God

avodah

avodah n. Hebrew (ah-voh-DAH) Literally, “Divine service.” In the Pirke Avot, it is written that the world stands on three pillars: Torah; gemilut hasadim, acts of kindness toward our fellow man; and avodah, service and worship of God. 2. Avodah A unique part of the Musaf service on Yom Kippur, the Avodah prayers describe the …

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Ashrei

Ashrei n. Hebrew (OSH-ray) Literally, “happy are they.” A responsive prayer recited during daily and Shabbat services. It includes language from three psalms; its theme is God’s concern for humankind. The prayer is an acrostic; each line begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet except for the letter nun. noun Eisenberg, J., Scolnic, …

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ark

ark n. English 1. Shorthand for Holy Ark (Aron Kodesh), the cabinet at the front of an Ashkenazic synagogue that houses the Torah scrolls. It is usually set into or against a wall that faces east toward Jerusalem. The ark is sometimes large and ornate, sometimes small and plain. A depiction of the tablets of …

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arba kosot

arba kosot n. Hebrew (ar-BAH co-SOTE) Literally, “four cups.” It is traditional to drink four cups of wine during the seder on Pesach. The four cups of wine mirror the four ways that God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as written in Exodus 6:6-7: “I will free you from the labors of the …

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Amidah

Amidah n. Hebrew (ah-MEE-dah) Literally, “standing.” A silent or whispered prayer said while standing. The Amidah, considered the centerpiece of the synagogue service, is a plea to God to fulfill spiritual and physical needs, as well as those of the Land of Israel. It is said three times a day in synagogue, and in an …

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Aleinu

Aleinu n. Hebrew (ah-LAY-noo) Literally, “it is upon us.” A prayer in praise of God, Aleinu acknowledges the unique relationship between God and the Jewish people. It is sung toward the end of synagogue services while the congregation stands. Originally from the High Holy Day liturgy, the Aleinu is now part of all services. It’s …

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Akedah

Akedah n. Hebrew (ah-kay-DAH) Literally, “binding.” Specifically, the incident in Genesis when God tells Abraham to bind (tie up) his son Isaac and prepare to sacrifice the boy. At the last moment, God stops Abraham from going through with the deed. Explanations of the Akedah include that God was testing Abraham’s obedience; that it shows …

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