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Glossary of Hebrew terms

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AGGADAH (n.), AGGADIC (adj.)

Those sections of the Talmud and midrash that contain homiletical interpretations of the Hebrew Bible, in contradistinction to halakhah.

ASHKENAZIM (n., pl.), ASHKENAZI (adj.)

Jews originally from medieval Germany, Northern France and England, and later more widely from Eastern Europe and Russia.

CARMINA FIGURATA
Additional 26878, f. 133v
Additional 26878, f. 133v
Additional 14762, f. 12
Additional 14762, f. 12

Text written in the shape of geometrical or figurative designs.

DAVIDSON NUMBER

The reference number of Hebrew liturgical poems given by Israel Davidson in his Otsar ha-shirah veha piyut: mi-zeman hatimat kitve ha- kodesh ad reshit tekufat ha-haskalah [Thesaurus of Mediaeval Hebrew Poetry] (New York: Bet midrash ha-Rabanim de-Amerikah, 1924-1933) [Hebrew]. It has become an accepted way to identify Jewish liturgical poems.

ERUV
Oriental 5024, f. 40v
Oriental 5024, f. 40v

(lit. 'mixture') In a narrow sense, rabbinical provision permitting the carrying of objects on Shabbat and feast days in an designated area; in a wider sense, rabbinical provision permitting the suspension/alleviation of certain rules.

ETROG
Additional 22413, f. 85;
Additional 22413, f. 85;
Oriental 5024, f. 70v
Oriental 5024, f. 70v

A species of citrus, one of the Four Species constituting the bunch used on Sukkot.

FOUR CUPS
Additional 11639, f. 205
Additional 11639, f. 205
Additional 14761, f. 19v
Additional 14761, f. 19v

Four cups of wine the celebrants are obliged to drink during the Seder on Passover Eve.

FOUR SONS
Additional 14761, f. 34
Additional 14761, f. 34
Oriental 1404, f. 10v
Oriental 1404, f. 10v
Oriental 2884, f. 36
Oriental 2884, f. 36

Four sons mentioned in the Haggadah: the Wise Son, the Wicked Son, the Simple Son and the Son Who Does Not Know How to Ask. They phrase questions concerning the Seder in different ways, and thus they symbolize four different attitudes to the Jewish tradition.

HAFTARAH (sg.), HAFTAROT (pl.)

A portion from the Prophetical books of the Hebrew Bible recited in the synagogue after the portion from the Torah (parashah).

HAGGADAH (sg.), HAGGADOT (pl.)
Additional  14761, f. 28v
Additional 14761, f. 28v

(lit. 'narration' or 'telling') A service book read on Passover eve to commemorate and reenact the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

HALAKHAH (n.), HALAKHIC (adj.)

(Jewish law) The body of biblical laws as well as accepted rabbinical decisions that an observant Jew has to follow; also, those parts of the rabbinical tradition which deal with legal matters, in contradistinction to aggadah.

HALLEL

(Praise) A term designating five consequtive psalms (Ps. 113-118) in liturgical use.

HAMESH MEGILLOT

(Five Scrolls): Five books of Ketuvim, the third section of the Hebrew Bible recited in the synagogue during certain festivals: Song of Songs on Passover, Book of Ruth on Shavuot, Book of Lamentations on the Ninth of Av, Ecclesiastes on Sukkot, and Book of Esther on Purim.

HANUKKAH
Oriental 5024, f. 19
Oriental 5024, f. 19

(Festival of Lights) A winter celebration that marks the restauration of the Temple by the Maccabees in 164 BC.

HAVDALAH
Additional 14761, f. 24v
Additional 14761, f. 24v
Additional 14761, f. 26, detail
Additional 14761, f. 26, detail

('separation', 'distinction') A ritual taking place at the close of the Shabbat to separate holy time from ordinary time.

INITIAL WORD, INITIAL-WORD PANEL
Additional 15251, f. 313v
Additional 15251, f. 313v
Additional 14762, f. 7v
Additional 14762, f. 7v

Hebrew script does not distinguish between upper and lower case letters, thus in illuminated manuscripts often the entire first word is embellished instead of the intial letter.

JEWISH CALENDAR
Additional 11639, f. 516v
Additional 11639, f. 516v

The Jewish liturgical calendar is a lunisolar calendar and it starts in autumn. It is divided into 12 months: Tishri (September-October), Heshvan (October-November), Kislev (November-December), Tevet (December-January), Shevat (January-February), Adar (February-March), Nisan (March-April), Iyyar (April-May), Sivan (May-June), Tammuz (June-July), Av (July-August), Elul (August-September).

LULAV
Additional 22413, f. 85;
Additional 22413, f. 85;
Oriental 5024, f. 70v
Oriental 5024, f. 70v

Palm branch; one of the four species constituting the bunch used on Sukkot; also denominates the entire bunch of the four species.

MAHZOR

Jewish festival prayer book.

MAROR
Oriental 1404, f. 18
Oriental 1404, f. 18
Additional 26957, f. 45v
Additional 26957, f. 45v

Bitter herb which the Israelites had to eat with the unleavened bread and the Passover lamb in Egypt (Ex. 12:8). It is eaten at the Seder meal as part of the reenactment of the Exodus story. In addition, it has a symbolic meaning referring to the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. The most common vegetables used as maror are lettuce, horseradish and endive.

MASORAH (n.), MASORETIC (adj.)

('Tradition') The Jewish tradition of how to transmit the Hebrew biblical text; hence, the masoretic text is the Hebrew text of the Bible standardized by the scribal editors (masoretes) of the 7th-10th centuries.

MATZAH
Oriental 1404, f. 17v
Oriental 1404, f. 17v
Oriental 2884, f. 51v
Oriental 2884, f. 51v
Additional 14761, f. 61
Additional 14761, f. 61
Additional 26957, f. 45
Additional 26957, f. 45

Unleavened bread which the Israelites had to eat when they left Egypt in a great hurry and the dough did not have time to ferment (Ex. 12:39). It is eaten at the Seder meal as part of the reenactment of the Exodus story.

MENORAH
Additional 15250, f. 3v
Additional 15250, f. 3v
Additional 14759, f. 2
Additional 14759, f. 2

Seven-branched candelabrum. One of the oldest symbols of Judaism.

MICROGRAPHY
Oriental 2091, f. 324
Oriental 2091, f. 324
Additional 15306, ff. 52v-53
Additional 15306, ff. 52v-53

A practice of using minute script to create abstract shapes or figurative designs.

MIDRASH

A Jewish literary genre of biblical interpretation. Its two main types are the halakhical midrash dealing with legal questions and the aggadic midrash providing a homiletical interpretation of the biblical text.

MISHNEH TORAH

(Repetition of the Law or the Second Law) A legal code compiled by Moses Maimonides (1135-1205) in Hebrew.

PARASHAH (sg.), PARASHIYOT (pl.)

A portion of the Torah recited in the synagogue during the Shabbat service. The Torah is divided into 54 portions (parashiyot) to cover an annual cycle.

PASSOVER (hebr. Pesah)

A spring festival that commemorates the redemption of the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage.

PENTATEUCH

('Five pieces') The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, also called the Torah

PIYYUT

Hebrew liturgical poem, a literary genre.

PURIM
Additional 11639, f. 260v
Additional 11639, f. 260v

A festival marking the defeat of an attempt to wipe out the Jews in historical Persia; based on the biblical book of Esther.

RABBINIC, RABBINICAL (adj.)

Relating to the rabbis, e.g. rabbinic literature, authorities, rabbinic laws.

ROSH HA-SHANAH

Jewish New Year festival (1 Tishri).

SEDER
Additional 14762, f. 6
Additional 14762, f. 6
Oriental 2884, f. 18
Oriental 2884, f. 18
Additional 14761, f. 28v
Additional 14761, f. 28v

('Order') Ritual feast celebrated at home on the eve of Passover. Its main purpose is to reenact the Exodus out of Egypt and to transmit the memory of this event to the future generations.

SEFER TORAH
Additional 14761, f. 65v
Additional 14761, f. 65v

The first five book of the Hebrew Bible in a scroll form for public reading in the synagogue.

SEPHARDIM (n., pl.), SEPHARDIC (adj.)

Jews originating from the Iberian Peninsula.

SHABBAT

According to the Jewish calendar, Shabbat (Sabbath) is the seventh day of the week , the Jewish day of rest. It starts on Friday at sunset and ends on Saturday at sunset.

SHAVUOT
Additional 22413, f. 3
Additional 22413, f. 3

(Festival of Weeks) A harvest festival commemorating the day when Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai.

SHEMINI ATZERET

(the eighth [day] of assembly) The eighth day of Sukkot considered as a separate feast.

SHOFAR

Horn of a kosher (ritually clean) animal usually of a ram, sounded on special festivals (Rosh ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur).

SIDDUR

Jewish prayer book; among Ashkenazi Jews, it means a prayer book containing daily prayers; among Italian Jews, it contains also prayers for festivals.

SIMHAT TORAH

('the rejoicing in the Torah') Jewish feast following Sukkot celebrating the conclusion and the restart of the annual cycle of Torah reading. In the Diaspora, Shemini Atzeret and Simhat Torah are held on two separate consequtive days (22 or 23 Tishri).

SUKKAH
Oriental 5024, f. 70v
Oriental 5024, f. 70v

Booth or tabernacle built for Sukkot (see, Lev. 23:42-43).

SUKKOT

(Tabernacles) Jewish festival commemorating the years the Jews spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land (15-21 Tishri).

TALMUD

('Teaching') A compendium containing both the mishnaic text as well as the rabbinical discussions on the Mishnah. There are two Talmuds: the earlier one is the Palestinian Talmud (Talmud Yerushalmi) incorporating the discussions of the Palestinian sages, and the later one, the Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) containing the discussions of the Babylonian sages.

TANAKH

Acronym of the Hebrew words for the three divisions of the Bible: Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings); a Jewish designation for the Bible.

TARGUM (n.); TARGUMIC (adj.)

('Translation') An Aramaic translation-paraphrase of a book of the Hebrew Scripture.

TETRAGRAMMATON
Kings 1, f. 2
Kings 1, f. 2

The name of God reduced to four letters YHWH. It must not be pronounced and is invested with magic powers.

TORAH

The first five books of the Hebrew Bible attributed traditionally to Moses. See also, Tanakh, Pentateuch.

YaKeNHaZ
Additional 14762, f. 4
Additional 14762, f. 4

An acronym of the Hebrew words: yayin (wine), kiddush (blessing), ner (candle), havdalah (separation), and zeman (time). It aids to recall sequence of ritual acts at those occasions when the close of the shabbat coincides with the eve of a festival. The mnemonic, YaKeNHaZ sounds similar to the German Jag den Has meaning 'hunt the hare', thus it was illustrated often with a hare-hunting scene.

YOM KIPPUR, YOM HA-KIPPURIM

(Day of Atonement) The most solemn day in the Jewish year when Jews fast and repent for their transgressions (10 Tishri).

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