Prepared by the Esteemed RABAM, SHLITA
NOTE – The RABAM is a noted scholar of Judaic studies, colonialism, and Chinese pop art. He is the Rosheshiva of the San Francisco branch of Yeshivas Chipass Emmess.
Definitions of terms used in the Dvar Toirahs. These are terms and topics which you really ought to know, you Minuval. Please read this -- you might learn something.
Am keshe-oref = A stiff-necked people. The classic description of the Jews, from Shemos (Exodus) 32:9.
Abaya = A sage from the Talmudic era, died 339 C.E. Successor and nephew of Rabba bar Nachman as head of the academy at Pumbedita in Bavel.
Acher = The Other, Rabbi Elisha Ben Abuya, a sage from the Tannaitic period who lost his faith. He is called ‘The Other’ because of his apikorsus (heresy). Note that “other” is also a way of referring to the evil one. The realm of mystical impurity is also “other” (“Sitra Achra” = the other side).
Achroinim = The Later Ones; post-mediaeval scholars.
ADL = Anti-Defamation League.
Agudas Israel (Agudas Yisroel) = One of the two factions in United Torah Judaism, an Ultra Orthodox political party in Israel.
Aimishteh = The Almighty “What is HE and where is HE when you really need him;” Hakkadoshboruchhu, HaShem, Ribbon Olam, Melech ha Mlachim. The actual Yiddish word is “Aibishter,” the Almighty.
Ain Sof = Without end, without limits; the utterly unknowable aspect of the Creator. The source of creation, knowable only through the Sefirois (tangible emanations of the Creator).
AIPAC = America-Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Aish HaTorah = A global organization and Yeshivah in Israel dedicated to combating assimilation and reinvigorating Jewish religious practice.
Aishes Chayill = An accomplished woman; “Who can find such, her value is greater than rubies!”
ALIYAH = Every Sabbath one of 54 portions (Parshas) of the Torah (the Pentateuch) is read in synagogue. Each Parsha is divided into seven Aliyahs. For each Aliyah, one person is called up to consecrate (make a blessing on) the Torah reading (leyning).
Am haaretz = Ignoramus. Literally - a person of the land.
Amhoratzim = Plural of Am Haaretz
Am Yisrael = The People of Israel; the Hebrew nation.
Amit Women = Americans for Israel and Torah, women's branch. In Hebrew, AMIT means Irgun Misnadevos le ma'an Yisroel ve Torato = Organization of Volunteers for Israel and her Torah.
Amora, pl. Amoraim = A class of scholars in the Holy Land and Babylon who collectively created the Talmud. The Amoraim worked during the third and fourth century in Tiberias and Caesarea and the third through fifth century in Babylon. They were the successors to the Tannaim, six generations of scholars, from 10 C.E. to 220 C.E.
Anti-Semite = A Gentile who is resentful of the inherent sanctity of a priestly nation (or a person who does not agree with us.)
Apikores = A heretic; a Jew who has become an unbeliever. From the Greek word Epicure, meaning (in the Jewish sense) one who picks and chooses among the elements of the tradition.
Arba minim = The four species waved about on Sukkot (Tabernacles). Esrog: Citron. Lulav: Palm frond. Hadassim: Myrtle branches. Aravos: Willow branches.
Arizal = Rabbi Yitzhak Luria (1534 – 1572), The Ari (Lion) was a Kabbalist who lived in Tzafed. An innovator of mystical teachings, the Arizal developed Kabbalistic ideas including: “Gilgul Neshamot” (reincarnation) and the concept of Shevirat HaKeilim (the “Breaking of the Vessels”).
Aron HaKohain = Aaron the Priest, the minuval who was given the priesthood after creating the golden calf (eigel ha zahav).
ARZA = Association of Reform Zionists in America.
Aseres Yemai Teshuvah = The ten days of repentance and introspection that begin with Rosh HaShanah and end with Yom Kippur
Aveirah = Sin.
Avoidah = Service (in the Temple).
Avoidah zara = Idol worship; the service of heathen gods and values.
Avraham Avinu = “Our Father Abraham,” the first of the forefathers.
Ba’al Shem Tov, BESHT = Rabbi Yisroel Ben Eliezer (1698 – 1760), the master (Ba’al) of the good name (Shem-Tov), a mystic from the Carpathian mountains considered the founder of the Chasidic movement. The movement has evolved into several branches around the globe, most with semi-hereditary leadership. They include: Bobov, Breslov, Ger, Lubavitch, and Satmar.
Baal Toisiph = Adding to the Torah (Ba'al Tosef = acting by addendum). Since the Torah is complete, any addition is considered both a detraction.
Bahaima = Animal; beast; cow.
Bais madrish, Beis medresh = A house of study, a synagogue.
Baitzuh = Egg; tractate in the Talmud focused on animal sacrifice; Yiddish slang for testes.
Bais HaMikdash = The Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Babylonians destroyed the first Holy Temple in 586 BC. The Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple in 70 CE.
BALEBOSTE = Ball-ha-buster; from Baal (master) of the Beis (beis, beit = house, establishment), with a feminine post-fix; the wife. Beitza-brecher.
Bar mitzvah bochur = A boy of 13; an amateur. Does the phrase “today I am a man” mean anything?
Bas kol = A voice from heaven. A term occasionally referred to in the Talmud (often in a Deus Ex Machina function).
Bashert = One's destined mate. From mediaeval Germanic 'skhar', meaning both portion and one of a matched pair.
Bava Basra (Baba Basra, Bava Batra) = “The Final Gate,” one of three civil law tractates in the Talmud.
Bedikas chometz = Searching for and disposing of all traces of leaven before Passover. The Talmud, in Maseches Pesachim, goes into much detail.
BeDiyeved = From this one instance, ex post facto, after the fact; a more lenient position on a religious ruling.
Beis Knesset = “House of assembly;” synagogue (from Greek sunagoge, meaning bringing together); a shul (from the mediaeval German schul).
Beis medrish = A house of study, generally for study of the Talmud.
Beis Yosef = A famous work by Yoisef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch (1488 - 1575). Beis Yosef is a digest of laws (Halachot), often printed alongside the text of the Arba Turim (the Four Rows), a compilation in four sections of Halacha developed by Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher (1270 - 1340).
Bezalel = A descendant of the Tribe of Judah chosen to design the Tabernacle.
Bilaam = Bilaam the son of Be’or, the prophet mentioned in Parshas Chukass who was ordered by his king (Balak Ben Tzipper, Melech Mo’av) to curse the Jews, which he feared to do.
Birchas ha Torah = The blessings over the Torah, recited before reading an Aliyah portion in the Torah. It is customary that the first Aliyah be given to a Cohain (Priestly descendant), the second be given to a Levi (Levitical descendant), and the remainder be given to Yisroels (all others).
Bisulta = Virginity; a virgin’s maidenhead.
Biyur chometz = Burning chometz to dispose of it.
Blintzes = Rolled crepes filled with cottage cheese or preserves.
Bnei Levi = Descendents of the Tribe of Levi, who have a monopoly on Temple service, serving as Cohanim (priests) or Leviyim (aids in the Temple).
Bnei Yisrael = The Jewish People. Plural of Ben Yisrael, or descendant of Jacob, referring to all Israelites who came out of Egypt (and their descendants).
Bobover Rebbe = Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam (1906 - 2000), head of a Chassidic group named after Bobov, a town in Galicia (southern Poland).
Borer = To separate, select; a form of work banned on the Sabbath.
Boruch ha mavdil: Boruch = bless. HaMavdil = separation. Refers to the prayer of Havdalah (from the same root), which is the separation from the Sabbath. The Sabbath arrives as a queen, and departs as a trace of fragrance.
Boruch Hashem = “Blessed be the Name,” equivalent of “Thank G-d”.
Bracha = Situation-appropriate blessing; benediction.
Brachot, Brachos = Blessings; benedictae.
BEraisah = An authoritative written version of a law or rule supplementary to the Mishnah (discussions of which are the ground floor of the Talmud).
Bris Milah = Ritual circumcision.
Brisker Rov = Rav Yitzhok Zev (HaLevi) Soloveitchik, also known as ha Gaon Rabbi Yitzhok Zev and as Rebbe Velvel, son of Rabbi Chayim (Halevi) Soloveitchik (1853 - 1918).
Der Brisker fled the gathering storm in Europe and settled in the Holy Land. His brother Moishe (HaLevi) Soloveitchik went to America, where he became the rosheshiva of Yeshiva University. Moishe’s son is the famous Rabbi Yoisef Dov (HaLevi) Soloveitchik (1903 - 1993; the 'Rav' to his students), one of the all-time great luminaries of Yiddishkeit in the new world.
Bsomim, besamim = Spices; fragrances; slang for illegal drugs. Bsomim are part of the Havdalah ritual ending the Sabbath that separates the Sabbath from the remainder of the week. Evocative of profane delights, as the abundant mention of fragrant smells in the Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) attest. For instance, Songs 4:10 makes clear that they are far better than the standard nervous-system depressants when looking for a good time: "Ma-yaffa dodayeich achoti khallah! Ma tovu-dodayeich mi-yayin vereiyach sheman-ayech mi-kol-besamim” (“How fair is your love, my sister, my wife! how much better is your love than wine, and your fragrant unguents than all spices!”).
Chait ha Eigel = The sin of the golden calf.
Chametz = Leavened substances forbidden during Passover. It is forbidden to have chametz in ones possession during Passover, when one is charged with eating Matzoh (unleavened bread). Hence, many sell their leaven to a gentile.
Chamishay Chumshay TOIRAH = Five of five books of the Torah; the Pentateuch.
Chanukah = The feast of lights celebrating the overthrow of Greco-Syrian rule in Israel circa 166 BC. The holiday involves gorging on Latkes and spinning the dreidel.
Chas ve shalom = Literally: desist and peace; may we have peace; used like “Heaven forbid’. Interchangable with “Chass Ve Chalilah.”
Chassannah, khatUnah = Wedding.
Chavrusa = Study partner; learning companion; a fellow student with whom one debates the meaning of the text. Often, this would lead to a life long friendship between scholars, who, though they might disagree, rely upon the insights of the other person. And on Simchas Torah, they dance together.
Chazal = Chachmeinu Zichrono Levracha, the sages of blessed memory.
Chazzan = Cantor; the officiant who leads in prayer. This can be any man of good character, though one should be careful choosing a cantor, as there is much singing required. Best case scenario: an artist and a profound scholar. Worst case scenario: a bitchy drama-queen who brays like an ass.
Chaya = Wild animal.
Chayuv missah = Deserving of the death penalty.
Chillul Hashem = Desecration of G_d's name; heresy; gross sin.
Chiyuv = Requirement; obligation.
Chofetz Chaim = A Rabbinic master from Radin in Lithuania (Rabbi Yisroel Meyer Kagan HaKohen, 1839 – 1933), author of several works including Mishnah Berurah (a commentary on the Shulkhan Arukh) and Chafetz Chayim, a treatise against lashon hara (gossip, speaking ill others).
Cholent (pron: Tsho-lunt) = A heavy casserole containing meat, vegetables, lentils or beans, and fat or oil, which is cooked long and slow by putting it into the oven on Friday afternoon, before the start of the Sabbath, and leaving it to cook overnight for Saturday lunch (and so having a warm meal without breaking the injuction about labor on the Sabbath).
Chukim = Biblical laws whose purpose is not understood.
Chulin = Profane things; tractate in the Talmud that deals with dining habits and kosher laws.
Cocktail sauce = A condiment served with certain seafoods, and highly recommended for Shrimp and Crawdaddies. It usually consists of Ketchup and tomato paste (quarter cup each), mixed with a little chreyn, a squeeze of lemon juice, and dashes of hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
Covenant = Bris; a contractual deal between two parties. Please refer back to Parshas Yisro in Shemos.
Daf Yoimi = The practice of studying one sheet of Talmud (daf) per day. It takes about seven and a half years to finish the entire Talmud this way. This tradition was started by Rabbi Meyer Shapiro in 1923.
Daven = Pray.
Divrei Hayamim = The Words of Ages; the Book of Chronicles.
Divrei Torah = Words elucidating the Torah; homilies; Rabbinic lectures.
E and P sources = Elohist and Priestly, two different strains within the text of the Toirah identified by the Documentary Hypothesis. (Of course, only an Apikoros would claim the Toirah was not handed down word for word by HakadoshBoruchHu to Moshe Rabbeinu in a monumental jam session at Sinai.)
EFod = The decorated smock of the high-priest, which contains a breastplate holding twelve semiprecious stones - one for each tribe. For reference, this garment was worn by the evil archeologist in Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
Eigel HaZahav = The golden calf which the Bnei Yisroel constructed while Moses was up on the mountain. Part of the sin of the calf is in each generation, just as part of the holiness of receiving the Torah (Matan Torah) is in each generation. The great sin of Aaroin HaCoihain, the Minuval.
Eini yodea ma hu, v’eini yodea ma milamdenu! = Ich veiss nit voss es iz, oych nit voss es for a musser hott geven.
Einiklach = Grandchildren.
Elul zeman = The height of summer, the month of Elul, starting forty days before Yom Kippur. Between eighty and a hundred and ten degrees Fahrenheit.
Eretz Ha Kodesh = “The Holy Land.”
Eretz Yisrael = The land of Israel, being the land promised to the descendants of Jacob, whose name is Israel.
Erev Yom Kippur = The eve of the Day of Atonement.
Esrog = An overpriced lemon. The most expensive of the arba Minim.
Esther HaMalka = The niece of Mordechai in the Book of Esther; Melech Achasveroosh's main squeeze.
Exile = Golus. Anywhere outside of New York. Imagine a world with no bialys, boygels, lox, brisket, or mechetunim!
Farbissene = Farbisn: grim, bitter. The word means “one who is bitter.”
Farkert = Au contraire; Wrongo!
Farvoos = Why? (Yiddish).
Fruma = Pious, from old German “fruma,” cognate with Dutch “vroom” and old high Frisian “fremo,” original meaning: beneficial, profitable, worthy. By extension it came to mean bold, courageous, strong, and, later, pious.
Fruma yidden = Observant Jews.
Frummer = Comparative of Frum.
Fundraiser = Schnorer (Yiddish); or investment broker; politician, or girl scout (only if she has traif cookies).
Gaon: The Vilna Gaon = The Genius (Gaon) of Vilna (Vilnius - the capitol city of Lithuania, once the intellectual heartland of Yiddishkeit). Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman, 1720 - 1797. He and his followers were called the Mitnagdim (opposers) because of their rejection of the Hasidic movement.
Gartel = A belt (same word as English ‘girdle’, Dutch ‘gordel’); usually the belt that keeps the long robe or caftan from flapping open like a flasher – a particular problem at Simchas Toirah. Used in Ultra-Orthodox circles to represent a physical separation between the upper and lower parts of the body.
Gaza = A territory inhabited by fish-demon worshipping cretins during biblical times. Currently, not a fun place to walk around in the middle of the night, especially if you are wearing a Kippah.
Gebruchts, gebrochts = Brokens, also called matzah sheruya (soaked matzah), meaning matzah meal or broken matzah used for puddings or matzo balls, soaked as a first step in their respective recipes. Not eaten on Passover by certain Ashkenazic groups.
GemaraH = Learning, addition (Aramaic, used both singularly and as a plural): an amplification of the material in the Mishnah, which is a series of written discourses on legal points. The Gemara also includes much anecdotal and legendary material.
GEMATRIA = The symbolism of the numerical value of Hebrew words.
Gerusha = A divorced woman; the word means 'exiled', 'exorcised'.
Goi Kadoish = A holy nation. As it says in Sefer Shmos, (Exodus) 19:6 “Ve atem tihyu li mamlechet kohanim, ve goi kadosh. Ele ha dvarim asher tedaber al bnei Yisroel." (“And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the sons of Israel”).
Goin = Gaon.
Golem = From Hebrew ‘unformed’. An artificial creature that lacks the power of speech and does not have a soul. Detailed instructions for making one are in the Sefer Yetzirah (book of creation), a Kabbalist document.
It is said that the Maharal MiPrague made a golem out of clay to protect the oppressed Jews of Prague. Once animated, it was nine foot tall, heldish, an echte gibor, until Rabbi Loew dis-animated it by erasing the first letter of ‘emess’ (truth) written on its forehead, leaving the word ‘mess’ (‘dead’).
Golus = Exile; dispersion. It will decisively end when the Moshiach comes. Be patient.
Goy = Gentile; non-Jew, from a word meaning 'nation'.
Ha'adamah = “The ground”; the benediction over vegetables (Boray Pri Ha’adamah).
hachnosas orchim (Mitzvah of) = The obligation to be kind to strangers and welcoming of guests. Avraham’s nephew Lot is the poster child of this, as is the old man from the hill-country of Efrayim who was settled in Gibeah (Judges 19:1 through 21:25). Both were willing to chuck their daughters out to the local yobbos so their guests would be left unmolested.
The mitzvah of hachnosas orchim is one of the things for which there is reward both in this world (olam hazeh) and the next (olam haba) – this explains the avidity with which many in shul will vie for the honour of putting up a guest for shabbos. Good food, good drink, and a comfortable bed.
Hakodoshboruchhu = The Holy One, Blessed Be He.
Halacha lemaise = The current ruling in the religious law (Halacha).
Halachois, halachot = Laws, rules, regulations.
Haman Harasha = “Haman the evil”, the villain from the Book of Esther.
HAMAS = An acronym for Harakat Al Muqawama Al Islamia (Islamic Resistance Movement)
Har Sinai = The mountain on which G-d spoke to Moses.
HAREIDI = Ultra-Orthodox. The groups that refer to themselves as Hareidi, meaning the ones who tremble (in awe of the Almighty), consider non-orthodox variants of Judaism to be eccentric and heretical.
Hiddur mitZvah = Embellishing the commandment; doing more than is required, above and beyond the strict definition of the law.
Hilchois Kiddush Club = The halacha that deals with the Saturday morning gathering of (predominantly) men for shots of booze and a bite to eat immediately following prayer or the reading of the Torah. Not to be confused with the more broadly attended “Kiddush,” during which excessive refreshments are served, and children leave paper plates and cups all over the floor, chased around by their mothers, while their fathers try to hide.
Hilchois Pesach = The laws (Halachot) of Passover.
Hisbodidus = Spontaneous non-rigidly structured personal prayer; establishing a sense of unity with the Almighty. Eppes, Chassidish!
HUC = Hebrew Union College.
Issur chometz = Prohibition against possessing leaven on Passover.
Issur d’oraisa = A prohibition that is in the Torah, rather than one determined by the Talmud. JCRC = Jewish Community Relations Council.
JDL = Jewish Defense League.
JTS = Jewish Theological Seminary.
Jephtah: Before battle with the Ammonites, Jephtah vowed that if the Lord would deliver the children of Ammon into his (Jephtah's) hand, he would make a burnt offering of whatever came first out of his house (Judges 11:30 - 31). Sadly, his daughter was the first living thing to come out of the door.
JNF = Jewish National Fund.
Ka'arah = The Seder Plate, on which three matzos, a roast egg, a lamb-bone, parsley, chreyn, charoses, and salt water are placed. All have a symbolic meaning: Matzos are the bread of our affliction, the lamb-bone recalls the Pascal sacrifice whose blood was spattered on our doors so that HaShem would spare us while slaughtering the first-born of Egypt, the parsley is the green of spring (the season of our redemption), the chreyn is the bitterness of our sojourn in Mitzrayim, the charoses is the mortar with which we built Pharaoh's monuments, and the salt water is our weeping in misery. The egg, which is rebirth and perfection, also represents the Yontef offering in the Temple.
Kabbalah = Jewish Mysticism. A mind expanding metaphysical philosophy that has influenced much Jewish thought in the last ten centuries. Teachings include meditation, numerology, symbology, and magic. Kabbalah was studied by small groups over the centuries. It is currently an affectation of shallow show-biz twits, much like EST was thirty years ago. Hey, it's a living.
Karbanos = Sacrifices. See entry under Korbanos.
Kavanah = The right intent for the action one is going to perform; a spirit of sanctity and holiness one must invest in one's tefillah and avoidah (prayer).
KEBEITSA = A quantity of volume equal to an egg.
Kehunah = Priesthood.
Kenaina harah = Kein ayn hara - (let there be) no evil eye.
kesubois = Tractate in the Talmud that addresses marital issues.
KEZEYIS = A quantity of volume equal to an olive.
Keseder = Steadfast, constant, persistent. According to customary practice.
Khreyn = Horseradish.
Kiddush = Sanctification; designating something for a specific purpose; the benediction over the wine on Sabbath and holidays.
Kiddush levanah = Sanctifying the new moon - The custom of kiddush levanah is an echo of Temple times when the Bet Din sanctified the beginning of each month. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., the custom of kiddush levanah became common. The prayer implies that, just like the moon is renewed, so also will the Temple be restored.
Kiddushes = The gathering of a congregation for a celebratory meal which typically includes toasting with wine and single malt scotch, and eating Jewish soul food (cholent, kugel, gefilte fish, etc.)
KILAYIM: The prohibition against kilayim (the mingling of things which it is inappropriate to mingle). It says in Parshas Shoftim (Judges) in Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:19 "Et chukotai tishmoru behemteicha; lo tarbiya kilayim sadcha, lo tizra kilayim u veged kilayim shaatnez lo ya'ale aleicha" (“My statutes you shall guard; do not let your cattle mix-breed, do not sow your field with mixed seeds, and do not wear a garment of mingled cloth.”).
There are four categories of things that should not be mingled: plowing by cattle and asses in the same furrow, grapes grown with other crops in the same arbor, wool and linen in the same garment, and Jews and Midianites in the same world. According to the Rambam, these prohibitions promote peace.
Kiryas Arba = A town founded in 1971 on the outskirts of Hebron. Some of the more recalcitrant knit kippah crowd are among the residents.
Kishka = Stuffed derma; colloquially - intestines, guts.
Klal Yisroel = The Jewish people, the collective of the descendant of Israel (Jacob, after he struggled with G-d in the night).
Knitted yarmulka = Crocheted skullcap, the badge of ultranationalists. Sometimes worn as a tasteless style statement or by Grateful Dead fans. Having a knitted yarmulka hand crocheted by a girl is a form of “scoring” among the Orthodox teen crowd.
Kodesh HaKedoshim = The Holy of Holies in the Holy Temple.
KOF-K = Kof-K Kosher Supervision, an international organization that certifies food as kosher.
Kohainim = Priests. Singular: Kohen.
kol haschalos kashos = All beginnings are hard. (Mechilta Shemos 19, Parshas Yisro).
Kol haTorah kUlo = The whole Torah .
Kol Nidrei = A prayer customarily recited three times on the eve of the Day of Atonement. Literally - “All Vows,” a renunciation of all unfulfilled oaths and promises made by an individual over the past year.
Kolel = The modern-day equivalent of serving in the Temple, where married men may continue their studies after Yeshiva and be supported for a few years, or ideally until retirement age, and especially if they can get a deferment from the armed forces. It is a saintly thing.
Korbonois, kurbanot = Sacrifices. From a root which means to draw near. Korbonos are intended to bring the Divine nearer to man.
Kosher = From the root K.SH.R - Kaf Shin Resh, meaning proper, fit, suitable. Hence 'kashrus', the rules that define kosher, and 'heksher', a certification of that which is kosher. The concept is not, as many assume, related to health or hygiene, but instead relates to the need of a priestly people to exercise self-control and discrimination in order to maintain ritual purity and suitability, and by extension to not do as the other nations (goyim). Many mitzvos (commandments) have as their primary aim the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles, achieved by maintaining differences in food, dress, habits, cleanliness, morals and ethics (spiritual cleanliness!) and above all religious observances and practices. This is self limitation rather than mortification.
Kosher LaMehadrin = Strictly kosher to the fullest extent.
Krias Shema = Reciting the Shema Yisroel and its blessings. The Shema is the quintessential Jewish statement of faith, the battle-cry in hardship, the last comfort of the dying. Reciting the Shema fulfills the commandment to meditate on the laws ‘day and night’, as is written (Joshua 1:8): "…Ve hagita bo yomam va leila le maan tishmor la'ashoot ke chol ha katuv…" (“…that you consider it day and night, that you may obey all that is written in it…”)
When is the proper time to recite the Krias Shema in the morning? When it is light enough that you can tell the blue threads from the white in your Tallis.
Kutzker, Kotsker = The Rabbi of Kotsk, a reclusive Rebbe of the 19th century, known for brutal honesty and wit.
Labor Party = Principle left-of-center political party, political descendants of Ben Gurion and other early founders of the State of Israel. Vice Premier Shimon Peres and the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were both leaders of the Labor Party.
Lecha Dodi = “Come, o beloved”- a prayer sung on Friday evenings to welcome the Sabbath. The prayer was first sung by the Kabbalists of Tzfat in the 16th century as they went into the fields to greet the onset of Sabbath at sundown on Friday night.
Lechatchilah = Initially; going forward; a preferred, more conservative approach to a religious law. Often used in contrast to a statement Bediyeved.
Lehachis = An act of annoyance; an act of defiance; an act of spite.
Lemaise = Actual; factual; according to the circumstances.
Leyning = The chanting of passages from the Torah during Sabbath services using the traditional musical notes.
Lifnei Iyver = An act of entrapment. Parshas Kedoshim, Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:14 "Lifnei iver lo titen michshol" (“You shall not place a stumbling-block before the blind”). The word blind is interpreted to mean anyone who is ignorant, unsuspecting, or even morally dense. One is not permitted to take advantage or tempt them to do wrong.
Lomdus = Understanding; profound knowledge; comprehension.
Luchois, luchos = The stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved.
Lutherans = The first formal Protestant grouping not exterminated by Rome (unlike, for instance, the Cathars [Albigensians]).
Ma nishtana = Short for “Ma nishtana ha leila hazeh mi-kol ha leilot?” (“Farvoos is der nacht fun Peysach andisht fun alle nachten fun a yor?”). This is the question that introduces the Four Questions at the beginning of the Passover Seder.
Machlokes = Difference of opinion; Rabbinic debate.
Machonim = Institutions or scholarly programs; singular is “Machon”.
Maharal, Maharal Mi Prague = Rabbi Yehudah Ben Betsalel Loew of Prague (1525 – 1609), whose family originally came from Worms in Germany. Linked by legend to the creation of the Golem.
Maiseh shehoyo, Meiseh Shehoya = An anecdote based on an actual event; a true story.
Malchus = Kingship; monarchic dynasty. The only legitimate Jewish Malchus is the Davidic line, not that they were such a blessing (see Kings 1, 2).
Mamesh traifus = Totally treif; entirely treif; tangibly treif. Think: Bacon with cheese sauce, resting on a bed of shrimp.
Mamzer = A person born from a forbidden relationship (primarily incest). The Yiddish usage of the word “Mamzer” frequently stands in for the mediaeval French “bastard.”
Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), an Augustinian monk after whom a sect is named, who nailed a screed to a church door (October, 1517), got excommunicated (cherem, xtian style, January, 1521), and became one more notable in a long line of farbissene anti-Semiten. Pope Leo the Tenth (1475 – 1521; the 217th Pope) characterized him as “a drunken Teuton who writes objectionable tracts; when he’s sober, he’ll change his mind”.
In a book published before his death, Luther recommended that synagogues, Jewish schools, and homes be destroyed, Jewish writings be seized, Jewish teachings be outlawed, and Jews be forced to become farmers or be expelled.
Maseches, Masechtah = Tractate in the Talmud.
Matan Torah = The receiving and accepting of the Torah. We are told that the Almighty chose us instead of any other people. The Jews were not the first candidates, but they were the only group who neither belly-ached about the responsibility nor demanded that any of the rules be waived.
It is also said that the souls of all Jews, past and future, were present at Sinai. How can this be? One answer is the concept of gilgulim – reincarnation. Imagine a bamboo forest - all stalks start at the ground, and rise up straight towards the sky. Each consists of sections closed one upon another, with each section representing another generation, of the stalk. So also with souls.
If so, how come some Jews are such lousy people? Weren’t they at Sinai? Well yes, they were in back, shooting craps instead of paying attention.
Matjes = A herring caught in mid to late summer, from Middle Dutch ‘maagdje’ (little virgin), modern Dutch demotic ‘maatje’ – in reference to their not having spawned yet
Mechutzeff = Rude person.
MEDRASH, Medrish = Derivational or expository narrative, with a moral or halachic lesson.
Megillah = A scroll, or rolled book, from 'galal'- to roll.
Mei Menuchos = An book by Rabbi Nachman Kahane, containing an explanation of commentaries and a phrase by phrase explanation on Tosafot. The name “Mei Menuchois” means “tranquil waters.”
Mei Raglayim = Urine.
Meidel = Girlie.
Meideleh = Girlie-pie; chickee.
Mekayim the mitvah of Tzedakah = Fulfilling the commandment of charity. We are commanded to be righteous and charitable to our fellow man – “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof”.
Melech Malchei HaMelachim = The King of All Kings; G-d.
Meraglim = Spies or scouts sent to survey the Promised Land. See: Bamidbar (Numbers) 13.
Meuras Hamachpelah, Maarat HaMachpelah = The cave of the patriarchs in Hebron. Acquired by Avraham from Ephron the Hittite, as detailed in Parshas Chayeh Sarah in Bereishis (Genesis). A key area of tension between Israelis and Palestinians, which both view as a revered site.
Mezaneh = What the French would call “vleselyke gemeenschap,” if we could understand them. Don’t ask, better let your husband explain it on your wedding night. Or show you on HBO on Thursday nights.
Midah keneged midah = Measure for measure.
MIDIAN = The nation of Yisro (Moishe’s father-in-law). Midianite tribes were also allied with the Moabites in the attempt to destroy the Bnei Yisroel.
Mikvah = A pool for the ritual cleaning or purifying of people (women, post menstruation, and men prior to prayer) and objects (cooking utensils!). Not just any puddle of water will do; it has to be Mayim Chayim - living water, water that moves. This includes rivers, lakes, streams, or pools of fresh rain water.
Mimunifsuch = Regardless; either way; with whatever consequence. A Yiddish phrase used during Talmud study that nobody really understands.
Minuval = Scoundrel. Literally – “garbage.” Term of abuse foisted on some Orthodox elementary and high school school students.
Mishkan = The portable sanctuary which housed the divine presence prior to the building of the Temple.
MISHKAV ZACHAR: Homosexuality. Prohibition written in Vayikra (Leviticus) 18:22 "V'et zachar lo tishkav mishkvei ishah to'evah hu” (“With a male do not lie down as with a woman - it is an abomination”). However, marrying the opposite sex is not for everyone. Why increase unhappiness in the world? Need I mention that men NEVER get nidah? Or accidentally pregnant. Plus, nothing says HOT like a big hairy streimel! It’s the epitome of geshmak. Ah, the joys of Kollel…
Mishneh Torah = The Rambam's masterpiece (also called the Yad HaChazaka - the strong hand), composed after Maimonides settled in Egypt. A detailed compendium of Halacha (religious law).
Mishpatim = “Judgments”; Parsha (Biblical reading) in Exodus.
Mishugayim = Fools, nutcases. From the same root as meshugge.
Mitzri = An Egyptian, a native of Mitzrayim.
Mitzrim = Egyptians. Plural of Mitzri.
Mitzvas Challah = The commandment to set aside a portion of dough during breadmaking as tribute to the Almighty. In the time of the Temple, the portion of dough was given to the priesthood. Nowadays, the portion is burned in the oven in memory of the destruction of the Temple.
Mitzvois = Commandments.
Mitzvois d'oraisah = Commandments inherent in the tradition; commandments stated in the Torah.
Mitzvois d'RABBANAN = Commandments clarified or codified by the Rabbinic sages.
Mizbayach, mizbe'akh = The altar.
Moishe Rabeinu = Moses our teacher.
Moitzei Shabbos = The day after shabbos, which starts after the sun has set on Saturday night.
Mordechai = The hero of the Book of Esther. Alternatively, Rabbi Mordechai Ben Hillel, a scholar and posseik who lived in Ashkenaz toward the end of the thirteenth century. One of the Rishonim (early sages), he and his entire family were slaughtered during the Rindfleish massacres in 1298.
Moshiach = The Messiah; the anointed one of the house of David, who will rebuild the Temple, ingather the Jews from exile, and judge among the nations.
Mosque = Masjid, from a word indicating an abnegatory act or position (sujud).
Mum =Defect. Plural - Mumim.
Nadab and Abihu: The elder sons of Aaron consumed in a fire in the Mishkan.
Nedarim = Vows; tractate in the Talmud, the third of the Seder (order) of Nashim (women).
Neshamas = Souls. In Kabbalistic belief, souls are considered to be Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama, each reflecting a different level of communion with G-d, with Nefesh originating at birth, Ruach joining in early teens (the beginning of adulthood), and Neshama coming after great effort to become worthy and wise.
Nidah = Ritual impurity of a woman during the menses or after giving birth; a menstrual woman. A woman remains unclean until she goes to the Mikveh.
og Melech Habashan = Og King of Bashan in his old age decided to fight the Israelites as they headed toward the Promised Land. Considered by Midrashic legend to be a giant 500 year old geezer (and last of the Nephilim).
Oineg Shabbos = The enjoyment of Shabbos, which is determined by the right frame of mind and harmonious observances. Away from home this is hard to do. Hence the admirable custom of Shabbos hospitality offered to travelers by members of local communities in much of Europe at one time.
Olam Haba = The world to come.
Oseh Maaseh Beraishis = “He who has made creation,” a benediction to be recited when seeing the wonders of nature, such as lightening or magnificent scenery.
OU = Orthodox Union.
Palestinian = I do not know what this word means.
Para Adumah = The red heifer, whose ashes are used as a purification from impurity rendered by contact with the dead. The birth of a red heifer is considered a sign of the coming of the Messiah.
Parsha = Section of the Torah. There are 54 such sections. One Parsha is recited per week (with an occasional doubling of Parshas) to complete reading the entire Torah every year.
PARSHAS, Parshiyois = Plural of Parsha.
Paskening = Rendering a Halachic decision, opinion, or judgement. Psak - in this context means judgement.
Pasuk, Possuk = Scriptural verse.
Perek = A chapter; a period in time or specific event.
Pesachim = The Talmud tractate which details the laws of Passover.
Peysach dishes = So that no chametz or even trace of chametz may be eaten, many people have a complete set of dishes used only at Peysach.
Pierre Cardin = Expensive shmatte.
Pirkei Avos = The Ethics of the Fathers, a 6 Perek section of the Mishnah containing a collection of maxims from the sages on behaviour and ethics.
Poskim = Halachic authorities.
Psak halacha = A legal opinion in Jewish law.
Pshat = Plain and literal meaning, as opposed to interpretation, speculation or Midrashic legend.
Pupke = Trollop.
Purim = Holiday celebration the victory recorded in the Book of Esther. An opportunity for Rabbinically sanctioned alcohol consumption.
RABBEHIM = Rabbis; those who teach the Talmidim in Yeshiva.
RABBEINU CHANANEL = Rabbeinu Chananel ben Chushiel, A native of Keruwan in North Africa, 11th century. His commentary is printed in the margin of the Vilna Shas.
RABBEINU NISIM GAON = A native of Keruwan in North Africa, died 1050. Authored the Sefer Ha Mafteach, a commentary printed in the margins of the Vilna Shas.
Rabbeinu Tam = Yaacov Ben Meir, a Talmud scholar who lived in France (1100 - 1171). He was the grandson of Rashi (1040 - 1105). Tam, which means straightforward or righteous, was the characteristic ascribed to Yaacov the brother of Esav, so Rabbeinu Tam translates as “our righteous rabbi.”
Rabbi Akiva = One of the greatest scholars of the Mishnaic period, credited by many with developing the organizational structure of the Talmud. As the leader of his generation, he declared General Bar Kokhba as the Messiah. He was put to death by the Romans following the Bar Kokhba Rebellion.
Rabbi Chayim Vital Calabrese (1543 – 1620): Son of Rabbi Yosef Vital, who wrote an incomplete commentary on the Zohar Ha Kadosh (The Holy Book Of Splendour). Part of the circle of the Ari in Tzfat.
Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher = The Baal HaTurim (1270 – 1340), Son of Asher Ben Jehiel (the Rosh, also known as Rabbeinu Asher, b.1250 or 1259 d.1328). His codification of Halacha (the Arba Turim) was long the standard, and his division of Halacha into four categories is still normative.
Rabbi MoIShe Alshich (1508 – 1593): Also known as the Alshich HaKadosh (the holy Alshich), Alshich was a student of Rabbi Yosef Karo and one of the leaders of the Bet Din of Tzfat. He wrote Midrashic commentary on Torah (Toras Moishe) which is still widely read.
RABBI Moishe Cordovero (the Ramak, 1522 – 1570): Was the teacher of Rabbi Chayim Vital Calabrese and a student of Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Shlomo AlKabetz) and the author of Or Yakar (Precious Light; a commentary on the Zohar) and Pardes Rimonim (The Pomegranate Garden; a compendium of Kabbalah). Part of the circle of the Ari in Tzfat.
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef = A Baghdadi Jew, born 1920, who became Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel in 1973. He has much influence politically (he is the spiritual figurehead of the SHAS party).
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai = A Mystic from the Roman period who is mentioned as having taught secrets and mysteries. The Zohar is ascribed to him (though his actual authorship is disputed.).
Rabbi Shlomo AlKabetz = Born 1500 in Salonica, moved to Tzfat in 1535, died 1580. Author of Manot HaLevi, Bris HaLevi, Beis HaShem, Avodos Aheva, Ayalet Ahavim, and the song, Lecha Dodi (Come, o beloved), for which he is perhaps most famous. Part of the circle of the Ari in Tzfat.
Rabbi Yakov Beirav = (1474/5 – 1546) A Talmudic authority from Northern Africa who moved to Tzfat. He tried to reinstitute a Sanhedrin, of which smicha (ordination) was the first step. The intent was to continue the chain of transmission established by Moses in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. But there was much opposition, and he was compelled to return to Morocco. According to some he ordained one rabbi (Yosef Karo). According to others, he ordained four rabbis.
Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi = Judah the prince (135 - 219), redactor of the Mishnah; also called simply Rabbi, or Rabbeinu HaKadosh (our holy master). One of the major figures in Jewish history.
Rachmana litzlan = An appeal to mercy from the Aybishter. Similar to “Merciful Heavens.”
Radak = Rabbi David Kimchi (1157 - 1236), philologist, commentator, scholar, from Narbonne in France, who wrote books of grammar, a commentary on Tanach, and an etymological dictionary of Hebrew.
Raivid = Name of a Polish Talmud commentator, from his sefer ‘Ravid HaZahav’. Probably Reb Yisroel Dov of Yeshnitz, who studied under Rav Naftali Zvi Horowitz (the Ropshitzer Rov, 1760 – 1827).
Ralph Lauren = Extremely expensive shmatte.
RAMAH, REMAH = Rabbi Moshe Issurles (1530 – 1572), Ashkenic commentator on the Shulkhan Arukh whose writing appear in italics.
Rambam = Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, Maimonides (1135/8 – 1204), about whom it is said none was wiser save Moses Our Teacher (Mi Moishe ad Moishe, lo kam ki Moishe - From Moses to Moses, there was none like Moses). One of the all-time greatest Talmudic scholars, he is the author of the “Mishneh Torah”, a compendium of Jewish law meant to clarify religious practices, the “Sefer HaMitzvot”, and the “Moreh Nevuchim”, the Guide For The Perplexed, a philosophical work addressing elements of belief, a many responsa. A rationalist who integrated contemporary science with traditional belief, he was born in Cordova, moved to Fez and Israel, before eventually settled in Egypt where he was physician to the king and a leader in the Jewish community. He is buried in Tiberias. At one time his writings were banned and burned.
Ramban = Rabbi Moishe Ben Nachman Gerondi (1194 – 1270), a Talmudic exegete and Kabbalist from Spain. His religious disputation with the apostate Pablo Christiani got so out of hand that he had to flee Spain fearing for his life (in 1267), eventually ending up in Acre. He is buried in Haifa.
Ramchal = Rabbi Moishe Chayim Luzzato (1707 – 1746). Author of a series of Kabbalistically inspired texts. A native of Padua who moved to Amsterdam, he wrote “Mesillas Yesharim” in his early thirties, a work acclaimed generations later by misnagdim and chassidim. Throughout his life he was suspected of harboring messianic aspirations (similar to Shabtai Zvi).
RAN = Rav Nissim Ben Reuven, born in Spain in the late 13th or early 14th century. His Talmudic commentary is a supercommentary on the Rif's Sefer Halachot, both of which are printed in the back of the Gemara. He also wrote Drashos HaRan, a series of shiurim on the basics of Judaism.
RASHBA = Rabbeinu Shlomo Ben Avraham Aderet (d. 1310). A student of Rabbeinu Yonah and the Ramban, he authored several thousand responsa.
RASHBAM = Rabbi Shmuel Ben Meier (approx 1085 to approx 1174, exact years unknown), grandson and student of RASHI (Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzhak), brother of the Rivam (Rabbeinu Yitzhak Ben Meier) and Rabbeinu Tam.
Rav = Rabbi; lord, teacher.
Rav Chai Gaon, Reb Hai Gaon = Chai Ben Sherira Ha Gaon (939 – 1038), a multifaceted scholar who spoke both Arabic and Persian as was necessary for leaders at that time in Bavel under the Abbasids. He was the last great head of the Babylonian Talmudic academies, where Jews were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their lives and intellectual standards in the face of Islamic persecution.
One of the key ideas advocated by Rav Chai was that Jews should avoid reading philosophy and the writings of the Goyim in order to maintain the discipline and faith necessary to be good Jews in an increasingly hostile world. He also opposed the use of names, amulets, and similar superstitious practices.
Rava = The study partner (chaver) and successor to Abaya as head of the academies in Bavel. Born circa 270, died 350. Rava and Abaya engage in extensive debate throughout the Talmud.
Ravad = Rabbi Avraham Ben David, 1125 – 1198, the ‘Baal Hasagot’ (master of critiques), Talmudic scholar from northern France.
Rav Chiya = Talmudic scholar.
Rav Saadya Gaon = Rabeinu Saadya Ben Yosef, b. 892, d.942, a grammarian, linguist, and Rosh Yeshiva, who is largely remembered for lambasting the Karaites. Probably best known for his “Kitab Al-Amanat Wa’l Itikadat” (“The Book of Doctrines & Beliefs”; in Hebrew “Sefer Ha Emunot Ve Ha Deot”). He wrote in Arabic; Baghdad was the intellectual center of the world at that time.
RCA = Rabbinical Council of America
Reb Akivah Eiger = The Posner Rov, 1761 - 1837, the father-in-law of the Chasem Sofer, and a legal authority of great repute in his time.
Rebbe = Respectful term for teacher or rabbi. Often the rabbi who leads a Chassidic sect. Derived, of course, from Rabbi.
Rebbe muvhak = The Rebbe who is the learner’s principal guide through the intricacies of Talmud-Torah, who is like a father to his talmidim. Muvhak = Special, distinct, well-known. The student of such a teacher is a talmid muvhak.
Rebbetzin = The wife of the rabbi. Always under the watchful eyes of the community.
Reboinoisheloilum = Ribono Shel Olam; Master of the Universe; G-d.
Reviyi = Fourth. The fourth person called up to read from the weekly Parsha (the fourth Aliyah).
Rice on Peysach = Ashkenazim avoid several varieties of kitniyos (legumes and rice) on Pesach which are acceptable to Sephardim.
RIF = Rabbi Yitzhak Al Fassi , Isaac of Fez (1013 – 1103). He studied in the Yeshiva in Kairuwan, but fled to Fez when Islamic fanaticism made life dangerous. In Fez he wrote the Sefer Halachot (a compendium of laws in a concise form) which made him famous, but also tangled with a powerful member of the Jewish community, necessitating his move to Cordoba in 1089. He later moved to Lucena, where he served as Rosheshiva. The RAN and the Rif are the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers of Talmudic studies.
Rish Lakish = Rav Shimon Ben Lakish, a close friend and chavrusa of Yochanan Ben Zakai. Yochanan valued him because he challenged everything that Yochanan said. Rish Lakish had been a highway man (robber).
RITVA = Rabbi Yom-Tov Ibn Asevilli - head of the academy in Seville (Second half of the 13th Century to the first half of the 14th.Century). A Halachic authority and important commentator on the Talmud.
Ropshitzer = Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Horowitz (1760 – 1827), author of Zera Kodesh, Aliyah She Luchach.
Rosh = Head, as in head of the Yeshiva: Rosh Yeshiva.
Rosh Hashana = Head of the year, New Year.
Rosh Chodesh = Head of the month, New Moon.
ROSH, The = Rabbi Asher Ben Yechiel, 1250 - 1328, student of the Maharam (Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, 1215 - 1293). After the rampaging crusaders persecuted Jews in the Rhineland in 1306, Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel fled to Barcelona, then to Toledo, where he was appointed head judge of the Jewish community there. The Rosh represents the transition from the Ashkenazic Tosafists of France and Germany, whose age was ending, to the Torah and Talmud scholars of the Sephardic golden age in Spain.
Ruach HaKodesh = “The holy spirit”, but actually meaning inspiration or stimulation from the Divine.
Rugachuga = A town in Poland close to Rokhelplotz and Kakkenstock.
ROsheshiva = Rosh Yeshiva; head of the seminary; dean.
SANHEDRIN = The supreme court of religious and civil law in Israel in the period prior to the exile; tractate in the Talmud which discusses issues related to the Second Temple legal system.
Sarah's kever = Sarah's cave, where she was buried, in Hebron.
Second seder = The Seder held on the second night of Passover in Jewish communities outside of Israel.
Self-hating Jew = I don't know what this word means - it is contradictory.
SELLING CHOMETZ = It is customary to sell all leaven one owns to a gentile prior to Pesach, in order to make certain that one has no chometz in one's possession for the duration of the festival.
Sephardim = Jews exiled from the Iberian lands (Sepharad = Spain) who settled in North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and Amsterdam (whose air makes men wise). Not to be confused with Mizrahim (in Egypt, Iraq and Morocco), Italkim (descendants of the ancient Jewish community in Italy), Teimanim (Yemenite), Bukhari Jews and Parsim (Persians).
Shabbos = The Sabbath; the seventh day of the week, the day of rest and contemplation.
Shabbatai Zvi (Shabsai Zvi) = A Jewish mystic born in 1626 in Smyrna (modern day Izmir in Turkey), who persuaded himself and others across worldwide Jewry that he was the long awaited Messiah. After being declared the Messiah in 1665, gaining adherents, and propagating esoteric and eccentric mystical “teachings”, he went to Istanbul in 1666 and was imprisoned by the Sultan. He converted to Islam and died a Muslim in 1676.
To those who believed in him, his apostasy was a shattering experience, if not a disaster. Yet he had numerous followers even after his death (a small sect is rumored to still exist in Turkey). May his name be remembered as a warning.
Shabbos goy = Sabbath gentile, who strikes the fires, lights the lamps, and performs other tasks forbidden to Jews on the Sabbath but considered essential.
Shabbos Shabbosoin = “Sabbaths of Sabbaths”; a term used in the Torah to describe both Yom Kippor and the Sabbatical year (Shmita).
Shas = Acronym for the full collection of the Talmud, the Shishah Sidrei Mishnah (Six Orders of the Mishnah); also, a Sephardic ultra-Orthodox political party in Israel formed in 1984.
Shatnez = Mixture of wool and linen in a fabric or in a garment. Prohibited by Biblical injunction.
Shavuos = The holiday of Pentacost or “Feast of Weeks.” Also known as the Chag HaBlintzim due to the custom of eating dairy.
Shaygetz = A gentile male, and by connotation a bulvan; the type of Gentile even Gentiles don't want their daughters to marry.
Shayla = A question or problem, as in “Fregn a kasha”
Shechinah = The presence of the divine. Considered the female aspect of the Divine in Kabbalistic teachings.
Shehakol = The generic benediction that can be said over many foodstuffs.
SHEITLACH, SHEITELS = Expensive wigs worn by Hareidi women after marriage to hide their hair from public view as an act of modesty. The best are made with real human hair (low to medium four figures), inferior ones with heavens knows what (as cheap as a few hundred). No matter the expense, the effect is twixt old-country dowdy and New Jersey gangster wife stylish!
Shemini = Eight, because it was on the eighth day that Moishe called Aaron, his sons, and the elders of Israel together; a Parsha (weekly Torah reading) in the book of Leviticus.
Shiksa = A gentile female, which is something that my basherte will never hear abo…, urhgh, I mean, Baruch atta…. Oiseh Ma'aseh Bereishis!
Shiva = Mourning for seven days after a death. It is right to mourn.
Shiur of marror = The proper measurement of bitter herbs to consume at the Seder table.
Shlepper = My other brother in law who sells socks door to door, not the shaygetz investment banker.
Shlugn kapores = The waving of a live chicken (or money) over ones head prior to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) to designate a charitable pledge in exchange for commuting punishment.
Shmendrick = Not quite a moron, but someone likely to tie his shoe laces together.
Shmiras ha mitzvos = Obeying the commandments.
Shtender = Lectern or bookrest. Often used as a standing desk during Talmud study.
Shtibul = Yiddish for a smallish room, typically a small neighborhood beis mesdresh or shul.
Shukkeling = Swaying back and forth (and even sideways) during prayer.
Shul = Synagogue. From mediaeval German, meaning school (a synagogue is also a house of study).
Shvantz = A Yiddish word for a private part of the male body.
Shver tsu zein a yid = “It is hard to be a Jew.”
Sifsey Chachomim = Also Siftei Chachamim (the lips of the wise), by Rav Shabsai (Shabtai) Bass (1641 – 1718), a scholar from Prague (Praha, Bohemen). His writing is precise, concise, and to the point. The Sifsei Chachamim is a supercommentary on Rashi’s commentary on the Torah. Rav Shabsai also wrote the Sifsei Yeshorim (the Lips of the Just), the first bibliography of Hebrew books; the name is consciously echoed in the title of a book by the Ramchal – Mesillas Yeshorim (the Paths of the Just).
Simchas ToRAH = “The celebration of the Law” at which we celebrate finishing the one year cycle of reading the full Torah. Celebrated with dancing, reading from the Torah, and drinking alchohol.
Slivovitz = A derivative (vicz) of plums, a fruity firewater from the Balkans and Central Europe.
Smicha = Rabbinic ordination. Literally, suggests the “placing of hands” on the ordained to signify the endowing of authority.
Sonay Yisroel, Soneh Israel = Hater(s) of Israel; anti-Semite(s).
Sonay Hashem = A hater of the Aibishteh (soneh = to hate).
Streimel = Variation of a Kulpak. A large flattish fur hat worn by many Chasidim on Sabbath and holidays. It is considerably broader than it is tall.
Sukkus, sukkot = The Feast of Booths.
Talking she-ass = The animal on which Bilaam rode in Parshat Balak.
Tallis = Prayer shawl, with white wool fringes (Tzitzit) on the corner. Some people have one blue thread colored by the dye of a crustacean, which would be a modern restoration of a lost ancient tradition.
Talmid = A student, from a root denoting knowledge (LMD). See Lomdus.
Talmedim = Students.
Taryag mitzvos = 613 commandments (248 positive commandments, 365 negatives). The Gematria (significance of a word based on the numerical value of the letters) of taryag is as follows: 400 (tav) plus 200 (reish) plus 10 (yod) plus 3 (gimel).
Tefillah = Prayer.
Tefillin = Phylacteries, work during weekday morning prayer. Two black leather boxes containing passages from the Torah; one is bound to the forehead, the other to the non-dominant arm.
Ten Sefirot = The ten emanations that constitute the aspects of the Divine which drive the world of perceptual reality. A key Kabbalistic concept.
Terumah = Offering.
Teshuvah = Repentance; also a response to a question or a responsum.
Tevah = Noah’s ark.
Tikkun Layl Shavuos = The practice of studying all night on the first night of Shavuot.
Tochacha – Rebuke. That section of Parshat Bechukotai in which we are told what will happen if we don’t observe the Torah. Not the most upbeat reading in the Torah.
Toisfois = Mediaeval commentators from France and Germany, whose works in the Talmud are often referenced as a collective. Generally the direct descendants of Rashi, they frequently debate with him.
Toisfois Yuntif = Rabbi Yomtov Lippman Heller (1579 – 1654), rabbi successively of Nikolsburg, Vienna, Prague, and Krakow.
Toldois Aharoin = Name of a Chassidic offshoot of the Satmar sect. Also the name of a Torah commentator.
Traifus = Non-kosher. Literally, torn (treifa), that which is torn (treifos), referring to the appearance of the organs of a slaughtered animal showing disease, puncture or injury, making the meat unfit for consumption. By extension, the term 'treif' came to mean anything that was not kosher.
Traifus is also food which has not been processed according to kashrus – for meat, a prescribed method of slaughter and an exclusion of flesh from unkosher animals; for bread, a separating of the portion for the priesthood; for grains and seedy things, an examination to separate out shrotzim; for the vessels and utensils used, separation of fleishedikkes and milchedikkes. Included in traifus are foods used in avoidah zarah (heathen religious ritual)!
Triangle-K = A kosher certifying organization headquartered in New York which is not always respected within the Orthodox community.
Tzadik = A saint. From “tzedek”- goodness, righteousness.
Tzitz Eliezer = Rav Eliezer Waldenberg, a modern day (deceased in 2006) posseik, reknowned for his great collection of responsa, the Teshuves Tzitz Eliezer. The name references the traditional accoutrements of the High Priest Eliezer in the Tabernacle.
Tzitzis = Wool fringes attached to four-cornered garments (eight fringes on each corner). Such fringes are worn on a tallis (prayer shawl), and on a garment worn under the shirt, the arba kanfos (arba kanfot = four corners; four-cornered garment), also known as a tallis katan (smaller tallis). Fringes are typically white, though some people have one blue thread colored by the dye of a crustacean, which would be a modern restoration of a lost ancient tradition.
Uchinvei = Och und vei (alas and sorrow!), an exclamation of distress.
UJA = United Jewish Appeal.
Urim V'Tumim = Stones inscribed with the Divine name kept within a fold of the breastplate of the High Priest. Rashi says they were parchments. Modern scholars suggest they were akin to dice. The Urim V’Tumim were used to seek input from the Divine to specific queries. (The Urim V’Tumim are referenced in the insignia of Yale University.)
Vaadim = Councils; unions; organizations.
Vayakhel = “And he assembled,” a weekly reading in the Torah.
Vayikra = “And he called,” a weekly reading in the Torah; Hebrew name for the book of Leviticus.
Vilde chayas = Wild beasts. Chaya = Animal.
Vilna Goyn = The Gaon of Vilna (1720 – 1797), Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman, a Talmudist and Kabbalist who lead the opposition to the Chassidic movement.
Voss is geven a yarmulke for de shaygets? = What's with a kippah for that gentile?
Vort = Word. Hence a communication, a speech, a message, a lesson, a dvar.
WZO = World Zionist Organization.
Yad Vashem = The memorial to the six million, located in Jerusalem.
Yarmulka = Skullcap. In Hebrew it is a Kippah, hence Kappel in some dialects of Yiddish.
Yechezkel Rabbah = Literally, ‘Great Ezekiel’; an early commentary on the Sefer Yechezkel (Book of Ezekiel).
Yehoshua = Joshua the prophet, successor to Moses.
Yehuda = Judah; fourth son of Jacob, scion of a tribe whose descendants include the Davidic dynasty; the southern Kingdom led by the Davidic dynasty in First Temple times; the name of the Jewish self-governing entity in the Second Temple era (Judaea); the area southeast of Jerusalem.
Yeshiva = Jewish school or academy where Torah and Talmud are studied.
Yeshiva tuition = Only at Yeshiva Chipass Emess do you get what you pay for. Other yeshivas? Let us not gossip. Just whip out your checkbook…
Yetzer HaRa = The evil inclination.
Yetzer tov = The good inclination. Man has two inclinations; the Yetzer Tov, which inspires his most noble tendencies, and the Yetzer HaRa, which causes him to sin.
Yetzias Mitzrayim = The exodus (redemption) from Egypt.
Yetzias Mitzrayim, Mitzvah of celebrating = The commandment (mitzva) of celebrating the redemption (yetzias) from Egypt (mitzrayim) on Passover.
Yevamos = Tractate of the Talmud in the order of Women (Seder Nashim) focused on levirate marriage.
Yichus = Lineage; not only ancestry, but also the inheritance of a teacher’s knowledge and philosophy.
Yidden (singular: Yid) = Jews, people who are Jewish (Yiddish). Usually used in reference to Ashkenazic Jews; from Judah (Yuda), one of the tribes, and subsequently the name of the Southern kingdom in the Holy Land. Cognate with German 'Jude', Dutch 'Jood', and Arabic 'Yahood'.
Yiddishkeit = True Jewishness. Sacred cow of the Hassidim.
YirimayAHu = The prophet Jeremiah.
Yisro = Midianite Priest identified as the father-in-law of Moses. The title of the fifth Parsha in Shmos (Exodus). Yisro is credited with advising Moses on establishing a distributed legal system.
Yom Kippur = The day (Yom) of atonement (Kippur). The tenth day of Tishrei, which comes ten days after Rosh Ha Shana (Jewish New Year).
Yovel = The Jubilee year, being every fiftieth year
Yuntif, yontef = Yiddish word for Yom Tov denoting a holiday, such as Passover. The plural is Yomim Yovim.
YU = Yeshiva University.
Yushka = The deity of the Christians, from an affectionate Polish derivative of the name “Joshua”.
Zohar, Zoihar = “The Splendour,” a Kabbalistic masterpiece likely written by Moishe Shemtov DeLeon in Spain in the 13th century. The book (and legend) attribute’s its authorship to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a first century Tanna and Mystic. The Zohar describes events surrounding Shimon Bar Yochai and a group of students during Roman times. It holds a prominence not granted other Kabbalistic texts.
Zugos = Pair, from the Greek word for yoke, referring to two even loads or both sides of a pair of scales. The term refers to the pair of leaders who headed the institutions of Jewish life in the late Second Temple era – the Nasi, or president of the Sanhedrin, and the Ab-Beis Din, the chief of the court of law.