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.

Kabbalah

 "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.

girl with tefillin white dress blue white tallit next to table that Torah is on

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.

boy with kippah and tallit on reading Torah

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. 

Holidays

Shabbat

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.  

Shabbat in English above Hebrew surrounded by lit candles, covered challah, grape wine & prayer book
Rosh Hashanah above honey, apple, pomegranate and shofar.

Rosh Hashanah

("Head of the Year") is the celebration of the Jewish New Year, observed on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It marks the beginning of a ten-day period of prayer and self-examination. With emphasis on happiness and humility, special customs observed on Rosh Hashanah include; the sounding of the shofar, using round challah, eating apples and honey (and other sweet foods) for a sweet new year.

Yom Kippur

the "Day of Atonement" and refers to the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance. This is considered to be the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. The Yom Kippur fast enables us to put aside our physical desires and to concentrate on our spiritual needs through prayer, repentance and self-improvement. It is customary in the days before Yom Kippur for Jews to seek out friends and family whom they have wronged and personally ask for their forgiveness.

We invite you to share the spirit, joy, and wisdom of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with us at Congregation Bene Shalom. Come hear the blowing of the shofar, and join our congregational family for a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day experience. 

Please contact the Temple office to place names in the Book of Remembrance, and for a list of dates and times of services and programs.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Services are held at the Temple building.

two white doves flying over two red apples, an open prayer book and shofar
green leaves over brown hut with a placed table and chair

Sukkot

Hebrew word meaning "booths" or "huts," refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest, as well as the commemoration of the forty years of Jewish wandering in the desert after Sinai. Sukkot, is observed by building a sukkah, (a booth or hut). Celebrate with us in our sukkah during this festival time to eat, pray, and rejoice, and by giving tzedakah, blessing the lulav and etrog.  Yet, even while we rejoice, the temporary and fragile nature of the sukkah reminds us just how precarious life can be. The lulav and etrog remind us of how dependent we are upon God for the food we eat.

Simchat Torah

a joyous event, celebrating our Torah.  Children and adults alike take part in the hakafot processional, waving holiday or Israeli flags in their hands. 

At Congregation Bene Shalom, our rabbis and congregants unroll the entire Torah scroll and hold it up high, as music and singing abounds. Then, the Torah is read, first by reading the end of the Torah (Hatan Torah, Deuteronomy), and then we start again at the beginning (Hatan Bereshit, Genesis). 

The Torah continues to be held, encircling those praying in the center, as everyone has their time in the center of this holy and joyous event.  Then, as the Torah is re-rolled, the music and singing continues

blue menorah lit up behind doughnuts, holly, and dreidels
women holding Torahs swirling around each other

Chanukah

meaning "dedication" in Hebrew, refers to the joyous eight-day celebration during which Jews commemorate the victory of the Macabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and "re-dedication" of the Temple in Jerusalem. The modern home celebration of Chanukah centers around the lighting of the chanukiah, a special menorah for Chanukah; unique foods, latkes and jelly doughnuts; and special songs and games.

Tu B'shevat

The fruits that ripened from Tu B'Shevat on were counted for the following year's tithes. In the diaspora, starting especially in North America in the 1980s, Tu B'Shevat became treated as the Jewish "Earth Day" – with contemporary communities emphasizing all kinds of actions and activism related to the environment and the natural world

Tu B'shevat / people helping the planet / Jewish Earth Day
white wine, noise maker, mask, cookie style hamantaschen

Purim

celebrated by the reading of the Scroll of Esther, known in Hebrew as the Megillat Esther, which relates the basic story of Purim. It is a festival of joy and good fellowship. It is also a commemoration of the victory of the Jewish people over Haman, the evil Prime Minister of King Achashvayrosh in ancient Persia. It tells the story of Esther and Mordechai and their brave campaign to save the Jewish people from massacre.

We celebrate with the reading of the Megillah, the Book of Esther, with music and mirth, as we arrive in costume to engage in booing, hissing, and winding noisy graggers when Haman's name is read aloud.

Giving money to at least two poor people on the day of Purim is a mitzvah we are commanded to fulfill. The gift should at least equal the value of a fast food meal. This is not a "family" obligation, but rather each person should perform the mitzvah themself.

Passover

commemorates the Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt. This eight-day celebration appears in the Torah as Chag Hamatzot (The Festival of Unleavened Bread). Traditional Jews clean, scour, and remove any trace of leavening, chametz. Chametz is any leavened bread or products that contain the fermented products of five kinds of grain—-wheat, barley, oats, rye, and spelt.

The Seder is the highlight of the Passover observance, with many symbolic foods and liturgy based on the Haggadah. The word seder means order, and the Seder itself follows an order handed down through generations as a means to retell the story of our forebears’ liberation from bondage in Egypt. Through stories and prayers, the Haggadah provides a logical telling of the important chapter in our Jewish history. Many families hold a seder on the first and second evenings of Passover. Congregation Bene Shalom customarily holds our congregational seder on the second night each year.

The telling of the Passover story acknowledges that slavery is not limited to physical bondage. Spiritual bondage and social degradation also deprive the human spirit of liberty. Pesach is an annual reminder that we have a responsibility to those who are oppressed or enslaved, whether it is physically, intellectually, or ideologically. On Passover we celebrate not only for ourselves, but also for those who may not be able to celebrate Passover themselves in freedom. We are to remember to invite those who may have no where to celebrate: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”

man painting blood on the door posts
wine cup, covered matzo, seder plate with lamb, matzo ball, egg, charoset, lettuce and parsley

Shavuot

a Hebrew word meaning 'weeks' and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is also thought to be a mystical night when the heavens open up, and we have a direct link to God.

One tradition of Shavuot includes staying up all night to study Torah and Mishnah, a custom called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which symbolizes our commitment to the Torah, and that we are always ready and awake to receive the Torah. Traditionally, dairy dishes are served on this holiday to symbolize the sweetness of the Torah, as well as the 'land of milk and honey.'

Happy Shavuot over wheat, pomegranate, purple grapes and cheese