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Glossary of Halachic Terms

Amidah Silent prayer consisting of nineteen blessings (seven on Shabbat)

Ashkenazi Refers to Jews of Central/Eastern European ancestry (Eng. Ashkenazic)

Balanit Mikveh attendant

Balua Lit. "swallowed up" refers to items found in normally inaccessible parts of the body that do not require cleaning before mikveh (e.g., ear canal)

Baruch Hashem thank G-d

Bediavad Refers to a less than optimal manner of fulfilling a halachic requirement, acceptable after the fact or in difficult situations (opposite of l'chat'chila)

Bedikah Self administered, halachic internal examination (pl. bedikot)
Bedikah cloth (taharah cloth, ed) White cloth used for internal examination

Bein hashmashot The interval between sunset (sh'kiah) and tzet hakochavim (nightfall)

Beit Hamikdash The Temple in Jerusalem, destroyed in 70 C.E.

Beit hastarim   Accessible "hidden places" that require cleaning before mikveh but do not actually require contact with the water (e.g., inside mouth)

Betulah woman who has never had intercourse

B'ezrat Hashem G-d willing

Birkot chatanim Blessings recited as part of nisu'in (marriage) ceremony (the six birkot chatanim plus the blessing over wine are called sheva brachot, seven blessings)

Birkat hamazon Grace after meals

Birkat hashevach A blessing recited in praise of G-d

Bish'at hadechak A difficult situation or an emergency in which certain halachic leniencies may apply

Boneh Building, one of the 39 categories of work forbidden on Shabbat (braiding hair is included in this prohibition)

Bracha A blessing, recited in praise of G-d (e.g., before and after eating), or upon performing a commandment (e.g., immersing in the mikveh)

Candlelighting Time - In most places about 20 minutes before sunset Friday evening

Chabad A subgroup of Chasidism, also called Lubavitch

Chafifah Cleansing in preparation for mikveh immersion

Chas v'shalom Heaven forbid!

Chatan Bridegroom

Chatzitzah A barrier intervening between one's body and the water that can invalidate mikveh immersion

Chazakah A halachic presumption (e.g., that a woman has stopped bleeding)

Chazal Sages of the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods, approx 200 BCE to 600 CE (abbreviation for Chachamim Zichronam Livracha, Sages of Blessed Memory)

Chesed (gemilut chasadim) Acts of kindness

Chumra A halachic stringency (opposite of kula)

Chupah Jewish wedding ceremony (also refers to the canopy under which the ceremony takes place)

Chupat niddah A wedding that takes place while the bride is niddah

Dam Blood

Dam betulim Hymenal bleeding the first time(s) a woman has relations

Dam chimud Bleeding due to the excitement of the approaching wedding

Dam makkah Bleeding due to trauma, injury, or irritation, which does not make a woman niddah

Devek Connection

D'Oraita Torah law, refers to halachot stated in or derived directly from verses in the Torah

D'Rabbanan Rabbinic law, refers to decrees enacted by the rabbis subsequent to the giving of the Torah

Ed Another term for a bedikah cloth (lit. witness)

Edim Witnesses (e.g., to the kiddushin segment of the marriage ceremony)

Eretz Yisrael The land of Israel

Erev Shabbat The day preceding Shabbat (i.e., Friday during the day)

Erev Yom Kippur The day preceding Yom Kippur

Erev Yom Tov The day preceding a festival

Erusin First segment of the marriage ceremony, in which the couple becomes committed exclusively to each other, also called kiddushin

Eruv tavshilin On the eve of a festival that will be followed immediately by Shabbat, some prepared food is set aside for Shabbat. This allows preparations for Shabbat to continue during the festival.

Get A bill of divorce

Gozez Shearing, one of the 39 categories of work forbidden on Shabbat (includes cutting or removing hair or nails)

Gris A measurement of surface area equivalent to the size of a split bean, a circle 19 millimeters in diameter

Haflagah The interval from one menstrual period to the next

Halacha Jewish law

Halacha pesukah A universally accepted halachic ruling

Hamapil A blessing recited immediately before going to sleep at night

Harchakot Restrictions designed to minimize the possibility of physical contact between a couple while the wife is niddah

Hargashah A halachically relevant sensation accompanying the onset of menses

Hefsek taharah An internal examination to establish that uterine bleeding has ceased (also called a hefsek)

Heker A reminder of the niddah status, required when husband and wife are eating together during niddah

Henetz hachamah Sunrise (also called netz hachamah, netz)

Heter A halachic ruling permitting something that might otherwise be prohibited (e.g., contraception)

Issur v'heter The area of halacha concerned with that which is permitted and forbidden (e.g., kashrut, niddah)

Iyun Inspection of the body for possible chatzitzot before mikveh immersion

Kabbalah Jewish mysticism (adj. kabbalistic)

Kallah Bride

Kallah teacher A woman who teaches brides the laws of niddah before marriage

Karet A very serious punishment ("excision") for certain transgressions of Torah law (e.g., eating on Yom Kippur, relations during niddah)

Kedushah Holiness

Ketem A stain. Bloodstains meeting certain criteria make a woman niddah according to rabbinic law.

Ketubah Marriage contract spelling out the obligations of a husband to his wife

Kiddush Blessing recited over a cup of wine at a Shabbat meal

Kiddushin First segment of the marriage ceremony, in which the couple become committed exclusively to each other, also called erusin

Kodshim Refers to sacrifices brought in the Temple in Jerusalem, for which ritual purity was required

Kosher Halachically acceptable (e.g., food, mikveh immersion) - noun kashrut

Kula A halachic leniency (opposite of chumra)

L'Chat'chila optimal manner of fulfilling a halachic requirement (opposite of b'diavad)

Makpid scrupulous, particular

Mayim acharonim ritual washing of hands after a meal common before Birkat Hamazon

Meineket A nursing woman, halakhically defined as a woman within two years postpartum whether or not she is actually nursing

Mekabel tumah Susceptible to ritual impurity

Mesader kiddushin The rabbi who officiates at a wedding ceremony

Mesuleket damim A woman not expected to menstruate (e.g., during pregnancy, after menopause)

Me'uberet A pregnant woman

Mikveh (also spelled mikveh, pl. mikvaot) Ritual bath in which a woman immerses to exit the niddah status

Minchah k'tanah Two and one half proportional hours before sunset

Minhag Custom. May be halakhically binding for those who practice it

Minyan Quorum of ten adult Jewish men required for recital of public prayers

Mishnah Authoritative compilation of halacha, completed approximately 200 CE.

Mitzvah Commandment (pl. mitzvot)

Mitzvot bein adam l'chaveiro Commandments in the area of interpersonal relations

M'machek Smoothing, one of the 39 categories of work forbidden on Shabbat (includes using a bar of soap)

Moch dachuk Bedikah cloth inserted into the vagina from sunset until nightfall immediately following the hefsek taharah examination (also called moch)

Motzei Shabbat Saturday night

Ne'ekar Uprooted, refers to a veset that no longer needs to be observed

Negiah Touching, the prohibition against contact between men and women who are not married or closely related

Netilat yadayim Ritual washing of hands (e.g., before a meal, upon awakening)

Niddah Halachic status, acquired through menstruation or other uterine bleeding, during which physical contact between husband and wife is forbidden

Nisu'in Second segment of the marriage ceremony, in which the husband symbolically brings the wife into his household.

Onah A time period (pl. onot)
a) one day or night, measured from sunrise to sunset or from sunset to sunrise
b) the length of one menstrual cycle
c) the mitzvah for a couple to have relations (mitzvat onah)

Onah beinonit The average interval between menstrual periods, 30 days

Onot perishah Period of separation at the time of expected menses; marital relations are forbidden and the woman must do an internal examination. (pl. Onot Perishah)

Or Zarua Refers to the practice of observing an extra onah immediately prior to the onat perishah.

Peru urevu The Torah commandment to be fruitful and multiply, incumbent on men and fulfilled by fathering at least one boy and one girl

Pikuach nefesh A situation where life is at risk. In such situations almost all prohibitions may be violated.

Posek Halachic decisor

Proportional hour One twelfth of the period from sunrise to sunset, or from sunset to sunrise (Heb. Sha'ah zmanit)

Psak Halachic ruling (also psak halacha, pl. piskei halacha)

Rav Rabbi (pl. rabbanim)

Roah mechamat tashmish Uterine bleeding caused by marital relations

Rosh Chodesh Beginning of a new Hebrew month, observed on the 1st day of the month. If the previous month had 30 days, then Rosh Chodesh is observed for two days: the 30th of the previous month and the 1st of the new one.

Safek doubt

S'chitah Wringing out (e.g., water from a towel), an activity forbidden on Shabbat

Seah A measurement of volume, approximately 8.3 liters. The minimum quantity of water in a mikveh is 40 seah.

Sephardi Refers to Jews of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern ancestry, also called "Edot HaMizrach"

Seudat mitzvah A meal in which participation is considered a mitzvah (e.g., a Shabbat meal, a wedding meal)

Sha'ah zemanit - Proportional hour, one twelfth of the period from sunrise to sunset, or from sunset to sunrise

Shabbat Sabbath, a day of rest observed from sunset Friday until nightfall Saturday (also called Shabbos)

Shalom bayit Marital harmony (lit. peace in the home)

Sh'kiat hachamah Sunset (also called sh'kiah)

Shema Verses from Torah declaring acceptance of G-d's sovereignty, recited during morning and evening prayers and before going to sleep

Sheva brachot Seven blessings recited during the marriage ceremony, and after Birkat Hamazon following a wedding meal or a festive meal during the week after the wedding (these festive meals are also called Sheva brachot

Shinui A change from the usual manner of performing an activity

Shivah Week of mourning following the death of a close relative

Shivah neki'im Seven blood-free ("clean") days counted as part of the process of exiting the niddah status

Sh'kiah Sunset (also called sh'kiat hachamah)

Shulchan Aruch Authoritative code of Jewish law, compiled by Rabbi Yosef Karo, 16th century CE

Sifrei kodesh Holy books (Torah or prayer books)

Simcha Happiness, or a joyful event (e.g., wedding)

Sirus Castration, sterilization

Tachanun Penitential prayers recited on weekdays

Tahor (fem. tehorah) a) not niddah; b) ritually pure

Taharah purity, the state of being tahor/tehorah

Taharat hamishpacha Family purity, the laws of niddah

Takanah A rabbinic enactment

Talmud Authoritative rabbinic compilation of halacha and tradition, an extended commentary on the Mishnah. There are two versions, the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmud. Most Jewish law cites the Babylonian Talmud which was completed in the 6th century CE.

Tehorah see tahor

Temeiah see tamei

Terumah Tithe from produce, for which ritual purity was required

Teshuvah a) Repentance; b) Rabbinic responsum

Tevilah immersion in the mikveh (verb tovel)

Tevilah bizmanah Mikveh immersion on the appropriate night

Tisha B'Av Ninth of Av, 24-hour fast commemorating the destruction of the Temple

Tovel immerse in the mikveh (noun, tevilah)

Tamei (fem. temeiah) ritually impure, sometimes used as a synonym for niddah

Tumah impurity, the state of being tamei/temeiah

Tzedakah charity

Tzet hakochavim Nightfall (literally, when the stars come out, also called tzet)

Tzniut modesty

Veset a) The pattern of a woman's menstrual cycle
b) The time or circumstance when a woman anticipates her menses 

Veset chatzi kavua A semi-regular menstrual pattern, i.e., a woman consistently menstruates after a certain point in her cycle, but the precise day is not predictable

Veset haguf A menstrual pattern based on physical symptoms that precede or accompany the onset of bleeding

Veset kavua A halachically regular menstrual pattern, established by three consecutive occasions

Veset she'eino kavua A menstrual pattern that is not halachically considered regular

Vidui Confessional prayer, recited on Yom Kippur and on one's wedding day

Yichud Private seclusion of a man and a woman, prohibited for couples not married to each other or closely related, and observed by bride and groom after the chupah or after the wedding, depending on custom

Yoetzet halacha A woman certified to serve as a resource for women with questions regarding Taharat Hamishpacha

Yoledet A woman during or after childbirth, who has a halachic status similar to niddah

Yom hachodesh - Date exactly one Hebrew month after the beginning of a woman's previous menses

Yom Kippur Day of Atonement (10 Tishrei)

Yom Tov Festival on which certain types of work are prohibited

Zavah A woman who has non-menstrual uterine bleeding (the distinction between niddah and zavah is no longer observed)

Zavah gedolah A woman who has non-menstrual uterine bleeding on three consecutive days (the distinction between niddah and zavah is no longer observed)

Zavah ketanah A woman who has non-menstrual uterine bleeding on fewer than three consecutive days (the distinction between niddah and zavah is no longer observed)

Zekeinah Lit. "elderly woman"  a woman at least 53 years old who has not menstruated for 90 days


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