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Subject specific vocabulary: Judaism

This subject specific vocabulary defines the key Judaism terms in our A-level Religious Studies 7062 specification. Your students should be familiar with all these terms.


Literally, it means ‘tied’ in Hebrew. It refers to women who are separated from their husband but can’t remarry under Jewish law. This is because they can’t get a divorce or they can’t confirm their husband is still alive.


A disbelief, or lack of belief, in the existence of any form of God.

Babylonian Talmud

The Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish Religious law.

In the Western world, Babylonian Talmud is the best known of the two Talmuds. It’s the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish Religious law. It was completed in the 5th century.

Babylonian Talmund has two basic sections; the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is the collection of the Oral Law. It has 63 Tractates codifying Jewish law. The Gemara is the collection of Rabbinic discussions and debates on the tractates.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

The son (Bar) or daughter (Bat) of the commandments. The occasion when a boy (Bar) or girl (Bat) become fully responsible as a Jewish adult.

Boys attend their Bar Mitzvah’s aged 13. Girls attend their Bat Mitzvah’s aged 12.

Beth Din

The ‘House of Judge’ is a rabbinic court where two or three rabbis deal with Jewish law. These courts are often established close to large Jewish populations, eg Manchester and London.


Hebrew for destruction. It’s often associated with times in Jewish history when the Jewish population suffered.

Eternal Thou

Martin Buber’s term for God. God is the ‘Eternal Thou.’


Originally referred to as the practice of confining Jews to live in certain areas of a city. Today, it refers to the practice of Jewish groups choosing to physically separate themselves from other people.

It’s sometimes linked to the establishment of an eruv.


Seen as an all-Jewish law, it embraces law from the Torah and Talmud with codes of Jewish law and Jewish legal writings.


Kabbalah is the branch of mystical Judaism. One of its early texts is the Zohar.

Maimonides’ 13 Principles

Maimonides was a 12th Century Jewish philosopher. He set out 13 statements which he believed were essential Jewish beliefs for all Jews.


This means ‘anointed’. In scripture, it’s often a great King or leader descended from King David, whose purpose was to restore Israel.

The Orthodox church refers to a Messiah from the House of David, who will reign in Jerusalem, rebuild the Temple and reinstate the sacrificial practices.

More reform views refer to a messianic age which will affect the whole World becoming perfect.


A quorum of ten male Jews, aged 13 or older. A quorum is required for certain religious obligations to be considered valid.


A mitzvot is a commandment. There are 613 mitzvots in Hebrew law. These were supposedly given to Moses from God and they’re recorded in the Torah. Some are explicit, others are implied or arise from Talmudic logic.

There are 248 positive mitzvots and 365 negative mitzvots.


A pesach is often referred to as Passover. It’s a commemoration of the liberation by God of the Jews from slavery in Egypt and was led by Moses. A festival observed in the home, the Seder meal, and the synagogue.

Pikuach nephesh

The obligation to save life in jeopardy. The threat can be immediate or potential. Derived from Leviticus 19.6.

Pittsburgh Platform

An early statement of American Reform principles; established in 1885.


Today, a rabbi is usually seen as a teacher, preacher and spiritual head of a Jewish community or congregation.


The declining influence and prevalence of religious belief, thought and practice within contemporary society.


Often referred to as the Sabbath. The Jewish day of rest, beginning sunset on Friday and ending sunset on Saturday. Observed in the home and the synagogue.


Often referred to as the Jewish / Hebrew Bible. It has three collections; the Torah (Laws), the Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings).


The five books of Moses, or the written law. It consists of; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Reading the Torah in public is expected as part of Jewish life.


The place where the dead go. There are two views on this.

Some people don’t think it’s linked to punishment or reward. Others see it as a place of judgment; you either go to heaven or hell.

Yom Kippur

The Day of Atonement is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Observed as a 25 hour fast, it’s a day for seeking forgiveness of sins by repentance. Much of the day is spent in the synagogue.


A movement which sought the reestablishment of Israel as a Jewish homeland, achieved either by God (Religious Zionism) or by man (Political Zionism). In the case of the latter, it’s often seen to be the maintenance of the state of Israel.