December 7, 2023

Glossary for The Secret That Is Not a Secret

By Jay Michaelson


Note: The definitions provided here are those according to traditional Judaism. Contemporary Jews often have different understandings of them.

Afikomen – Last matzo eaten at the Passover seder

Ahavat – Love

Ahavat Hashem/Ahavas Hashem – Love of God

Alter Rebbe – The founder of Chabad Hasidism 

Aretz/Oretz – Earth 

Aron – Ark

Aron Kodesh (pl. Aronei Kodesh) – Ark in a synagogue where Torah scrolls are kept

Asherah – Canaanite Goddess 

Atzilut/Atzilus – Emanation

Avera – Sin

Avinu she-Bashamayim – God (lit. “Our Father in Heaven”)

Avodah b’Hipukh – Service of God through inversion

Avodah Zara – Idolatry

Ayin v’Efes Mamesh – Absolutely void and empty

Baal Shem Tov – The founder of Hasidism

Ba’al Tshuva (pl. Ba’alei Tshuva) – One who takes on Jewish observance 

Baruch/Boruch – Blessed

Baruch Hashem – Praise God

Bat Ayin – R. Avraham Dov of Avrich (1765–1840), who settled in Safed in 1830

Bat Kol – Divine voice (lit. “daughter of a voice”)

Beit HaMikdash/Beis HaMikdash – The Temple

Beit Midrash/Beis Medrash – Study hall 

Ben Azzai – Talmudic mystic who went insane 

Bittul Hayesh – Self-negation

Bochurim – Male yeshiva students

Borei Olam – Creator of the World

Brachot/Bruchos – Blessings

Briyah – World of Creation

B’Seder – Okay

Chabad – The Lubavitch sect of Hasidim

Chalutz – Israeli pioneer 

Chametz – Leavened food, prohibited on Passover

Chassidus – Hasidism

Chas v’Sholem – God forbid

Chava – Eve

Cholent – Stew served on the Sabbath

Churban – Holocaust, disaster

Dati – Religious

Devekus – Spiritual connection (lit. “cleaving”)

Din (pl. Dinim) – Judgment

Dybbuk – Spirit possession

Eicha – Book of Lamentations

Ein Sof – The Infinite

Emunah – Faith 

Frum – Religious

G-d – God (pious Jews do not write out the word “God”)

Gabbai – Synagogue assistant 

Gemara – A section of the Talmud 

Genizah – Place for storage and burial of sacred texts

Geula – Redemption

Gilgulim – Reincarnations

Golem – Artificial human made by a Kabbalist

Goyim – Non-Jews

Goyishe – Non-Jewish

Halacha/Halachos – Jewish law(s)

Hashem – God (lit. “the Name”)

Hasid – A follower of Hasidism

Hazzan – Cantor

Heikhalot – Heavenly palaces 

Hesed – Sefirah of lovingkindness

Heshek – Desire

Hilonim – Secular Israelis

Ibbur – Spirit incubation   

Ikkar/Ikker – Essence

Ish – Man

Kabbalat Shabbat – Friday night Sabbath service 

Kadosh Baruch Hu/Kadosh Boruch Hu – God (lit. “the Holy One, Blessed be He”)

Kahal/Kehilla – Congregation or community

Kashrut/Kashrus – Jewish dietary laws 

Kavvanah – Intention 

Kavvanot/Kavvanos– Kabbalistic meanings of prayer

K’deshim – Temple sex workers in Canaanite religions

Kedusha – Holiness 

Keter – Sefirah of transcendence (lit. “Crown”)

Kikayon – Mythical plant that sheltered Jonah in the desert 

K’ilu – Like, as if 

Kinos – Dirges 

Kli – Tool, a euphemism for penis

Klippos – The “shells” or realms of evil 

Klippos Hatmayos – “Shells” that are totally impure

Klippos Nogah – “Shells” that can be illuminated

Kodesh Kedoshim – Holy of holies

Kruvim – Cherubs

Lashon Hara/Loshon Hora  – Gossip (lit. “evil speech”)

L’Chayim – To life

Ma’aseh Merkavah – Early form of Jewish mysticism (lit. “workings of the chariot”)

Maimar – Recorded speech or utterance

Malkhut/Malkhus – Sefirah of the Shechinah (Divine Presence)

Mama Loshen – Yiddish (lit. “mother tongue”)

Mamesh – Really, actually (often used as a sort of verbal tic among Hasidim, like “like”)

Maskil – Assimilated/rational Jew (a follower of the European Enlightenment)

Mechayeh – Wonderful thing (lit. “makes life”)

Mechitza – Barrier separating men and women in traditional synagogues

Me’ein Olam Haba – A taste of the world to come     

Mekubbal – Kabbalist

Mikva/Mikveh – Ritual bath

Mincha – Afternoon prayers

Minhag (pl. Minhagim)– Custom(s) 

Minim – Sectarians

Minyan – Prayer quorum of ten men

Mishegas – Craziness

Mishkan – The biblical Tabernacle

Mishkov Zakhar – Homosexual acts (lit. “lying with a man”)

Mishna/Mishnayot – The first part of the Talmud; also refers to individual portions therein 

Mitzvah/Mitzvo (pl. Mitzvot/Mitzvos) – Commandment(s)

Mores Ayin – Something that appears improper

Moshiach – Messiah

Moshiach Sheker – False messiah

Motzei Shabbos – Saturday night

Nachash – Snake

Ner Tamid – Eternal light (lit in a synagogue)

Neshama – Soul 

Netzach – Sefirah of endurance (lit. “Eternity”)

Niddah – Laws of menstruation

Niggun – Wordless Hasidic melody

Nistar – Hidden

Nogah – Brightness, clarity

Ohel Moed – The biblical “tent of meeting”

Oleh (pl. Olim) – Immigrant(s) to Israel 

Parsha – Weekly Torah portion 

Payes – The distinctive side-curls of male Hasidim

Pesach – Passover

Pru Urvu – Be fruitful and multiply (the commandment to procreate)

Pshat – Surface, literal meaning

Rachamim/Rachmanus – Compassion, pity

Rasha (pl. Rasho’im) – Evildoer(s)

Rav/Rov – Rabbi 

Rebbe – A term of intimacy and authority for a Hasidic rabbi

Rebbeim – Rabbis

Rebbetzin – Rabbi’s wife 

Remez – Hint/allegory

Ribbono shel Olam/Ribbono shel Oilam – God (lit. “Master of the Universe”)

Sabbatean (Eng.) – Follower of the heretical messiah Sabbatai Zevi

Safek – Doubt

Sefer – Book, especially a holy book

Sefirah (pl. Sefirot)– Emanation/aspect of God 

Segulah – Amulet

Seichel – Sense

Shabtai Zvi – Seventeenth-century heretical messiah Sabbatai Zevi

Shacharit/Shacharis – Morning prayers

Shamayim/Shomayim – Heaven, sky 

Shammos – Synagogue “beadle”

Shechinah – Feminine Divine Presence

Shed (pl. Shedim) – Demons

Shefa – Divine flow

Shichvat Zera – Spilling of seed

Shiduchim – Arranged matches

Shiur – Lesson 

Shlemut – Wholeness 

Shomer(et) N’giah – Observant of chastity laws

Shtender – Book stand

Shuckling – Swaying in prayer

Shuk – Marketplace

Shul – Synagogue

Simcha – Joy, happy occasion

Sitra Achra – The “other side” or realm of evil

Sitrei Arayot – Laws of forbidden relations (lit. “The concealments/secrets of nakedness”)

Sofer – Scribe

Sonei Yisroel – Enemies of Israel

Tahor – Pure

Tameh – Impure

Tanakh – Bible

Tanya – Central text of Chabad Hasidism

Tati/Tateh – Daddy

Tehillim – Psalms

Tiferet – Sefirah of beauty/compassion

Tikkun – Cosmic repair

Tikkun HaKlali – Set of psalms to “repair” sexual sin

Tisch – Hasidic Shabbat celebration

To’evah – Abomination, taboo 

Tshuva – Repentance

Tzitzis – Fringes/fringed undergarment

Ussur – Forbidden     

Vort – Short homily

Vayikra – Leviticus 

Yakov Avinu – Jacob the patriarch

Yesh – Somethingness, reality

Yeshiva – Religious academy

Yetzer Hara/Yetzer Hora – Evil inclination, specifically the sexual urge

Yichud – Union, both sexual and spiritual

Yiddin – Jews

Yiddishkeit – Jewishness

Z’chus – Merit

Zmiros – Sabbath songs and hymns