Glossary of Hebrew and Aramaic Terms
Aggada: Non-legal rabbinic writings consisting of narrative embellishments on the Hebrew Bible, advice, general wisdom and homiletics.
Av: The fifth month of the Hebrew calendar.
Avelut: The period of mourning.
Bayit Sheni: The Second Temple, lit. “Second House.”
Bein HaMitzarim: The Three Weeks, lit. “between the narrow straits,” a term from the first chapter of Lamentations.
Beit HaMikdash: The ancient Temple in Jerusalem, lit. “House of Holiness.”
Berakhot: Blessings. Also the name of the first tractate of the Talmud which contains chapters on the texts and laws of blessings.
Ĥazal: A Hebrew acronym for the sages of the Talmud, lit. “the sages of blessed memory.”
Ĥurban: The Destruction, referring to the destruction of the Temples.
Eikha: The biblical book of Lamentations, attributed to the prophet Jeremiah.
Gemara: Rabbinic law and commentary on the Mishna, developed primarily in Babylonia from the second to sixth centuries.
Haftara: Portions of the Prophets read after the Torah reading on Shabbat mornings and on Holidays.
Ĥazon: Vision. Used here to refer to the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av, called the “Shabbat of foretelling” based on the first chapter of Isaiah, the haftara portion for that Shabbat.
Kina (pl. Kinot): The generic name of the prose-poetry read on the Ninth of Av, representing a collection of such pieces composed over centuries.
Kotel: The Western or Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, lit. wall.
Maĥzor : Holiday prayer-book, usually for the High Holy Days.
Makom: God, lit. place.
Midrash: Rabbinic homilies on the Torah written over a period of centuries. See Aggada.
Minĥa: The name of the afternoon prayer service, taken from the name of the afternoon sacrifice in the Temple.
Mishkan: The name of the portable Temple constructed at the end of the book of Exodus, carried by the Israelites throughout the wilderness years, and later situated at Shiloh.
Mishna: Brief passages of oral law committed to memory and transmitted orally that were compiled in the second century CE under Rabbi Judah HaNasi.
Petiĥta: The opening of a collection of midrash, generally referring to the commentary on the first verse of a Torah reading.
Shekhina: The Divine Presence.
Shiva: The seven days of mourning following a death and burial and marked by many customs and rituals.
Shiva Asar B’Tammuz: The seventeenth day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, commemorated as a fast day and the beginning of the Three Week period.
Shulĥan Arukh: The sixteenth-century codification of Jewish law written by the scholar, Rabbi Joseph Karo.
Ta’anit: The generic term for a fast day. Also the name of a tractate of Talmud devoted to the laws of fasting, among other topics.
Tanakh: An acronym for the Hebrew Bible, constructed of Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim – the Five Books, the Prophets and the Writings.
Tanna: Generic name for a rabbinic sage of the first centuries CE who studied, produced and taught Mishna, brief passages of oral law.
Tefilla: The Hebrew word for prayer, from the word “lehitpalel ” – to judge oneself.
Tikkun: A correction or repair.
Tosefta: A collection of oral law dated to the time of the Mishna but not included in the Mishna itself.
Tzimtzum: A mystical term for contraction of the self.
Talmud: The Mishna and the Gemara together constitute the Talmud – the foundational, encyclopedic work of rabbinic law – whose redaction took place in the fifth and sixth centuries.
Zakhor : The command to remember.