GLOSSARY
Av
The eleventh (sometimes twelfth) month of the Jewish year, Av generally falls in the middle of the summer. During Av, both the happiest (the 15th) and the saddest (the 9th) days of the Jewish people are observed.
Bubbe
Grandmother, in Yiddish. The Hebrew term is Savta.
Davening
The Yiddish term for praying.
Elul
The last month of the Jewish Calendar, the activities of Elul are focused on preparation for the High Holidays. The shofar is blown every morning service to remind Jews to prepare for the period of prayer and repentance that will follow.
Isaiah
A prophet that denounced the national corruption of Jews, Isaiah was the product of an affluent family in Jerusalem. The Book of Isaiah is the prophetic reading (Haftorah) for many Shabbatot (Sabbaths).
Hallah
The egg bread that Jews eat on Shabbat (the Sabbath). There are many traditions surrounding the preparation and eating of Hallah. Click here for a recipe.
Kiddush
The prayer over wine (or grape juice) that is said on holidays and on the Sabbath. Click here for the blessing.
Kosher
The dietary laws established in the Torah, the laws of Kashrut (n.) are rather complex but can be summarized by a few basic rules:

  • Don't eat meat and dairy at the same meal.
  • Only eat mammals that chew their cud and have split hooves.
  • Don't eat insects or slugs or shellfish.
  • Only eat fish that have scales and fins.
  • Only eat the meat of mammals that were properly slaughtered. In order to be Kosher, an animal must be killed so that it feels no pain. It also must be drained of its blood.

As for birds, the Torah is a bit more specific, naming what birds are kosher and which are not. As a general rule, scavenger birds are prohibited. All fruits and vegetables are kosher as are the dairy products of kosher animals. Click here for more information.
Maimonides (1135-1200)
The pre-eminent commentator in the period after the Talmud, Maimonides combined the rationalist slant of the Western tradition with a deep understanding of the logic of the rabbis. Though he was born in Spain, Maimonides lived much of his life in Egypt, where he served as the royal physican. He is responsible for some of the basic tenets of Jewish theology.
Micah
A prophet of the country that denounced idols and attacked royalty in prophecizing the restoration of Jerusalem. The Book of Micah contains one (of many) formulas for what G-d requires: "Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your G-d."
Mitzvah
Literally commandment, often translated as "good deed," the mitzvot are delineated by the rabbis from the text of the Torah. There are 365 negative mitvot and 248 positive ones. Many of these obligations are in reference to the activities of the Temple.
Nemirov
A village that at one time or another has been in Russia, the Ukraine and Poland. For a period, Nemirov was home to the followers of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Many of the Jews of Nemirov were massacred by the Cossacks in 1648. Most of the population of Nemirov was lost in the Holocaust.
Prophets
Hebrew:n'viim. The second of the books of the Tanach, Prophets deals with the leaders of the Israelites in the period after Moses. Prophets contains:
Joshua (Yehoshua)
Judges (Shoftim)
I Samuel (Shmuel)
II Samuel
I Kings (Melachim)
II Kings
Isaiah (Yeshaia)
Jeremiah (Yeermeahu)
Ezekial (Yehezkal)
Hosea
Joel (Yoel)
Amos
Obadiah (Ovadyah)
Jonah (Yonah)
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
Proverbs
A book of the writing attributed to King Solomon, Proverbs is a series of adages on human relations and relations with God.
Psalms
A book of the Writings attributed to David, the Pslams are part of the daily liturgy. These songs of praise are also read in the house of mourning.
Reb
Short for Rabbi.
Saadia Gaon (882-942)
The leader of the Sura Academy in Babylon, Saadia Gaon penned the first systematic work on the philosphy of the Jewish religion. He produced the first translation of the Bible for Arabic-speaking Jews and is considered one of the greatest writers of post-Biblical Judaism.
Second Temple
Built by the Jews returning from the Babylonian exile, 516 B.C.E., the Temple was destroyed by Romans in 70, C.E. During that time, there were many conflicts between the Jewsih establishment and Hellenist influence.
Sephardim
Jews of Spanish, North African, or Middle Eastern origin. Click here for more information.
Shabbat
Eng: Sabbath. Shabbat is the day of rest in the Jewish week and begins on Friday night and ends Saturday night. There are many customs and commandments regarding the observance of Shabbat. Click here for more information.
Shtetl
The shtetl was the primary social unit for Eastern Eurpoean Jews from the late Middle Ages until modern times. The towns, centers of economic and religous activity, were the result of incentives by Polish nobles to migrating German Jews.
Synagogue
The synagogue is the Jewish house of worship and in modern times often houses religious schools and social facilities. In Reform circles, synagogues are many times called "Temples." The Yiddish term for synagogue is shul. Click here for more information.
Tanach
A Hebrew acronym for the Biblical texts of Judaism: the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. It is generally similar to the "Old Testament," though the order of the books differ.
Ten Commandments
According to the Torah, the Ten Commandments were given on two tablets to Moses so that he could give them to the Israelites. They are roughly:

  1. I am the Lord, your G-d who brought you out of Egypt. Do not worship other gods.
  2. Do not worship or make idols.
  3. Do not take oaths falsely in G-d's name.
  4. Observe the Sabbath.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not lie.
  10. Do not covet.
Torah
The first book of the Tanach, the Torah is the text of the Jewish people. It contains the books:
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Beraysheet
Shmoat
Vayikra
Bamidbar
D'vareem
Teshuva
Repentance. Teshuva is a major theme of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Tzedakah
Charity. Jews are required to donate some of their income to charity. The Torah has many commandments designed to help the less fortunate. Click here for more information.
Writings
Hebrew: k'tuvim. The third of the three books of the Tanach, the Writings are:
Pslams
Proverbs
Job
Song of Songs
Ruth
Lamentations
Ecclesiastes
Tehillim
Mishlei
Iyov
Shir HaShirim
Rut
Eicah
Kohelet
Esther Esther
Ezra Ezra
Daniel Daniel
Nehemiah Nehemia
I Chronicles Divrei-HaYamim 1
II Chronicles. Divrei HaYamim 2

Yom Tov
       Literally "good day," Yom Tov is the Hebrew word for holiday. Yamim Tovim (pl.) are days        of holiness in the Jewish Calendar.
Zayde
       Grandfather, in Yiddish. The hebrew word is Saba.


YIVO, A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People (Knopf) and The Encyclopedia Judaica were consulted in compiling this glossary.