This glossary is meant to accompany the article "How to be a Jewish Shomer (Best Man)". The pronunciation used here is the colloquial and wide-spread Yiddish/Ashkenazic one (where words are incorrectly accented), rather than the correct Sephardic-like one (where words are correctly accented).
Mikvah (pronounced MIK-vuh)
Literally means a gathering of water in Hebrew. A ritual bath used for spiritual purification. It is used primarily in conversion rituals and after the period of required sexual separation during a woman's menstrual cycles, but many Chasidim (plural for Chasid, a pious person) immerse themselves in the mikvah regularly for general spiritual purification.
It is a long-standing custom for the groom to immerse himself in a mikvah before his wedding to attain spiritual purification before his wedding. A men’s mikvah is, of course, for men only. Entry into the mikvah often entails a modest payment . To ascertain the location of the mikvah near you, please contact any Orthodox Jewish synagogue or organization in your area. They will direct you to the nearest one. One typically takes a shower before immersion, then enters the mikvah and immerses himself in the water of the mikvah (typically a small bath several feet deep).
Mitzvah (pronounced MITS-vuh)
Literally means a commandment in Hebrew. Refers to any of the 613 commandments that Jews are obligated to observe, or any Jewish religious obligation, or more generally to any good deed.
K’tuba (pronounced k'TOO-buh)
Literally meaning “writing” in Hebrew, this refers to the Jewish marriage contract. In every Jewish wedding there is a marriage contract written specifically for the groom and bride, detailing the husband’s obligations to his wife.
“Daven mincha with vidui”
Daven (pronounced DAH-ven)
From the Yiddish word for “pray”. Observant Jews daven three times a day, in addition to reciting blessings over many common activities.
Mincha (pronounced MIN-khuh, with the “kh” like the “ch” in “loch”)
This is the Hebrew name for the second of the three prayers davened by observant Jews every day (i.e., afternoon prayer services)
Vidui (pronounced VEE-dooy)
Literally meaning “confession” in Hebrew, this is a special prayer said every Yom Kippur (i.e., Day of Atonement), and customarily said by the groom while praying Mincha on the eve of his wedding.
The word G’mach (pronounced ge-MAKH) is an acronym of the Hebrew words “GeMilut CHassadim”, meaning “loving kindness”. A “g’mach” is a free loan society where a person can borrow an item, use it, and return it for no charge at all. In Israel, where I live, there are hundreds of g’machim (the Hebrew plural form of g’mach), ranging from monetary loans, chairs, tables, and furniture, to medical supplies, wedding candlesticks, breast pumps, and computers. A search on the ‘Net will turn up many such organizations – try this one, for example.
Please feel free to notify me if there are any words that should be included in this glossary.
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Last updated: 8 February 2009