JEWISH TERMINOLOGY 101
Enjoy learning some popular Hebrew words and something about them.
Adonai – (Ah-doe-nigh) – A Jewish word for God. Many Jewish people feel spelling out the name God in print is a sacrilege, because it is too holy. They will usually write G-d. Since God can also be Elohim, or even where we get Yaweh and Jehovah, there are many Hebrew spellings for its different contexts.
Bar Mitzvah – A Jewish boy’s confirmation at or near his thirteenth birthday. “Bar” indicates a son. In biblical times, King David may have been identified as David bar Jesse, meaning David the son of Jesse.
Bat Mitzvah (sometimes called Bas Mitzvah) – A Jewish girl’s confirmation at or near her thirteenth birthday. “Bat” (pronounced “bot”) indicates daughter.
Cantor – The synagogue official who leads the congregation in songs and prayers…their Worship Leader.
Chutzpah – Guts, courage, zeal. Make a guttural “ch” by pressing your tongue on the roof of your mouth and breathing out, then add -ootzpah!
Dreydl (“draydil”) – A little toy at Hanukkah – a spinning top.
Gelt – Money. You may have heard of “Hanukkah gelt”, which is chocolate wrapped in gold foil to look like coins at that holiday – or if you’re lucky, a gift of real money!
Kibbutz – An agricultural community in Israel where families live and participate in a combined farming effort. This was started around the Russian Revolution in the early 1900's when Jews made “aliyah” to Israel. Today, there are still about 250 “kibbutzim” (the plural). Not to be confused with “kibitz”, which means to talk, joke or gossip amongst a group of people.
Kosher – Food which conforms to Jewish dietary law; what food is called after a blessing by a
rabbi has been executed. For animal flesh, all blood has to be properly drained and parts inappropriate for consumption discarded. When a Jewish person obeys all dietary laws, like not eating milk with meat in the same meal, we say they are kosher, or they keep a kosher home.
L’chaim! (“le-chayeem”) – Cheers! Let’s raise our glasses and toast to life!
Mazel Tov (“mahzl-tuv”) – Congratulations!
Meshpochah – Pronounced just like it looks, with a guttural “ch”, it means Family.
Mezuzot (or Mezuzah) – The little scroll that Jewish people have on their front doorposts. This comes from Deuteronomy 6:8: “You shall carve it (God’s word) upon your doorposts.” It actually has a tiny piece of parchment inside.
Mitzvah – A happy event.
Mogen David – The traditional six-pointed Star of David, also a popular Jewish wine.
Pareve (“pahriv”) – Neutral food, containing neither milk nor dairy, i.e., a kosher person can eat it with other items. We often see these labels on food products at Passover time.
Shabbat (“shah-bot”) – Sabbath, the Holy Day, from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.
Talmud – A collection of rabbinical teachings and commentaries.
Shalom - Hello, goodbye, peace.
Torah – The Five Books of Moses or sometimes the whole Old Testament in general.
Yarmulke (“your-mull-key”) – the little skull cap worn by Jewish men for worshipping; some wear it at all times.
Yiddish – A language spoken by European Jews which may be any combination of Hebrew, German, Russian and the Slavic languages (from Romania, Yugoslavia, etc).