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Jewish Terms and their Meanings

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Abba Aramaic equivalent of Hebrew "av", meaning "father"
Abu Aramaic meaning "father", used in personal names
Abun A variation of "Abba"
Abutter The right of preemption available to the owner of land over the abutting land of his neighbour, when the latter is sold; same meaning as "Mazranut".
Afikoman Name of the middle of the three portions of mazzah(unleavened bread) on the Passover seder plate.
Aggadah, Haggadah Usually defined in a negative manner, i.e., that portion of rabbinic teaching which is not halakhah, i.e., which is not concerned with religious laws and regulations. The aggadah is for the most part an amplification of those portions of the Bible which include narrative, history, ethical maxims, and the reproofs and consolations of the prophets.
Agudat Harabbonim Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, founded in 1902.
Agudat Israel Union or Association of Israel; world Jewish movement and political party seeking to preserve Orthodoxy by adherence to halakhah as the principle governing Jewish life and society.
Agunah Means "tied"; married woman who for whatsoever reason is separated from her husband and cannot remarry, either because she cannot obtain a divorce from him, or because it is unknown whether he is still alive.
Aharayut Nekhasim The creditor's right to exercise a lien over all the debtor's property.
Aharit ha-yanim Literally "the end of the days," i.e., "the end of time", same as Kez ha-Yamim
Aharonim Lit. "the later (authorities)", a term used to designate the later rabbinic authorities, in contrast to the rishonim, the earlier authorities. The general consensus of opinion is that the period of the rishonim ends with the death of Israel Isserlein (1460), and that of the aharonim begins with the appearance of the Shulhan Arukh of Joseph Caro with the additions of Moses Isserles (1525 - 1572).
Ahl Al-Kitab Arabic "The People of the Book", name of the Jews, Christians and Sabeans in the Koran because they possess a kitab, i.e., a holy book containing a revelation of God's Word.
Ahot Ketannah "Little Sister", name of a hymn for Rosh Ha-Shanah.
Akedah Literally "binding (of Isaac)".
Akkum Abbreviation consisting of the initial letters of the words for "worship of stars and planets". It was later extended to apply to all idolaters and forms of idolatry.
Al Ha-Nissim Literally "for the miracles"; thanksgiving prayer added to the penultimate benediction of the Amidah and to the Grace after Meals on Hanukkah and Purim.
Al Het Literally "for the sin", first words of a formula of confession of sins, and of each line in the formula, recited on the Day of Atonement.
Al Tikrei Literally "do not read", term used to denote a change in the masoretic reading of Scripture in order to give a meaning to a phrase, other than the literal one.
Alashiya Another name for the Island of Cyprus
Aleinu le-Shabbe'ah "It is our duty to praise (the Lord of all things)", prayer now recited at the conclusion of the statutory services.
Aliyah "Ascent"; immigration, the coming of Jews to the Land of Israel for permanent residence.
Aliyah le-Torah Call to Torah; the practice of reading the Pentateuch (Torah) in public.
Allalta field produce; that which is produced in the fields.
Alluf, Allufim Honorary title conferred on scholars of the Babylonian academies who had the privilege of sitting in the first row.
Almanah, Almanot Biblical word for "widow". See also "Kethubah".
Am Ha-Arez People of the land, rural population.
Amar Speaking, to speak.
Amen It is true; so be it.
Amidah A prayer known popularly among Ashkenazim as Shemoneh-Esreh ("Eighteen") because of the 18 benedictions which it originally comprised.
Amora Aramaic "sayer, spokesman"; term used originally for the "interpreter" who communicated audibly to the assembled pupils the lessons of the rabbinic teacher. It was later applied as the generic term for the rabbis of the post-mishnaic period.
Amoraim Designation of the scholars who were active from the period of the completion of the Mishnah, around 200 A.D., until the completion of the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds (end of the fourth and end of the fifth centuries respectively).
Amud Lower lectern in some synagogues.
Amurru Amorites
Ani Ma'amin "I believe", a short creed based, as is the Yigdal hymn, on the Thirteen Articles of Faith formulated by Maimonides.
Anim Zemirot "Let me chant sweet hymns", also called Shir ha-Kavod ("Song of Glory"); synagogue hymn.
Aninut Status of a bereaved person in the period between the death and the burial of a close relative; also called "Onen".
Anusim "Forced ones"; persons compelled by overwhelming pressure, whether by physical threats, psychological stress, or economic sanctions, to abjure Judaism and adopt a different faith. See also "Meshummadim".
Apam or Afam Initial letters of Asti, Fossano, and Moncalvo, three towns in Italy. The term denotes the special ritual of prayers that was used by the Jews of these communities, who came there originally in the 14th century after the expulsion from France.
Apikoros A heretic, one who negates the rabbinic tradition.
Apotropos The term apotropos for guardianship in Jewish law is derived from the Greek and means the "father" of minors, or the "guardian" or "custodian" of another's affairs. The need for an apotropos arises with persons who are unable to take care of their own affairs.
Arakhin "Valuations", fifth tractate of the Mishnah.
Aravah Valley, stretching 103 miles (168 km) from the Dead Sea to the Eilat Gulf of the Red Sea.
Arba Ammot "Four cubits"; a linear and square measure frequently found in halakhic literature.
Arba Kosot "Four cups"; four cups of wine drunk by each participant at the Passover seder service.
Arbah'ah minim FOUR SPECIES; the four different plants which form an obligatory part of the rite of Sukkot
Arbeh Locust
Archon Communal officer for the independent Jewish community (kehillah) in the Greek and Roman period.
Armiya Jeremiah
Aron Kodesh Holy Ark; the receptacle in the synagogue in which the Torah scrolls are kept.
Arraby Moor Official title for the chief rabbi of Portugal from the 13th century.
Arusah Affianced bride.
Arvit "Evening" prayer; one of the three regular daily services.
Asarah Batlanim "Men of leisure"; originally an honourable title conferred on those who either wholly or partly abstained from work to free themselves for community service.
Ashkavah, Hashkavah "Laying to rest"; prayer for the dead.
Ashkenaz, Askkenazim Designation of the first relatively compact area of settlement of Jews in N.W. Europe, initially on the banks of the Rhine. The term became identified with, and denotes in its narrower sense, Germany, German Jewry, and German Jews ("Ashkenazim"), as well as their descendants in other countries.
Ashrei "Happy are they"; the first word and the name of a reading from the Book of Psalms.
Ashtoreth Deliberately corrupted name for a pagan goddess.
Asmakhta "Support" or "reliance", a legal term.
Asmodeus, Ashmedai An "evil spirit" or "evil demon".
Aspamia A name for Spain.
Av Name of the fifth month in the Jewish year.
Av bet din "Father of the law court"; title of one who presided over a Jewish ecclesiastical court.
Av Ha-rahamim "Merciful Father"; memorial prayer for Jewish martyrs and martyred communities.
Avazim Christian reform movement, the Hussites, also known as "Benei Hushim".
Avedah Literally "lost and found", lost property.
Avelut Mourning, the expression of grief and sorrow over a death, especially a parent.
Avinu Malkenu "Our Father, our King"; a litany recited during the Ten Days of Penitence and, in some rites, on fast days.
Avodah "Service"; name for Temple ritual, applied to the central part of the Musaf liturgy on the Day of Atonement.
Avodah Zarah "Idolatrous Worship"; tractate of the Mishnah.
Avot "Fathers" or, as it is frequently referred to, Pirkei Avot, "the Chapters of the Fathers"; treatise of the Mishnah.
Avot Nezikin "Fathers of Damage"; the classification of torts.
Ayin ha-Ra "The eye of the evil"; a widespread belief that some persons may produce malevolent effects on others by looking at them.
Azazel A goat in the Day of Atonement ceremony, on the head of which were conferred the sins of the people. This goat represented Satan.
Azeret Word used in the Bible to convey "a general assembly" (Amos 5:21), or a "concluding celebration" (2 Chronicles 7:9).
Azharot, Azharah "Warning"; a category of liturgical poems for the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).
Azilut A short treatise schematizing the theories of the older Kabbalah (tradition).