Aliyah (uh-LEE-uh; ah-lee-AH)
Lit. ascension. Reading from the Torah or reciting a blessing over the reading during services,. Also, immigrating to Israel.
Lit. standing. A prayer recited while standing, facing East toward Jerusalem. Also known as the Shemoneh Esrei.
ArkThe holy chest, also known as the Aron Chodesh, where the Torah scrolls are kept.
Bar Mitzvah (BAHR MITS-vuh)
Lit. son of the commandment. A boy who has achieved the age of 13, and a ceremony marking the fact that a boy has achieved this age.
Bat Mitzvah (BAHT MITS-vuh)
Lit. daughter of the commandment. A girl who has achieved the age of 12 and a ceremony marking the fact that a girl has achieved this age.
Brit Milah (BRIT MEE-lah)
Lit. covenant of circumcision. The ritual circumcision of a male Jewish child on the 8th day of his life. Also known as a bris.
Chag Sameach (KHAHG sah-MEHY-ahkh)
Lit. joyous festival. A greeting for any holiday, but especially Sukkot (Tabernacles), Shavu’ot (Pentecost) and Pesach (Passover).
Lit. leaven. Leavened grain products, which may not be consumed during Passover; a metaphor for sin.
Lit. canopy or covering. The wedding canopy, symbolic of the groom’s home.
Counting of the Omer
Lit. Omer-one tenth of an ephah. The counting of the days between Pesach (Passover) and Shavu’ot (Pentecost).
Days of Awe
Ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, a time for introspection and teshuvah from the sin.
Any place outside of the land of Israel where Jews live today, but historically, a reference to Jewish exile from Israel.
A top-like toy used to play a traditional Hanukkah game.
Lit. evening. The evening part of a day. A “day” on the Jewish calendar starts at sunset.
A citrus fruit grown in Israel and other parts of the Mediterranean, used during Sukkot.
A way of avoiding writing a name of G-d, to avoid the risk of the sin of erasing or defacing the Name. The same principle leads us to write L-RD.
Lit. conclusion. A reading from the Prophets, read along with the weekly Torah portion.
The book read during the Passover Seder, telling the story of the holiday.
Ha-Shem (hah SHEM)
Lit. The Name. The Name of G-d, which is not pronounced. The phrase “ha-Shem” is often used as a substitute for G-d’s Name.
Lit. The Hope. The anthem of the Zionist movement and the state of Israel.
Lit. separation, division. A ritual marking the end of Shabbat or a holiday.
The six-pointed star emblem commonly associated with Judaism, also known as the Magen David, the Shield of David or the Star of David.
Aramaic: holy. A prayer in Aramaic praising G-d, commonly associated with mourning.
Lit. writing. The Jewish marriage contract.
The skullcap head covering worn by Jews during services, and by some Jews at all times, more commonly known as a yarmulke.
The white robes in which the dead are buried, worn by some during Yom Kippur services.
Kol Nidre (KOHL NID-ray)
Lit. all vows. The evening service of Yom Kippur, or the prayer that begins that service.
Lit. to life. A common Jewish toast.
L’Shanah Tovah (li-SHAH-nuh TOH-vuh)
Lit. for a good year. A common greeting during Rosh Hashanah and Days of Awe.
Lit. palm branch. A collection of palm, myrtle and willow branches, used during Sukkot.
A special prayer book for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Lit. anointed. Messiah.
Mazel Tov (MAHZ-z’l TAWV)
Lit. good luck. A way of expressing congratulations.
Lit. scroll. One of five books of the Bible (Esther, Ruth, Song of Songs, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes).
The seven-branched candelabrum used in the Temple.
Lit. doorpost. A case attached to the doorposts of houses, containing a scroll with passages of scripture written on it. The procedure and prayers for affixing the mezuzah is available.
Name of G-d
Judaism has a wide variety of names for the Creator; however, these names are not casually written down because of the risk that someone might destroy the writing, an act of disrespect for G-d and His Name.
Nikkud (pl. N’kkudim)
A system of dots and dashes used to indicate vowels and other pronunciation in Hebrew.
A unit of measure, often translated as “sheaf.” The period between Passover and Shavu’ot is known as the Omer period, because we count the days from the time that the first omer of barley was brought to the Temple.
A weekly Torah portion read in synagogue.
Lit. exemption. One of the Shalosh R’galim (three pilgrimage festivals), or Moadim (appointed times); a holiday commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, known in English as Passover.
Lit. lots (as in “lottery”). A holiday based on Esther’s account, celebrating the rescue of the Jews from extermination at the hands of Haman, the chief minister to the King of Persia.
The wife of a rabbi.
Rosh Chodesh (ROHSH CHOH-desh)
Lit. head of the month. The first day of a month, on which the first sliver of the new moon appears.
Rosh Hashanah (ROHSH hah SHAH-nuh)
Lit. first of the year. The new year for the purpose of counting years.
Lit. end, cease, rest. The Jewish Sabbath, a day of rest and spiritual enrichment.
Shabbat Shalom (shah-BAHT shah-LOHM)
Lit. sabbath peace or peaceful sabbath. A general, all-purpose Shabbat greeting.
Shalom Aleikhem (shah-LOHM ah-ley-KHEM)
Peace upon you. A traditional greeting.
Lit. servant. 1) The candle that is used to light other Chanukkah candles;
Lit. order. Prayer book
Sukkot (soo-KOHT)Lit. booths. One of the Shalosh R’galim (three pilgrimage festivals), or Moadim (appointed times). The Feast of Tabernacles or the Festival of Ingathering.
Tallit (TAH-lit)A shawl-like garment worn during morning services, with tzitzit (long fringes) attached to the corners as a reminder of the commandments. Sometimes called a prayer shawl.
Tanakh (tuhn-AHKH)Acronym of Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings).
Lit. return. repentance.
The first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, sometimes called the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses.
Fringes attached to the corners of garments as a reminder of the commandments.
The skullcap head covering worn by men during services, and by some Jews at all times.
Yom Ha-Shoah (YOHM hah shoh-AH)Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Yom Kippur (YOHM ki-PAWR)
Lit. Day of Atonement.