ASHER LEV LEXICON
JEWISH, HEBREW AND YIDDISH WORDS AND PHRASES
BY AARON POSNER
BRIS: Ritual circumcision (of 8-day old Jewish boys)
THE FOUR SONS: A parable is told at the Passover Seder of four different kinds of sons and their respective attitudes to the Seder. One is called Wise, one Wicked, one Simple, and one He Who Does Not Know How to Ask. The Wicked Son is described as one who separates himself from the community.
“GAY GEZUNT UN CUM GEZUNT”: Yiddish: “Go in health and return in health.”
GOYIM/GOY/GOISCHE: Applied to any people or person who is not Jewish. Sometimes it can be used purely factually, and sometimes it can be used in a more derogatory manner. In its original Biblical meaning: A nation.
“GUTTENYU!”: Yiddish term of endearment for God. Used often as an exclamation.
HASID: A member of a highly religious Jewish sect that originated in Eastern Europe during the 17th &18th centuries. There are many Hasidic groups, each the follower of a different Rebbe, or charismatic leader e.g. Lubavitchers, Belzers, Satmerers, etc. The names often come from the city or town where the sect originated.
“KIBBUD OV”: Hebrew: Honor of or respect for one’s father
JUDAH MACABEE: Leader of the fight against the Hellenist conquerors of ancient Israel. Their victory is celebrated with the candle-lighting Festival of Lights, Hanukkah.
LADOVER HASIDISM: Ladov is a fictional town in Russia, invented by Chaim Potok for this story. This particular sect bears the most resemblance to the Lubavitch Hasiddim, one of the most open and worldly of the Hasidic groups.
MATZO: Unleavened bread eaten on the Passover Festival instead of bread.
MENORAH: Candelabra of any kind. Often refers to the one used at Hanukkah. Eight candles are progressively lit from the first night – one candle – to the eighth – all eight. A shamash or server candle is used to light the others.
“NARISHKEIT“: Yiddish: It means foolishness, silliness, or nonsense.
“OLAV HASHOLOM“: “May peace be upon him”. A term applied with respect to people who are no longer living.
“OY, VAY IS MIR”: Literally “Oh, it hurts me!” More colloquially, “Woe is me.”
PASSOVER SEDER: Ritual meal of the first and second nights of Passover (Pesach)
PAYOS: Earlocks or sidecurls worn by many Hasidic or Orthodox Jewish men. They are worn as a reminder of the Covenant between God and the Jewish people.
ROSH HASHANAH: Jewish New Year.
REBBE: The absolute and charismatic leader of any given Hasidic sect, he is held as the wise arbiter of all matters for his followers. Not usually ordained as a rabbi, though very knowledgeable in Jewish law as well as Hasidic thought.
RIBBONO SHEL OYLAM: Hebrew: Master of the Universe. A name for the Almighty.
SIDDUR: A prayer book
SITRA ACHRA: Aramaic for the side opposite to The Almighty or the Holy One. Anything that takes one away form the path of righteousness or good behavior may be seen to be from the Other Side or the Sitra Achra.
SHABBOS: Yiddish pronunciation of the Sabbath, or Shabbat.
TALMUD: An essential part of orthodox Jewish life and learning. The Talmud is a many-volumed exposition on the Torah dealing with every aspect of daily life including prayer, business transaction, relationships, family and more. It is composed of legal discussions and anecdotes to explore the law and its ramifications.
TORAH: The five books of Moses that holds the stories of early Jewish history as well as the formational body of Jewish Law.
YESHIVA: A house of learning, usually applied to orthodox schools for male students.
ZEMIROS: Those songs sung in honor of the Sabbath or other Jewish holidays, usually around the table during and after the meal.