Home » Glossary


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 20 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 18,294 hits

Abraham Geiger

(1810-1874), German rabbi and scholar and one of the founders of Reform Judaism

Ahad Ha-Am

(1856-1927), pen name for Asher ZH Ginsberg, Hebrew writer and influential Zionist thinker

Apocryphal writings

Books excluded from Jewish canon of Hebrew Bible

Arius (‘Arian Controversy’)

(c.256–336) Christian leader in Alexandria, Egypt. The Arian Controversy involved a conflict over the interpretation of the Trinity, the Christian doctrine of monotheism which unites God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as a single deity.


Nazi racist definition of people deemed to be superior to ‘non-Aryans’ , i.e. those with Jewish ancestry.

avodah zarah

(Hebrew), lit. ‘foreign worship’, idolatry


(Yiddish), Jewish comedian and satirist, particular at weddings


(Hebrew), lit. “house of learning’, study hall


(German), cultivation and realisation of one’s intellectual talents and dispositions


(Yiddish), short for The General Jewish Labour Bund of Lithuania, Poland and Russia, a secular Jewish socialist party in the Russian Empire, which was active in 1897-1920

Hermann Cohen

(1842-1918), German-Jewish philosopher


(Spanish/Portuguese), converts, Jews or Muslims and their descendants who converts to Catholicism in Spain and Portugal during the 14th and 15th centuries, often under duress


Christian teachings about Jesus Christ and his significance in salvation history


The Hebrew Bible refers to a series of covenants God made with the patriarchs of the Jewish people (Genesis 12-17; 27; Deuteronomy 1:7-8). Christians understand the Eucharist as instituting another covenant which either supersedes, parallels, or extends the covenant between God and the Jewish people.


The charge that ‘the Jews’ killed Christ


Legal contract regulating the residence of Jews and Christians in Islamic law.

Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezhirech

(c. 1710-1772), disciple of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Hasidic Judaism) and his successor who consolidated the Hasidic movement

Eretz Israel

(Hebrew), the Land of Israel


A Jewish sect that existed from the 2nd century BCE to the first century CE


(Hebrew), bill of divorce that is given by husband to his wife to make a divorce legally valid


(Hebrew/Yiddish), non-Jew, gentile

Heinrich Graetz

(1817-1891), pioneering Jewish historian and author of the momentous and highly influential “History of the Jews”


(Hebrew), lit. ‘the way to go’, collective body of Jewish law


(Hebrew), ‘pious’, individual known for unusual piety and devotion


(Hebrew), relating to Hasidism, a mystical branch of Orthodox Judaism


(Hebrew), something that is set apart, excluded, doomed to destruction

R. Hillel

(died 10CE), Jewish leader and scholar who founded a rabbinic tradition

Titus Flavius Josephus

(37-c.100), Roman-Jewish historian, author of the ‘The Jewish War’ and ‘Jewish Antiquities’


(Hebrew), lit. ‘receiving’, mystical tradition within Rabbinic Judaism


(Yiddish), robe, burial shroud for male Jews, also worn in some traditions on Yom Kippur and by bridegroom on his wedding day


(Hebrew/Yiddish), lit. ‘vessels of music’ (instruments), East European musical tradition

Kol Nidre

(Aramaic), lit. ‘all vows’, declaration recited in synagogue before beginning of evening service on Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), can also refer to entire evening service on Yom Kippur

Liberal Judaism

A form of Progressive Judaism, which developed since the beginning of the 20th century


(216-276), prophet and founder of Manichaeism, a popular Gnostic religion of late antiquity


A site of ancient palaces and fortifications overlooking the Dead Sea, site of Jewish mass suicide in the wake of a prolonged Roman siege


(Hebrew), unleavened bread traditionally eaten during Passover holiday (based on Ex 12:8 and 18; Dt 16:3 and 8)

Menasseh ben Israel

(1604-1657), Portuguese rabbi, writer and diplomat whose Messianic expectations led to his campaign for the readmission of Jews to England


(Yiddish), a person of integrity


(Hebrew), lit. ‘to study’, homiletic method of biblical exegesis


(Hebrew), bath used for ritual immersion in Judaism

Mishnah, or Mishna

(Hebrew), the first redaction of oral traditions and the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism (c. 220CE)


‘Commandments’ which guide Jewish daily life

Noahide Laws

A set of seven Talmudic conditions non-Jews must meet in order for Jews to be allowed to forge economic and social relationships with them. These were formulated when Jews began to live largely in the Diaspora. These are the prohibition of idolatry, or murder, of theft, of sexual immorality, of blasphemy, of eating flesh from a living animal, and the institution of a legal system.


(Greek), the study of the ‘nature of being/existence’

Orthodox Judaism

(A traditional(ist) Jewish movement originating in central Europe in the late 18th early 19th century, which adheres to the principles of Halakhah


(German), (often pejoratively used for) East European Jews


Middle Persian, Western Iranian language spoken during Sassanid times (224-654 CE)


(Hebrew), sidelocks, based on rabbinical interpretation (Makkoth 20a) of Lev 19:27


(Hebrew), Passover; holiday commemorating the story of the Exodus


Political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period under the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 BCE)

Pseudepigraphical writings

Falsely attributed books whose claimed authorship is unfounded


(Hebrew), a liturgical poem


(Hebrew), rabbinic scholar and teacher

Raskolnik communities

Religious groups dissenting from Russian-Orthodox church and often persecuted by Russian governments


(Yiddish), a leader and spiritual figure in the Hasidic movement

Reform Judaism

A liberal Jewish denomination dating back to early 19th century Germany

Rosh Hashanah

(Hebrew, literally ‘head of the year’), Jewish New Year celebrated in the autumn

Sabbatai Zevi

(1626-1676), scholar and kabbalist who claimed to be the Messiah and attracted many followers before being forced to convert to Islam


(Hebrew), a Jew born in the State of Israel


A Jewish sect from the Second Temple period (2nd century BCE-70CE)


(Yiddish), unlucky or awkward person


(Yiddish), colloquial for (large) penis

Second Vatican Council

A Council of the Roman Catholic Church concerned with its relationship to the modern world. It met in Rome from October 1962 – December 1965

Sefer HaRazim (book)

Kabbalistic text, probably dating from the third or fourth century

R. Shammai

(50BCE-30CE), Jewish scholar, founder of the rabbinical school ‘House of Shammai’


(Hebrew), lit. ‘catastrophe’, Holocaust, the genocide of six million European Jews during World War II

Shema Yisrael

(Hebrew), lit. ‘Hear, Israel’, central Jewish prayer that affirms belief in monotheistic God


(Yiddish), small town with substantial Jewish population


(Yiddish), lit. ‘abomination’, pejorative or ironic term for non-Jewish woman


(Yiddish), lit. ‘penis’, used as a pejorative for an obnoxious person


(Yiddish), lit. ‘piece’, a comic theme or gimmick

Sitz im Leben

(German), in Bible criticism for ‘setting in life’, referring to context of text

Sturm und Drang

(German), ‘Storm and stress’, a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music

Sword of Moses (book),

Apocryphical Hebrew book of magic


(Hebrew), ‘instruction, learning’, the most authoritative sacred text of Rabbinic Judaism


Acronym for the books of the Hebrew Bible


Rabbinic scholars from the Mishnaic Period (c. 70-200CE)


(Hebrew), ‘instruction’, the five books of Moses and the foundation of Judaism


(Aramaic), ‘supplements’, a compilation of Jewish oral law from c. 200CE

Teshuvah / metanoia

(Hebrew / Greek), repentance, return

Tzaddiq/ zaddik

(Hebrew), ‘righteous one’

Wissenschaft des Judentums

(German) A 19th century scholarly movement dedicated to the scientific and secular study of Jewish literature and culture

Yom Kippur

(Hebrew), Day of Atonement


Political movement in first century against the Roman occupation


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: