Glossary to the Stories
A closet placed against the east wall of the synagogue, containing
the sacred scrolls. It is frequently tripartite in Sefardic
synagogues. Known to Sefardim as "hehál" and to Askenazim as
The plural of the Hebrew word for spice. It is customary at the
conclusion of the sabbath to inhale a pleasant scent, so as to
begin the week fragrantly. The spice is often contained in a
decorative silver box, sometimes made in the shape of a medieval
tower topped by a flag.
A brave Jewish woman, who saved the Jewish people in Persia from
destruction. The king Ahasuerus took her as his queen, and she used
her position to frustrate the plans of the wicked Haman. The
biblical book of Esther is named for her.
In Hebrew "yetsiat mitsrayim", which means "the going-out from
Egypt." The historical event when the Israelites left Egypt to go
towards the Promised Land. This event is celebrated by the festival
of Passover, and is frequently mentioned in all kinds of Jewish
texts. The words "Let my people go," which became a symbol for
Russian Jews in their desire to leave the former USSR, were
originally said by Moses before the Exodus.
A prayer recited at the conclusion of the sabbath, including
lighting and observing a lamp, smelling sweet spices, and drinking
some wine. Pronounced "havdalah" in modern Hebrew.
The official charged with reading the statutory services in the
On the sabbath, a cup of wine is drunk especially to remember that
the day is holy, and thereby fulfil the commandment to remember the
Sabbath day. A special cup, usually of silver, is used for this
In front of the Ark (see: Ark) a lamp is suspended. In Sefardic
synagogues this is usually placed in a beautiful silver container,
and burns oil. It is called in Hebrew "Tamid" ("perpetual") because
it is kept constantly lit.
Lulab (plural: Lulabim)
A festive branch consisting of palm, myrtle and willow, plus the
fruit called citron. It is used in the ceremonies on the festival
of Succó. Pronounced "lulav" in Ashkenazic and modern
The nine branched candlestick used on the Feast of Dedication,
celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over Greek-Syrian
domination. In Sefardic custom, the lamps are usually oil lamps.
Such lamps are frequently called (ner) Hanucah, rather than
A small scroll containing the biblical book of Esther, read on the
festival of Purim (Lots) which occurs in late winter. The word has
come into English from Yiddish meaning "a long tale."
From the festival of Passover until the feast of Weeks (see:
Shabuot) each day is counted by numbering the days and weeks up to
49. In ancient times a sheaf (Hebrew: omer) was offered in the
Temple at the end of this period. The reckoning is kept with the
help of a calendar, often decorative, which in Sephardic tradition
is marked HSD. The H stands for "homer" (since the h was not
pronounced in Spanish, it was used to represent the Hebrew letter
ayin), or, according to others "hoy" (Spanish) or "hoje"
(Portuguese) meaning "today." The S stands for "semaña" (Spanish)
or "semana" (Portuguese) meaning "week." The D stands for "dia"
When the reader reads publicly the scroll of the law, he uses a
pointer, usually made of silver. The pointer often has a hand at
the end with the index finger extended, and is known as "yad," the
Hebrew word for hand.
The Five Books of Moses are written by a scribe on a scroll. Each
week a portion is read from the scroll. The scrolls are kept in the
A festival occurring seven weeks after the Passover, celebrating
the barley harvest and the giving of the Law. Pronounced shavuos in
Ashkenazi Hebrew, and shavuot in modern Hebrew.
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Go back to story about the Exodus.
You might like to read something that Arabic speaking Jews recite
in their language about the Ten
Commandments. You can skip the introduction of you like. Use
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