Isaiah was an 8th century BCE Hebrew prophet whose spiritual vision is recorded in the biblical book of Isaiah, although part of the book (usually said to be ch. 40-55) is commonly held to have been written by a second author of the 6th century BCE, referred to as Deutero-Isaiah.


Rabbi means “my master,” an authorized teacher or master of the Torah and the classical Jewish tradition. After the fall of the second Temple in 70 CE and the scattering of the Jewish people in exile, the role of the rabbi became very important in gathering the people, teaching the tradition, and passing the lamp of learning from generation to generation.


Torah, meaning teaching or instruction, refers in its most specific sense to the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch or books of Moses, and to the scrolls on which these teachings are written. More broadly, Torah refers to the whole of the Hebrew Bible and the whole body of Jewish law and tradition.

bar mitzvah

Bar mitzvah means, literally, “son of the commandment”: a Jewish boy who has achieved the age of 13 and is consequently obligated to observe the commandments. It is also the ceremony in which the boy marks this important rite of passage by reading from the Torah in the synagogue for the first time. The practice was first instituted in the 20th century.


Hebrew is the ancient language of the Israelites in which the Bible and most of Jewish liturgy is written.


Ordination means consecration to a priestly or monastic life. The term is used in the Buddhist tradition for the rites of becoming a monk (bhikkhu) or nun (bhikkhuni); in the Jewish tradition for the rites of becoming a rabbi; and in the Christian tradition for the rites of becoming a priest or minister.


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.

Anti-Defamation League

The Anti-Defamation League is a Jewish organization founded in 1913 to fight anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry. Its mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike.”

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.”


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

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.