Judaism Vocab

Ashkenazim:

Jews who lived in or came from central Europe.

Bar (Bat) Mitzvah:

“Son (daughter) of the commandment” (Aramaic); the coming-of-age ceremony that marks the time when a young person is considered a legal adult within the Jewish community.

Biblical Judaism:

Judaism before the destruction of the second temple (70 CE).

Canaan:

An ancient name for the land of Israel.

Conservative Judaism:

A branch of Judaism that attempts to blend the best of old and new Judaism.

Covenant:

A contract; the contract between the Hebrews and their God, Yahweh.

Diaspora:

The dispersion of Jews beyond Israel, particularly to Persia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean region.

Essenes:

A reclusive semimonastic Jewish group that flourished from c. 150 BCE to 68 CE.

Hanukkah:

An early-winter festival recalling the rededication of the Second Temple, celebrated with the lighting of candles for eight days.

Holocaust:

The destruction of European Judaism by the Nazis; also known as Shoah (Hebrew: “extermination”).

Kabbalah:

“Received,” “handed down”; the whole body of Jewish mystical literature.

Ketuvim:

“Writings”; the third section of the Hebrew scriptures, consisting primarily of poetry, proverbs, and literary works.

Kosher:

“Ritually correct”; refers particularly to food preparation and food consumption.

Menorah:

A candelabrum usually containing seven (and occasionally nine) branches, used for religious celebrations.

Messiah:

A savior figure to be sent by God, awaited by the Jews (see Dan. 7:13-14).

Midrash:

“Search”; rabbinical commentary on the scriptures and oral laws.

Nevi’im:

“Prophets”; the second section of the Hebrew scriptures, made up of historical and prophetic books.

Orthodox Judaism:

The most traditional branch of Judaism.

Passover:

A joyful spring festival that recalls the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt and freedom from oppression.

Pharisees:

A faction during the Second Temple period that emphasized the observance of biblical rules.

Prophet:

A person inspired by God to speak for him.

Purim:

A joyous festival in early spring that recalls the Jews’ being saved from destruction, as told in the Book of Esther.

Rabbi:

A religious teacher; a Jewish minister.

Rabbinical Judaism:

Judaism that developed after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE).

Reconstructionism:

A modern liberal branch of Judaism that emphasizes the cultural aspects of Judaism.

Reform:

A movement beginning in the nineteenth century that questioned  and modernized Judaism; a liberal branch of Judaism.

Rosh Hashanah:

“Beginning of the year”; the celebration of the Jewish New Year, occurring in the seventh lunar month.

Sabbath:

“Rest”; the seventh day of the week (Saturday), a day of prayer and rest from work.

Sadducees:

A priestly faction, influential during the Second Temple period.

Seder:

“Order”; a special ritual meal at Passover, recalling the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt.

Sephardim:

Jews of Spain, Morocco, and the Mediterranean region.

Sukkot:

“Booths”; a festival in the late autumn that recalls the Jews’ period of wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt.

Tallit:

A prayer shawl worn by devout males during morning prayer.

Talmud:

An encyclopedic commentary on the Hebrew scriptures.

Tanakh:

The complete Hebrew scriptures, made up of the Torah, Prophets (Nevi’im), and Writings (Ketuvim).

Tefillin:

Phylacteries; two small boxes containing biblical passages, which are worn by Orthodox males on the head and left arm at morning prayer during the week.

Theophany:

A revelation or appearance of God.

Torah:

“Teaching,” “instruction”; the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures; also, the additional instructions of God, believed by many to have been transmitted orally from Moses through a succession of teachers and rabbis.

Western Wall:

The foundation stones of the western wall of the last temple of Jerusalem, today a place of prayer.

Yarmulke:

The skullcap worn by devout males.

Yom Kippur:

Day of Atonement, the most sacred day of the Jewish year.

Zealots:

An anti-Roman, nationalistic Jewish faction, active during the Roman period of control over Israel.

Zionism:

A movement that has encouraged the creation and support of the nation of Israel.

 

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