Appendix:Glossary of Jewish terms

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The following is a glossary of terms used in Judaism. Complete definitions of these terms, and additional sources, may be found in the full entries to which each term is linked.



The word Amen ( ; , ’Āmīn ; "Truly" as in I agree) is a declaration found in the Hebrew Bible.
Hebrew Standing, also called HaTefillah תפלה, literally "the prayer" as it is paradigmatic of Jewish prayer. Recited three times a day by observant Jews, based on the prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel.[1]
  • Apostasy
Apostasy (from Greek αποστασία, meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "standing") is a term generally employed to describe the formal abandonment or renunciation of one's religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy. In a technical sense, as used sometimes by sociologists without the pejorative connotations of the word, the term refers to renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to one's former religion.
Of or relating to Jews of Eastern European and German origin, and their culture.
Contrast: Sephardi.
Atonement is a doctrine found within Judaism. It describes how sin can be forgiven by God. In Judaism, Atonement is said to be the process of forgiving or pardoning a transgression. This was originally accomplished through rituals performed by a High Priest on the holiest day of the Jewish year: Yom Kippur יום כפור (Day of Atonement).
  • Avodah
(Hebrew: עבודה) literally "work" or "service". Used for manual labor, and for worship of God or of false gods. The Avodah, denoted with a definite article, is a term used for the Temple worship. According to Shimon Ha Tzadik, "The world stands on three things: Torah, avodah, and acts of lovingkindness" [2]
literally "strange worship". Denotes the worship of gods other than God, or even the worship of God through the use of a physical representation. Some Jewish authorities hold that a lesser form of avodah zarah, called shituf, is permissible for non-Jews, and apply this to evaluation of Christian trinitarianism. For the fourth Order of the Talmud dealing with damages, see Avodah zarah.


literally "covenant". The Torah is the full and formal expression of the covenant between the people Israel and God.
the ritual circumcision of the Jewish male on the eight day after his birth.


While Chesed has a Kabbalistic term, it's normal usage among Jews is to denote acts of kindness, such as visiting the sick, giving to the needy, taking in guests and the like. In a technical sense, Chesed is compared to Tzedek צדק, or "righteousness", where Tzedek denotes fulfilling commanded obligations, and Chesed means going beyond ones obligations. For the Kabbalistic meaning, see Chesed (Kabbalah).

It can also be translated literally as Grace (as in divine grace) חסד אלוקי

Priest. Descendents of Aaron אהרן through the male line, during the time of the Temple priests supervised the various sacrifices. Today in traditional synagogues they are given the honor of reading the first portion of the weekly Torah תורה-reading.
A Jew or Muslim in Spain or Portugal who converted to Roman Catholicism under duress, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries.
A Jew who outwardly and officially converted to Catholicism under duress, while secretly remaining faithful to Judaism, or their descendants. Related term: crypto-Judaism.


(acronym for dati l'sheavar, "formerly religious") Jew who was raised religiously or grew up in the religious educational system, but has since left the fold of religion
  • Devekut
(Hebrew דבקות "clinging on" to God) communion; in Hasidic practice, communion with God.


  • Ein Sof
(Hebrew אין סוף, literally "without end", denoting "boundlessness" and/or "nothingness"), is a Kabbalistic term that usually refers to an abstract state of existence preceding God's Creation of the limited universe.


  • Frum
referring to religious observance or observant Jews


God most commonly refers to the deity worshiped by followers of monotheistic and monolatrist religions, whom they believe to be the creator and overseer of the universe.[3]
  • Golden Rule
Based on Leviticus 19:18 and summarized by Hillel the Elder as "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow" and considered a central teaching of the Torah.[4]


The haftarah or haftorah (; plural הפטרות haftarot or haftorahs; "parting," "taking leave") is a text important to the modern observance of Judaism. It consists of selections from the Hebrew Bible (Tanach תנ״ך), specifically from the books of נביאים Nevi'im ("The Prophets"), and it is read publicly in the synagogue after the reading of the Torah on each Shabbat שבת, as well as on Jewish festivals and fast days. The haftarah usually has a thematic link to the Torah reading that precedes it. When the haftarah is read in the synagogue it is sung with cantillation ("trop" in Yiddish, "trope" in English), and its related blessings are said before and after it.
Jewish law and ethics. A related academic discipline is known as Mishpat Ivri.
a prayer service involved with praising God. Related to the Hallelujah.
  • Hanukiah
Form of menorah with eight lamps, used during Hannukah
literally "the name" or "the word". One of the names of God in Judaism, in which it is more than a distinguishing title. It represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relation of God to the Jewish people. See also Tetragramaton.
  • Hebrew Bible
also known as the "Old Testament"


  • Idolatry
  • Israel (see article for multiple uses)
a skullcap worn by Jewish males. Also called yarmulke.


  • Marrano
A Jew who converted to Catholicism under threat or force.
unleavened bread. Eaten during Passover, "the bread of affliction" commemorates the Exodus from Egypt.
in Yiddish, literally "man," a virtuous man possessed of courage, strength, generosity and wisdom. from Hillel the Elder's aphorism, "In a place where there are no men, be a man" [5]
(; plural מזוזות‎‎ mezuzot) is a small scroll placed at the entrance to a Jewish home.
(; plural מדרשים midrashim) is a Hebrew word referring to a method of exegesis of a Biblical text. The term "midrash" can also refer to a compilation of Midrashic teachings, in the form of legal, exegetical or homiletical commentaries on the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). Although midrashim often take narrative form, the classic method of midrashic exegesis is the decontextualization and recontextualization of words in the Tanakh, especially through the juxtaposition of similar words from different chapters or books of the Tanakh. Apparently new meanings are created (or discovered) through the play of words in the Biblical text. This form contrasts most disinctly with Remez רמז, the allegorical method of reading texts.
a ritual bath of purification
the seminal work of early rabbinic literature


Term introduced by Rabbi Max Kadushin to describe the Rabbinic system of promoting a mystical encounter with God through quotidian acts, sanctified by blessings


literally "the world to come." Rabbis were divided as to whether this refers to a non-corporeal afterlife of the soul, or a corporeal ressurection of the body in the days of the messiah.
as distinguished from the scriptural Written Torah


Pasuk (plural פסוקים pesukim) is the transliteration of the Hebrew word for verse, specifically a verse in the Hebrew Bible.
The word Pharisees comes from the Hebrew פרושים prushim from פרוש parush, meaning "separated", that is, one who is separated for a life of purity[6]. The Pharisees were, depending on the time, a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews that flourished during the Second Temple Era (536 BCE–70 CE). After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Pharisaic sect was re-established as Rabbinic Judaism — which ultimately produced normative, traditional Judaism, the basis for all contemporary forms of Judaism and even the Karaites use the Rabbinic canon of the Bible.


acronym for Rabbi Moses Maimonides
acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the leading Jewish commentator on the Torah
allegory (from Greek αλλος, allos, "other", and αγορευειν, agoreuein, "to speak in public") is a figurative mode of representation conveying a meaning other than the literal. Generally treated as a figure of rhetoric, but an allegory does not have to be expressed in language: it may be addressed to the eye, and is often found in realistic painting, sculpture or some other form of mimetic, or representative art.
In allegorical representations, relationships between elements of a text or composition are understood to stand for different relationships between elements not found in the text or composition; meaning is thus constituted through the difference between the superficial (or literal) meaning of the text or composition, and a "deeper" meaning. In Jewish thought this method is best known through the works of Philo. The extreme form of remez, sod, understands the Tanakh as an allegory for a mystical understanding of the universe and as a means for mystical communion with God; this approach is best known through Kabbalistic texts such as the Zohar. Traditionally, only Jews who have mastered the midrashic method and the corpus of halakha are encouraged to pursue this form of interpretation.
  • Resurrection of the dead


a Jew of Iberian ancestry. Contrast: Ashkenazi.
Shabbat (שבת, Hebrew for "cease" or "Sabbath") is a weekly day of rest and worship. The term was first used in the Biblical account of the last day of creation. It was repeated, as a commandment, as the fourth of the Ten Commandments.
Shechinah is derived from the Hebrew verb שכן meaning literally to settle, inhabit, or dwell. The Shekinah is held by many to represent the feminine attributes of the presence of God (shekhinah being a feminine word in Hebrew), based especially on readings of the Talmud.[7] The Shekhinah is referred to as manifest in the Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem throughout Rabbinic literature. It is also reported as being present in the acts of public prayer, ("Whenever ten are gathered for prayer, there the Shechinah rests" Talmud Sanhedrin 39a); righteous judgment ("when three sit as judges, the Shechinah is with them." Talmud Berachot 6a), and personal need ("The Shechinah dwells over the headside of the sick man's bed" Talmud Shabbat 12b; "Wheresoever they were exiled, the Shechinah went with them." Megillah 29a).
a crucial prayer in Judaism, drawn from Biblical passages and recited daily
(or shittuf) describes the worship or belief of other gods in addition to the Hebrew God. Shituf is considered idolatry for Jews, and according to most Jewish authorities, for non-Jews as well, though there is a notable minority view that non-Jews are permitted this deviation from strict monotheism.


a traditional acronym for the Hebrew Bible, standing for Torah (Pentateuch), Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim כתובים (Hagiographa).
Resurrection of the Dead. The most notable Jewish belief concerning the afterlife, according to which the dead will be resurrected during the messianic age.
The Torah is the most important document in Judaism, revered as the inspired word of God, traditionally said to have been revealed to Moses. The word Torah means "teaching", "instruction", "scribe", or "law" in Hebrew. It is also known as the Five Books of Moses, the Book of Moses, the Law of Moses (Torat Moshe תורת משה), Sefer Torah ספר תורה in Hebrew (which refers to the scroll cases in which the books were kept), or Pentateuch (from Greek Πεντετεύχως "five rolls or cases"). Constitutes the covenant between God and Israel. Physical Torah scrolls, written by scribes, are considered sacred symbols of the continuing love between God and Israel and are treated with the utmost care and respect. According to Shimon Ha Tzadik, "The world stands on three things: Torah, avodah, and acts of lovingkindness" [2]
From the Hebrew word for justice, and in compliance with Deuteronomy 16:20. Includes the act of helping those in need. Maimonides detailed eight levels of giving, reflecting different balences of justice and charity.


A descendant of Majorcan Jews who either converted to Christianity or was forced to keep their religion hidden.
Related terms: crypto-Jew, converso.
(Hebrew “bad inclination.”) A part of human nature, which is most commonly understood as a tendency to commit wrongful acts. It is not viewed as a state of being, but as one of two competing tendencies (good and bad). Understood as the animal nature, responsible for desires to eat, procreate, etc.[8] There would be no earthly survival without it, and though Jews are encouraged to rise above it, they are not encouraged to eliminate it. Instead, when a child comes of age (13 for boys and 12 for girls) he is considered to have added the יצר הטוב “Yetzer HaTov”; literally “Good Inclination.”[9] As the Yetzer Hara is responsible for personal survival, the Yetzer HaTov is responsible for helping others to survive. Without the Yetzer HaRa, there would be no sex and no children. Without the Yetzer HaTov there would be no feeding and nurturing of children. Both are essential (and when in harmony, good) aspects of humanity. It cannot be equated with the Christian concept of Original Sin (which has no good aspects).[10] Further, although Original Sin condemns a person to hell without salvation, the Yetzer Hara does not. The Jew does not need to be saved from his humanity,[11] but instead needs to “grow up” in it.


  1. ^ Artscroll Siddur
  2. 2.0 2.1 Avot 1:2
  3. ^ Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Honderich, Ted. (ed)The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 1995.
  4. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a
  5. ^ Pirke Avot: 2:6
  6. ^ Ernest Klein - Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language
  7. ^ Eisenberg, Ronald L. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. The Jewish Publication Society, 2004. →ISBN
  8. ^ A. Cohen 1949 Everyman's Talmud p.90 N.Y.: E.P. Dutten
  9. ^ A. Cohen 1949 Everyman's Talmud p.89 N.Y.: E.P. Dutten
  10. ^ A. Cohen 1949 Everyman's Talmud p.96 N.Y.: E.P. Dutten. L. Jacobs 1973 A jewish Theology pp. 246-247, New York:Berman House
  11. ^ M. Steinberg 1947 Basic judaisn pp. 71-73 N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich