Guest post from a community member

Hello WIJC,

Herb Weisbaum, WIJC Board member, has sent along the following post to share with the community. Enjoy.


Can’t sleep so I’ve done some reviewing of some common Jewish terms for the Jewish holy days coming up and some other general terms that are appropriate answers/explanations/relative to your inquiry of a few days ago. For many, there are alternate spellings. I hope that I have not given you too much.Rosh HaShanah, et al Glossary

1. Rosh Hashanah Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and literally means “head of the year.”

2. High Holy Days (High Holidays)The Jewish High Holidays are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

3. Teshuvah Teshuva is the term for repentance. On Rosh Hashanah Jews do teshuva, which means they repent for their sins.

4.TorahThe text of the Jewish people. It contains five books: Genesis (Breisheet), Exodus (Shemot), Leviticus (Vayikra), Numbers (Ba’midbar) and Deuteronomy (Devarim). Remember, we went over this generally several months ago.

5.Yom TovLiteral Hebrew to English Translation: “Good Day.” This phrase is often used in place of the English word “holiday” during the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Somes Jews will also use the Yiddish Phrase “Gut Yuntiff,” [Ashkenazi Jews (generally, generally the style of Judaism practiced by people from Western and Eastern Europe) which means “Good Yom Tov” or “Good Holiday.”

 6. L’Shana TovaHebrew for “A Good and Sweet Year” Used around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

7. Chag Sameach (KHAHG sah-MEHY-ahkh)Hebrew Literally, joyous festival. This is an appropriate greeting for just about any holiday, but it’s especially appropriate for Sukkot, Shavu’ot and Pesach (Passover), which are technically the only festivals (the other holidays are holidays, not festivals). Used mostly by Sephardic Jews [Jews from around the Mediterranean and Middle East. In a narrow sense, Jews descended from the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula before their expulsion in the late 15th century.]

8. ‘Shabbat Shalom’Hebrew. This literally means “peaceful sabbath” in Hebrew. This is the standard greeting between Jews on the Shabbat [Sabbath], from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday.

9. Mazel Tov (MAH-zl TAWV)Yiddish/Hebrew. Literally, good luck. This is the traditional way of expressing congratulations. the correct and traditional response upon hearing that a person has gotten engaged or married, has had a child, or has become a bar mitzvah. It can be used to congratulate someone for getting a new job, graduating from college, or any other happy event. Note that this term is not used in the way that the expression “good luck” is used in English; that is, it should not be used to wish someone luck in the future. Rather, it is an expression of pleasure at the good luck someone has already had.

9. L’Chayim (li-KHAY-eem)Yiddish/Hebrew. Literally, to life. The toast you offer before drinking wine or other alcoholic beverages, used the way you would use “Cheers!” in English.

10. Gesundheit (g’-SUND-hahyt)Yiddish. Literally, health. This is the normal response when somebody sneezes. The same expression is used in German (Yiddish is largely based on German), and is quite common even among non-Jews, but I thought it was worth pointing out because some non-Jews have told me they were afraid of offending by saying “bless you” to a Jew.

11. Shalom (shah-LOHM)Hebrew. Literally, peace. A way of saying “hello” or “goodbye.” When I was in Iran and Arab countries I was greeted with the expression Salem Alechem, an Arabic spoken greeting, often translated as Peace be upon you.



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