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Here you can see a dictionary over the various and weird terms used in my posts. Since I will write on Islam too, I have parted it in an Islamic and Jewish version. If there are any words that you don’t find, then please let me know. If you have any corrections, then – please – correct me.



A”S: ‘Alaiv HaShalom (עליו השלום), Hebrew for “Peace be upon him!” A term normally used about Prophets and Patriarchs.Hag: Hagim in plural, a Hag (חג) is a Jewish religious festival.Av Beyt Din: The vice leader of the Sanhedrin, the highest religious court, was called Av Beyt Din (אב בית דין), “Father of the religious court,” and constituted the one half of the sitting “zug,” during the period of Zugot.

Eretz Yisrael (E”Y): The Land of Israel is in Hebrew called Eretz Yisrael (ארץ ישראל), and constitutes more of a religious definition than a political definition, since certain specific rules apply to E”Y, even in our days. It is not to be confused with the modern state of Israel, which in Hebrew is called Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel.

Halachah: Jewish Jurisprudence is in Hebrew called Halachah (הלכה), from the root heh, lamed, khaf, halach – “to walk” – which means to hint that “this is the path in which the Jew should walk.”

Hasidean: From the root “hesed,” the Hasidean (or in Hebrew, Hassidim) formed a religious party, who took part in the revolt against the Seleucid ruler in the second century BCE. They are believed to have been very strict in their religious observance, and were strongly opposed to Hellenism.

Hasmonean: The Hasmoneans were the rulers of Judea, from the liberation from the Seleucid to the Romans conquest of Judea. It succeeded to keep independence in 103 years, from ca. 140 BCE until ca. 37 BCE, where the rule were taken from them by Herod the great, who founded the Herodian dynasty.

Hassid: Hassidim (חסיד in singular, חסידים in plural) were a term used for righteous Jews, who went even beyond what was demanded and expected from them. The term is derived from “hesed” (חסד), meaning “loving kindness,” that is, doing more than expected from you. The term shouldn’t be confused with “tzaddiq” (צדיק), a righteous person, who fulfilled his obligations, though the terms have been used interchangeably in later ages.

Hellenism: Hellenism was the dominant cultural system in the classical periods Middle East, being a mix of Greek and Oriental culture. It was the result of Alexander the Great’s dream of a united (known) world.

Kohen: A Kohen (כוהן) is a member of the Aharonite family, within the Levite tribe, being the priests who took care of the sacrifices in the Temple. The High Priest is termed “Kohen HaGadol” (כהן הגדול), meaning “The biggest priest.” He had the responsibility for leading the prayers of the Hagim, as well as going to the Holiest of the Holy on Yom Kippur, being the only one who was allowed to do so.

Midrash:Midrash (מדרש) is a variant of the word “D’rash” (דרש), which means to require, search, or seek (for example guidance), which can be translated as “homiletic exegesis”, attempting to get to a deeper understanding of the Biblical texts. It can both be used in classical context, in context of the Mishnah and Talmud, and in more modern contexts.

Mishnah: According to Rabbinical tradition, Moshe Rabenu, A”S, received both a Written and an Oral Torah on Mount Sinai. Whereas the Written Torah, which we know as the Five Books of Moshe Rabenu, A”S, was written down and copied, the Oral Torah was not. Instead it was passed from generation of Sages to the next generation, being given from Moshe Rabenu, A”S, till Yehoshu’a, A”S, and so on.

Unfortunately, in the second half of the second century according to Western time (CE), the need to write it down had grown too big, so hence R. Yehudah HaNasi, Z”L, began the task, and the Oral tradition was written down around the end of the second century CE and the beginning of the third century CE.

The Mishnah (משנה) thus forms one half of “Torah”, the Divine Guidance given by G-D to Israel, via Moshe Rabenu, A”S, supplementing the Written Torah. Therefore one cannot read the Five Books, and then claim to understand the rulings, but needs to have them explained in the light of the Mishnah.

The Mishnah is parted in six “orders,” which are again parted in 63 tractates (in total).

For more on the Mishnah, please see my page on the Mishnah on Judaic Awareness.

Nasi: The leader of the Sanhedrin was called Nasi (נשיא), “Prince.” Together with the Av Beyt Din, he constituted the highest Halachic authority in Israel. Later on the term has been used about the leader of the Jews, when there was one who was deemed significant and influential enough to be called leader. Today the term is used for the president of Israel.

Pirqey Avot: Pirqey Avot (פרקי אבות, Heb. for ‘Chapters of the Fathers’, but most often called ‘Ethics of the Fathers’ in English) is one of the tractates of the Mishnah, but where the other tractates deal mostly with legal matters, this tractate deals mostly with ethical issues.

Seder: Part of the Mishnah. The Mishnah is made in six parts, called S’darim (סדרים, plural for סדר), which is Hebrew for “order.” The word can also appear in other contexts.

Sofer: The Sofer (סופר) was both a teacher and a scribe. The early Sofrim did not only write and copy Torah-scrolls and other religious texts, but were also those who interpreted and explained the laws for the people. There was a close relation between Sofrim and Pharisees, many of whom had both roles, which is also attested in the Christian writings.

Synagoge: (Hebr. Beyt Knesset, ). Original used as a house of study, reflected in the Greek ‘synagogue’, consisting of the two Greek words for ‘assembly’ and ‘study.’ After the end of the second century CE and onwards used primarily as a house of prayer.

TaNaCh: The Jewish Bible. The Bible is parted in three parts, namely Torah, which are the Five Books, Nevi’im, the Prophetical Books, and Ketuvim, the Scriptures. Taking the first letter of each part, the word TaNaCh (since Kaf, k, is changing to ch in the middle and end of words as a general rule) is formed. When only talking about the Prophetical Books and the Scriptures, the term NaCh is used. On more on the TaNaCh, see my article on it on Judaic Awareness.

Tanna: A Tanna (תנא, Heb. ‘repeaters,’ ‘teachers’) is a Mishnaic Rabbi, which means one who lived and taught from around 200 BCE until around 200 CE. All the Sages mentioned in the Mishnah are Tannaim.

Z”L: Zichrono Livracha (זכרונו לברכה), Hebrew for “May his memory be blessed!” Normally used for Rabbinical scholars and others who should be respected (such as parents), who are dead.

Zug: The Hebrew term for “pair,” zug (זוג), was used for the sitting “pair,” who governed the Sanhedrin, in the period of “Zugot” (זוגות), which is a term used in describing a period in the history of Halachah, which covers the time of the Second Temple, from ca. 515 BCE until ca. 70 CE.

Arkân al-Islam: Also called Arkân ad-Dîn. The Five Pillars of Islam, constituting the testimony, Shahâdah, the Prayer, Salah, the Pilgrimage, Hajj, the Fast of Ramadahn, Sawm, the Alms-giving, Zakat.

Âyah: Âyât in plural. A verse in the Quran is called âyah.

Maḍhab:A school of thought, used primarily about the law schools, being ash-Shafi’i, al-Maliki, al-Hanbali, al-Hanafi (all part of the Sunni-stream of Islam), al-Jafa’ri, and az-Zaidiyyah (both part of the Shi’a-stream of Islam). They are defined by their differing focus on principles in deriving the laws, as well as differing sources, all of them though accepting the authority of the Quran and the Sunnah of Muhammad.

Mufassir: Interpreter of the Quran. Some of the classical mufassirûn are al-Tabari (Sunni), ibn Kathir (Sunni), and Allamah Tabatabai (Shi’a).

Quran:Or more correctly, al-Qur’ân. The holy Book of Islam, being revealed by the archangel Gabriel to Muhammad in the years between 610 CE until the death of Muhammad in 632 CE. It consists of 114 Suwar, the earliest from Mecca (in general also the shortest), and the latest from Medina. All Islamic groups accept al-Qur’ân as being the holiest book.

Salat: The Muslim prayer. The Muslim is obligated to pray five times a day, either at home or at the mosque. The preparation for prayer is called wudhhu, and consist of washing various parts of the body (which and how differs between Sunni and Shi’a-Islâm).
The five prayers are called Fajr, which is said from dawn to sunrise, Dhuhr, which is said from afternoon until Asr, Asr, which is said after afternoon until the sun begins to set, Maghrib, which is said after sunset until dusk, and Isha’a, which is said between dusk and dawn.

Sawm: The obligatory fast of Ramadahn. For a whole month, in the holy month of Ramadahn, the Muslim is required to fast from drinking, eating, and other things, from dawn to sunset. This is done first and foremost in order to seek nearness to Allah, and many Muslims are reading the whole Qur’ân during the month, but it is also an expression of sympathize with the less fortunate, something that should also be expressed in alms-giving, tsadaqah.

Shahâdah: Testimony. Ash-Shahâdah, the testifying of Allah being the only God, and that Muhammad is His messenger; لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله (lâ ʾilâha ʾilállâh, Muḥammadan rasûlullâh) – There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is Allah’s messenger. It is said when converting to Islam, being the sole criteria for accepting Allah and Muhammad as His messenger.

Sûrah: Suwar in plural. A chapter in the Quran is called Sûrah. There are 114 Suwar in the Quran, starting with the longest ones first, and ending with the shortest, except for Surat al-Fatihah (the Opening), which introduces the Quran.

Tafsir: Quranic exegetical interpretation.

Tawhîd: The unity of Allah, as expressed in the first part of the Shahâdah, “there is no god but Allah!” See also Surat al-Baqarah 163; “And your god is one God. There is no deity [worthy of worship] except Him, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” (Sahih International)

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