Jewish words

Siyyum

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Siyyum means conclusion or finishing, (deriving from the verb som, meaning to place) which comes to mean a marker. The word sprang to prominence last month with the Siyyum Hashas, the culmination of the seven-and a-half-year Daf Yomi cycle, when tens of thousands of Jews round the world celebrated completing the Babylonian Talmud.

Its common to hold a siyyum also to mark more modest achievements in Jewish learning. People will often break open a bottle of schnapps and a box of biscuits after shul on a weekday morning to celebrate completing a tractate of Talmud.

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Shtick

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Shtick has long been mainstream English in the United States and is now making its way into British use. In colloquial parlance, it means, roughly, personal, idiosyncratic or trademark behaviour with which someone is particularly associated.

You might say that wearing kabbalistic symbols is today part of Madonnas shtick, or that having a gentleman in a crimson jacket with a booming voice make the announcements at wedding receptions is part of Anglo-Jewish shtick. If you think that someones behaviour is idiosyncratic to the point of self-indulgence, you could call it shticky.

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Shanah Tovah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

There is some confusion about what one should wish people on Yom Kippur. Chag Sameach (happy festival), or Moadim lsimchah (occasions for joy), are not quite right. Yom Kippur has an aspect of simchah, joy, in that it is a time of forgiveness, but joy is restrained by awe at the Day of Judgment.

Good Yomtov is always a safe bet, and Gmar chatimah tovah, May you be sealed for good (in the coming year), is quite correct.

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Hosanna

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Hosanna is an English exclamation of praise or applause, that may be frequently found in Christian liturgy. Its rarely heard these days now that Christianity in Britain is a minority pursuit roughly as popular as angling.



Its origin is Hebrew. Hosanna is a contraction of hoshiah-na, which means Save, [we] pray (see Psalms 118:25).


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Hallelujah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Hallelujah is a word best known from Harlem gospel churches (as in Hallelujah, praise the Lord) and from Handels chorus. Many dont know that its a Hebrew word that appears countless times in the book of Psalms.

Hallelujah is a combination of two words, hallel meaning praise, and the shortened two-letter version of the name of God. For this reason some Jews wont pronounce the word except when reciting a prayer or a biblical verse, but will say hallelukah instead, rather than utter one of Gods names in a profane context.

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Din

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Din means judgment. Rosh Hashanah is also known as Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment. On Rosh Hashanah the whole world is judged (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah, 1:2).This accounts for the ambivalent character of the day. Its a Yomtov. We wear white and eat, drink and rejoice, but we dont say Hallel; we hope and pray that Gods judgment will be tempered by love, yet at a time of judgment our joy is restrained.

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Zechut

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Rabbi Julian Sinclairs weekly dip into the dictionary



Zechut, or zechus in Ashkenazi pronunciation, means something between an advantage, a privilege or a reward. Often it is an advantage or honour that is felt to be a reward. You might say, Its a zechus for me to look after you, or It was a zechus to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe, or Hes so football mad, he feels that the biggest zechus of his life was to be at the 1966 World Cup Final.

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Septuagint

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Septuagint is the word for the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. It became the basis for Bible translations into many other languages, including Ethiopian, Arabic and Armenian.

The name Septuagint, which means 70 in Latin, comes from the story of the books creation. The Talmud, in tractate Megillah (9a-9b), recounts how Ptolemy, a third-century-BCE Egyptian Pharaoh, gathered together 72 Jewish sages (close to 70), put them in 72 separate house and demanded that each produce independently a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

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Jubu

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Jubu is a neologism coined within the last 10 years. Its short for Jewish Buddhist. The need for a new word reflects the explosion of interest in Buddhism among Jews.At one end of the spectrum, a Jubu may be a Buddhist guru who grew up Jewish and left the community. (This is true of a staggeringly high percentage of American Buddhist leaders; well over half by most counts.) One such Jubu journey is recounted by Sylvia Boorstein in her autobiographical memoir, Thats funny, you dont look Buddhist.

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Knesset

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Knesset is the name for Israels rumbustious parliament. Reflecting the colourful diversity of Israeli society, its democratic debate is lively, not to say frequently unruly.

Knesset comes from the word hichnis, which means to bring in. The related kinus means a gathering of people. The annual assemblages of all the Lubavitch movements far-flung emissaries is called kinus hashluchim. Similarly, in the face of Ahasueruss decree, Esther instructs Mordechai, Go and gather together (knos) all the Jews, (Esther, 4:16.) for unity and mutual support.

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