A glossary!

This is for Judaism-related terms that come up on the main site whose meanings people may well not know.

To search this glossary for (e.g.) משנה, type

is:answer inquestion:this משנה

in the search box at the top-right corner of this page and hit Enter. Note, though, that that effort may be stymied if you search using one transliteration of a word and the word is listed here with a different transliteration.

If you want the definition of a term you came across on the site, please add it without a definition, and (hopefully) someone will define it.

To those who follow a link here: If you see an answer that's inaccurate or misleading, or could be better, please go ahead and modify it if you have the knowledge.

Here's a general format for a simple entry:

עברית - english (along with any common variants)

Definition goes here, or a links to the term's tag wiki if there is one, possibly a link to Wikipedia or other reference.

For information on typing in Hebrew, have a look at this question.

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@neilfein, but they can't become encyclopedia articles. I was thinking a five-to-ten-word definition and perhaps a link to Wikipedia or somewhere. –  msh210 Dec 25 '11 at 20:27
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What do the votes signify? –  Shmuel Brin Dec 25 '11 at 22:41
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@yydl, 48=22+26 is how many letters there are in the English and Hebrew alphabets, so how many answers we would have had had we gone with the one-answer-per-initial-letter-of-the-term method, which we seem not to be doing. See also today's transcript from the site chat room. As for noteworthiness or what-have-you, the way I figure, a word that appears on judaism.se and needs explanation should go here; what do you think? –  msh210 Dec 26 '11 at 0:42
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38 Answers 38

CYLOR, CYLR

A disclaimer, short for "Consult Your Local (Orthodox) Rabbi". For more information see the FAQ, specifically the section on how to treat advice from this site.

Note: "CYLOR" may not be appropriate in all cases (where assuming one is Orthodox could cause friction).

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Based on the comment for this revision: Again, the orthodox bias of this site is clear. –  neilfein Apr 16 '12 at 18:26
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אסור — asur, ossur — forbidden; especially: forbidden by halacha

contrasted with

מותר — mutar — permitted; especially: permitted by halacha

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מחלוקת - mahaloket, machlokes

Argument: difference of opinion. (Connotation can be positive/neutral, as in disagreements about law, or negative, as in quarrels.)

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הגבהה — hagbah, hagbaha

[lit. "raising"] — (a) the ritual raising of an open Torah scroll before/after it's read from; (b) raising personal property to effect a transfer of ownership

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תכלת‎ - techelet, t'cheiles

A particular blue dye used for tzitzit and other uses.

(, tag info)

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לכתחילה — lechatechila, l'hat'hila — from the outset

contrasted with

בדיעבד — bediavad, b'dieved — after some action was taken

Example usage: You may not cook it l'chat'chila but b'diavad, if you cooked it, you may eat it.

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גמרא - gemara — The body of talmudic analysis of and commentary to the Mishna, found in the Babylonian Talmud and Jerusalem Talmud. (More at Wikipedia.)

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ציצית - tzitzit, tzitzis, sisit

Fringe on a garment. See the tag wiki, also Wikipedia.

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בשר בחלב — basar b'chalavalsoבשר וחלב — basar v'chalav

  1. milk and meat together (where "together" can be to any of various degrees depending on context)
  2. the set of rules regarding such admixture
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הלכה — halacha, halakha

  1. Jewish law, including civil law, religious rites, criminal law, etc. ("but halacha says to do...") (singular only)
  2. a specific Jewish law ("there's a halacha that one may...")
  3. a paragraph in any of various law books ("see chapter 3 halacha 4 in the Y'rushalmi")

הלכות, halachot, halachos — plural noun

הלכות, hilchot, hilchos — plural construct noun — "the halachot of..."

halachic — adjective —

  1. accepted by halacha ("a halachic solution", "an halakhic dress code")
  2. in halacha ("an halachic distinction")
  3. of or about halacha ("a halakhic ruling", "a halachic term paper")

halachically — adverb

See also and its tag description.

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משנה — mishna

  1. a body of law compiled circa 200 CE (circa 4000 anno mundi). More at Wikipedia.
  2. a paragraph in that work. plural: משניות — mishnayot, mishnayos
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היתר — heter

  1. an halachic ruling that something is permitted ("issued a heter", "got a heter")
  2. grounds for permitting something ("couldn't find a heter for...")
  3. the state of being permitted ("היתר במות")

contrasted with

איסור,‎ אסור — isur, issur

  1. a prohibition: a law prohibiting something
  2. the state of being prohibited
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מראית עין — maarit ayin, maris ayin — [lit. "vision of the eye"] — the act of something that looks like a forbidden activity, although it is not.

Generally used in the context of avoiding an activity, not because it is forbidden per se, but because it looks like a forbidden activity and might create the false impression that the forbidden activity is actually permitted. For example, a Jew who keeps kosher might attend a business luncheon in a non-kosher restaurant without eating anything. While this Jew consumed no non-kosher food, it could create the false impression that this restaurant's food is actually kosher.

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יוצא - yotzei — short for Yotzei Yedey Chovaso/Chovato — fulfilling his obligation.

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R', Rav, Rabbi, Rabi, Rebbe, Reb, Rov, R., Harav, Horav, ר׳,‎ רב,‎ רבי,‎ הרב,‎ הר׳ — all just mean "rabbi", a religious leader, especially one ordained as such by his teacher.

Plural: rabbonim, rabbanim, rabbeim, rebbeim, rabanim, רביים,‎ רבנים

(There are some slight differences among these terms. "Rebbe" is often reserved for a hasidic leader; "reb" sometimes used as a title for laymen. "Rebbeim" might teach in schools whereas "rabbonim" might lead synagogues.)

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‏(מ)דרבנן — (mi)d'rabananliterally (by) that of our rabbis — (by) rabbinic decree

‏(מ)דאורייתא — (mi)d'oraysa, (mi)deoraytaliterally (by) that of the Torah — (by) divine decree

(Note that laws mid'oraysa are generally considered to include not only those literally in the Pentateuch but also many derived therefrom by the rabbis or transmitted generation to generation from the time of the revelation on Mount Sinai.)

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השם – Hashem, HaShem – proper noun – literally The Name –

  • God (the one true god, the god of Judaism)

often abbreviated ה׳ or ד׳ or יי

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צניעות — tznius, tseniyutnoun — modesty, quietness

צנוע(ה)‏ — tzanua, senuʿahadjective — modest, quiet

Used to describe especially people and their clothes, but also their actions, manner of speaking, etc.

See also questions tagged and the tag's explanation.

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מלרע milra' and מלעיל mil'eil — preposition phrases (used as adjectives or adverbs) — when pronouncing Hebrew, where the stress is placed. Milra' stress is on the final syllable (e.g. sha-BAT, hav-da-LA); mil'eil stress is on the penultimate syllable (e.g. sha-MA-yim, ME-lech).

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בשוגג — Beshogeg; Shogeg — accidental; unintended; accidentally; unintentionally.

במזיד — Bemeizid; Meizid — purposeful; intentional; purposefully; intentionally.

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מחבר — mechaber, m'chaber, mehabernoun

  1. composer, author
  2. ("the mechaber") specifically, the author of Shulchan Aruch
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בטל ברב — Battel Berov — nullified in the majority.

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מלאכה — melacha — labor, work; especially:

  1. acts, collectively, that are forbidden on the sabbath and festivals ("does that count as melachah?")
  2. any of the 39 major categories of acts forbidden on the sabbath and festivals ("the melacha of kindling also includes adding fuel to a fire")

plural — מלאכות — m'lachos, melachot

construct — מלאכת — meleches, m'lechet

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שיתוף‎ - shittuf - Belief in God along with an additional deity; partnership of deities.

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עבודה זרה – avodah zarah – noun – literally foreign worship

  1. singular only – idol worship, idolatry
  2. colloquially countable – a (false of course) god other than (the true) God
  3. proper noun – the name of a tractate of the Talmud that deals with idolatry and other topics

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בל תשחית – bal tashchis, bal tashchit

(literally - "do not destroy")

The commandment that forbids senseless waste. Biblically, it refers to cutting down fruit trees, but rabbinically, it has been applied to many things including throwing out food, tearing clothing, and killing animals (for reasons other than food).

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סימן — siman — sign, marker; specifically:

  1. Chapter. (Used only for citations to certain works.)
  2. Any of certain foods eaten the night of Rosh Hashana (see e.g. a question about them).
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להבדיל — lehavdil, l'havdil — literally to separate

  • used when comparing God to another being, the Torah to another book, Judaism to another creed, and Jews to Gentiles
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@AdamMosheh No need to make someone look up two things. –  Double AA Jul 22 '12 at 21:43
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ברכת המזון — Birkat Hamazon, Bentching, Benchingnoun

A specific prayer said after a bread-based meal. The text varies slightly by community tradition. More at Wikipedia. See also .

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קבלה – kabbalah, kabala – noun – literally acceptance, receiving, receipt –

  1. a particular branch of Jewish study, often called "mysticism" (see also a question on it) ("he was studying kabbalah");
    sometimes coordinated with halacha ("according to kabbalah one shouldn't...")
  2. a mesorah or tradition that one has received from his forebears or teachers ("I have a kabbalah that I'm a descendent of King David's")
  3. something one has accepted upon himself ("I made a kabbala not to speak anything but words of Torah and prayer for one hour each day, starting at 10:00 a.m.")
  4. the certification accorded a ritual slaughterer, or the written proof thereof

kabbalos, kabalot – plural

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