Glossary of Terms – Night

Words you may not know…

beadle (p. 3) a lay official in a synagogue–the beadle is not a rabbi but plays an important role in the synagogue by assisting the rabbi. The beadle may be a caretaker of the synagogue and may serve as an usher for religious services.

Hasidic (p. 3) a branch of Orthodox Judaism, the most traditional branch of the Jewish religion. The Holocaust led to the destruction of Hasidic communities in Eastern Europe. The largest Hasidic Jewish community in the U.S. today is in Brooklyn, NY.

Kabbalah (p. 3) a branch of Judaism emphasizing mysticism. People who practice Kabbalah are interested in establishing a closer relationship with God. This contrasts with Orthodox Judaism’s technical and legal approach. Hasidism originated from the mystical beliefs of Kabbalah.  

Talmud (p. 3) a book of Jewish laws. This is the second-most important book in Judaism, the first being the Torah. The Torah is the first 5 books of the Old Testament. The Talmud includes a written version of Jewish law and analysis and interpretations of the laws written by rabbis.

Maimonides (p. 4) an important Jewish rabbi, doctor, and philosopher who lived in the Middle Ages (medieval period). He is known for his contributions to medicine and to written Jewish law.

Zohar (p. 5) important religious texts for those who practice Kabbalah.

Rosh Hashanah (p. 8) the Jewish New Year celebration, and the first of the High Holy Days. The holiday occurs on a set date in the Hebrew calendar, but because the calendar is different, it falls between September 5 and October 5 each year. It is a time for reflection, and celebrations include the sounding of the shofar (a horn traditionally made from a ram’s horn) and eating apples dipped in honey (to symbolize sweetness to come in the new year).


Rebbe (p. 8) the Yiddish word for rabbi, which means “teacher.” Yiddish is a language that blends German and Hebrew. It is still spoken today by Jews of Eastern European descent, but it is far less common than it once was.

Zionism (p. 8) a form of Jewish nationalism supporting the existence of a Jewish state in the traditional Land of Israel.

Passover (p. 9-10) an 8-day holiday celebrating the exodus (escape) of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The holiday falls in the spring time, between March and April. It begins with a seder (“order”), a holiday meal during which the story of Passover is recounted. Observant Jews do not eat anything that contains bread or bread products during the holiday. They eat special foods throughout the week, most notably matzah, unleavened bread that symbolizes the bread which baked on the backs of the Jews as they fled Egypt.

Anti-Semitic (p. 9) an Anti-Semitic person is one who is prejudiced against Jews.

yellow star (p. 11) In Nazi Germany, each Jewish person was forced to wear a yellow star pinned to his or her clothing. The star publicly identified him or her as Jewish.

ghetto (p. 11) a part of a city designated for a specific group of people to live in. The Nazi regime moved Jewish families into ghettos throughout Eastern Europe.

Shavuot (p. 12) a holiday commemorating the day that Jews believe that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai. This holiday occurs 49 days after Passover, and observant Jews count off each day between the second day of Passover and Shavuot.

“traditional Friday night meal” (p. 21), Sabbath (p. 22) Jewish people mark their day of rest, the Sabbath, on Saturday. All Jewish holidays begin at sundown, so each Sabbath, or Shabbat, begins with a Shabbat dinner served after religious services, on Friday evening.

Job (p. 45) In the Old Testament (the Book of Job), Job is a loyal, righteous person who suffers many trials, such as sickness and the deaths of his children, at the hands of Satan. Job becomes frustrated with his situation, and wishes he can confront God. Ultimately, God intervenes, speaking to Job with the purpose of showing that God alone has the power to create the world. Job is rewarded for his faith, as God restores his health, gives him more children, and ensures that he lives for a long time.

coming of the Messiah (p. 45) While Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, Jews believe that the Messiah has not yet arrived. According to Jewish teachings, the arrival of the Messiah will bring many positive changes to the world, including the spiritual and political redemption of the Jewish people.

Kaddish (p. 68) used in Night to refer specifically to The Mourners’ Kaddish. This prayer is said at all Jewish funerals and in mourning and shows that although the loss of the deceased is deeply felt, the mourner still praises God. Jewish children are obligated to say Kaddish for their parents who have passed away.

Yom Kippur (p. 69) the Day of Atonement. This is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar. It is the final of the High Holy Days, and it follows exactly 8 days after Rosh Hashanah. On Yom Kippur, Jewish people complete a 25-hour fast. They spend much of the day in prayer, asking for forgiveness for sins committed in the prior year.

“we would gather ten men” (p. 77) In Judaism, certain religious obligations require that 10 Jewish men be present–this is called a “minyan.” Saying Kaddish publicly in a synagogue requires a minyan.

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