Tradition & Innovation

Glossary beginning with T


Two black leather boxes containing the words of the Shema, Judaism's most central prayer, which are bound to one's head and arms with leather straps. This fulfills the mitzvah in the Torah commandment to bind God's words "as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead." 


Lit: Returning/Turning

The process of repentance through which one "returns" to oneself and to God. The season of t'shuva begins at the start of the month of Elul and culuminates forty days later on Yom Kippur.

Synonyms: Teshuva

The act of immersion in the ritual bath (mikveh).

Synonyms: Tevilah, Tavila, Tavilah
Ta'anit Bekhorim

Ta'anit Bekhorim, or the Fast of the Firstborn, falls in the spring on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. This private fast day is traditionally observed only by firstborn males and commemorates that they were saved from the tenth plague in Egypt, the death of the firstborn. In many Sephardic communities, firstborn women have also participated in this fast day.

Synonyms: Taanit Bekhorim, Ta'anit Bechorim, Taanit Bechorim
Ta'anit Esther

Ta'anit Esther, or the Fast of Esther, falls in the spring on the thirteenth day of the Jewish month of Adar. This public fast commemorates Esther's bravery and communal leadership in approaching King Ahashveros. This heroic act saved the Jewish people from Haman's plot to kill all the Jews of Shushan. If Ta'anit Esther falls on a Friday or Saturday, the fast is moved to the preceding Thursday.

Tabernacle (Hebrew: Mishkan)

The portable sanctuary which the Jews carried with them for forty years as they wandered in the desert on the way to the Promised Land; the predecessor of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.


Lit. Purity 

Judaism has various laws and traditions related to purity. Some married women bathe in the mikveh following menstruation to return to a state of purity. A corpse is also purified with water before burial in a process called tahara.


A four-cornered garment to which ritual fringes (tzitzit/tzitzi'ot) are affixed. The knots in the fringes represent the name of God and remind us of God's commandments. The tallit is worn during prayer and can also be drawn about oneself or around the bride and groom to symbolize divine protection.

Synonyms: Talit, Tallis

The rabbinic compendium of lore and legend composed between 200 and 500 CE. Study of the Talmud is the focus of rabbinic scholarship. The Talmud has two versions, the main Babylonian version (Bavli) and the smaller Jerusalem version (Yerushalmi). It is written in Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic.


Casting bread upon the water. On Rosh Hashana, Jews traditionally walk to a natural body of water into which they throw breadcrumbs, symbolic of their sins from the previous year.

Synonyms: Taschlich

Prayer ((Yiddish), particularly the prayers written by women in Yiddish throughout the ages.

Synonyms: Techine

Lit. Prayer

Synonyms: Tefilah, Tefillah, Tefila
Tikkun Leil Shavuot

An all-night study session held on Shavuot to recall the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

Synonyms: Tikkun Leil Shavuos
Tikkun Olam

Lit. Repair of the world

According to Jewish mysticism, the world is in a broken state. Humanity's job is to join God, as God's partners, in its repair.


 Lit. Table (Yiddish)

A festive meal that combines teaching Torah and telling jokes.  At a traditional wedding, a groom’s tisch is held, during which the groom attempts to teach words of Torah while his friends interrupt with songs and jokes. Today, some brides hold a tisch as well, and some couples hold one together.

Synonyms: Tish
Tisha B’Av

The holiday on which the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem is commemorated through fasting and prayers.

Synonyms: Tish B'Av

The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general.


That which is not kosher. (Yiddish) 

Synonyms: Treif
Tsom Gedaliah

Tsom Gedaliah, or the Fast of Gedaliah, falls on the third day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. This public fast commemorates the killing of Gedaliah ben Ahikam, the Jewish governor of Judah. This event is remembered as the beginning of the end of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, which would eventually fall to the Babylonians.

Synonyms: Tzom Gedaliah, Tsom Gedalia, Tzom Gedalia
Tu B’Av

Tu B'Av is a little-known summer holiday similar to modern May Day. Young, unmarried Jewish women are said to have gone out into the fields dressed in white, where they selected young men as partners. Contemporary Jews, especially in Israel, have begun to recreate this holiday.

Tu B’Shevat

The new year of the trees, celebrated with a mystical seder (first created by the Kabbalists) at which four cups of wine are drunk and different kinds of fruit are eaten. In the State of Israel, Tu B'Shvat is Arbor Day, marked with the planting of trees. Tu B’Shvat also has become a modern holiday of the environment, with new seders and haggadot written to reflect this interest.

Synonyms: Tu B’Shvat

Charity. In Hebrew, the word tzedakah derives from the word for justice. Tzedakah is not seen as emanating from the kindness of one’s heart but, rather, as a communal obligation.


A set of fringes tied and knotted on each of the four corners of a tallit, symbolizing and reminding the user of God's commandments. Some Jews wear tzizit under their clothes at all times, with the fringes visible.

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