Jewish Vocbulary

Here are some words used in the Hebrew Vocabulary.

BAR MITZVAH – n. Hebrew (BAR MIS-vah) Literally, “son of the commandment.” When a Jewish boy becomes 13, he is bound “by the commandment”; in other words, he is now responsible for fulfilling Jewish law. The phrase also refers to the boy himself. Although not mandated by Jewish law, the Bar Mitzvah ceremony has become an established custom. At a Bar Mitzvah ceremony, which usually takes place at Shabbat morning service, the young man will generally read from the Torah and give a speech.. During the Torah reading, family members and friends are honored. The ceremony is usually followed by a joyous party in the afternoon or evening that includes a meal, music and candle lighting.

BOYCHICK – n. Yiddish (BOY-chick) A young boy. Used as an affectionate way to address a man or boy; the equivalent of the American expression “buddy” or “kiddo.” Old fashioned usage.

BUBBELEH – n. Yiddish (BUH-beh-leh) Literally, “little grandmother.” A term of endearment for women of any age, similar to “darling” or “honey.”

HAVA NAGILA – n. Hebrew (HAH-vah nuh-GEEL-ah) Traditional Jewish melody, often played at the simchot (Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations and weddings). Guests often dance the hora, a circle dance, to the tune.

HEBREW- n. English 1. The scholarly and holy language of the Jews, used in prayer. A Semitic language, Hebrew was spoken by the ancient Israelites until the 2nd century B.C.E. when Aramaic took its place as the everyday language. It was not spoken again in the vernacular until modern times, when the State of Israel adopted Hebrew as its national language. 2. The term for Israelites and Judeans before the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C.E. From the Hebrew root ivri, perhaps meaning “one from the other side (of the Jordan River).”

HORA – n. Hebrew (HOE-rah) A traditional Romanian circle dance. This folk dance is the national dance of the State of Israel. The hora is a favorite dance at Jewish weddings and at Bar and Bat Mitzvah receptions. It is often danced to the song “Havah Nagila”

L’CHAIM – int. Hebrew (luh-KHYE-eem) Literally, “to life.” An age-old Jewish toast – “to your health”- said over wine or liquor with glasses raised.

MANISCHEWITZ – proper noun A sweet flavored 100% Kosher wine made and bottled under the strict Rabbinical supervision of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and traditionally served on most Jewish holidays.

MAZEL TOV – int. Hebrew (MAH-zul TOVE) “Good luck!” An expression of congratulations and best wishes used by Jews on happy occasions and achievements.

MENSCH – n. Yiddish (MENCH) Literally, “person.” A caring , decent person – man or woman – who can be trusted.

MESHUGGE – adj. Yiddish (meh-SHOO-gah) Crazy, nuts, cuckoo. N. meshuggener (male), meshuggeneh (female): An affectionate term for a crazy, nutty person.

NOSH – v. Yiddish (NOSH) 1. To have a little snack between meals, or to eat a little something before a meal is ready. 2. N. A snack, a small portion.

OY – int. Yiddish (OY) Perhaps the most popular Yiddish expression, oy conveys dozens of emotions, from surprise, joy, and relief to pain, fear and grief. Sometimes used as oy vay (short for oy vay iz mir), meaning “Oh, woe is me,) and oy gevalt, a cry of desperate protest.

RABBI – n. Hebrew (RAB-eye) Literally, “my teacher.” The title given to the spiritual leader of a Jewish congregation. A rabbi leads services, gives sermons, educates children and conceals the congregants in a synagogue.

SHABAT – n. Hebrew (shah-BAHT) The Jewish Sabbath; the day of rest. Shabbat begins at sunset of Friday night and ends Saturday evening when three stars are visible in the night sky. Shabbat is considered the most important day on the Jewish calendar.

SHABAT SHALOM – n. Hebrew (shah-BAHT shah-LOME) Literally, “Sabbath of Piece.” The greeting exchanged on Shabbat. It is customary for Jews to say “Shabbat Shalom” and kiss or shake hands with each other sitting around them in synagogue at the end of services.

SHEKEL – n. Hebrew (SHEH-kuhl) 1. The Silver coin, equal to about half an ounce, that used by the Jews in biblical times. Today it is the name for the monetary unit in the State of Israel. 2. Slang for cash or money.

SHLEP – n. Yiddish (SHLEP) – 1. To carry, lug. 2. To drag someone someplace they don’t want to go. 3. To move slowly, to drag one’s heels.

SHPIEL – n. Yiddish (SHPEEL) A long, involved story or tale. Sometimes refers to a sales pitch or persuasive argument.

SHVITZ – v. Yiddish (SHVITS) To sweat heavily.

TORAH – n. Hebrew (toe-RAH) The first five books of the Bible, also called the Five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch. The Torah is the most revered and sacred book of Judaism.

TUCHIS – n. Yiddish (TUH-khiss) Literally, “underneath.” A vulgar term for the rear end or buttocks.

YARMULKE – n. Yiddish (YAH-mih-kah) The small, round head covering worn by Jews as a symbol of respect and religious observance.

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