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Jewish Terms and their Meanings

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Safek A legal term expressing doubt or uncertainty.
Sakhir Hired worker, as opposed to a slave.
Sambatyon A legendary river across which part of the ten tribes were exiled by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser.
Sandak, Sandek The godfather who holds the male child upon his knees during the circumcision ceremony, assisting the "Mohel". See also "Mohel".
Sanhedrin The Great Academy; the supreme political, religious, and judicial body in Palestine during the Roman period. The word is derived from the Greek "sunhedrion" which means "sitting together".
Sar ha-Panim Name of an angel who is accorded a special position in esoteric doctrine from the tannaitic period on. Same as "Metatron".
Saris, Sarisim This word has two distinct meanings: firstly it means "eunuch"; secondly it means "high-ranking government officers or officials". Jeremiah 29:2 illustrates these high positions. Some, like Potiphar (Genesis 39:1), were clearly married (Genesis 39:7) and not physically "eunuchs".
Savora, Savoraim Babylonian scholars between the amoraim and the geonim. Very little is known of this period.
Se'ah A measure of volume; about 3 gallons or 12 liters.
Se'udah A festive meal.
Se'udah Shelishit "Third meal"; name for the third meal eaten on the Sabbath. The eating of three meals on the Sabbath is considered by the rabbis as a positive commandment.
Se'udat Havra'ah The first meal a family has after a funeral.
Sedarim The 154 weekly portions into which the Pentateuch was divided in Palestine for the reading of the Torah in a 3-yearly cycle. See also "Parashiyyot".
Sedecla "Unrighteous"; name for the witch of Endor, she is also called "Zephaniah" for "the hidden one".
Seder "Order," and "arrangement".
Seder Eliyahu Rabbah According to the Talmud the prophet Elijah came to the third century Babylonian "amora" R. Anan and taught him this Midrash.
Seder Eliyahu Zuta Same as Seder Eliyahu Rabbah.
Seder Olam Rabbah "The Greater Order of the World"; midrashic, chronological work.
Seder Olam Zuta "The Small Order of the World"; midrashic, chronological work.
Seder Yoma Tractate of the Mishnah.
Sefarim Hizonim "External books"; uncanonical books.
Sefer Beriat ha-Olam, Bere'shit The Book of Genesis
Sefer ha-Azarah Temple Scroll; a part of the Dead Sea scrolls
Sefer ha-Bahir "Book of Bahir"; earliest work of kabbalistic literature, i.e. of that literature which adopts the specific approach and the symbolic structure characteristic of kabbalistic teaching.
Sefer ha-Kanah Book of Kanah; a kabbalistic work.
Sefer ha-Miknah Bill of divorce.
Sefer ha-Razim Book of secrets; early work of Jewish mystical literature.
Sefer ha-Temunah The book of Temunah; a kabbalistic book.
Sefer ha-Yashar Book of Jasher
Sefer ha-Zohar "The Book of Splendor"; the central work in the literature of the Kabbalah.
Sefer Keritut A bill of divorce.
Sefer Torah Scroll of the Law.
Sefer Yezirah The book of creation; the earliest extant Hebrew text of systematic, speculative thought.
Sefirah The 49 days before Pentecost.
Sefirat ha-Omer Same as Sefirah.
Sefirot Divine emanations.
Selihah, Selihot Penitential prayers.
Semahot Rabbinic text on death and mourning; also called "Evel"
Semikhah, Semicha The laying on of hands, a requirement for being a member of the Sanhedrin
Sephardi, Sephardim, Sefaradim Descendants of Jews who lived in Spain or Portugal before the expulsion of 1492. The term "Sephardim" is often erroneously used for other Jews of non-Ashkenazi origin.
Sha'arei Musar Haskel The name of a frequently printed ethical poem of the 11th century.
Sha'awah Wax
Shabbat Bereshit "The Sabbath of Genesis"; the first Sabbath after Tabernacles on which the new annual cycle of the Torah reading in synagogue begins.
Shabbat ha-Gadol "The great Sabbath"; Sabbath preceding Passover.
Shabbat Mevarekhim Announcement of the new moon; the Sabbath before the New Moon, following the reading of the haftarah, the reader leads the congregation in announcing and blessing the coming month.
Shabbateanism The largest and most momentous messianic movement in Jewish history subsequent to the destruction of the Temple and the Bar Kokhba Revolt.
Shabbos The Sabbath
Shabbos Goy A non-Jew who is told indirectly what things need to be done on the Sabbath (e.g. turn on lights, TV, oven, etc.).
Shadchun A marriage matchmaker.
Shaharit Dawn prayer, morning prayer.
Shahina Stew; traditionally prepared on Friday and placed in the oven before the Sabbath begins, to cook overnight and be eaten at Saturday lunch. Same as "Shulent".
Shalom Peace, safety, etc.
Shalom Akhshav "Peace Now"; Israeli peace movement.
Shalom Aleikhem Peace be upon you.
Shalosh Regalim The three pilgrim festivals in the year.
Shalosh Se'udot Third meal; same as "Se'udah Shelishit"
Shamerim Another name for "Samaritans".
Shammash Salaried minor official in the community, the synagogue, rabbinical court, or a hevrah.
Shanim mekutta'ot Literally "fragments of years"; an approach used in the Seder Olam to ascribe 1 year as the last year of one king and also as the first year of the next king. The effect is one of contracting the historical record.
Sharir ve-kayyam "Firm and established"; concluding clause in formal legal documents
Shatnez Also "shaatnez". This word refers to the prohibition against wearing clothing that contains both wool and linen.
Shavua Tov Literally "a good week"; said at the end of a Sabbath.
Shavuot Pentecost
She'elah Loan for use and return; relates to "utensils" (kelim).
She'elot u' Teshuvot "Queries and Replies"; a rabbinic term denoting an exchange of letters in which one party consults another on a halakhic matter.
Shehelet One of the ingredients of incense, onycha.
Shehitah The Jewish method of slaughtering permitted animals or birds for food. See also "Shohet".
Shehitat Hullin "Profane"; tractate of the Mishnah.
Shekez Abomination
Shekhinah "Dwelling" or "resting"; refers most often in rabbinic literature to the numinous immanence of God in the world. ["Numinous" means "mysterious power suggesting the presence of God", and "immanence" refers to "existing in all parts of the universe".]
Sheli'ah Zibbur "Envoy or messenger of the community"; a person who in public synagogue worship officiates as reader and cantor.
Sheluhei Erez Israel "Emissaries of Erez Israel"; name for messengers from Erez Israel sent abroad as emissaries to raise funds.
Shema The twice daily reading of Deuteronomy 6:4.
Shemini Azeret The Last Great Day of Leviticus 23:26, the 8th day of assembly.
Shemira Safekeeping
Shemittah Sabbatical year and jubilee.
Shemoneh Esreh Literally "eighteen"; popular name for the Amidah prayer. See also "Amidah".
Shemot Book of Exodus
Shemurah mazzah Special mazzot, prepared from wheat which has been under observation from the time of reaping or grinding.
Shenhab Ivory
Sheol The grave, abode of the dead.
Shetar Formal legal document, for the biblical tern "sefer".
Shevi'it "Seventh Year"; tractate of the Mishnah.
Shevu'ah Oath
Shi'bud, Shi'bud Nekhasim A lien over all the debtor's property. Also called "Aharayut Nekhasim".
Shiddukhin Betrothal; the mutual promise between a man and a woman to contract a marriage at some future time; see also "Erusin".
Shiflut Humility
Shikhhah "Forgotten produce"; left on the land for the poor to glean.
Shikkaron Drunkenness
Shikkuz Abomination
Shiksa A derogatory term for a non-Jewish female. See also "Shkutz".
Shinena Keen witted, sharp witted, clever person.
Shir ha-Kavod "Song of Glory"; also called Anim Zemirot ("Let me chant sweet hymns"); synagogue hymn.
Shir ha-Shirim Song of Songs; Song of Solomon.
Shirha ma'a lot Song of Ascent; superscription of Psalms 120–134.
Shittah, Shittim Acacia trees
Shivah The seven days of mourning following a burial.
Shkutz A derogatory term for a non-Jewish male. See also "Shiksa".
Shofar Ram's horn, used as a trumpet.
Shoher Tov "Seeker of Good"; the name of an edition of Midrash Tehillim.
Shohet, Shohatim Ritualistic slaughterer of clean animals. See also "Shehitah".
Sholem Zokhor "Peace to the male child"; name of a traditional home ceremony held on the first Friday evening after the birth of a boy.
Shomer Kashrut inspector; see also "Kashrut".
Shomerim Guards, those who sit with a body until it is buried.
Shor ha-bar Wild bull
Shovavim tat An acrostic composed of the initial letters of the names of the first eight weekly Torah portions of the Book of Exodus, which are read in the winter months between Hanukkah and Purim. See also "Sidrot" and "Tikkun shovevim".
Shteeble A small synagogue.
Shtetl Yiddish diminutive for "city" or "town".
Shu'al Fox
Shukkel The swaying back and forth during prayer or study; commonly seen at the Wailing Wall.
Shul Another name for "Synagogue", Jewish house of worship.
Shulent Stew; traditionally prepared on Friday and placed in the oven before the Sabbath begins, to cook overnight and be eaten at Saturday lunch. Same as "Shahina".
Shulhan Arukh "The prepared table"; name of a code written by Joseph Caro.
Shurut Arabic for "covenant".
Shvigger Yiddish term for mother-in-law.
Siddur Prayer books. The writing down of the text of blessings and prayers was considered forbidden ("writers of blessings are like those who burn the Torah," Tosef. to Shab. 13:4; Shab. 115b; TJ, Shab. 16:1, 15c). After the completion of the Talmud, however, this prohibition was disregarded. Also used to mean a daily prayer book.
Sidrot Torah portions read on different days.
Sifra "A book"; halakhic Midrash to the Book of Leviticus; a collection of tannaitic beraitot.
Sifrei "Books"; a halakhic Midrash to the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy. As early as amoraic times the word sifrei was employed as the designation for a collection of halakhic beraitot.
Sifrei Zuta A halakhic Midrash to the Book of Numbers; a collection of tannaitic beraitot.
Simhah Joy
Simhat Torah "Rejoicing of the Torah"; a festival day observed on the same day as "Shemini Azeret" in Israel, and one day later in the Diaspora.
Siyyum "Conclusion"; designation for celebrations held on certain occasions.
Siyyum ha-Shas The celebration held at the conclusion of the study of a Talmud tractate or of the whole Talmud.
Siyyum Sefer Torah A consecration ceremony held at the conclusion of the writing of a new Torah Scroll.
Sod "Mystery," i.e. the esoteric interpretation.
Sofer, Soferim Scribes; during the Second Temple period the word came to denote a specific class of scholars.
Somrei Sabat Christian sect in Transylvania. Founded in the 1580s in central Transylvania, the sect had distinct anti-Trinitarian trends. During its long history the sect passed from denial of the Trinity to rejection of the New Testament until it approached very close to Judaism. The inhabitants of the Transylvanian village Bezidul Nou, the majority of whom were adherents of the sect, converted to Judaism in 1868 - 69, and their descendants were completely absorbed into Judaism.
Sotah "Suspected wife" or "wayward woman"; a woman suspected of adultery that cannot be legally proved is to be brought by her husband to the priest for an ordeal of jealousy.
Sukkah A booth; dwelling place for Tabernacles.
Sukkot, Succoth The Feast of Tabernacles.
Synagogue Assembly; the meeting place for the congregation for religious services.