If you’re new to Messianic Judaism, you may be unfamiliar with many of the Hebrew words commonly used among Messianic Jews. We’ve put together a glossary of some words that will help you explore the beauty and richness that the Hebrew language and Jewish tradition can add to your New Testament faith.
Baruch means “blessed.” Blessing God is an important part of Jewish and Messianic Jewish worship. Many blessings open with the phrase “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe” and are followed by various lines specific to each occasion.
Brit Chadasha (BRIT Khah-dah-SHAH)
The Brit Chadasha is the New Covenant or New Testament of the Bible.
Challah is a sweet egg bread served on Shabbat and holidays. It is usually braided and can be made with many variations.
Echad means “one.” More than a simple numeral, echad reflects a compound oneness that is fitting to describe God’s existence. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Elohim is a name for God frequently used in the Old Covenant.
The literal translation of hallel is “praise.” In Jewish worship, “The Hallel” refers to the recitation of Psalms 113‒118 in the liturgy at various holidays.
HaShem means “the name” and refers to the name of God. It is often included in blessings used in Messianic Judaism and traditional Jewish worship. Several Messianic congregations throughout the world are named Baruch HaShem, meaning “blessed be the name.”
The translation of kadosh is “holy.” You will hear it often in prayers and worship songs within Messianic Judaism.
The Tree of Life Version of the Bible replaces New Covenant references to Believers as “saints” with the Hebrew word kedoshim, which more clearly conveys the original meaning of the word as “holy ones.”
A kippah is also known as a skullcap or yarmulke (YAH-meh-kuh) in Yiddish. It is a small head covering worn by Jewish men during prayer, worship and teaching. It serves as a reminder of God’s presence and pre-eminence above man. Some non-Jewish men within Messianic Judaism also wear kippahs in the space of a Messianic Jewish synagogue.
kohen/kohanim (koh-HEN) (koh-ha-NEEM)
The word kohen means priest, and kohanim is its plural form. Have you ever met someone with the last name of Kohen, Cohen or Kahn? Their family name came from the ancient line of Jewish priests and often means their forefathers came from the sons of Aaron, the first high priest.
kohen gadol (koh-HEN gah-DOLE)
Many priests served the nation of Israel’s worship needs. However, there was only one high priest at a time. It was this kohen gadol who entered into the presence of God in the Holy of Holies once each year to bring atonement for the people. Messianic Judaism embraces Yeshua (Jesus) as our high priest who made complete atonement for our sin by His death (Hebrews 6‒10).
lashon hakodesh (lah-SHONE ha-KO-desh)
Hebrew is known as the lashon hakodesh, the “holy tongue,” spoken for millennia by God’s chosen people. It is the language of the Old Covenant Scriptures and is rich with subtleties and nuances that English often does not capture. In Jonathan Bernis’ Confessing the Hebrew Scriptures series, you can learn to proclaim and pray Scripture in the lashon hakodesh.
The word Mashiach means Messiah or anointed one. The Old Covenant is filled with promises of the coming Messiah, the anointed one of God. The Brit Chadasha, or New Covenant, reveals Jesus as the Jewish Messiah prophesied throughout the Holy Scriptures. Most Jewish people still wait for the Messiah’s appearing while Messianic Jews recognize Him as Yeshua.
A mezuzah is a small container placed on the doorposts of homes. A little scroll of Scripture is placed inside according to the Torah’s command of Deuteronomy 6:4–9. Mezuzahs remind Jewish people that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. As an intentional act of remembrance, many Jewish people and Messianic Jews make a point of touching the mezuzah as they pass through doorways affixed with them.
mitzvah (mitz-VAH) / mitzvot (mitz-VOTE)
The Hebrew word for “commandment” is mitzvah. When a Jewish boy goes through his Bar Mitzvah ceremony, he becomes a “son of the commandment.” Mitzvot is the plural of mitzvah, meaning commandments.
Moad (MO-ed) / moadim (mo-eh-DEEM)
The Hebrew word used in the Bible for a Feast of the Lord is moad, which means “appointed time” (see Leviticus 23). The plural form is moadim.
The parashah is a weekly Scripture reading recited in Jewish synagogues. Each week the parashah – meaning portion in Hebrew - includes a part of the first five books of the Bible, called the Torah or Pentateuch. By the end of the year, worshipers have read the entire Torah, and the cycle begins again. Messianic Judaism continues this tradition connecting the parashah to images of Yeshua found in the Torah.
The Pentateuch comprises the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Covenant), which were written by Moses. This collection of instructional books is also known as the Torah.
The Hebrew word for “spirit” is ruach.
Ruach HaKodesh (ROO-ach Ha-KO-desh)
“The Holy Spirit” is known in Hebrew as the Ruach HaKodesh.
You’ve probably noticed this little word in the book of Psalms. It typically appears between passages within a single psalm. It means “pause,” and it is a directive to the reader to linger a moment and reflect on what was just read before moving on to the next verse.
Shabbat (Shah-BAHT) / Shabbatot (Shah-bah-TOTE)
Shabbat means “Sabbath” and is the seventh day of the week, or Saturday on the Gregorian calendar. The word Shabbat means “rest” reflecting back to the Lord’s rest after six days of Creation. The Jewish day begins and ends at sunset, so the Shabbat starts on Friday evening when the sun goes down and ends at sunset on Saturday. Synagogues and Messianic Jewish congregations conduct services on either Friday evening or Saturday morning, sometimes both. Several of the biblical Feasts call for a Shabbat, a rest, on a particular day. On these holy days, God commanded that no work be done, just as for the weekly Shabbat. Shabbatot is the plural of Shabbat.
You may already know that shalom means “peace.” What may be new to you is that the word conveys much more than that. It also denotes the concept of “completeness” and “wholeness.” Knowing the fuller meaning of shalom enriches our understanding of Scripture – especially such passages as Psalm 122:6 in which God commands us to pray for the shalom of Israel and John 14:27 in which Yeshua told us about the extraordinary peace He gives. Shalom can also be used as a greeting and farewell.
Shema means “hear, listen.” It is the opening word used in Deuteronomy 6:4. The Shema is a Jewish prayer recited morning and evening taken from three Scripture passages (Deuteronomy 6:4‒9, 11:13‒21 and Numbers 15:37‒41). Messianic Judaism has adapted the Shema, and it is commonly sung to open worship services and prayer gatherings.
Shema Yisrael (Hear O Israel)
Adonai Eloheynu (the Lord our God)
Adonai Echad (the Lord is one).
Baruch Shem Kavod (Blessed is the name of His glorious)
Malchuto L’olam Vaed (Kingdom for all eternity).
shofar (SHO-far) / shofarim (sho-far-EEM)
The shofar is a ram’s horn that is blown like a trumpet. When Joshua and the Israelites circled the city of Jericho and on the seventh day blew trumpets that frightened and confused the inhabitants, it was this type of horn they blew. (See Joshua chapter six.) The shofar is used today in Jewish synagogues and Messianic Jewish congregations as a call to worship and on various Jewish holidays. Shofarim is plural.
A tallit is a woven prayer shawl worn during worship and prayer, primarily by men.
The Talmud is the collection of Jewish oral tradition interpreting the Torah.
The Tanakh is the entirety of Hebrew Scriptures, known to Christians as the Old Covenant or Old Testament. The word Tanakh was formed from the first letters (TNK) of the three sections into which the Jewish Scriptures are divided: the Torah (instruction), Neviim (prophets) and Ketuvim (writings).
In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God commands Jewish people to diligently keep, speak of and teach His Word. He instructs them to bind it on their hands and foreheads and place it on their doorposts. Tefillin are small boxes that Jewish males tie onto their upper arm and forehead with long straps. The boxes have Scriptures inside in keeping with this commandment and are worn each weekday morning.
Teshuva is the Hebrew word for repentance and means “turning back” or “returning.” Teshuva is vital to restoring one to a right standing with God and is especially highlighted from the month preceding the Feast of Rosh Hashanah and through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Torah means “instruction.” The books of Moses comprise the Torah. These are the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, which are also called the Pentateuch. The Torah is part of the Tanakh.
The Hebrew word for righteousness or acts of charity is tzedakah. Jewish synagogues and Messianic Jewish congregations commonly have a “tzedakah box” designated for giving money toward charity.
The long fringes attached to the four corners of a tallit are called the tzitzit. They are a reminder of the Lord’s commandments, that Jewish people would perform them as the Lord instructs.
Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. It means “salvation.” Messianic Jews recognize Yeshua as the Messiah revealed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
Yeshua HaMashiach (Yeh-SHOO-ah Ha-Mah-SHEE-akh)
Yeshua HaMashiach means “Jesus the Messiah” in Hebrew. The word Christ is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is from the Greek word christos, which bears the same meaning as Messiah, that of “anointed one.”