Jewish words

Beit Hamikdash

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Beit Hamikdash is the Hebrew phrase for the Temple that was first built by King Solomon. A bayit is a house. Mikdash comes from kadosh, meaning holy. In the Tanach, it is usually referred to simply as the "House" in which God especially dwells, a domestic image of the place where God and the Jewish people met in holiness.

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Beged

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

A beged is a garment in Hebrew and is usually used in the plural begadim, clothes. Whereas in English, "clothes" logically derives from the world "cloth," beged has a strange root. Boged is a traitor, one who has broken faith. Isaiah declares (24:16), "Woe is me, bogdim bagadu - the faithless have acted faithlessly."

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Bediyuk

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

"The chupah will take place at 6:30 bediyuk." Bediyuk means "with a diyuk" or "exactly" and often appears on wedding invitations to ensure that the chupah will not take place more than an hour or two late.

A diyuk is an emphasis on a fine point. It comes from the Biblical word dak, referring to something thin as in the "thin, small voice" heard by Elijah (I Kings 19:12). It also means to pulverize; the recipe for the sacrificial incense requires one to "beat some of it into powder [hadek]" (Exodus 30:36).

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Bedecken

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Bedecken is the part of the Jewish wedding ceremony when the groom places the veil over the bride's face. The Yiddish term means to "cover up" and has an obvious English cognate, bedeck.

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Balaboosta

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Balaboosters are rather out of fashion these days, victims of feminism and women's magazines. Still, at least according to family myth, all of our grandmothers were balaboosters - heroic homemakers who raised large numbers of children in straitened circumstances and made real gefilte fish from a carp that swam about in the bath tub.

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Ba’al Teshuvah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

A ba'al teshuvah is someone who has chosen to live a more religious Jewish life. BTs for short, they are often contrasted with FFBs (frum from birth), people who were brought up religious. Though existing in traditional Jewish literature for centuries, the word has become widespread over the past 40 years with the striking return to religious observance that has taken place over that time.

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Avodah Zarah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Avodah zarah is "idolatry." It literally means "strange worship" or "service." The second of the Ten Commandments forbids making and worshipping idols. From the moment that the Jews entered the the land of Israel, the pagan cults of the surrounding peoples were a periodic source of temptation, against which the prophets warned and fought.

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Atbash

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Readers of Dan Brown's blockbusting thriller, "The Da Vinci Code," will recall that the atbash cipher plays a crucial role in the verse clue that Jacques Saunière constructs as the key to the outer cryptex. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry and read on.)

Dan Brown's knowledge of Judaism is highly unreliable, but this happens to be one of the few things he got right.

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Armageddon

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Back in the 80s, when all-out war between the superpowers was thought to be a remote but real possibility, pundits often referred to the potential for "nuclear armageddon." Today the word is still in use, mainly among scary Christian sects who predict a final, apocalyptic conflict.

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Amen

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Amen is a Jewish word that enjoys a level of international fame comparable to shalom or bagel. It signifies emphatic assent or agreement to something just said - as in "Amen to that!"

Amen is Hebrew for "firm," "straight" or "true." It comes from the verb "aman" - to "support," "confirm" or "approve." When we say amen, we confirm or support the truth of whatever we are responding to.

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