Jewish words

Kushiyah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009



A kushiyah is a challenging question. It comes from the word kasheh, meaning hard or difficult. Kushiyot are the bread and butter of the Talmud.



If a rabbis position on a specific halachah can withstand any kushiyot it faces, then his view is legitimate; if, on the other hand, there is a case in which the position is not defensible, then the rabbi is stuck with the kushiyah and his opinion is considered unproven.


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Torah Sheba'al Peh

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009



Torah Shebaal Peh, the Torah of the mouth refers to the Oral Law or the Talmud and its commentaries. Though easily available today in written, digital or online form, oral face-to-face teaching is still essential to its transmission.



It is a cliche to call Jews the People of the Book but People of the Mouth is probably more accurate.


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Istenis

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009



Mummy, theres mud on my trousers, says a five-year-old boy in alarm. I need to go home and change.



Ah, hes my little istenis, the mother explains to her friends at the playground. You might overhear such a conversation in certain Jewish communities.



Istenis is a Talmudic term deriving from the Greek for squeamish or weak and is a category in Jewish law.


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Hatzlachah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009



Hatzlachah means success and is one of those words that have made it into everyday speech among English-speaking Yeshivish Jews.Thus on parting ways, one friend might say to the other, hatzlachah rabbah, much success!


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Tikveh Lmitzvot

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009



Tizkeh lmitzvot literally means May you merit [more] mitzvot, and is used as a form of thank you among religious Jews. If someone gives you a lift home, for example, you might thank him/her by saying tizkeh/ki lmitzvot.



As it is a type of blessing, the proper response is Amen. Some add a blessing in return, Tizkeh laasot, meaning, May you merit the performance [of mitzvot].


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Kamtzan

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009



A kamtzan is a miser and is pronounced kamtzn in Yiddish. He is a regular feature in Chasidic tales, in which he either pays the penalty for his stinginess or is taught the meaning of generosity. It seems as though the kamtzan was a familiar figure in every community, alongside the child prodigy and the local tzaddik.


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Parve

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009



Parve (or parev in Yiddish) means food or dishes that are neither milchig (dairy) nor fleishig (meaty). They can therefore be eaten or used with either sort of food. Parve is especially used of foods you might expect to be milchig or fleishig, eg parve ice-cream.


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Levi

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

A Levi is a Levite, that is, a descendant of Jacobs third son. Levites often have surnames attesting to their lineage such as Levy, Levin, Leventhal etc.

Levites today have two main privileges. One is being called up second to the Torah (after the Cohen). The second is to wash the hands of the Cohanim before the latter go up to bless the people.

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Mishpat

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009



Mishpat is today the modern Hebrew word for law. A mishpatan is a lawyer. The Israeli civil courts are charmingly called batei mishpat lshalom, courts for making peace between people. Mishpat Ivri is the name for those areas of traditional Jewish law that can applied to the areas usually covered by secular legal systems. Mishpat Ivri has standing in Israeli courts today.


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Psik Reisha

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Psik Reisha is a Talmudic expression meaning an inevitable consequence. Its main application is to the laws of Shabbat. To understand the concept requires a little background.

A permitted action on Shabbat that may possibly lead to a forbidden consequence is permitted. For example, it is ok to walk across grass on Shabbat, even though you might thereby inadvertently detach grass with your feet.

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