Must-know High Holidays words and phrases
August 27, 2021
(MJL via JTA) — Here are some important Hebrew words and terms you may encounter over the High Holiday season.
Akedah — Pronounced ah-keh-DAH. Literally “binding,” the Akedah refers to the biblical story of the binding of Isaac, which is traditionally read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.
Chag sameach — Pronounced KHAG sah-MAY-akh. Literally “happy holiday,” a common greeting on Rosh Hashanah and other Jewish holidays.
Elul — Pronounced el-OOL (oo as in food). The final month of the Jewish calendar, it is designated as a time of reflection, introspection and repentance.
Het (also chet) — Pronounced KHET (short e). Sin, or wrongdoing.
L’shana tovah u’metukah — Pronounced l’shah-NAH toe-VAH ooh-meh-too-KAH. A Hebrew greeting for the High Holidays season that means “For a good and sweet year.”
Machzor — Pronounced MAHKH-zohr. Literally “cycle,” the machzor is the special prayer book for the High Holidays containing all the special liturgy.
Selichot — Pronounced slee-KHOTE. Literally “forgivenesses,” selichot are prayers for forgiveness. Selichot refers to two related types of penitential prayers: the prayers that customarily are recited daily at morning services during the month of Elul, as well as the name of the service late at night on the Saturday preceding Rosh Hashanah consisting of a longer series of these penitential prayers.
Shofar — Pronounced shoh-FAR or SHOH-far (rhymes with “so far”). The ram’s horn that is sounded during the month of Elul, on Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur. It is mentioned numerous times in the Bible in reference to its ceremonial use in the Temple and to its function as a signal horn of war.
Tashlich — Pronounced TAHSH-likh. Literally “cast away,” Tashlich is a ceremony observed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah in which sins are symbolically cast away into a natural body of water. The term and custom are derived from a verse in the Book of Micah (7:19).
Teshuvah — Pronounced tih-SHOO-vuh. Literally “return,” teshuvah is often translated as “repentance.” It is one of the central themes and spiritual components of the High Holidays.
Tishrei — Pronounced TISH-ray. The first month in the Hebrew calendar, during which Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot all occur.
Unetaneh Tokef — Pronounced ooh-nuh-TAH-neh TOH-keff. Literally “we shall ascribe,” a religious poem recited during the Musaf (additional service ) Amidah that is meant to strike fear in us.
Yamim Noraim — Pronounced yah-MEEM nohr-ah-EEM. Literally “Days of Awe,” a term that refers to the High Holidays season. Sometimes it is used to refer to the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, which are also known as the Aseret Yimei Teshuvah, or the 10 Days of Repentance.
Yom tov — Pronounced YOHM TOHV or YON-tiff. This is a general term for the major Jewish festivals.