From Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul

Glossary of Hebrew and
Yiddish Terms

Aliyah—move to Israel (literally—“go up”); also, an honor at the Torah at worship

Aron HaKodesh—the Holy Ark

Ashkenazi—a Jew from Eastern European descent

Ayshet Hayil—a woman of valor (Proverbs 31)

Bar Mitzvah—male ritual ceremony of adulthood at age thirteen

Bat Mitzvah—same as above, for a female

Beshert—predestined (Yiddish)

Brit Milah—ritual circumcision ceremony

Bubbie (or Bubbe)—grandmother (Yiddish)

Challah—braided egg bread for Shabbat and holidays

Chasid—see Hasid

Daven, Davening—praying

Dayanu—popular Passover song, part of the Seder

Dreidel (or Draydel)—spinning top, game for Hanukkah


Grogger—noisemaker used on holiday of Purim

Habad—orthodox religious sect

Haggadah—book of Passover Seder rituals and prayers

Halachah (or Halakhah)—Jewish law

Hanukkah—Jewish holiday in December

Haroset—chopped nuts and apples with cinnamon and wine, used at Passover Seder

Hasid (or Chasid) (pl. Hasidim)—one in a pious sect

Kaddish—memorial prayer

Kashrut—Jewish dietary laws

Kavannah—sincerity and intentionality during prayer

Kiddush—blessing over wine on Shabbat and festivals

Kippah—head covering for religious purposes

Kol Nidre—opening prayer Yom Kippur eve, considered to be one of most sacred prayers

Kosher (adjective; noun: Kashrut)—acceptable food made according to Jewish dietary laws

Kugel—traditional Jewish dish of potato pie (yiddish)

Lag B’Omer—Festival of Scholars

L’chaim—Yiddish toast meaning “To Life!” (sometimes accompanied with a drink)

Ma-ariv—evening worship service

Mahzor—Jewish holiday prayerbook

Matzah—unleavened bread eaten at Passover

Menorah—ritual candelabrum used at Hanukkah

Mensch—decent, honorable person (Yiddish)


Mezuzah—Scriptural passages in box placed on doorposts

Midrash—ancient and medieval collections of homiletical biblical commentary

Mikveh—ritual bath

Minchah (or Minhah)—afternoon liturgy

Minyan—quorum of ten adults for Jewish prayer

Mitzvah—biblical commandment; or a good deed

Mohel—one who performs circumcisions

Motzi—blessing over the bread or meal

Musaf—“additional” prayers chanted on Sabbath and festivals

Oneg Shabbat—festive food and celebration on Sabbath

Pesach (or Pesah)—Passover

Purim—Jewish holiday on which biblical Book of Esther is read; joyous festival of celebration of defeat of Persian threat of Jewish persecution

Pushke—charity box (Yiddish)

Rosh Hashanah—Jewish New Year


Sabra—native Israeli

Seder (pl. Sedarim)—Passover ritual feast

Shabbos (pl. Shabbosim) or Shabbat—Sabbath

Shema—prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4–9

Shemoneh Esrei—central Jewish prayer

Shivah—seven days of mourning

Shochet—ritual slaughterer for kosher meat

Shofar—musical instrument played during High Holiday period

Shpiel—play, usually for Festival of Purim

Shtetl—village (Yiddish)

Shul—synagogue (Yiddish)

Siddur—Jewish prayerbook

Sufganiyot—donuts eaten on Hanukkah

Takeh—really! (Yiddish)

Tallit—prayer shawl

Tatte—Daddy (Yiddish)

Tefillin—Scriptural passages in small boxes worn on forehead and arm during worship (sometimes translated as “phylacteries”)

Torah—the five books of Moses


Yad Vashem—Holocaust museum and archives in Jerusalem

Yahrzeit—anniversary of date of death (Yiddish)

Yeshivah (or Yeshiva)—academy of study

Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Memorial Day

Yom Kippur—Day of Atonement

Zeida (also Zayda and Zaydie)—grandfather (Yiddish)

Z’mirot—Sabbath hymns

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