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The Shabbat Primer

Partial Glossary

Note: Because these are transliterations of Hebrew and Yiddish terms which are also pronounced differently in the various Jewish communities, different English spellings of the same word often appear, for example, "Shabbat" and "Shabbat."

aliyah "Ascent"; in particular, (a) the honor of being one of those called up to recite one of the blessings over the Torah; (b) immigration to the Land of Israel.
Ashkenazi A Jew of European origin; pertaining to such Jews.
avera pl. averot. A transgression of one of the laws of the Torah.
Avraham Avinu Our Father Abraham.
baalat hamitzva pl. baalot hamitzva. Lit.: "mistress of the mitzva." A woman who has put a great deal of devotion into performing a mitzva fully and has succeeded.
baal teshuva pl. baalei teshuva; fem. baalat teshuva; fem. pl. baalot teshuva. Lit.: "master of returning," "one who returns." Any Jewish penitent, but especially a Jew of secular or not fully observant background who has decided to undertake full Torah observance.
bentching English corruption of Yiddish bentschen. Blessing or saying grace after meals.
bracha pl. brachot. Any kind of blessing or praise of G-d. In formal liturgy, it opens or closes with the Hebrew for "Blessed art Thou O L-rd."
chavurah pl. chavurot. A voluntary society or fellowship of Jews who gather for the purpose of learning, celebrating, or carrying out certain charitable mitzvot.
chesed "Lovingkindness"; acts of lovingkindness.
cholent A casserole-like dish prepared before the start of Shabbat and kept warm, usually for Shabbat lunch. It was developed to avoid the prohibitions against cooking on Shabbat.
chumash The Five Books of Moses (the Pentateuch).
clal Yisrael The entire People or Community of Israel.
Cohanim Descendants of the priests of the Temple. Some of the privileges and prohibitions that applied to them in Temple times, such as prohibitions against contact with a corpse, are still valid.
dvar Torah pl. divrei Torah. A brief oral commentary on a topic from the Torah.
daven or davenen Yiddish for "pray." "Davening' is an English corruption.
erev Evening, or the day preceding; the beginning of holy days, which in Judaism start in the evening. Friday is often referred to as "Erev Shabbat."
fleishik Pertaining to meat or poultry; a category of the kashrut laws.
frum Lit. "pious". One who is fully observant of the Torah laws.
hachnasat orchim Lit. "bringing in guests." Hospitality.
halacha Jewish law and way of life.
hamotzie Key word of blessing pronounced before eating bread.
Hashem or haShem "The Name"; one of the references to G-d, whose proper name is never pronounced by observant Jews in regular conversation or written.
havdalah Blessings pronounced over wine at nightfall at the conclusion of a Shabbat or festival to mark it off from the ordinary weekdays that follow.
kashrut The Jewish dietary laws.
kedusha Holiness.
kiddush The sanctification prayer for Shabbat and the festivals recited over a cup of wine.
kvell (Yiddish) To take great pride and pleasure; a peculiarly Jewish thrill most often associated with the accomplishments of one's family members.
Ladino A Spanish dialect spoken by many Sephardic Jews; referring to songs, literature, etc. in Ladino.
Mashiach or Moshiach The Messiah.
mechitza A physical divider set up between men and women in the synagogue and other places designated by halacha for the purpose of concentrating better and preserving tzniut.
Megillah A parchment scroll, usually referring to the Book (Scroll) of Esther, read on Purim,
Melaveh Malka Ushering out the Shabbat; a festive meal held after the end of Shabbat on Saturday night.
middot One's personality or character traits.
Midrash One of the classical interpretations of the Torah on a non-literal or mystical level.
mikva The ritual bath for immersing and purifying people and utensils.
milchik Pertaining to milk and its by-products; a category of the kashrut laws.
muktzeh Objects which one may not handle or be concerned with on Shabbat and festivals.
Nachshon The first person to leap into the Red Sea when the Jews were being pursued by the Egyptians, thus a paradigm of faith.
negel vasser (Yiddish). Ritual hand-washing done upon arising in the morning.
nash (Yiddish). Candy, sweets.
niggun pl. niggunim. A melody, often wordless and repeated several times, which is intended to express and stir one's soul.
parshah or parashah pl. parshiot. The weekly Torah portion.
Purim A joyous festival celebrating the saving of the Jews of the Persian Empire. The story is told in the Book of Esther, which is read during Purim.
rebbe A spiritual leader and teacher of a Jewish community, particularly a Hassidic one. Sometimes a rebbe is accepted as a leader by many communities and individuals outside his own.
Sephardi A Jew of South European or North African origin; pertaining to such a Jew.
Seuda Shlishit "Third Meal." The last of the three festive meals of Shabbat.
Shabbat or Shabbes Ashkenazi pronunciation of "Shabbat."
Shabbatdik Appropriate for or in the spirit of Shabbat.
shidduch A match, especially for marriage.
shul Yiddish for synagogue.
Shulchan Aruch "Prepared Table." The standard code of Jewish law and practice compiled by Joseph Karo.
Siddur "Order (of prayer)." The complete traditional prayer book.
simcha "Joy." A happy festival or Jewish life-cycle celebration, e.g., bar mitzva.
talit Shawl worn by males during prayer and fringed with tzitzis.
tameh Impure according to halacha.
Tanya The basic written source for Chabad Hassidic philosophy, written by the movement's founder, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi in the 18th century.
treif, terephah, or trefeh Food forbidden by the kashrut laws.
tzniut Modesty in dress and behavior.
yeshiva An academy for the study of Torah. Today there are also numerous separate yeshivot for women.
yichud The Torah laws whose purpose is to prevent the development of close contact with members of the opposite sex to whom one is not closely related or married.
yom tov A festival or holiday.
zemirot or z'mirot Shabbat and festival songs generally sung around the table.
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