Glossary

Judaic religious dietary law and its practice, “Kashrut” or “Kashrus”, has engulfed most of America’s grocery shelves, restaurants, hotels and small eateries/shops.  For those observing these rules or wishing to revisit their “yiddishkeit”, we provide below the Hebrew words and related terms pertinent to the kosher world.  Some may find a need to understand this kosher vernacular as they witness what has been bequeathed to them with societal multiculturalism.   And indeed, many others may gaze at this list and reflect on their own identity and the definition of “free will”.

bishul akum – proscription against food (fit for a king) that is prepared or cooked by a non-Jew

bodek – rabbinically trained inspector who checks animal carcasses after slaughter to ensure no evidence of internal organ disease or other imperfections 

bracha – a blessing said before performing a religious act in Judaism

cholent – a traditional, slow-cooked stew with meat and/or vegetables that is begun on Friday before sundown to avoid the prohibition of cooking on the Sabbath

cholov Yisroel –  dairy products derived from milk that is supervised by an observant Jew (from the time it leaves the cow until it is bottled); “milk of Israel”

free will – 1. voluntary choice or decision  2. freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or divine intervention  3.  the ability to choose how to act

frum – Yiddish for devout, or religiously observant

Gentile – biblical term for non-Jew

glatt –  animal meat whose lungs have been inspected, post-slaughter, by a bodek for abnormalities, imperfections and scarring; Yiddish for “smooth” 

halacha(or halakha)– Jewish religious laws derived from the Torah

halaf – a specially sharpened knife used in the process of Jewish ritual slaughter

halal – food that is permitted to be eaten under Islamic law

hassidische schechita
 – ritual slaughter performed by a hassidic Jew

hekhsher – certificate of kosher certification by a rabbi or rabbinical authority

Hekhsher Tzedek – also known as Magen Tzedek, the certification process started by conservative members of the Jewish community indicating that the kosher food was produced in an ethical manner; literally “Shield of Justice”

kasher
 – to make something kosher

kashrut
 and kashrus – the entire realm of Jewish dietary law, rituals and practice

kiddush – the ceremony of prayer and blessing over wine recited on the Sabbath and on certain holidays

kishka – Yiddish word for “intestine”; also, the sausage made from meat, vegetables, and grain that was originally stuffed into a casing made from a cow’s intestine

kosher – fit and proper for consumption

mashgiach – a Jew who supervises the status of kashrut in a food establishment or food production plant, i.e. a kosher supervisor

matzo – unleavened flat bread, belonging to Jewish cuisine, and eaten primarily during Passover when the consumption of leavened bread is prohibited

mevushal – kosher wine that has been heated to a near boiling temperature so that it may be handled by non-Jews (Gentiles) and served to Jews

mikveh – a ritual bath used for the kashering of kitchen utensils in a kosher kitchen; also used by women and men for spiritual purification or as part of the conversion process into the Judaic faith

pareve – “neutral” in the Yiddish language; not meat nor dairy

plumba – seal attached to kosher chicken showing that it has been slaughtered and prepared according to halacha, Jewish law

posek – rabbi or Judaic legal scholar empowered to render final decisions in cases of Jewish law, where previous rulings were inconclusive

seder – the Jewish ritual service and meal celebrated on the first two nights of Passover, during which the Haggadah is read.  Some Jews hold only one seder on the first night.

Shabbat (also Shabbos or Sabbath)
 – the time of the week set aside for rest, which begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday, where observant Jews abstain from work

shechita – ritual slaughter of mammals and birds according to Jewish law

shochet – a person who is authorized to perform slaughter of mammals and birds according to Jewish law

shomer Shabbat or shomer Shabbos – “an observer of the Sabbath” or a religiously observant Jew

shtar mechira – a contract between a Jewish owner of a kosher establishment and a non-Jew to transfer ownership of the establishment temporarily during the sabbath so as to be in accordance with Jewish law

Shulcan Aruch – literally “ordered table”; the authoritative compendium of Jewish laws compiled in the sixteenth century

Sukkot or Sukkos
 – the fall festival commemorating forty years of wandering in the Sinai desert by the former Israelites;  meals are eaten in a sukkah, a temporary hut meant to re-create the wandering experience

Talmud –  the large body of Judaism’s central legal text reflecting rabbinic commentary and including both the Mishnah and the Gemara 

teudah – certificate that shows that a restaurant or other establishment is under kosher supervision 

toyvel (or toivel)– to immerse dishware and utensils into a mikveh (ritual bath) so as to make permissible for use by observant Jews in a kosher kitchen

treyf (also trayf)
 –  food that doesn’t meet requirements of Jewish law; non-kosher food; from the Hebrew “toref”, or “to tear”

vaad –  a council or committee of rabbis that oversees the kashrut of retail stores, restaurants and food-producers

yayin-nesech – the wine of Gentile idolaters or pagans


Yiddishkeit
 – “Jewishness”, or Jewish lifestyle through customs and practice