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 "aron."


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 synagogue.

Kiddush Cup

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 purpose.


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 Succ&oacute. Pronounced "lulav" in Ashkenazic and modern Hebrew.


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 Menorah.


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" "day".


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 Ark.


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.


See: Pointer.

Yetsiat Mitsrayim

See: Exodus

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