Jewish words

Chag Sameach

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 4, 2008

When I was small, British Jews greeted each other on festivals with "Good Yomtov." It was one of those generic, Jewish expressions which could speed your passage through the El Al security check.

Now they mostly use the Hebrew "Chag Sameach" instead.

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Chag Habikurim

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 4, 2008

Chag Habikurim is the least well-known of the names of Shavuot (after Chag Hacheesecake etc). It refers to the offering of the first fruits that farmers in the Land of Israel brought to the Temple in Jerusalem in early summer at around the time of the Shavuot holiday. The word bikurim itself is related to bechor, a firstborn son.

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Cabal

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 4, 2008

The now commonplace liberal-left claim that United States foreign policy is run, to the detriment of the whole world, by a "neo-con cabal" consisting of Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and certain other shadowy (Jewish) figures has at least fostered a renewed public consciousness of this fascinating word (cabal, not neo-con).

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Broiges

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 4, 2008

Broiges is Jewish for "angry" or "upset." Most Jewish families have broiges. Broiges defines your relationship with cousins you haven't spoken to for 20 years because they seated you at the table next to the kitchens at their son's barmitzvah.

It often denotes a pent-up, inexpressible, unresolvable rage or frustration, which may have originally arisen from some innocent misunderstanding.

At a communal level, broiges is a subject of endless interest. Who's upset with whom, and why, is a staple of Jewish politics.

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Brit

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 4, 2008

The word brit is most widely known as the name for the circumcision ceremony which Jewish boys undergo, normally at eight days old. It is also called the "brit shel Avraham Avinu" - "the covenant of Abraham, our Father" - after Abraham, to whom the mitzvah of circumcision was first given, (Genesis 17:10); and brit milah (milah also means "word.").

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Bitachon

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 4, 2008

Bitachon is an example of a Biblical Hebrew word that took on a very different set of meanings with the rise of a modern, Hebrew-speaking country.

The root batach literally means to lean or rest on someone or something. Batach b' means "to trust in", usually in God, when used by the Bible, eg: "It is better to trust in God than to trust in any man" (Psalms 118:9) or "I have placed my trust in Your lovingkindness."

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Binah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 4, 2008

"You are still treading on My people, refusing to release them" Exodus 9:17

Before the hailstorm rained down on Egypt, three great men took counsel. The Midrash relates the first was the Pharaoh, the second Balaam and the third was Job, identified by the Talmud as the "God-fearer" in verse 20 (Ba'al Haturim, verse 17; Jerusalem Talmud Sotah 5:6)

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Kliachar yad

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 30, 2008

"This was not a decision I received [in Hebrew, people don't take decisions, they receive them] kliachar yad," said Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, of his long-expected resignation.

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Beshert

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Beshert means "inevitable" or "preordained." It can apply to any happening which appears to bear the fingerprints of divine providence, such as bumping into an old friend you were just thinking about.

But it is used most commonly about marriage and shidduchim ("matches"). Singles pray to "meet their beshert," their life partner, the other half of the broken eggshell with whom they will find love and fulfilment.

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Berachah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

We say berachot from opening our eyes in the morning until closing them at night, on everything nourishing that we eat, every drop of water we drink, fragrant smells, rainbows, thunder, as well as on most of the mitzvot that we do.

Through berachot, we acknowledge and thank God as the source of all the good we have, thereby fulfilling the words of Proverbs: "In all your ways you shall know Him" (3:8). The rabbis say that to take any physical enjoyment from the world without thanking God through a berachah is tantamount to theft.

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