Glossary

All the Hebrew and Yiddish terms used in our posts (well, mostly in LM’s posts) are defined here.

a”h – acronym for “alav/aleha shalom” (literally, “peace upon him/her”). One of several expressions used to refer to a deceased person (e.g., “My great-grandmother, a”h, was from Poland”).

aliyah – literally, “going up.” Refers either to being called up to say the blessings before reading from the Torah, or to moving to Israel.

Asara b’Teves – the tenth day of the month of Teves, a minor fast day.

assur – forbidden

Bais haMikdash – the Holy Temple in Jerusalem

bais yosef – a strict interpretation of the laws of kashrus with regards to meat; a chumra.

Bamidbar – literally, “in the desert.” “Bamidbar” is the Hebrew name of the fourth book of the Bible, “Numbers.”

bli neder – literally, “without a vow.” Phrase often (mis)used to mean that the speaker does not intend his promise to be a binding halachic neder or shvua.

bar mitzvah – literally, “son of the commandment.” Refers to a Jew over the age of thirteen. (A woman becomes a bat mitzvah, “daughter of the commandment,” at age twelve.)

BT (ba’al teshuvah, pl. ba’alei teshuvah) – literally, “master of repentance.” A Jew who came to religious observance later in life.

chag (pl. chagim) – holiday

chalav yisrael – a strict interpretation of the laws of kashrus with regards to dairy.

Chanukah – the holiday commemorating the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days after the second Bais Mikdash was ransacked.

chasan – groom

chevra kadisha – burial society

chumra – a stringency in religious observance that goes beyond the letter of the law.

chuppah – refers either to the canopy under which a Jewish wedding takes place, or to the wedding ceremony itself.

daf yomi – literally, “daily page.” A worldwide Talmud study program that covers one page a day.

davening – praying (Yiddish)

davka – this word is impossible to define. It means you did the opposite of what would be expected, and you did so very intentionally, because it was unexpected. We davka eat good foods on Shavuos, even though you’d think we would spend the entire day studying Torah, to show that the Torah doesn’t want us to be ascetics.

dvar Torah (pl. divrei Torah) – literally, “a word of Torah.” A mini-sermon given at the Shabbos table, at an engagement party or a bris… 

FFB – frum from birth

frum – religious, observant, devout

galus – exile

Gemara – a collection of commentaries on the Mishna. Together, the Mishna and the Gemara comprise the Talmud.

ger – convert

gerus – conversion

gut voch – literally, “good week” (Yiddish). A standard post-Sabbath greeting.

gut yontif! – happy holiday! (Yiddish)

halacha – Jewish law

Hashem – literally, “The Name.” Used by Jews in place of God’s Biblical names to refer to God in conversation without taking God’s name in vain.

hashkafa – literally, “outlook” or “worldview.” This can be loosely defined as a person’s overall ideology about religious observance.

hataras nedarim – the nullification of vows recited before Rosh Hashana

hechsher – the symbol printed on food packaging to let consumers know it’s been certified kosher.

hisbodedus – literally, “seclusion.”

kallah – bride

kashrus – the Jewish dietary laws

kavanah – concentration, intention, deliberation

kippah – yarmulka/skullcap

koach (pl. kochos) – power, energy, potential.

Kotel – the Western Wall, the remaining portion of the destroyed Bais Mikdash.

lashon hara – gossip (literally, “the evil tongue.”)

lulav/esrog – ritual objects associated with the holiday of Sukkos – the lulav is comprised of branches of palm, myrtle, and willow; the esrog is a lemon-like fruit, also known as a citron.

machmir – stringent

matanos l’evyonim – gifts for the poor

megillah – literally, “revelation.” There are five books in Tanach that are called “megillah” – the books of Esther, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs.

mekil – lenient

melachah – work forbidden on Shabbos and chagim. There are thirty-nine categories of melachah.

Mesilas Yesharim – The Path of the Just, a famous book about character development by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746).

mikvah – the ritual bath used by Jews for spiritual purification

minyan – the “prayer quorum” of ten men required for the recitation of certain communal prayers.

mishnah – the first major written work of Rabbinic law.

mitzvah (pl. mitzvos) – literally, “commandment.” Often mistranslated as meaning “good deed,” a mitzvah is a ritual or ethical obligation given to Jews by God.

mitzvah bein adam l’chavero – a commandment between man and man, such as “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

mitzvah bein adam l’Makom – a commandment between man and God, such as “Guard the Sabbath.”

mutar – permitted

neder – vow (see Neder vs. Shvua for a more comprehensive definition)

parsha – literally, “portion.” Refers to the weekly Torah portion read in synagogue.

Pesach – Passover, the holiday commemorating God’s redemption of the Jews from slavery in Egypt

Purim – the holiday commemorating the miraculous salvation of the Jews from Haman’s plot to destroy them

rav – rabbi

Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish new year, and the beginning of the Ten Days of Repentance before Yom Kippur.

seder – literally, “order.” The ritual meal and storytelling on the night of Pesach. 

seichel – common sense

seudah – festive meal

Shabbos – the Jewish Sabbath, from sundown Friday to nightfall Saturday

Shacharis – the morning order of prayers

shalach manos – gifts exchanged between friends on Purim to promote goodwill and unity amongst Jews

shaleshudes – the third meal eaten on Shabbos, properly called “seudah shlishit” in Hebrew.

Shavuos – the holiday on which we celebrate and commemorate receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

shul – synagogue

shvua – oath. (see Neder vs. Shvua for a more comprehensive definition)

sukkah – the booth built by Jews as part of the holiday of Sukkot

Sukkos – the Festival of Booths, a fall holiday shortly after Yom Kippur

Talmud – after the Tanach, this is the central book of Judaism; the foundational text of Jewish law

Tanach – this acronym stands for Torah, Nevi’im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings). The contents of Tanach are the same as the Christian Old Testament.

Tehillim – Psalms

Tisha b’Av – the Ninth of Av, a day of mourning for the destruction of the two Batei Mikdash and other tragedies throughout Jewish history. (“Av” is the name of the Hebrew calendar month that corresponds roughly to August.)

treif – not kosher

tzdaka – literally, “righteousness.” The word “tzdaka” refers, colloquially, to monetary charity – giving ten percent of one’s income to charitable organizations or the poor.

tznius – loosely translated, “modesty.” Hilchos tznius, the laws of tznius, include laws about appropriate dress, hairstyles/hair covering, and public behavior, among other things.

Yerushalayim – Jerusalem

Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement

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