Glossary of Hebrew expressions for site

This post provides a glossary of Hebrew expressions on this site.


Talmud, which signifies "study," is devoted to the ORAL Torah first transmitted to Moses at Mount Sinai. It was maintained as an oral tradition for centuries until the First Century C.E. The core of the ORAL Torah is the Mishnah, or codification of the Halachah, compiled by the Tannaim (scholars/teachers) beginning with R. Akiva and ending with R. Judah Ha-Nasi (who died in 217 C.E.). It was written in Hebrew. Somewhat later the Amoraim (interpreters/speakers/expounders) compiled The Talmudic commentaries. (In fact there are actually two Talmuds, the more authoritative Babylonian Talmud, and the less esteemed Palestinian Talmud, both written in dialects of Aramaic, the language of the people. R. Ravina completed the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud in 499 C.E.)


Torah” refers to the Five Books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But the word "torah" can also be used to refer to the entire Jewish bible (the body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and to Jews as the Tanakh or Written Torah), or in its broadest sense, to the whole body of Jewish law and teachings.

 Shabbat (shah-BAT; SHAH-bis)

Lit. end, cease, rest. The Jewish Sabbath is a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. As part of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) it is essentially a specific commandment of the Torah for a Jew to observe this day and “to make it holy.”

 Mitzvah (MITS-vuh); pl: Mitzvot (mits-VOHT)

Lit. commandment. Any of the 613 commandments, both active and passive, that Jews are obligated to observe. It can also refer to any Jewish religious obligation, or more generally to any good deed. There are also 7 Universal Mitzvot for all of mankind to observe.

13 Principles of Faith

The most widely-accepted code of principles of the Jewish faith. It appears prominent It is attributed to Maimonides (1135-1204), one of the greatest sages in Jewish history.

Messianic Synagogues

Messianic” is a term than can be used in specific reference to Jewish and Christian traditions but extended to include any religious tradition focused on a belief in the immanent appearance of a saving figure. So called, “Messianic Synagogues” are houses of worship where Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus gather for prayer. They tend to be decorated like traditional Jewish houses of worship in their attempt to obscure the fact that they are actually believers in Fundamentalist Christianity.

Chassidic (khah-SID-ic)

From the word Hebrew word "Chasid" meaning pious. “Chassidim” (pl) are individuals who approach observance of Torah based on the principles of the Baal Shem Tov, 18th Century mystic and charismatic leader. Today, many branches of these Orthodox Jews maintain a lifestyle separate from the non-Jewish world, in terms of language, dress, and attitude toward secular, worldly issues.

Neshama (ne-sha-mah)

This expression is related to the Hebrew word ”neshima”, which literally translates as breath. Judaism teaches that God “breathes” into man the “spirit of life” when He is creates him. Traditionally, Jews believe that the neshama outlives the body and that it represents the component of man that is eternal.


The language of Ashkenazic, (central and eastern European) Jewry. Written in the Hebrew alphabet, Yiddish became one of the world's most widespread languages, appearing in most countries with a Jewish population by the 19th century. Along with Hebrew and Aramaic, it is one of the three major literary languages in Jewish history.

Pintele Yid

This Yiddish expression literally translates as “the little Jew.” In practice, however, it is used in reference to the little spark of a Jew’s soul that can never absolutely abandon its connection to its God and His people.

Kabbalah (ka-ball-lah), Kabbalsitic (ka-ball-listic)

also spelled Kabala, Kabbala, Cabala, Cabbala, or Cabbalah (Hebrew: “Tradition”), esoteric Jewish mysticism as it appeared in the 12th and following centuries. Kabbalah has always been essentially an oral tradition in that initiation into its doctrines and practices is conducted by a personal guide to avoid the dangers inherent in mystical experiences. Esoteric Kabbalah is also “tradition” inasmuch as it lays claim to secret knowledge of the unwritten Torah (divine revelation) that was communicated by God to Adam and Moses. Though observance of the Law of Moses has remained the basic tenet of Judaism, Kabbalah has provided certain sects of Jews, mainly Chassidic (see glossary above) an additional means of approaching God directly, and uniquely.