A tallit is a large, four-cornered shawl with fringes and special knots at the extremities, worn during Jewish morning prayers. The fringes, according to the Bible (Numbers 15.38-39), remind the worshiper of God’s commandments. In many communities today, both men and women, upon the occasion of their bar/bat mitzvah, will begin wearing a tallit during services. In Orthodox communities, the tallit is only worn by men. It is traditional for a man to be buried in his tallit, but without its fringes.


The Haggadah is the book containing the Passover seder service, retelling the story of the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.


Messiah means, literally, the “anointed one.” In Biblical tradition, the term came to mean a redeemer and royal descendant of the dynasty of David who would restore the united kingdom of Israel and Judah and usher in an age of peace, justice and plenty, sometimes called the Messianic age. Judaism, throughout its history, has lived through many false messianic claims. While the most famous one, from a Jewish perspective, is Jesus of Nazareth, the notion of proclaiming oneself, or one’s spiritual mentor, to be the messiah, was common in Medieval Judaism as well. Shabbetai Tzvi (1626-1676)... Read more about Messiah

Spinoza, Baruch

Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677 CE) was a Jewish philosopher from the Netherlands who is credited with establishing the foundation for the Enlightenment. In 1656, he was excommunicated by the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam in 1656 for “abominable heresies.”

Exodus, Book of

Exodus (or Shmot, meaning “Names”) is the second book of the Five Books of Moses, or the Humash, which relates the narrative of Moses who led the people of Israel in their “exodus” or escape from slavery in Egypt. Israel’s exodus from Egypt has become a pivotal event of redemption that has shaped the identity and memory of the Jewish people, and has been a powerful narrative of liberation for Christians as well.

Leviticus, Book of

The third book of the Humash or Five Books of Moses, Leviticus (or Vayikra, meaning ‘And He Called’) details the priestly obligations the formed the spiritual heart of the forty-year journey in the wilderness, as well as the basis for the later service in the Temple in Jerusalem. Leviticus is almost completely devoid of narrative, and is sometimes seen as less accessible than the other four books of the Humash, due to the fact that sacrifices are no longer a part of Jewish ritual life.


Shechina is the Jewish term for the divine presence. In the Kabbalistic tradition, the shechina is understood to be the feminine presence of God.

King David

David was the King of Israel (c. 1000 BCE) credited with uniting the many tribes of Israel into a centralized kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. David is said to have planned for the Temple in Jerusalem, which was subsequently built by his son Solomon. The Book of Psalms found in the Bible is also attributed to the young David.


The Kabbalah is the Jewish mystical tradition.

secular Judaism

Especially in the Jewish tradition, there are those who describe themselves as secular Jews, meaning identified with the Jewish community and heritage, but not religiously observant.


Jeremiah was a Hebrew prophet of the 7th century BCE who foresaw the downfall of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 BCE.


Rashi is the acronym of the most distinguished commentator on the Bible and the Babylonian Talmud, the French scholar Rabbi Schlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105).

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the “Day of Atonement,” the holiest day of the Jewish year, a day of fasting and atonement. Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur are called the High Holy Days, ordinarily falling in early autumn.

beit Midrash

A beit midrash is a Jewish house of study and discussion; in ancient times it was a school of higher learning.

High Holy Days

The Jewish High Holidays are Rosh Hashanah (New Year, literally "head of the year"), and Yom Kippur (literally "day of atonement"). Both fall in the lunar month of Tishri, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and following ten days later with Yom Kippur. These days are called the “Days of Awe” because the entire period constitutes a season of judgment and repentance, forgiveness and spiritual renewal, standing in awe before God.