of Hebrew words used on


alef-bet Hebrew alphabet

Alter of Slobodka Rabbi Nosson Zvi Finkel (1849-1927), head on One of the most prestigious yeshivas in Europe, the Yeshiva at Slobodka, in Lithuania. Alter was a term of respect and endearment.

avoda literally "work," any effort in our spiritual lives: learning Torah, prayer, mitzvos, especially the service in the Beis HaMikdash, our Holy Temple

Beit HaMikdash the Holy Temple, spiritual center of the Jewish people. Two Batei Mikdash stood on the same site in Jerusalem for centuries until they each were were destroyed. The third to be rebuilt "soon and in our days," to serve as a spiritual center for the entire world, never to be destroyed.

bracha, pl brachos a prayer recited both as part of the synagogue services and as a response or prerequisite to a variety of daily occurrences.

challah the portion of dough set aside for the kohein (see below) before it is baked. Also commonly known as a loaf of braided bread served on Shabbos.

Chashmonaim also known as Maccabees, the Hasmonean family who led the revolt against the Syrian-Greek effort to Hellenize the Jews (around 165 BCE)

chesed lovingkindness

chevrusa study partner; Jewish learning is traditionally done in pairs reading every word of the text out loud, never going on to the next phrase until they have exhausted the meaning of the one under discussion

chizuk encouragement, derived from the root “chet” “zayin” “kuf,” meaning ;“ to be strong, to give chizuk is to help strengthen someone

chok a category of commandments for which the Torah gives no rational explanation and can only be understood as a decree from Hashem.

chol ordinary, mundane, common

chometz leavened products that are forbidden to be consumed on the holiday of Passover

chumash, chumashim: one of the Hebrew names for the Five Books of Moses, also known as the Pentateuch or Torah. The word comes from the Hebrew word for five, chamesh

dreidel Yiddish, 4-sided top, game played on Hanukkah to commemorate the dedication to Torah study in even the most adverse times, sivivon in Hebrew

D'var Torah literallly, "word of Torah," a brief discourse on the weekly Torah portion

erev evening. Used often to describe the day before Shabbos, erev Shabbos is Friday, or the day before a holiday is erev yom tov. The imminent arrival of a holiday flavors the hours before its onset, therefore we speak of this weekday in relation to the special day that it precedes.

freilech Yiddish, for happy, joyous

Gadol., pl.Gedolim specific individuals in a generation who have risen to greatness in the knowledge of Torah, the ability to analyze the logical fundamentals of Torah and Jewish Law and apply Torah principles to practical life.

Gamara an Aramaic term. A treatise of the legal, anecdotal, moral and practical underpinnings of Jewish life.

Hafrashat Challah the mitzvah of separating a piece of dough from the batch. See The Mitzvah That Builds our Home and Taking Challah

halacha Jewish law. From the same root as lech to go. Halacha is the path, the road we travel in Jewish life.

hechsher (pl. hechsherim) from the same Hebrew root as the word kosher. A seal that identifies the rabbi or organization that certified approval of the ingredients used to make the food and the preparation process. This is the seal of the agency that periodically inspects the processing facilities to ensure kosher standards are maintained.

Imenu our mother, plural possessive of ima, mother. Use in conjunction with the founding Mothers of the Jewish people: Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah.

kashrus from the same Hebrew root as the word kosher, meaning fit, proper or correct. The body of Jewish law dealing with the foods we can and cannot eat, preparation of food and how it may be eaten.

Kedushah, kodesh holiness; a fundamental concept of Judaism. Implies separation from the general (chol) and dedication to the particular. Example: Marriage is called kiddushin as the couple exclude all options and commit exclusively to one another. Shabbos and the Jewish holidays are similarly times of separation and commitment, as well as Jerusalem which is reserved for the Temple and the Land of Israel which is committed to the Jewish people.

kiddush santification by physically or verbally designating or demarcating a person, place, thing or time for a higher purpose. Most familiar is Kiddush over a cup of wine at the start of a Shabbat or holiday meal. This is said to clearly delineate this day as different than the days before and after it. This verbal statement includes an established text referring to the specific holiness of the day.

Kohein (pl. kohanim) Priest; a descendant of Aharon, the brother of Moshe. His task is to work in the Temple, be involved with the offering of sacrifices, and with blessing the congregation of Israel.

latkes potato pancakes, traditional Chanukah food

loshen hara slander or malicious gossip,true or false. Lashon Hara and general inconsiderateness and hostility towards one's fellow human beings was one of the principal reasons for the destruction of the Second Temple.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, also known as the RaMCHaL after his initials, is best known for his classical work on piety, Mesilas Yesharim (Path of the Just). This book is studied in all Yeshivos and is considered the finest such work ever written.

mazal, or mazel is literally "star." Mazel is the influence of the stars on the physical world. The Torah says we are not limited by this influence.

midrash, pl midrashim compendium of extra-legal, anecdotal or allegorical material, designed to clarify the Torah's intent or teach a moral point.

Mishkan the first structure designed (by G-d) to house His Divine Presence. It traveled with the Jewish People during their forty years in the wilderness. When they finally entered the Land of Israel the Mishkan stood in Shiloh, Nov and Givon until Temple was built in Yerushalayim.

Mishna first written compilation of Oral Law of Judaism; contains the detailed instructions necessary for following the rules that were outlined in the Torah

mitzva (pl. mitzvos) commandment. The Torah contains 613 commandments which Jews are obligated to observe.

neshama the holy eternal soul of a Jew

niggun wordless tune that arouses a contemplative state, evoking a sense of timelessness and inner space

olam haba the world-to-come; the spiritual place of reward for the righteous, where Hashem repays to us in kind for our actions and achievements in our lifetime. Fundamental belief of the Jewish Religion.

Parshah (pl. parshiyos) a section of the Torah read each Shabbos

pasuk (pl. pasukim) verse

potchke often used as a verb as in "potchking around," and means dawdling or stalling. In the kitchen it refers to a complicated recipe.

Rosh HaYeshiva literally, "Head of the Yeshiva"

Shechinah Divine Presence; a feminine manifestation

sheva brachos lit. "seven blessings," wedding blessings recited as part of the week long festival meals after the wedding more...

Siman a sign, signal, hint or omen Simanim of Rosh Hashannah.

Simchat (Simchas) Torah" Holiday of rejoicing with the Torah upon the completion of the annual cycle, accompanied by joyous dancing.

Talmud repository of Oral Law of Judaism; consists of Mishnah and Gemara. It was written/compiled by Torah scholars around 500 C.E., preserving generations of analysis and discussion of the more concise Mishnah, extra-legal and anecdotal material relating to all aspects of life.

talmid student of Torah

talmid cacham (pl. Talmudi Chachamim) Torah scholar

tikkun an act that repairs a previous failure. The act shows that the transgressor understands the error and has worked to change himself into a person for whom such a failure is no longer possible.

tractate a section of the Talmud dealing with a specific subject

tzadik (m), tzadika (f) a holy, righteous man

yeshiva (pl. Yeshivos)a Torah academy.

Most definitions are gleaned from the Orthodox Union's Judaism 101