YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO JEWISH LINGO


(Please note that h is pronounced “ch” as in the term Hanukkah) 
  
Aliyah                      This Hebrew term means “going up,” and can either refer to making one’s permanent residence in Israel, as in the phrase, “Rachel decided to make “aliyah,” or it would also refer to an honor to the Torah, during which one typically must ascend or “go up” onto the bimah. 
  
Aliyot                       The plural of aliyah. 
  
Aron Hakodesh        The ark in which the Torah scrolls are kept. 
  
Aufruf                      An aliyah given to a bride and groom just prior to their wedding day. 
  
Ba’al Keriah             This is the Hebrew term for Torah Reader.  A woman who reads Torah would be referred to as the Ba’alat Keriah. 
  
Ba’alei Keriah          The plural of Ba’al Keriah. 
  
Berakhah                  The Hebrew word for blessing.  It typically begins, “Ba-rookh   a-tah   Adonai. ” 
  
Berakhot                  The plural of Berakhah. 
  
Besamim                  The spices associated with the Havdalah ceremony, typically cloves and cinnamon stick, symbolizing the wonderful Shabbat aroma we wish to carry with us into the rest of the week. 
  
Bimah                       The pulpit on which the service is lead and sermons are given. 
  
Birkat Hamazon        Literally, “the blessing of the food,” but in reality, a number of blessings recited, and often sung, following a meal. 
  
Committee on Jewish Law and Standards            This is a committee of the Rabbinical Assembly that consists of 25 voting rabbis and six non-voting members, who study contemporary problems of Jewish law and resolve these issues in accordance with the dictates of our Tradition and Halakhah, as understood by Conservative Judaism.  The committee represents a cross-section of the movement.  The Rabbinical Assembly chooses 15 rabbis, the Jewish Theological Seminary chooses five rabbis, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism chooses five rabbis, and it also chooses five non-voting members.  A member of the Cantor’s Assembly also sits on the committee as a non-voting member. 
  
Derekh Eretz            Polite, courteous, respectful behavior.  This is one of the primary attributes of a Jewish person. 
  
Eliyahu Hanavi         Literally, “Elijah the Prophet,” who worked largely in the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 850 BCE.  Tradition assigns him the honor of bringing the people good news about the coming of the Mashiah. 
  
Erev Shabbat            Literally, “Sabbath eve,” which is generally a reference to anytime on Friday before sunset, particularly Friday afternoon. 
  
Gabbai                                    A person knowledgeable in the Torah who follows the reading to assure perfection and stands next to the Ba’al Keriah.  It is also the person who calls people to the Torah for an aliyah. 
  
Gabba’im                               The plural of Gabbai. 
  
Gelilah                                    The honor of dressing the Torah. 
  
Gut Shabbos                         Literally, “Good Sabbath,” a Yiddish greeting on Shabbat akin to “Good morning” or “Good evening.” 
  
Hadlakat Neirot                     Literally, “candle lighting,” which takes place 18 minutes before sunset and marks, at least for the person lighting the candles, the beginning of Shabbat or Yom Tov. 
  
Haftarah                                 That special section from The Prophets chanted on a particular Shabbat or holiday following the Torah reading. 
  
Hagbahah                              The honor of lifting the Torah. 
  
Halakhah                                Literally, “the way,” and the term refers to Jewish law, the traditions and customs that invest our communities the world over with a common character. 
  
Hallah                                     This is the name of the special, braided Shabbat bread that is so closely associated with the beginning of Shabbat.  For Shabbat dinner and lunch, there should be two, uncut hallot (that’s the plural), set on a hallah platter and covered with a hallah cover. 
  
Hamotzi                                  This is the name of the prayer recited prior to cutting or breaking the hallah for distribution to all who have come for the Shabbat meal.  The term means “who draws out” and is a reference to our gratitude toward God for having “drawn out” this bread from the earth. 
  
Havdalah                                Literally, “separation,” and the term is the name of the ceremony at the very end of Shabbat which officially brings Shabbat to a close. 
  
Hebrew Birthday                   The date of birth according to the Hebrew calendar.  It is a date that may precede or follow one’s secular birth date, and in rare instances, the two dates may even coincide.  Bar/t Mitzvah dates follow the Hebrew calendar. 
  
Hiddur mitzvah                     Literally, “beautifying a mitzvah.”  One can fulfill the mitzvah of tallit through one of the nondescript talliyot typically available at the entrance to the synagogue sanctuary or one can purchase a tallit of many colors, rich textures, etc.  In the latter case, one has most certainly enhanced or beautified the mitzvah. 
  
Humash                                  The Torah or Five Books of Moses, as printed in a book, not a scroll. 
  
Jewish Theological Seminary         This is the principal school of the Conservative movement, and responsible for the training or rabbis, cantors, Jewish educators, and academics for Conservative institutions and secular universities.  It is located in New York City. 
  
Kabbalat Shabbat                 Literally, “welcoming Shabbat.”  The term is the name of a welcoming ceremony for Shabbat as created by the sixteenth century Jewish mystics of Safed, Israel. 
  
Kashrut                                  The system of Jewish dietary laws which permits certain animals and prohibits others, permits certain fish and prohibits others, and generally keeps dairy and meat meals, dishes, and utensils, separate and apart.  The system creates a sense of Jewish distinctiveness throughout the day, linking us with both our ancestors, our contemporaries, and our descendents who have, do, or will keep these laws. 
  
Keriat Hatorah                       Literally, “reading the Torah.”  The term is the name of that section of any service during which the Torah is read or more specifically, chanted. 
  
Kiddush                                 Literally, “sanctification.”  The term is the name of a blessing, usually recited over wine, which points to the sanctity of a particular Shabbat or Yom Tov.  Both the Shabbat and Yom Tov Kiddush make reference to the Israelite Exodus from Egypt and the Shabbat Kiddush specifically points to the creation of the universe as a special them of the day. 
  
Kippah                                    A head covering worn by men and women as a sign of humility before God and as an outward expression of Jewish identity. 
  
Lel Shabbat                           Literally, “Shabbat evening.”  The term is a reference to that part of Friday which is Shabbat, as distinguished from Erev Shabbat. 
  
Maftir                                      The person responsible for chanting the Haftarah.  It has also come to mean the final few words of a Torah reading, since the maftir is honored with that reading. 
  
Ma’ariv                                    The evening service which is recited each evening.  Its essential element is the recitation of the Shema which must be recited every morning and evening. 
  
Minhah                                   The afternoon service recited each day. 
  
Minyan                                    The quorum of ten Jews of Bar or Bat Mitzvah age necessary to recite a full service.  Various synagogues differ as to whether women are counted in the minyan or not, but at Midway, the women count! 
  
Minyanim                               The plural of minyan. 
  
Mishnah                                 A work of rabbinic law, thought, and argument that was compiled by the year 200 CE and represented the best of rabbinic thinking for a few hundred years. 
  
Mitzvah                                   A sacred act that connects us with the world around us, with the Jewish people, many times with our non-Jewish friends and family, and it connects us with God.  We are never closer to God than when we are engaged in a mitzvah.   
  
Mitzvot                                   The plural of mitzvah. 
  
Musaf                                      Literally, “addition.”  The term refers to an extra service recited on Shabbat and Yom Tov.  A Jew is supposed to pray three times a day but on Shabbat and Yom Tov, four times a day. 
  
Oneg Shabbat                       Literally, “Sabbath Delight.”  In our synagogue this term refers to the gathering of friends for coffee, tea, pastry, fruits, etc., following a Shabbat Ma’ariv service.  The term can actually refer to any pleasurable activity that takes place on Shabbat. 
  
Parashat Hashavu’ah           Literally, “the portion of the week,” and the term refers to that portion of the Torah that is chanted in the synagogue on a particular Shabbat. 
  
Petihah                                   The honor of opening the ark where the Torah scrolls rest. 
  
Petihot                                    The plural of petihah. 
  
Se’udah Shelishit                  Literally, “the third meal.”  The term refers to a meal that takes place between Minhah and Ma’ariv on Saturday evening to fulfill the tradition that a person should eat well on Shabbat, at least three meals. 
  
Se’udah Shel Mitzvah           A meal that emanates from a mitzvah as the meal that follows a wedding or Bar and Bat Mitzvah. 
  
Shabbat                                  Literally, “Sabbath.”  This term is a reference to the great institution that God gave to the Jewish people, and which the Jewish people in turn, gave to the world: a day of rest, learning, and spiritual rejuvenation. 
  
Shabbat Shalom                   Literally, “Sabbath Peace!”  The term is the typical greeting used on Shabbat. 
  
Shabbos/Shabbes                This is simply the Yiddish pronunciation of Shabbat. 
  
Shomer Shabbat                   Literally, “one who observes Shabbat.”  Generally this term is used to describe someone who observes Shabbat with tremendous concern for all the various laws of Shabbat. 
  
Shulhan Arukh                      This work literally means “The Set Table,” and refers to that code of Jewish law written systematically according to topics by the Sephardic Rabbi Yosef Karo of Spain and Israel, (1488-1575).  Although it is a sixteenth century work, it is widely consulted, even today. 
  
Siddur                                    This is the name of the prayer book used daily.  If the siddur is accidentally dropped, the tradition is to pick it up and kiss it as it contains God’s name and we therefore show the book great reverence. 
  
Tallit                                        The prayer shawl worn during services, particularly morning services. 
  
Talliyot/Tallitot                      The plural of tallit. 
  
Talmud                                   A 20 volume set of Jewish law, lore and debates, the classic rabbinic interpretation of the Torah between the year one to 600 C.E. 
  
Tanakh                                   This is the Hebrew term for Bible.  The term itself is an acronym for the three sections of the Jewish Bible;  the Torah, the Nevi’im or Prophets, and the Ketuvim or Scriptures. 
  
Te’amim                                 The musical symbols used to determine how to phrase and chant a Torah or Haftarah reading.  They are also known as tropes. 
  
  
Tefillin                                    The black boxes containing sacred scrolls which are wrapped onto the arm and around the head each morning (except on Shabbat and Yom Tov) in order to express one’s love for God and the degree to which one feels “bound” by the mitzvot.  They are typically referred to as phylacteries.             
  
Teshuvah                               Literally, “turning.”  A term that refers to the practice of repentance which all Jewish people are encouraged to engage in daily.  It can also refer to the official written answer of a rabbi to a specific problem in Halakhah.   
  
Tikkun Olam                          Literally, “repair of the world.”  It refers to the mitzvah of doing our best to leave this world a better place than we found it. 
  
Torah                                      This is a sacred scroll containing the five books of Moses.  Whenever the scroll is lifted, we rise in reverence for the word and spirit of God that the scroll contains. 
  
Trope                                      A musical symbol used to determine how to phrase and chant a Torah or Haftarah reading.  They are also known as te’amim. 
  
Tzedakah                               Literally, “righteousness.”  It refers to the daily mitzvah of giving money to those in need.  A traditional time to give tzedakah is Erev Shabbat or Friday afternoon, prior to hadlakat neirot. 
  
Yahrzeit                                  The anniversary of the death of a loved one.  It is a date that follows the Hebrew calendar.  We light a candle on that day (beginning the evening before) and recite the Kaddish prayer at the synagogue services both in the evening and morning. 
  
Zemirot                                   This term is a reference to the special Shabbat songs that are sung on Shabbat during or following a meal.