Sunday, June 27, 2010

glossary, as requested (with apologies)

In no particular order, maybe this will help:

shikse — (aka shiksa) — term of endearment (or not) for women of the non-Jewish persuasion. the most important sub-category is, of course, the shikse-goddess.

shul — synagogue, small or large, in which members of the tribe congregate for ritual acts and moments of imposed solidarity.

shabbes — the hours of the week between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday devoted to rest, repose, debate and very good sex. It's a sin to grade papers on shabbes.

sin — (khet) — something we decide is wrong, unless we want to do it. Unless calling it a 'sin' makes it more fun to do...

rebbe — (to be distinguished from rabbi) — a wise rabbi we consider as our teacher and treat with reverence, which everyone else we know thinks is misplaced.

yenta — a matchmaker, who generally speaking, can't keep her mouth shut and can't stop minding other people's business. Not to be confused with Yentl, the title of a Sholem Aleichem story made into a dreadful soppy movie with too much singing.

Reconstructionist — the rational branch of Judaism, devoted to reason and, for the most part, understanding the physical circumstances under which we live.

bireishit — Genesis of the Hebrew Bible. Usually translated as, "in the beginning..." bireishit could also be rendered as "in her head..." which in one fell blow makes us have to reconsider all the text that follows.

god forbid — (aka g-d forbid) — a colloquialism I consider hysterical, at least when I use it, given that I'm a righteous and devout atheist.

Hebrew School — an after school rite of passage devoted to indoctrination into the secrets of the tribe, its sacred language, and its obsessive devotion to territorial claims tracing back to g-d's land grant to the tribal patriarch, Abraham.

akeda — the ritual almost-sacrifice of Abraham's son, whom the Bible names by name as Yitzhak (Isaac, Abraham's younger son), and which the Qur'an assumes (thus, no need to name him), could only be Abraham's elder son, Ismail (Ishmael), given that the rest of the passage makes no sense at all otherwise.

Did I miss anything, or will that do for now?

Words I did not explain: pasties, packing, and secular humanism. Oh, and labia menorah (which will have to wait for a post all its own, maybe—although here, a picture might really be worth a thousand words).


  1. Also, I'd love to have a deeper understanding of payot through the lens of Mira's wit (in every connotation of that old english word).

  2. Oh, right, payes (payot) — I forgot payes.

    Payes go with pasties, and packing, and performance art. But that's another story for another time.

  3. While I love your definition of shabbes (isn't it a sin to grade papers ANY day of the week?), my favorite has always been "bireishit." It's the best argument to question, well, the entire judeo-christian faiths.

  4. Fabulous. Now I know where to direct my glossary requests. The Googles are so unsatisfying. I particularly love the insight regarding what I can't help morphing ever so slightly to "bearshit," and I can't wait to pull that one out next time anyone tries to start a Bible-belting argument with me.