Vocabulary of Jewish Life


Holiday words:

Etrog - A citrus fruit, grown in Israel, described in the Torah as the fruit of the beautiful tree.

Hag Ha'urim - Festival of lights, another name for Hanukkah.

Hanukiah - The 9 branched candelabra (menorah) used for Hanukkah.

Hol Hamoed - Partial festival days.  Refers to the days that fall in between the Yom Tov days of Sukkot and Pesah.

La”g Ba’omer - The 33rd day of the Omer, a day marked by festivities and bonfires in Israel.  In Gematria, Lamed = 30 and Gimel = 3 

Menorah - A generic candelabra, with any number of branches.  Also, the 7 branched candelabra that was in the Temple.

Omer - A measure of barley.  In Temple times, the first offering from the new season’s barley crop was brought on Shavuot.

S'chach - The covering for the Sukkah, consisting of cornstalks, bamboo poles, branches, or anything else that was harvested from the ground.

Sefirat Ha’Omer - The counting of the Omer.  The counting of the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot.

Shamash - "Server" - The extra candle that is used to light the Hanukkah lights.

Yamim Noraim - the days of awe.  Refers to the period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Tikkun Leil Shavuot - A custom, originating in the world of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, of spending the entire first night of Shavuot engaged in Torah study in preparation for receiving the Torah anew on the first morning of Shavuot.

Yom Tov, Hag - Festival days, such as the first two days of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Simhat Torah, Shavuot, and the first and last two days of Pesah.


Liturgical words:

Beracha - a blessing, usually starting with "Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha'olam …"

Chumash - The Pentateuch, the five books of Moses - Bereshit (Genesis), Sh'mot (Exodus), Vayikra (Leviticus), Bamidbar (Numbers), and D'varim (Deuteronomy).  The Chumash also contains the Haftarah.

Gelilah - rolling shut the Torah, and dressing it.

Golel(et) - the person who does Gelilah.

Haftarah - A selection from Nevi'im, the Prophets.

Hagbah - lifting the Torah after the Torah reading.

Magbiah/ha - the person who does Hagbah.

Hallel - A series of Halleluyah Psalms (113-118) of praise to God, recited on certain festive days in the Jewish calendar.

Havdalah - The ceremony concluding Shabbat, consisting of blessings over wine, spices, a three-wicked candle, and the separation between Shabbat and the weekdays.

Kabbalat Shabbat - A service on Friday evenings, originating in the world of Kabbalah, consisting of six Psalms (one for each day of the week, Sunday - Friday) followed by the hymn Lekha Dodi, welcoming Shabbat, and concluded by two final Psalms, including the Psalm for Shabbat.

Ma’ariv - The evening service.

Mi Sheberach - "May He who blessed." A prayer recited during the Torah service for those who have had an Aliyah, for those who are ill, or for those who are celebrating a festive occasion.

Shaliah Tzibur - the person, representing the congregation, leading the service.

Parasha or Sidra - The section of the Torah read on a Shabbat morning.  The Torah is divided into 54 Parashot.  In order to finish the Torah in exactly one year if the year has lest than 54 weeks two Parashot may be combined and read together on several Shabbatot during the week.

Shaharit -The Morning service.

Siddur - The prayer book.

Sidra - See Parasha.

Tana"kh - A Hebrew acronym for Torah, Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings), the three parts of the Hebrew Bible.


Calender words:

Rosh Hodesh - the new month.  The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar.  Every new moon is the beginning of another month.

Adar Rishon/Adar Sheni - Since a lunar year is shorter than a solar year, in order for our holidays to occur at the proper season, 7 times during every 19 year cycle, we need to add a leap month to adjust the calendar.  The extra month is inserted just after the month of Adar, before Pesach.  The added month is known as Adar Sheni, second Adar; the first Adar is thus called Adar Rishon.

Tishre, Heshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar, Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul - The twelve months of the Hebrew calendar.


Miscellaneous words:

Kabbalah - Jewish Mysticism.

Maimonides (1135-1204, Spain and Egypt) - Also know as Ramba"m, a Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (in Hebrew, the double quotation mark indicates an abbreviation).  One of the greatest Halachists and Philosophers in Jewish history.  He was also a world renowned physician of the royal court in Cairo.

Tzedakah - Often translated as charity, which comes from a Latin root meaning love.  The Hebrew root of the word carries a sense of justice.  The difference is that we don't necessarily give Tzedakah only out of a sense of love - we should give out of a sense of justice, because it is the right thing to do.

Pikuach nefesh - “preserving life.”

Teshuvah - In English, responsa.  Literally, the root of the word means ‘to come back,’ and from that we get the two primary meanings of ‘repentance’ and ‘answer’.  In the context this bulletin article, a teshuvah is an answer to a halachic question.

Kiddush Hashem - “Sanctification of the (God’s) name,” martyrdom.

Halakha - the system of Jewish law, based on the Torah, and developed through the Rabbinic documents of Mishnah, Gemarah (which together comprise Talmud), the Codes, and responsa literature.

Midrash - Homiletical and/or exegetical Rabbinic writings and commentary on Tanakh.

Beit Sefer B'yahad/United Jewish School

United Jewish School

United Jewish School

The United Jewish School is jointly operated by the Conservative congregation of Ahavas Israel and the Reform congregation of Temple Emanuel. The enrollment ranges from Gan Katan (2-4 year olds) through 12th grade. The school employs an administrative director, a curriculum director, and a large staff of teachers. On Sunday, class is held from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Temple Emanuel and the Wednesday Hebrew program is held from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at Congregation Ahavas Israel.

The United Jewish School establishes an school environment for children and families, utilizing the latest teaching methodologies and curriculum which responds to the needs of a diverse student population and strengthens the students’ awareness of Israel and Jewish issues. It is a warm and caring place where children want to attend.

For more information, see the school’s website at :www.unitedjewishschool.org (will open a new window)


Thank you also to Congregation Ahavas Israel, Temple Emanuel and Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids.  Without their spiritual and financial support our school would not be such a great success!

Please take the time to remember the school in your contributions.  We have a beautiful tribute card that can be sent in memory of someone, for a special occasion or just for a simple ‘thank you’.


Shopping and Kosher Food

Scrip Program

Did you know that studies show that an organization of only 150 families spends between one and two million dollars per year on food, clothing and other essentials? If these families use scrip for these purchases, they can raise as much as $40,000 per year - without spending an additional penny.The over 300 merchants participating in the Scrip program offer us a way to generate revenue with purchases we make anyway!Click here for the most up-to-date Scrip Order Form.

Kosher Challah

Wealthy Street Bakery: All ingredients in the following products are certified kosher.  The preparation and baking is carried out in a way so as not to come in contact with non-kosher ingredients.  Mixing bowls are used only for bread, and are washed after being used for dairy products, prior to being used for the parve breads.  Breads containing cheese are not kosher supervised; seasonal breads have not been checked. Parve Breads: French, Country White Sourdough, Baguettes, Whole-Grain Health, Dinner Rolls, Hearty Wheat, Sunflower Flax, Multi-Grain, Rye, Onion Rye, Cottage Oat, 100% Whole Wheat, Challah, Vegan Challah (made without eggs).Dairy Breads: Brioche, Cinnamon, Cinnamon Raisin.Note - The bread slicer is used for Dairy, Parve, and non-Kosher breads, and cannot be cleaned in between.  Therefore, sliced bread is not under kosher supervision.

Kosher Meat in Grand Rapids Area

Trader Joe's

Ada Valley Frozen Foods

Forest Hills Foods

Kosher Meat in the Detroit Area

For Deli - Busch's Fresh Food Market, West Bloomfield location

One Stop Kosher, 25155 Greenfield Road, Southfield, MI 48075, (248) 569-5000

Harvard Row Kosher Meat and Poultry, 6221 Orchard Lake Road

Kosher Meat Online


KOLfoods.com - Grass Fed Organic Meat

Jewish Resources and Learning

Local Area Jewish Organizations


Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids

Temple Emanual Grand Rapids


Other sites of interest

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

Hebrew Free Loan of Metropolitan Detroit (for interest-free loans for college education, job training, home repair, medical/dental expenses, small business start-up costs, adoption, auto repairs, establishing a home, and more)

Spielberg Film Archive

GereiTzedek - a discussion group for Conversion to Judaism


Torah Study links

Haftarah commentary from the USCJ

Jewish Ideas Daily

Parashat Hashavuah at the AJU

Torah from the JTS

Torah from the Masorti movement in Israel

Torah from the Masorti movement in London

Torah from the USCJ


Holiday/Lifecycle/Ethics study links

Jewish Freeware.org

Jewish Values Online



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Star Tribune/ Your Voices

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The Tisch

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