Glossary

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Aĥaronim Halakhic authorities from c. 1500 CE until the present day
Al Ha-miĥya “On the Sustenance”; a blessing, abridged from the three blessings of Birkat Ha-mazon, recited after eating grain products, drinking wine, etc.
Al Ha-nisim “For the Miracles”; a paragraph added to the Amida and Birkat Hamazon on Ĥanuka and Purim
al netilat yadayim “Concerning the Washing of the Hands”; the berakha recited upon performing Netilat Yadayim
aliya (pl. aliyot) the calling of a congregant up to the Torah scroll as a section of it is read aloud
alot ha-shaĥar dawn
ama (pl. amot) a cubit; a standard halakhic measure of distance equaling c. 45cm and approximating the distance from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow of the average adult male
Amida “The Standing Prayer”; also called the Shemoneh Esrei; the central prayer of each service, in which the worshipper stands as though in God’s presence
Aneinu “Answer Us”; a paragraph added to the Amida on fast days
Anshei Knesset Ha-gedola “The Men of the Great Assembly”, a group of sages and prophets from the beginning of the Second Temple era (c. 500 BCE) who instituted several enactments that shaped the course of halakha and Jewish tradition
Asher Yatzar “Who has Formed”; a berakha recited after using the bathroom
Ashrei “Fortunate”; a psalm (Tehilim 145 plus several added verses) that is recited thrice daily in Jewish prayers, twice during Shaĥarit and once during Minĥa.
Ata Ĥonantanu prayer added to the Amida of Ma’ariv of Motza’ei Shabbat that serves as a form of havdala
aufruf the custom of honoring a groom on the Shabbat prior to his wedding by calling him up to the Torah and inviting family and friends to a celebratory kiddush
Avinu Malkeinu a penitential prayer recited during the Ten Days of Repentance and on public fast days
bal tashĥit the prohibition against destroying things needlessly
Barkhi Nafshi Tehilim chapter 104, recited on Rosh Ĥodesh
Barkhu  “Bless”; the call to worship recited at various points in the prayer service and which requires a minyan
be-di’avad a level of performance that ex post facto satisfies an obligation in a less-than-ideal manner
bein ha-metzarim “Between the Straits;” figurative name for the period of the Three Weeks
bein ha-shmashot the time between sunset and the emergence of stars, when it is not clear whether it is night or day
beit din (pl. batei din) rabbinical court
Beit Din Ha-gadol The high court or Sanhedrin of 71 sages that would convene in Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount.
beit midrash (pl. batei midrash) Torah study hall
beraita a Tannaitic statement not included in the Mishna
berakha a formal blessing recited before eating or performing a mitzva, and on other occasions
berakha le-vatala a blessing recited in vain
Birkat Ha-levana the berakha recited on the moon at the beginning of each month
Birkat Ha-mazon known as the “grace after meals”; the berakha aĥarona consisting of four berakhot recited after a bread-based meal
Birkat Kohanim the three verses (Bamidbar 6:23-25) by which the Kohanim channel God’s blessing to the Jewish people
Birkhot Ha-nehenin berakhot recited just before pleasurable experiences like eating food or smelling fragrances
Birkhot Ha-shaĥar a series of berakhot recited each morning, praising God for meeting our most basic needs
Boneh Yerushalayim the third berakha of Birkat Ha-mazon, whose theme is the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple; also known as “Raĥem
brit (mila)  the ritual circumcision (mila) performed on the eighth day of a Jewish boy’s like, when he enters into Israel’s covenant (brit) with God
devarim she-bikdusha “sacred words” or “sacred matters” that must be treated or recited with a greater degree of respect
divrei kabbala commandments ordained by the prophets; an intermediate category between Torah law and rabbinic law
eifa a dry measurement of volume; three se’ah
eruv (ĥatzerot) a physical boundary that can transform a reshut ha-rabim into a reshut ha-yaĥid, allowing people to carry items within that area on Shabbat, as well as to carry items from another domain into that area, and vice versa; alternatively, the communal food that is set aside to join all homes and yards within the area, allowing it to be considered one reshut ha-yaĥid
gabbai the congregant in charge of running services in the synagogue, selecting prayer leaders, managing charity collections and funds, and calling people up to the Torah
Go’el Yisrael “Redeemer of Israel”; the eighth berakha of the Amida, in which we pray for God to redeem us
haftara a selection from the books of Nevi’im (Prophets) that is publicly read in synagogues on Shabbat, festivals, and fast days
Ha-gafen the berakha recited over wine and grape juice
Hakhnasat Sefer Torah Inauguration of a Torah scroll
ĥalaka see “upsherin
halakha (pl. halakhot) the collective body of Jewish law; an individual Jewish law
Hallel chapters 113-118 of Tehilim, all of which are thanksgiving psalms, recited on Jewish holidays
ĥamar medina lit. “the wine of the country”; a dignified beverage that people in one’s locale drink as one would drink wine
Ha-mavdil the main berakha of havdala, commemorating the end of Shabbat or Yom Tov and the distinction between the sacred and the profane
Ha-nerot Halalu a hymn that is traditionally recited after the lighting of the Ĥanuka candles
hanetz ha-ĥama sunrise
ĥanukiya or “menora”; the nine-branched candelabrum used on Ĥanuka
Ha-Raĥaman a series of short requests at the end of Birkat Ha-mazon that all begin with the word “Ha-Raĥaman” (“May the Merciful One”)
Ha-rav et riveinu the concluding berakha of the reading of Megilat Esther
Ha-tov Ve-hametiv “Who is good and bestows good”; a special berakha recited when something very fortunate happens; also refers to the fourth and final berakha of Birkat Ha-mazon
havdala the series of berakhot that marks the end of Shabbat and festivals
ĥazan the person leading the congregation in prayer
ĥilul Hashem desecration of the name of God
hilula the anniversary of a death (yahrzeit), marked by celebration
ĥinukh education, training
Ĥol Ha-mo’ed the intermediate days of Sukkot and Pesaĥ, on which certain weekday activities are permitted
Ĥumash (pl. ĥumashim) the Pentateuch; any of the five books of the Torah
Kaddish a hymn of praises to God whose central theme is the magnification and sanctification of God’s name
kal va-ĥomer a fortiori reasoning
kavana concentration, intention, or mindfulness; the ideal state of mind during prayer and the performance of mitzvot
kebeitza an egg’s bulk; a standard halakhic measure of volume or weight, equivalent to 55cc (according to R. Ĥayim Naeh)
Kedusha a responsive prayer of three verses recited in the third berakha of Ĥazarat Ha-shatz, praising God as the ministering angels do and therefore requiring a minyan
kevod ha-briyot human dignity
kezayit (pl. kezeytim) an olive’s bulk, a standard halakhic measure of volume or weight
kiddush the invocation of the sanctity of a holy day with blessings over a cup of wine
kiddush Hashem the sanctification of God’s name
Kiddush Levana see Birkat Ha-levana
Kinot elegies and lamentations over the destruction of the Temple, recited on Tisha Be-Av
Knesset Yisrael the entirety (lit. ‘assembly’) of the Jewish people
kohen (pl. kohanim) a Jewish priest, descendant of Aaron, charged with performing the Temple rites and benefitting from certain privileges
kometz handful
Korbanot the part of the prayer service in which paragraphs about the Temple korbanot are recited
Lag Ba-omer the 33rd day of the omer period, celebrated as a quasi-holiday. See Chapter 5.
le-khatĥila ab initio; a level of performance that satisfies an obligation in an ideal manner
le-mehadrin in a more beautiful and enhanced manner
Le-shem Yiĥud a formula recited prior to the performance of a mitzva, which focuses on mystical ‘unifications’
Lo Yilbash the Torah prohibition against a man wearing a woman’s clothing
lulav a closed palm frond, one of the four species used during the holiday of Sukkot
Ma’ariv evening prayers
ma’aser kesafim a tithe of one’s earnings, given to tzedaka
maftir the person who reads the haftara, or at least recites the blessing on the haftara; alternatively, the aliya following the seven mandated aliyot that is given to the person who will read the haftara
matanot le-evyonim gifts given to the poor on Purim
Me-ein Shalosh see “Al Ha-miĥya”; the blessing said after eating a kezayit of grain or of the special fruits of Eretz Yisrael, or after drinking a revi’it of wine or grape juice
megilot “scrolls”; the five books of Ketuvim that are read on holidays and festivals, the best-known of which is Esther
mehadrin see “le-mehadrin
mehadrin min ha-mehadrin the most enhanced form of the observance of a mitzva
Melakha (pl. melakhot) productive work of the type prohibited on Shabbat and Yom Tov
melo lugmav a measure of liquid; enough to fill the drinker’s mouth with one cheek inflated
menora the seven-branched candelabrum used in the Temple; a ĥanukiya is often called a “menora” colloquially.
Mezonot food that is made from grain but is not bread, or the berakha recited on such foods
mezuza the doorpost, or the parchment inscribed with specific paragraphs from the Torah that must be affixed to the doorpost of Jewish homes
mikveh a ritual immersion pool
Minĥa the afternoon prayers
minyan a quorum of ten adult Jewish males required for certain religious obligations
Mishkan Tabernacle; the portable dwelling place for the Divine Presence that was the center of Israelite worship before the Temple was constructed
mishlo’aĥ manot lit. “sending of portions”; gifts of food or drink that are sent on Purim day.
mishteh banquet or drinking party; one of the mitzvot of Purim
mitzva (pl. mitzvot) commandment, precept
Modim the berakha of thanksgiving in which one bows at the beginning and end; the second to last berakha of the Amida
mohel a ritual circumciser
molad the moment of “birth” of the new moon, when it begins waxing once again 
Motza’ei Shabbat Saturday night after Shabbat ends and weekday activities are resumed
Musaf the additional service recited on Shabbat, Yom Tov, ĥol ha-mo’ed, and Rosh Ĥodesh, days on which the korban musaf was offered in Temple times
Naĥem an addition to the Amida at Minĥa of Tisha Be-Av, praying for Jerusalem to be comforted by being rebuilt
nasi (pl. nesi’im) tribal princes of Israel; a generic term for a leader
Ne’ila  the concluding service, a special Jewish prayer service that is held only on Yom Kippur
nida a woman who has menstruated and not yet immersed in a mikveh to purify herself
Nodeh Lekha the second berakha of Birkat Ha-mazon, which expresses gratitude to the Almighty for giving the Land of Israel to the Jewish people
omer a biblical measure of grain and an offering brought in the Temple on the second day of Pesaĥ; the count from that day until Shavu’ot is known as the counting of the omer, or Sefirat Ha-omer
oneg Shabbat the mitzva to make Shabbat a delight by experiencing pleasure and avoiding discomfort and suffering
orla the Torah prohibition on eating fruit from a tree for the first three years after it planting
Parashat Para Torah portion concerning the preparation of ashes from a red heifer to purify those who have been contaminated by direct proximity to a human corpse; the third of the four special portions read around the time of Purim
Parashat Shekalim Torah portion concerning the half-shekel assessment of all Israel; the first of the four special portions read around the time of Purim
Parashat Zakhor Torah portion read on the Shabbat before Purim to fulfill the mitzva of remembering what Amalek did to Israel; second of the four read around the time of Purim
Parsahat Ha-ĥodesh (lit. “portion of the month”); Torah portion concerning the Passover offering and the mitzvah to keep a calendar, read on the Shabbat before the month of Nissan
parsha (pl. parshiyot) a passage from the Torah; the weekly Torah portion that is read at the synagogue each Shabbat
Pesaĥ Passover; the Jewish springtime holiday that celebrates Israel’s liberation from Egyptian bondage
Pesukei De-zimra the psalms of praise recited prior to Shaĥarit which prepare one for the Amida
pidyon ha-ben a mitzva in which a Jewish firstborn son is redeemed from a kohen with five silver coins
plag ha-minĥa 1.25 seasonal hours before the end of the day, according to some the earliest time that one can accept Shabbat on Friday afternoon
posek (pl. poskim) a halakhic decisor or authority
pruta a copper coin used in antiquity, which had less value than any other coin; a “penny”
Purim Ha-meshulash  a somewhat rare calendric occurrence in which the 15th of Adar coincides with Shabbat, in which case Jerusalemites spread the Purim observances over three days, Friday through Sunday
Raĥem “Have compassion”; the third berakha of Birkat Ha-mazon, also known as Boneh Yerushalayim
Refa’einu the 9th berakha of the weekday Amida, in which we pray for health and wellbeing
reshut ha-rabim public domain
Retzei Ve-haĥalitzenu the passage that is inserted into Birkat Ha-mazon on Shabbat during the third berakha
sandak the “godfather” of a baby boy, honored with holding the baby on his knees while the brit mila is performed
se’uda a festive or formal meal or banquet
se’uda ha-mafseket the final meal before the fasts of Tisha Be-Av and Yom Kippur
se’uda shlishit the obligatory third Shabbat meal
se’udat mitzva a festive meal celebrating the fulfillment of a mitzva
sefirat ha-omer the mitzva of counting the days from the second day of Pesaĥ until Shavu’ot
sefirot mystical “emanations” through which God created and sustains the world
semikha  the authority to adjudicate Torah law, conferred in an unbroken chain from Moshe; nowadays, in the absence of the original semikha, it refers to rabbinical ordination generally
Shabbat Ĥatan see “aufruf”; this can also refer to the Shabbat after the wedding, during which the new couple is honored in the synagogue and with festive meals
Shabbat Mevarkhim the Shabbat before Rosh Ĥodesh, when the onset of the next lunar cycle and beginning of the new month are announced
Shabbat shalom “peaceful Shabbat”; a customary greeting on Shabbat, the Hebrew equivalent of “good Shabbos”
Shabbatot plural of Shabbat
Shaĥarit the morning prayers
shali’aĥ proxy or agent
shalom zakhar  a festive gathering hosted by the parents of a newborn baby boy on the first Shabbat eve after his birth
shamash “helper” or “sevant”; the candle that is used to light the Ĥanuka candles and as an extra light that is used to make sure that we do not use the light of the Ĥanuka candles themselves
She-asa Li Kol Tzorki “Who has Provided me with all my Needs”; one of the Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, originally recited upon putting on one’s shoes in the morning
She-asa Nisim “Who performed miracles for our forefathers”; a berakha of praise recited over Ĥanuka candles and the reading of Megilat Esther on Purim
She-hakol the generic berakha on food, recited on foods not included in the purview of any other berakha
She-heĥeyanu “Who has given us life”; a berakha recited at specific significant occasions
Shekhina the divine presence in this world
Shema the three Torah paragraphs (or the first of the three paragraphs) whose recitation is a centerpiece of the morning and evening prayers; its opening verse is the Jewish credo: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one”
Shemoneh Esrei “The Eighteen,” (in reference to the original number of constituent blessings; there are now nineteen); the Amida, the central prayer of the Jewish liturgy
sheva berakhot the seven blessings recited at a wedding ceremony and at the conclusion of a meal held in honor of the bride and groom during their first week of marriage
shi’ur a standard halakhic measurement for weight, distance, or volume
Shir shel Yom the “song of the day” that the Levites would sing in the Temple and which is now recited at the end of Shaĥarit
shiva the weeklong mourning period for close relatives, during which visitors bring solace and comfort to the homebound mourners
shki’a shorthand for shki’at ha-ĥama
shki’at ha-ĥama sunset, when Shabbat and Jewish holidays begin
shloshim the month-long mourning period for close relatives; less intense than shiva, but still characterized by numerous laws and customs
shofar a musical instrument made of a horn, traditionally that of a ram, blown as part of the Rosh Hashana ritual as well as other rituals
shome’a ke-oneh “hearing is akin to responding”; the halakhic principle under which one can fulfill an obligation by hearing the recitation (of a berakha, for example) made by someone else
Shome’a Tefila “Who Hears Prayer”; the 16th berakha of the weekday Amida in which we ask God to answer our prayers and may insert personal petitions
siddur a Jewish prayer book
siyum masekhet a se’udat mitzva occasioned by the completion of a tractate of the Talmud or another significant corpus of the Torah
sufganiyot jelly donuts, traditionally eaten in Israel and around the world on Ĥanuka
Taĥanun “Supplication”; the heartbreaking prayers recited after the Amida of Shaĥarit and Minĥa, omitted on festive occasions
talit the four-cornered prayer shawl, fringed by tzitzit, traditionally worn by Jewish men during prayer
talit katan a four cornered garment, fringed by tzitzit, traditionally worn by Jewish males under (and, among some groups, over) their clothing 
tefaĥ (pl. tefaĥim) a handbreadth; a halakhic measurement equal to c. 8cm
tefilin phylacteries; black leather boxes and straps containing parchment scrolls, worn during weekday morning prayers
teruma (pl. terumot) a tithe of c. 2% of produce, given to kohanim
tosefet Shabbat the time added before and/or after Shabbat to fulfill the mitzva of extending Shabbat into the week
tzadikim righteous individuals
tzeit shorthand for tzeit ha-kokhavim
tzeit ha-kokhavim the appearance of three distinct stars, marking nightfall for various halakhic purposes
Tziduk Ha-din a prayer recited at a Jewish funeral, in which mourners accept God’s judgment
tzitzit the specially-tied fringes that worn on the corners of four-cornered garments; often used interchangeably with the term “talit katan
tzni’ut modesty, humility, or privacy, a character trait that governs Jewish behavior and dress, based on the notion that one is always in God’s presence
upsherin a custom, observed by many, by which a young Jewish boy has his first haircut at age three, accompanied by an elaborate ceremony
U-va Le-Tziyon a prayer recited along with Ashrei at the end of the weekday Shaĥarit and at Minĥa on Shabbat and festivals
Ya’aleh Ve-yavo the paragraph inserted into the Amida and Birkat Ha-mazon of festivals on which Musaf is recited
yahrtzeit a Yiddish word that means “anniversary,” referring to a date of death, which is often marked by customary observances
Yom Ha-Kaddish Ha-klali the date ordained by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to recite Kaddish for Jews who perished in the Holocaust and whose yahrzeit is unknown
Yom Kippur Katan the “minor” Yom Kippur; the day before Rosh Ĥodesh, observed as an auspicious time for repentance and atonement (see section 1:9)
zimun the responsive passage recited prior to Birkat Ha-mazon, in which a leader invites two or more participants to praise God together

 

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