebrew “ben Nachman” (son of Nachman) is converted into the suffix “ides.” Therefore he is known to the Greek world as Nachmanides. Ramban’s commentary on the Torah and Prophets are extraordinary. He comments on the standard writings of Rashi and Rambam on nearly every verse. He wrote a letter to his son to inspire him to act with humility. He instructed his son to read the letter once every week and to teach his children as well, so that they might learn it by heart, in order to train them in their youth to fear G-d. In Hebrew, it is called Iggeret haMussar – the Letter of the Ages. Ramban’s commentary on the Tanakh vehemently attacks Greek philosophy. He criticizes Rambam’s interpretations which followed Aristotle or attempted to reduce miracles to normal phenomena. Ramban was a strong proponent of miracles, creation ex nihilo, and the omniscience of G-d. During the disputations between the Jews and the Church, Ramban was called on to debate an apostate Jew named Pablo Christiani. The debate lasted four days covering three topics: 1) Has Messiah appeared? 2) Did the Prophets describe Messiah as divine or as a man with human parents? 3) Who has true faith, Jews or Christians? Ramban won.

(rohm-BAHN)

Rashi

The first person to write line-by-line commentary of the Torah and then the entire Tanakh. Nearly every Chumash available today is actually the Torah with Rashi’s commentary. His grandsons are the first of the Tosafot.

Rav

From the root meaning “much” or “great,” Rav is a title denoting respect (e.g., Rav Upham).

Rhythms of Righteousness

The walk of the Torah observant is reflected in the rhythms provided by G-d’s calendar, primarily from Leviticus 23. Beginning with Shabbat each week, and Rosh Chodesh each month, the observant celebrate the moedim of HaShem with Pesach, haMatzot, Shavu’ot, Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

Rishonim

Literally First Ones. Sages living from 1000 CE to 1500 CE. Some famous Rishonim include Rashi, Rambam and Ramban.

Rosh Chodesh

Literally “head of the month.” The new month. Traditionally, we celebrate the beginning of each new month on the Hebraic calendar. They all begin with the first sliver of the new moon, and there are special blessings associated with that first day of each month. The Shabbatot surrounding Rosh Chodesh have distinctive titles and readings.

  • Shabbat Mevarchim is the Shabbat of the Blessing of the New Moon. This is the last Shabbat of the previous month. (Psalm 148:1-7)
  • Shabbat Rosh Chodesh is any Shabbat which is on Rosh Chodesh falls. (Numbers 28:9-25)
  • Shabbat Machar Chodesh is any Shabbat which is the day before Rosh Chodesh. Literally “tommorow is the new month.” (Samuel 20:18-42)

Rosh Hashanah

Literally “head of the year.” Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the seventh month, Tishrei, but also marks the civil new year. In the Bible, G-d refers to this day as Yom Teruah (Feast of Blowing), because we are commanded to blow the shofar. It is traditional to eat apples and honey (for a sweet new year) and fish with the head on it (because of the literal meaning of the Hebrew). Rosh Hashanah is a Yom Tov (like a Shabbat).

Ruach haKodesh

The Holy Spirit.

S

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Sages

See Chazal.

Sanhedrin

From the Greek “sitting together,” a council of 23 judges (there has to be an odd number to break a tie vote) appointed in Israel. The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of Israel and had 71 judges.

Sephardi

From the Hebrew Sepharad which means Spain. The community of Jews which flourished in Spain and Portugal who emigrated from Babylon via southern routes controlled by Muslims.

Selah

A word used in prayers and Psalms that may have musical intent but is intended to cause the reader to pause and reflect on the previous text.

(seh-LA)

Seder

Literally "order, arrangement." The ritual Pesach meal eaten on the evening of 14 Nissan. See Hagaddah.

Septuagint

The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which tradition tells was translated by 70 scholars about 300 BCE. References to the Septuagint often use LXX, the Roman numeral for 70.

(sep-TOO-a-jint or SEP-ta-jint)

Shabbat

From the root for the word “seven,” Shabbat is the seventh day – Saturday. Plural is Shabbatot. We are commanded to rest, do no work, refrain from buying or selling and kindling a fire, and not travel from our place. Shabbat is the Sephardi pronunciation of the word; Ashkenazi would be Shabbos.

There are several noteworthy and named Shabbatot during the year. They are:

  • Shabbat Shuvah: the Sabbath of Return, which occurs between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (Hosea 14:2)
  • Shabbat Shira: the Sabbath of Song that falls before or on Tu B’Shevat (Exodus 15:1)
  • During the month leading up to Pesach four Shabbatot have special maftir readings called Arba Parshiot (four Torah portions) which relate thematically to Purim or Pesach:
    1. Shabbat Shekalim: the Shabbat prior to or on Rosh Chodesh Adar (Exodus 30:11)
    2. Shabbat Zachor: the Shabbat before Purim (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)
    3. Shabbat Parah: the Shabbat prior to Shabbat Mevarchim Nissan (Numbers 19:1-22)
    4. Shabbat haChodesh: the Shabbat before or on Rosh Chodesh Nissan (Exodus 12:1-20)
  • Shabbat haGadol: the Shabbat before Pesach (Malachi 3:4-24)
  • Shabbat Chazon: the Shabbot preceding Tisha B’Av (Isaiah 1:1-27)
  • Shabbat Nachamu: the Shabbot following Tisha B’Av (Isaiah 40:1-26)

See Rhythms of Righteousness.

(shah-BOTT, SHAH-bus)

Shabbat shalom!

Literally “Sabbath peace.” This is a traditional Sephardic greeting on Shabbat.

Shabbos tov!

Literally “Good Sabbath!” This is a traditional Ashkenazi greeting on Shabbos.

Shacharit

The morning prayer service. The prayer services were implemented to mirror the morning and afternoon sacrifices G-d commanded, after the Temple was destroyed and those could no longer be done. Our prayers are our sacrifices until a time when we can physically bring our offerings to HaShem.

Shavuah Tov!

Literally “good week.” This is a traditional greeting on Sunday, or the first few days of the week, to wish people a good week. We also say it after extinguishing our Havdalah candle.

Shavu’ot

Literally “weeks.” We count the omer for 49 days, starting the day after Day 1 of Unleavened Bread (see Chag haMatzot). The fiftieth day is a Yom Tov (like a Shabbat) – Shavu’ot. This day commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is traditional to stay up all night and study Torah, as well as read the book of Ruth.

(sha-voo-OTE)

Shechita

A kosher method of slaughter performed by a shochet which is as painless as possible, and affords the greatest amount of blood to be removed, as we are commanded not to eat blood.

Shehechiyanu

Literally "who has kept us alive." A word used to refer to the blessing for G-d’s provision and protection of us: Blessed are You, HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

(sheh-HEKH-ee-ah-noo)

Shekinah

Literally “dwelling presence.” Most often, this speaks of G-d’s cloud of glory on the tabernacle in the wilderness.

(shek-ee-NAH)

Shelach

Literally "sent one." Plural is Shelachim. This is the Hebrew equivalent of "Apostle" in the English Bible.

(sheh-LAKH, sheh-la-KHEEM)

Shemoneh Esrei

Literally “eighteen.” See Amidah.

Shemot

Literally “names,” taken from the Hebrew of the first verse of the second book of Moses. Called Exodus in English Bibles.

(sheh-MOTE)

Sheni

Second. Most often used to refer to the Second Temple – Bayit Sheni.

Shlishi

Third. Most often used to refer to Ezekiel’s Temple (or, the Third Temple) – Bayit Shlishi.

Siddur

A prayer book. We use them as a community on Shabbat, walking through the liturgical prayer service together. The prayers and blessings are almost completely Scripture, pieced together by the sages to create beautiful prayers to HaShem. Literally we are praying His Words back to Him. Bella Torah uses Artscroll siddurim (plural of siddur), but there are many different flavors available.

(SID-er or si-DOOR)

Sukkah

A tabernacle or booth – a temporary structure. Each family erects a sukkah for the festival of Sukkot.

(soo-KAH)

Sukkot

Literally “tabernacles” or “booths.” This is an eight-day long festival, falling shortly after Yom Kippur (Tishrei 15). We are commanded to rest on the first and eighth days – they are Yamim Tovim (plural of Yom Tov – “good day”) – and to build our own sukkot. These temporary dwelling places are erected just before the festival begins, and remain in place until it has finished. We eat in them, read in them, sleep in them, etc. Our lives are lived in our sukkot for those eight days, remembering Israel leaving Egypt. Sukkot is also referred to as the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths.

(soo-KOTE)

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Tallis

Ashkenazi pronunciation of Tallit.

(TAHL-iss)

Tallit

The prayer shawl worn by men during prayer services. This is used as a vehicle for tzitzit, being a four-cornered garment to which we can attach our tzitzit. The outer garment used as a prayer shawl is technically a Tallit Gadol.

(ta-LEET)

Tallit Katan

Literally “small tallit.” This is an undergarment or vest used as a vehicle for Tzitzit. See Tallit.

(ta-LEET ka-TAHN)

Talmidim

Disciples. Singular would be talmid. The idea of a disciple in Yeshua’s day was much more involved than the idea of a student in today’s world. The talmidim would literally follow their rabbi around, walking his footsteps, listening to his words, submerging themselves in his teaching, watching his responses and reactions to everyday life. They wanted to be just like him, so they spent every minute of their day with him.

(tal-mee-DEEM)

Talmud

Literally "instruction." A collection of rabbinic writings. This includes the Mishnah (Oral Torah) and Gemara (Discussions of the Mishnah). The Jewish people treat this as Scripture, believing that G-d spoke the Oral Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and it was passed down orally (hence the name) through successive responsible Sages, until finally being codified in the early First through Fourth Centuries.

There are actually two Talmuds. One is the Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli), which is 72 volumes, and was written in Babylon by sages in exile. The other is the Jerusalem Talmud (Talmud Yerushalmi), which is much shorter, and was written in the towns of Caesarea and Tiberias after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Tammuz

The fourth Hebrew month. It is noteworthy because it contains one of the traditional fast days, 17 Tammuz, commemorating the breach of the walls of Yerushalayim before the destruction of Bayit Sheni. In Hebrew this day is known as Tzom Tammuz.

Tanakh

A Hebrew acronym for Torah, Nevi’im, and Khetuvim (the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings). These three sections comprise the Hebrew Scriptures or the “Old Testament,” as it’s incorrectly titled. See Apostolic Writings.

(ta-NAKH)

Tanaim

Literally “repeaters.” Rabbinic Sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah from 70 CE to 200 CE. One of the most famous is Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai.

(ta-na-EEM)

Targum

Aramaic paraphrases of the Tanakh. The most famous are Targum Onkelos on the Torah and Targum Jonathan ben Uzzie on the Nevi’im. Both are mentioned in Talmud Bavli. Plural is Targumim.

Tashlich

Literally “casting.” The Tashlich Service is a traditional part of Rosh Hashanah. We gather by a body of water (the sages say it must have fish in it, to remember that man is like a fish in the sea) and cast stones into it. To each stone, we mentally attach a sin with which we are personally dealing. We spend time in introspection and self-examination. When we finally cast our stones, we symbolize the fact that G-d has cleansed us of all of our transgressions, and just as the stone sinks into the water, never to be seen again, so G-d has cast our sins into the depths of the sea, as promised in Micah 7:19.

(tash-LEEKH)

Tefillin

The black leather boxes worn by observant men during prayers. Tefilin is composed of two parts: one is a band around the head, with a box on the forehead (shel rosh), the other is a long leather strap wrapped around the arm, with a box on the bicep (shel yad). The boxes are filled with Scripture. This is how we fulfill the command to “bind these [the commandments] for a sign upon your arm” and tefillin between our eyes.

(te-FILL-in)

Tefillah

Prayer. Plural is Tefillim.

(tef-ee-LAH)

Tehillim

Psalms. Singular is Tehillah.

(te-HEE-lim)

Teshuvah

Repentance.

(TSHOO-vah)

Tetragrammaton

The Divine four-letter, ineffable Name of G-d written in the Scriptures. In order to honor Him and obey the third commandment (not to take His Name in vain) we do not pronounce it. We use a circumlocution, such as Adonai (my Great L-rd) when in a religious context or HaShem (The Name).

Tevilah

Ritual immersion or washing of the entire body (often referred to as “baptism”) or hands. See Mikveh and Netilat Yadayim.

(tev-ee-LAH)

Tikkun Olam

Literally “repair of the world." The Hebrew concept of returning order and fellowship with G-d as it was in the Garden before the rebellion of man. Tikkun Olam is mentioned in the Aleinu.

Tisha B’Av

A traditional fast day commemorating the destruction of Bayit Rishon and Bayit Sheni.

Torah

Literally “instruction” and unfortunately translated as "law" in most English Bibles, as Greek has only one word for "authoritative instruction," nomos, and this was used in the Septuagint to translate Torah. This word usually refers to the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, sometimes called the Five Books of Moses, or the Law of Moses. In a general sense, Torah is sometimes used collectively to refer to all the Scriptures, just as the English word Bible. See Tanakh.

Trei Asar

Literally “twelve” in Aramaic. The group of Nevi’im that prophesied during Bayit Rishon. They are often referred to as the Minor Prophets, but this is not referring to content, but quantity. The Trei Asar are Hoshea, Yo’el, Amos, Ovadyah, Yonah, Michah, Nachum, Chavakuk, Tz’fanyah, Chaggai, Zecharyah and Mal’achi.

Tu B’Shevat

The New Year of Trees. The holiday falls on Shevat 15. The name derives from the Hebrew letters used in “Tu” (Tet and Vav), which have a numerical value of 9 and 6, respectively, and total 15. It is also known as Hamisha Asar B’Shevat, meaning “fifteenth of Shevat.” See Shabbat.

Tzadik, Tzaddik

A righteous man. Plural is tzedekim.

(tza-DEEK, tze-deh-KEEM)

Tzedakah

Acts of righteousness, specifically charity.

(tze-DAHK-uh)

Tzedek Olamim

Everlasting righteousness, referred to in Daniel 9. The World to Come will bring tzedek olamim.

(TZE-dek oh-la-MEEM)

Tzitzit

The “tassels” G-d commands us to attach to our four-cornered garments in Numbers 15. Traditional tzitzit are long and skinny, wrapped with a certain number of wraps and knots, knotted a particular way and a particular number of times – with numerical significance referring to the commandments.

(tzee-tzeet)

Tzom

Fast, as in “don’t eat.” There is only one fast commanded in Scripture – Yom Kippur. There are four others that became so ingrained in tradition that they are all mentioned in the Scripture. They are referenced by the Hebrew month number in a wonderful prophecy by the L-rd in Zec 8:19). They are the fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth. A common expression of hope to others when a fast day is approaching is, “Tzom kal!” which means, “easy fast.”

(tzome)

Tzva’ot

Literally “hosts” or “legions.” We commonly use this word in reference to G-d, using the title Adonai Tzva’ot – L-rd of Hosts or Master of Legions.

(tzeh-va-OT)

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Vayikra

Literally “and He called,” taken from the first verse of Leviticus in the Hebrew in the third book of Moses. Leviticus in English Bibles.

(va-yee-KRA)

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Yahrzeit

The anniversary of the death of a loved one, similar to a birthday, but the reverse. In Judaism, the day of someone’s death is far more important than the day of their birth, because when one is born, it is not known what he will be like when grown and what his deeds will be – whether righteous or wicked, good or evil. When he dies, however, if he departs with a good name and leaves the world in peace, people should rejoice. The yahrzeit of a loved one is commemorated every year with special prayers and blessings. This also helps with the grieving process. While we don’t know precisely when Messiah was born, we are told exactly when he died. Pesach is our Messiah’s yahrzeit.

(yahr-ZAYT)

Yeshua

The given name of the Son of G-d, the physical parents of Yosef and Miriam, the Mashiach of Israel.

Yigdal

Literally "magnify." A hymn which opens the morning prayer service and often closes the evening prayer service if Adon Olam is not sung. It is based on the 13 Principles of Faith formulated by Rambam. It was written by Daniel ben Judah Dayyan about 1400 CE. This song actually appears in many Christian hymnals as The G-d of Abraham Praise, even John Wesley’s hymnal!

Yod-Hay + Vav-Hay

This is the Hebrew spelling of the Tetragrammaton.

Yom Tov

Literally “good day.” A Yom Tov is a festival day that mirrors Shabbat, on which we rest, do no work, and don’t buy or sell. The first and seventh days of Chag HaMatzot (Feast of Unleavened Bread), Shavu’ot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the first and eighth days of Sukkot are all Yamim Tovim (plural of Yom Tov). Mark your calendar! We are commanded to rest on those days!

(yome tove)

Yom Teruah

See Rosh Hashanah.

Yom Kippur

Literally “day of covering.” Actually, the Bible refers to this day as Yom HaKippurim – “day of THE coverings.” It occurs on the Tishrei 10, ten days after Rosh Hashanah. It is the highest holy day of the year, trumping even the weekly Shabbats. We are commanded to do no work whatsoever, and to humble ourselves before G-d. This means a full, 25-hour fast, starting at just before sundown, and ending just after sundown on the next day. There are many traditional prayers for this day, entreating G-d for mercy, and asking for His forgiveness for our sins. It is a very solemn day – and the only fast day explicitly commanded in the Scriptures.

(yome ki-POOR)

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Zecharyah

Literally "G-d remembers." Zechariah, one of the Trei Asar. The Hebraic spelling and pronunciation of the name can refer to the prophet and priest of Tanakh or the father of Yochanan haMakvil (John the Immerser). See Mikveh.

(ze-KHAR-yah)

Zugot

Pairs. This is the term for the pairs of men in charge of each Sanhedrin from 200 BCE to 0 CE. The most famous of the Zugot were Hillel and Shammai.

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