Jewish Terminology

Maybe you want to attend events at Congregation Bene Shalom, but one thought like this gives you pause. What if I was not raised Jewish (or religious)?

No worries, here is a short overview of explanations for commonly used words in relation to Jewish rituals.


 "that which is received," the Kabbalah comprises a series of esoteric traditions dating back to biblical times and is still very much alive today. It deals with subjects such as the creation of the world, the nature of God, the ecstatic mystical experience, the coming messianic era, and the nature of the afterlife. Ultimately, the Kabbalah represents the Jewish form of what all mystical traditions strive for; a direct and intimate knowledge of the divine on a level beyond that of the intellect.

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B'nai Mitzvah 
Mitzvah is something that God wants you to do. Also referred to as a Bar (male) or Bat (female) Mitzvah, but B'nai encompasses the plural, generic meaning either, or for someone who identifies as non-binary to use a more inclusive language. This happens when a person begins journey as Jewish adult
. When growing up in a Jewish household, this happens usually at 13 years old. However, anyone at any age can have a B'nai Mitzvah.


Healing Prayer
The most common prayer for the healing of loved ones mind/body/spirit is the Mi Shebeirach.  

Merciful one, restore them, heal them, strengthen them, enliven them. Send them a complete healing from the heavenly realm, a healing of body and a healing of soul, together with all who are ill soon, speedily, without delay; and let us say: Amen!

In 1988 Debbie Friedman wrote a song that is sung in many services, as a way to pray for those in need of healing for various ailments. 


The most important ritual observance in Judaism. It is the only ritual observance instituted in the Ten Commandments. Shabbat is primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. Shabbat involves two interrelated commandments: to remember (zakhor) Shabbat, and to observe (shamor) Shabbat. Remembering is when we can rest, by not working or taking a day off from the week of tasks. Observation is with; attending Friday night and Saturday services, lighting the sabbath candles, saying prayers, drinking wine/grape juice, and having challah bread.  


Rosh Hashanah
Start of the Jewish calendar year (usually late September) to celebrate when G-d created Adam and Eve. Customs include; attending services with a blowing of the shofar (cleaned out ram's horn), reciting special liturgy and enjoying sweet edible delights. These are mainly challah bread, apples dipped in honey and other foods to symbolize a sweet start to the new year. Celebrated for two nights, it starts off the Days of Awe or the High Holy Days (time of reflection) followed next by Yom Kippur. 


Yom Kippur
This day of atonement, follows Rosh Hashanah, as the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. In order to start the new year off fresh.  Free of any burdens from the past year to be inscribed in the book of Life.  Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a day-long fast, confession, and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.  Then breaking fast with a big meal at the end of the day. 

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Simchat Torah


Tu B'shevat