Hebrew Glossary

Brief definitions for Hebrew words and phrases we use regularly at Berkman Mercaz Limud and throughout Rodeph Shalom

Ahavah – love 

Aleinu  – it is upon us

Aliyah  (pl. aliyot) – the act of going up; the honor given to someone who comes up to the bimah to bless a Torah reading; also, immigration to Israel. 

Amidah   – the central prayer of the Jewish worship service, during which worshippers generally stand; literally, “standing”

Am Yisrael  – the people of Israel; another way of saying “Jews” or “the Jewish community”

Avot v’Imahot  – the first part of the Amidah; literally, “fathers and mothers”

Bamidbar   – the fourth book of the Torah, known in English as the Book of Numbers

Bat Mitzvah – coming of age ritual for a 13 year-old who identifies as a girl

Bar Mitzvah – coming of age ritual for a 13 year-old who identifies as a boy

Bimahthe raised platform at the front of a sanctuary

B’nai Mitzvah   - coming of age ritual for a 13 year-old who identifies as non-binary; also, the plural of  Bar Mitzvah

Boker tov   – good morning

B’racha   (pl. brachot) – blessing or prayer

B’reishit   – the first book of the Torah, known in English as the Book of Genesis

Chumash   – a book containing the words of Torah, often with commentary

D’varim   – the fifth book of the Torah, known in English as the Book of Deuteronomy

Eretz Yisrael   – the land of Israel

G’vurot    – the second part of the Amidah

Haftarah   – a book of selected readings from the Tanakh which correspond to the parashat hashavua; selections from the books of the prophets in the Tanakh

Hanukkah   – the eight-day holiday celebrating the liberation of Jerusalem and the Second Temple from the rule of the Syrian-Greeks; literally, “re-dedication”

Hanukiah   (pl. hanukiot) – the nine-branched menorah (candelabra) used during Hanukah

Havdalah   – ceremony marking the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening; literally, “separation”

Kaddish   -- a prayer recited during services

Kavannah   – Intention, mindfulness

Kedusha   – Holiness; also, the third part of the Amidah

Kehillah  (pl. kehillot) – community

Kiddush   – prayer/blessing recited before drinking wine

Labriut   – bless you (said after a sneeze)

L’hitraot   – see you later

Medinat Yisrael   – the State of Israel

Mercaz Limud   – learning center

Minyan  –  quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligation

Mishloach manot   – gifts of food given to friends and family during the holiday of Purim

Mitzvah   (pl. mitzvot) -- a commandment by God to be performed as a religious duty.

Motzi  – prayer/blessing recited before eating bread

Ner   (pl. neirot) – light

Nisim b’chol yom  – a prayer of thanks and praise for everyday blessings; literally, “everyday miracles”

Panim el panim   – face to face

Parasha   – a section/portion of a book of Torah

Parashat hashavua  – the weekly Torah portion; the part of the Torah read each week on Shabbat

Pirkei Avot  -- Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate of the Mishna that details the Torah's views on ethics and interpersonal relationships

Purim   -- a Jewish holiday which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, an Achaemenid Persian Empire official who was planning to kill all the Jews in the empire, as recounted in the Book of Esther.

Rodeph Shalom  – pursue peace; pursuit of peace

Selichot  -- Jewish poems and prayers, especially those said in the period leading up to the High Holy Days

Shabbat  -- Judaism's day of rest on the seventh day of the week

Shalom   – peace, or hello, or goodbye; from the root sh’leimah, meaning “wholeness”

Shamash   – the tallest candle on a hanukiah, which is used to light the eight other candles; the “helper candle”

Shavuot    --   "weeks"; marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer

Shemot  – the second book of the Torah, known in English as the Book of Exodus

Siddur   – prayerbook

Sukkah    -- a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot.

Sukkot   – It is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals on which those Israelites who could were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple at Jerusalem

Tallit   – a prayer shawl that Jewish adults may choose to wear during Shabbat morning services, High Holy Day services and other moments of worship; a tallit is distinguished by fringes tied with special knots on all four corners of the shawl, called tzitzit.

Talmud  -- the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law 

Tanakh   – the Jewish bible, comprised of three parts that are further subdivided into many books; the three parts of the Tanakh are Torah, Nevi’im (the prophets and the history of the kings of ancient Israel, including the books of  Samuel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah), and Ketuvim (writings, including the books of Esther, Job, Daniel, and Ruth, as well as Psalms and Proverbs); an acronym for Torah-Nevi’im-Ketuvim

T’filah  (pl. t’filot) – prayer; a Jewish worship service

Tefillin   – small black leather boxes with leather straps containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. Tefillin are worn by adult Jews during weekday morning prayers.

Tikkun Olam   – repairing the world; social justice

Todah   – thank you

Todah rabbah   – Thank you very much

Torah   – The first five books of the Jewish bible; the scroll containing the words of Torah that is kept in the sanctuary; also sometimes used to refer generally to the entirety of Jewish texts

Tov   – good

Tov me’od   – very good

Tzedakah   --  charitable giving, typically seen as a moral obligation.

Tzedek  – justice; doing what is right

Tzitzit  – fringes on the corners of a tallit

Vayikra   – the third book of the Torah, known in English as the Book of Leviticus

Yerushalayim  – Jerusalem

Yisrael   – Israel; the Jewish people; the name given to Jacob after wrestling with an angel of God; literally, “one who wrestles with God”