$180.00 – $342.00
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Glossary of Hebrew/Yiddish Terms
(Incomplete and under construction!)
- Adar is the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar that roughly corresponds to the month of March in the Christian calendar.
- Ashkenazi Jews are an ethnic group within the global Jewish diasporic population along with Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews who live in North Africa, the Middle East, and in parts of southern Europe. Ashkenazim first aggregated during the Roman Empire during the first millennium, fleeing to what is now known as central Europe during the Middle Ages. At the time of the Holocaust, Ashkenazim constituted 92% of the world’s Jewish population—which was decimated by half by the war’s end. Most American Jews, (97%) are Ashkenazim, hailing from northern, western, eastern and central Europe. Many Ashkenazim were allowed to find refuge in the U.S. between the late 1800s and the early 1900s due to pogroms of Russia and Poland that massacred.
- Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah While ‘bar’ translates from the Hebrew word ‘son,’ and ‘bat’ for ‘daughter’, the word ‘mitzvah’ is a bit harder to translate into English. A mitzvah is an act that Jews do to help repair the world by committing good deeds. Mitzvot, the plural of mitzvah, range from becoming a Bat Mitzvah or a Bar Mitzvah and declaring G‑d’s oneness, to resting on the seventh day, and not eating pork. In common usage, a mitzvah could be as simple as, “Do a mitzvah and help your father do the dishes!”The practice of boys celebrating a Bar Mitzvah became popular during the Middle Ages in Europe. The practice of girls celebrating a Bat Mitzvah began relatively recently. While the first Bat Mitzvah was recorded in North America in 1922, the celebration of a Bat Mitzvah didn’t get going in the US until the late 1960s and seventies, with the advent of American feminism. As becoming a Bar Mitzvah historically included the reading of the Torah, becoming a Bat Mitzvah was perilous. Women and girls, according to centuries of Jewish tradition, were not supposed to hold the Torah or read from it—for fear of pollution. Today, nearly all Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist synagogues allow women to read from the Torah during the celebration of their Bat Mitzvah.
- B’nei Mitzvah refers to one or more Bat or Bar Mitzvot, together, as in, “I’m looking for B’nei Mitzvah cards for my niece and nephew.”
- Shabbat is a mini-holiday enjoyed by Jews each week, beginning Fridays at sundown, ending Saturday at sundown. Shabbat reminds us that while it is important to work and be productive, it is also imperative to take a break, relax, and celebrate the experience of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. Jews who observe Shabbat often refrain from working or using technologies that range from driving a car to using a computer or cell phone.
- Beshert is a Yiddish term that can be roughly translated to ‘soulmate’. The term can also be used to refer to any event deemed ‘meant to be’.
- Birkat Habayit means in Hebrew, ‘blessing for the home’. It is the name of a Jewish prayer (that has many different versions) found on wall plaques or chamsas near the entrance of many Jewish homes.
- Chamsa is a symbol in the shape of a right handed palm found throughout the Middle East, North Africa, as well as in parts of southern Europe. Popular primarily among Jews and Muslims, the chamsa is a good luck symbol believed to protect against the evil eye. The chamsa is often used in jewelry and for wall hangings placed near the entryway of the home. Chamsas can represent a hand either held upwards or pointing downwards and often have an all-seeing protective eye positioned at the center of the palm. It has been theorized that its origins lie in Ancient Egypt.
- Eshet Chayil means in English, ‘Woman of Valor’. It is the name of a poem recited by many Jews across the world on Friday night, before the Shabbat meal to honor women. The poem is still relevant today due to its feminist meaning; it suggests that women should be valued not for mere physical beauty but for their compassion, generosity, intellect, creativity, commitment, integrity, hard work, and dignity. The poem is found in Proverbs (Mishlei) 31:10-31, believed to have been written by King Solomon.
- Gematria is a system of numerical meanings associated with Kabbalistic mysticism. Gematria is predicated on the fact that each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is also a number. For example, aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet equals one, while bet, the second letter, equals two and so on. Thus each Hebrew word has its own numerical value that is the sum of each letter comprising the word. Gematria is an instrument used by Jewish mystics for analyzing sacred texts. Scholars often ground their textual analysis on the numerological equivalence of words. Gematria is central to many of my paintings; you may find objects often in series of twos, threes, sevens or eighteens, numbers central to gematria.
- Ha-Motzi is a blessing over bread that on Shabbat, follows the full Kiddush blessings over the candles, wine and bread. In many parts of the world, the bread being blessed on Shabbat is a braided Ashkenazi egg-bread called challah.
- Havdalah is a Jewish religious ceremony that symbolically marks the transition from Shabbat to the new week. After lighting a havdalah candle (a braided candles with several wicks), a cup of wine is blessed and aromimc spices are smelled in order to sweeten the path back to the ordinary weekdays ahead.
- Kabbala is a form of Jewish mysticism that explores the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, as well as other threads of philosophical inquiry. While the Kabbalah is believed to have first emerged within 12th and 13th century Jewish mysticism in Southern France and Spain, Hasidic Judaism popularized Kabbalistic mysticism beginning in the 1700s in Eastern Europe. In the 1960s, as American Jews began to look towards Eastern religions for spiritual insights, many found within Kabbalism a space for renewed engagement with Jewish based mysticism.
- Ketuba is a Jewish wedding contract that delineates the rights and duties of individuals entering into marriage. In the U.S., the ketuba has cultural, rather than legal meaning and in recent decades, many couples enjoy selecting texts and images that reflect their spiritual and marital aspirations. The ketuba has emerged as a creative and often whimsical form of Jewish art featured in the home.
- Mitzvah is one of hundreds of acts of goodness requested by the Torah to help Jews to repair the world while keeping by committing good deeds that range from what could be perceived as mundane everyday tasks such as washing hands to more rigorous tasks that require a deeper commitment and mindfulness that include keeping Kosher and observing the Shabbat. Originally, there were 613 mitzvot (the plural of mitzvah) named in the Torah. The seven rabbinic commandments instituted later brought the total of mitzvoth to 620.
- Shabbat is a mini-holiday enjoyed by Jews each week, beginning Fridays at sundown, ending Saturday at sundown. Shabbat helps us each week to be mindful that while it is important to work and be productive, it is also imperative to take a break, relax, and celebrate the experience of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. Jews who observe Shabbat often refrain from working or using technologies that range from cooking and writing to driving a car and using a phone.
- Shabbat Shalom is a greeting that many Jews give to each other each week during Shabbat. As Shalom means ‘hello’ (as well as peace), Shabbat Shalom is a way of both recognizing that Shabbat has arrived—thus we’re wishing it a ‘hello’—and also, the saying is a way of wishing another a peaceful Shabbat.
- Shem’ah is the prayer that expresses the basic monotheistic principle of Judaism that in turn, guides the Torah—the belief in one G-d and in the unity of all creation. The Shem’ah asks us to stop and really hear, or listen; It asks us to take pause and note for a few seconds, the oneness of everything. We recite the Shem’ah aloud, symbolically covering the eyes lightly with the right hand in order to block out extraneous distractions and to help us go inward. Jews traditionally publicly recite the Shem’ah on Shabbat and holidays and when we lift the Torah out of the Ark. Unlike the public Bar’chu, or prayers, that requires a minyan (a quarum of ten adult Jews), the Shem’ah is also a private prayer that Jews are called upon to recite upon awakening in the morning and at night, before drifting off to sleep.
- Simchat Bat
- Simchat Torah
- Tallit is a Jewish prayer shawl that comes from the Hebrew words, ‘littlecovering’. When wrapt in a tallit, we enter a little house or tent in which we can relax, restore, and feel surrounded by the divine. The tallit is a four cornered garment made traditionally from wool or linen, but now, cotton and silk, too. From each corner of the Tallit hang Tzitzit—fringes intricately and ritually tied to comprise eight strings and five knots. Most Tallit have a decorative neckband, called an atarah, that establishes the Tallit as a worn garment rather than a random bolt of cloth. The Tzitzit are a visual reminder of the Torah’s 613 mitzvot requested of Jews by the Torah. An interesting gematria fact: The numerical values of the five letters that comprise the Hebrew word Tzitzit add up to 600. Add the eight strings and five knots of each tassel on the talit, and the total is 613—the number of mitzvoth in the Torah! The Tallit is worn during morning prayers on weekdays and Shabbat, and also during other Jewish holidays. For centuries, only men wore a tallit. But increasingly, women are wearing tallitot (plural of tallit) and in many congregations, the tallit has become a form of textile art, decorated in colorful and creative ways. Some of my paintings feature women wearing a traditional tallit that is white with blue lines at each end.
- Tikkun O’lam
- Torah is the holiest ritual object among the Jewish people. It is written on handmade parchment with a quill and special ink. There are thousands of guidelines that a scribe (known as a sofer)) will follow to make a Torah scroll fit for use. The Torah usually contains 248 columns, and one rectangle of parchment yields space for three or four columns. Each Torah takes about a year to be hand written, and the writing ends if even one mistake is made in the writing process. Jews show respect and love for the Torah by treating each one like a prized beloved, dressing each Torah in beautiful fabrics and decorating them with intricate ornaments.