The following is an excerpt from the Glossary. It is presented with permission of
the Paulist Press all rights reserved.
Adonai (ah-doe-NYE) Hebrew word used when God’s four letter name is read in the Torah or in a
prayer. Literally “My Lord.”
afikoman (ah-fee-KO-men) The piece of matzah that is hidden in a Passover Seder for the children to
find at the end of the meal.
aliyah (ah-LEE-yah) pl. aliyot (ah-LEE-yot) the honor of being called up to say a blessing or read from
the Torah scroll (or participate in some other honor) at a synagogue service.
amen (ah-MEN) Said at the conclusion of many prayers by the congregation to indicate their
agreement with the prayer. A Hebrew word, it literally means “so be it.”
Amidah (ah-MEE-dah) Central prayer of each synagogue service. Literally “standing,” the prayer is
said standing. Often this prayer is called by other names, Tefilah or by the names of its first two
sections, Avot (ah-VOTE) and Givurot (giv-ur-OTE).
Aramaic (ar-ah-MAY-ick) Ancient Semitic language spoken in late biblical times, it is the language of
the Talmud, the ketubbah as well as several of the most important prayers.
Aron Kodesh (ah-ROAH CO-desh) or ark: The cabinet at the front of the synagogue that holds the
scrolls of the Torah.
Ashkenazim (osh-ken-NAH-zeem) Hebrew name given to that group of Jews who trace their ancestry
to Germany and Eastern Europe. Most American Jews belong to this group.
Barchu (bar-KHOO) the call to worship that begins the principle part of each morning and evening
Bar/Bat Mitzvah (BAR/BAT MITS-vah) The “coming of age” ritual for boys (at age 13) and girls (at age
12, traditionally, 13 in many congregations), usually marked by the child leading a Sabbath service and
reading from the Torah. Literally “Son/Daughter of the Commandment.”
B.C.E. (BEE-CEE-EE) Abbreviation for “Before the Common Era,” used by Jews instead of B.C. (“Before
beit knesset (BAYT kuh-NESS-et) literally “House of Gathering,” this is the Hebrew word for
Sample from the Glossary