Abba: Aramaic term for father.
Adonai: One of many Hebrew names for God, meaning My Lord.
Ark of the Covenant: A chest made of acacia wood, overlaid and inlaid with gold, carried by the Israelites in the desert after the Exodus. It contained the two sets of tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments and a jar of manna. It was the most sacred object kept within the Tabernacle when the Jews wandered in the desert, and later in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Ashtoreth: Canaanite fertility goddess.
Augury: The taking and interpreting signs from nature, often from birds, to determine the will of the gods.
Auguratorium: A Roman site, often a tower, used for casting augury and observing signs and symbols.
Bet kenesset: Hebrew for house of gathering.
Bet tefillah: Hebrew for house of prayer.
Beit avi: The house (family) of one’s father.
Blessing of the Sun: Recited every twenty-eight years on the morning before Passover at the time of the Vernal Equinox, traditionally the precise position of the sun upon its creation.
Beyn ha’arbayim: Hebrew term for twilight.
Bikkurim: First fruits of the harvest brought as an offering by every Jewish family to the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread: The first day of Passover, which is a week-long festival beginning on the fifteenth day of the month of Nissan, commemorating the wondrous liberation of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage.
Challah offering: Whenever Jews baked dough of a certain volume, a portion of the dough was brought to the Kohanim (their High Priests) when the Temple stood in Jerusalem.
Circumcision: Religious rite performed on male Jewish children on the eighth day after their birth to enter them in the covenant with God, who commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and his descendants to seal a covenant with the Jewish people.
Columbarium: Tower or other structure with recesses in the walls to house pigeons; a dovecote.
Chem’ah: Hebrew word for butter.
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh: Divine name from Exodus 3:14 told to Moses at the burning bush, which translates to “I Shall Be As I Shall Be”.
Ein Gedi: An oasis in Israel, located west of the Dead Sea, near Masada and the caves of Qumran. The name, literally Kid Spring, is a compound of two Hebrew words: ein meaning spring, and gdi meaning goat-kid.
Eleazer ben Ya’ir: The leader of the Zealots at Masada, persuaded the besieged to kill themselves rather than fall into the hands of the invading Romans.
Emah: Hebrew term for mother.
End of Days: The end of the current era and the beginning of the period of Messianic times. A period of political and natural upheaval understood differently throughout Jewish philosophical history.
Essene: Jewish religious sect which existed from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE, a number of whom were priests from the house of Zadok (the family which held the office of the High Priesthood until it was taken by the Hasmonean Dynasty). Pliny the Elder wrote that the Essenes lived on the West shore of the Dead Sea. Most scholars believe Qumran community should be identified with one of the Essene groups, and that their unique philosophy and strict life regimen has been preserved through the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Gabriel: One of the names of the archangels, first mentioned in the book of Daniel, meaning God is my strength or Strength of God.
Gehenna: A term loosely analogous to the concept of “Hell,” derived from a valley outside ancient Jerusalem.
Ha-olam: Hebrew phrase meaning the world.
Henna: A flowering plant used since the Bronze Age to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather and wool, traditionally used as a skin dye in several parts of the world in various festivals and celebrations.
Ibex: Wild mountain goats which are widely present in the archaeological record, especially in the Near East and Mediterranean regions.
Judea: Named after the Hebrew tribe of Judah, this mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel was known as Judea from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE when it was renamed Syria Palaestina by the Romans following the suppression of the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.
Keshaphim: Forbidden magic and witchcraft said to be practiced by women, believed to be pervasivise during the Second Temple period due to found artfacts including amulets, incantation bowls, and written spells.
Keriah: Jewish mourning ritual of rending one’s clothes.
Kedishah: holy woman, anointed holy prostitute.
Ketubah: Jewish marriage contract.
Kiddush l’vanah: Blessing of the New Moon every month in the Jewish calendar.
King Herod: King of Judea from 40-4 BCE and founder of the Herodian dynasty. According to Josephus Flavius, King Herod built the fortress of Masada between 37 and 31 BCE.
King Solomon: Son of King David and Bathsheba, ruled Israel in the tenth century BCE, known for building the Temple in Jerusalem and for his great wisdom.
Lebben: Hebrew for yogurt.
Lev-olam: Hebrew phrase meaning heart of the world.
Lucius Flavius Silva: A late 1st century Roman general, governor of the province of Judea and consul who laid siege to the mountain fortress of Masada in 73 CE.
Lilith: A female demon identified in the Dead Sea Scrolls and inscribed on Babylonian incantation bowls, believed to strangle infants, endanger women in childbirth, and seduce sleeping men.
Ma’lach: The Hebrew word meaning angel; can also refer to a messenger.
Ma’lach ha-Mavet: The Hebrew term for the Angel of Death.
Mezuzoth pl mezuzah (singular): An emplacement on the doorframe and gate of a Jewish household containing a piece of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah as commanded by Deuteronomy 6:9, often contained within a decorative case.
Michael: One of the Archangels, whose name is derived from the Hebrew question “Who is like God?” and appears in Daniel 12:1.
Mikvah: A bath used in Judaism for the purposes of ritual immersion.
Minim: a magician or one who dabbles in magic, known alternately as healers or as heretics.
Masada: Herod’s palace-fortress built on a rock plateau near the western shores of the Dead Sea, south of Ein Gedi, and the last stronghold during the Jewish War against Rome from 66–73/74 CE. It included a wall around the plateau, storehouses, large cisterns ingeniously filled with rainwater, barracks, palaces, and an armory.
Moab: The historical name for a mountainous strip of land running along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea in what is now west-central Jordan. It was home to the kingdom of the Moabites, one of the Israelite neighbors to the west, bounded by the lands of Edom and the Ammonites.
Mount of Olives: A mountain ridge in east Jerusalem named for the olive groves that cover its slopes, used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years.
Nabateans: An ancient people who built the rock-fortress of Petra and settled between Syria and Arabia from the Euphrates River to the Red Sea. They were known for their vast wealth, strength and independence of their state, skills in trade, and hydraulic engineering.
Nachal: Ravine that can flood during rains (plural is Nechalim).
Names of God: Elohim – YHWH – Yahweh – Adonai – Abba – Tetragrammaton, El, Elohim, Sabaôth, Eliôn, Asher yeheyeh, Adonai, Jah, JHVH, and Shaddai.
Neshamah: A Hebrew word meaning soul.
Niddah: Literally removed or separated generally in the context of Jewish Marital Laws (or Family Purity). When a married woman is in the menstrual state, Jewish Law requires a period of separation from her husband.
Nitzotz: Hebrew for spark; a spark of holy life.
Ostraca: Pieces of broken pottery, usually broken off from a vase or other earthenware vessel.
Petra: An archaeological city in present day Jordan known for its architecture cut into the living rock and water conduits system. It served as the capital city of the Nabataeans around the 6th century BCE.
Pharmaka: plural of pharmakon, which means “poison”, “magical procedure” and “medicine”. In his writings, Josephus limits the the biblical prohibition against use of pharmaka to the use of “harmful pharmaka”.
Philtrons: love potions.
Qumran: see Sechacha.
Rapahael: An archangel whose name means “God Heals” and appears in the Book of Enoch.
Ruach Hayam: Wind from the sea, a chilly wind from the west.
Ruach Kaddim: A dry, dusty and hot wind from the east which blows for fifty days in the spring across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Also known as the Hamsin.
Rosh Chodesh: First day of each Jewish month, tied to the appearance of the moon.
Rosh Hoshanah: Jewish New Year, literally Head of the Year celebrated ten days before Yom Kippur.
Salt Sea: The Dead Sea, also called Lake Asphaltites.
Shamir: A worm that had the power to cut through stone, said to be used by King Solomon during the building of the first Temple in Jerusalem in the place of tools. For building the Temple, which stood for peace, it was not acceptable to use tools that could be used in war and cause bloodshed.
Shabbat: Seventh day of the Jewish week; a day of complete rest in Judaism, observed from sundown on Friday to after sunset on Saturday evening.
Shavuot: Festival of Weeks, a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (late May or early June) that commemorates the anniversary of God giving the Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. It is also one of the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals, along with Passover and Sukkot.
Shechina: Hebrew word meaning Dwelling, describing the presence of God, especially in the Tabernacle or in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Sechacha: Another name for Qumran, meaning cover, as the residents of the settlement used date palm leaves as roofs.
Shekel: Any of several ancient units of weight or currency.
Sheydim (p) Shedah (singular): Term which refers to demons or negative damaging forces.
Sicarii: An extremist group of Jewish Zealots in the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, who attempted to expel the Romans and their partisans from Judea using concealed daggers (sicae).
Shir tishbohot: Hebrew for Songs of Praise.
Sitra achra: Literally “another place” a Kabbalistic term used to define a non-divine or unholy spiritual energy in the world.
Sodom: A city situated on the River Jordan plain in the southern region of the land of Canaan that was destroyed by God in reaction to the inhabitants’ wickedness.
Sotah: Wayward wife, a Jewish woman suspected of adultery as described and prescribed in Numbers chapter 5. Part of the Biblical ritual to determine if a wife suspected and accused of adultery is the so-called “ordeal of bitter water” to be applied in certain cases of suspected adultery.
Synagogue: A Jewish house of gathering for prayer and the recital of Holy Scriptures.
Tisha B’Av: An annual fast and day of mourning in Judaism on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, commemorating the destruction of both the First and Second Temple in Jerusalem which were destroyed on the same date about 656 years apart.
The Tenth Legion: The Roman legion headed by Lucius Flavius Silva which laid siege to Masada from 72 -73 CE.
The Temple: There were two Jewish temples built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the First Temple which was built by Solomon c. 950 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second Temple which was rebuilt in 520-515 BCE and destroyed by Rome in 70 CE.
Torah: Scroll of the Law, containing the Five Books of Moses; Torah literally means teaching.
Tzaar Baale chayyim: Hebrew phrase meaning compassion to all beings.
Yahad: Known as The Children of Light, a sect of the Essenes who lived communally in the Judean desert.
Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement in Judaism and the holiest day of the year, observed on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. Leviticus 16:29 mandates establishment of this day as the day of atonement for sins upon which one must afflict one’s soul, and Leviticus 23:27 decrees this day as a strict day of rest.
Zealot: A party of zealous defenders of the Law and of the national life of the Jewish people which relentlessly opposed any attempt to bring Judea under the dominion of Rome. A group of Zealots bore the name Sicarii.
Zion: Mountain in Jerusalem used as a metonym for the Biblical land of Israel, the Jewish people, and even the presence of God.
Zonah: Hebrew term for loose woman, often connotes prostitute.