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
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 synagogue service.
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 Christ’).
beit knesset (BAYT kuh-NESS-et) literally “House of Gathering,” this is the
Hebrew word for synagogue.