Supplemental Glossary to Bar-Ilan's Responsa

Entries based on the Oxford English Dictionary, and edited by Elliott Rabin.


(Use the following to go directly to specific terms:)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




C

Cabbala, Kabbala.
(1) From the beginning of the thirteenth century, the term used for Jewish mysticism, comprising the study of the hidden workings of the Godhead.
(2) The name given in post-Biblical Hebrew to the oral tradition handed down from Moses to the Rabbis of the Mishnah and the Talmud.
Chumash.
The five books of the Torah [i.e., the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy].

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G

Gematria.
The method of interpreting the Bible by drawing inferences from the numerical value of the Hebrew letters. For example, the fact that the Bible begins with the letter bet, the second letter of the alphabet, indicated for the Zohar the idea that creation occured on two levels, the physical level of this world and higher divine realm.
Gemara.
The later of the two portions of the Talmud, consisting of a commentary on the older part (the Mishnah).

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H

Halachah, Halakhah.
(1) Any law, whether from the Torah or the Talmud.
(2) The system of rabbinic law as a whole.

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K

Kabbala. See Cabbala.

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M

Midrash.
An ancient Jewish homiletic commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, in which free use was made of moral, parables, and legendary illustration. Collections of multiple authors, Midrashim are organized according to the schedule of Scriptural readings in the synagogue. Also, the mode of treatment characteristic of this class of commentaries.
Halakhic Midrashim.
Scriptural commentary in the style of Midrash, intended to establish legal principles from the verses or passages being studied.
Aggadic Midrashim.
Scriptural commentary offering non-legal interpretations.
Mishnah, Mishna.
The first written collection of rabbinic law or halakhah which forms the basis of the Talmud. The Mishnah was brought together and codified in the second century.

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R

Rambam-Mishneh Torah.
The Mishneh Torah was the first major law code in Judaism; it systematically organized the whole of rabbinic law. It was written by Maimonides (1135-1204), otherwise known as Rambam [Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon], a Spanish rabbi, physician and philosopher who died in Egypt.
Rashi.
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), renowned medieval French scholar; his work is the standard commentary on the Bible and Talmud.
Responsa.
Replies made by rabbinic scholars in answer to submitted questions about Jewish law. These replies began to be written in the 6th century after the final redaction of the Talmud, and they continue to be formulated.
Rishonim.
Literally "the first," or "the former," this term refers to the leading rabbis who lived approximately from 1000 to 1500, before the writing of the Shulkhan Arukh.

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S

Shulkhan Arukh.
Literally, "prepared table," this work on Jewish religious practice, written by R. Joseph Caro (1488-1575) and supplemented by R. Moses Isserks (d. 1572), is now accepted as the standard guide to Orthodox observance.

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T

Talmud.
[Hebrew, study] A voluminous, comprehensive collection of wide-ranging rabbinic discussions on Jewish law and belief. The Talmud is structured by the classifications of the Mishnah; each section begins with a passage from the Mishnah, followed by the Gemara [Aramaic for Talmud], a commentary consisting of rabbinic teachings, stories, and arguments that diverges freely to other subjects. There are two recensions of the Talmud, differing in material and length: the Babylonian Talmud, the larger and more important work, was compiled circa 500; the Jerusalem, or Palestinian, Talmud was compiled in the early fifth century. [Whenever one finds mention simply of "the Talmud," the Bablyonian text is usually being indicated.] This is the central text of rabbinic Judaism.
Talmud Bavli.
Hebrew name for the Babylonian Talmud.
Tanakh.
The Hebrew Scriptures. Tanakh is an acronym derived from the three major divisions of Torah (the Penteteuch), Nevi'im (the Prophets), and Ketuvim (the Writings, comprising Psalms through Chronicles).
Targum.
Each of several Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Scriptures, often freely rendered with interpretive supplements, made after the Babylonian captivity. These were first preserved by oral transmission, then committed to writing from circa 100 onwards. The extant Targums together comprise all the books except Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel.
Tur.
Tur (aka Arba`a Turim, or simply Turim): the next major code of Jewish law following the Mishneh Torah; compiled by R. Jacob b. Asher (ca. 1280-1340), in 4 vols.

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Z

Zohar.
The major text of Cabbala (mysticism). Composed pseudopigraphically in the second half of the thirteenth century by R. Moses de Leon, it is a vast work of many parts which contains an allegorical interpretation of the Pentateuch.

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