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Rabbi Gurkow explains different synagogue-related terms and titles


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Rabbi Gurkow: Welcome to the Rabbi's one on one chat room, how can I help you today?

Alfred: what is the role of gabbai in the synagogue...what training must he have

Rabbi Gurkow: the role varies from one synagogue to another but the central role usually consists of selecting and then inviting the candidates for Aliyah and Chazzan

Alfred: does the Gabbai require any special training

Rabbi Gurkow: yes, it is nceccesary for him to know the laws of who may be called up to the Torah and in what order

Rabbi Gurkow: he must also have people skills, it is best if he is a social personality and has leaderhip qualitites

Alfred: What is the role of the Shamash in the synagogue?

Alfred: [we know of the Shamash only from the Menorah :) ]

Rabbi Gurkow: the shamash is usually the one to look after the physical needs of the service and sometimes also the physical needs of the synagogue itself

Rabbi Gurkow: shamash will prepare the Kiddush andl make sure that the lights are on

Rabbi Gurkow: shamash will arrange for the High Holiday prayer books to come out in time etc.

Alfred: what training does the Shamash need

Rabbi Gurkow: his training is usualy more prosaic

Rabbi Gurkow: just what to do around the Shul and when to have it done

Alfred: waht is the ba'al Koreh?

Rabbi Gurkow: the person who reads from the torah

Alfred: what is the Magbiah?

Rabbi Gurkow: the person who lifts the torah for the congregation to see after it has been read

Alfred: I thought that was Hagbah?

Rabbi Gurkow: the magbiah performs the hagbah :-)

Alfred: Is the person who preforms the Gelilah1 the Golel?

Rabbi Gurkow: correct

Rabbi Gurkow: again

Rabbi Gurkow: sorry for the delays

Alfred: Waht is the Ba'al Tokeah?

Rabbi Gurkow: the peson who sounds the Shofar

Alfred: What aae the sounds of the Shofar called...tekiah?

Rabbi Gurkow: tekiah, teruah and shevarim

Alfred: is there a collective name for these sounds?

Rabbi Gurkow: they are often refered to generically as tekiot

Alfred: What is the Parochet?

Rabbi Gurkow: the curtain that covers over the Aron kodesh, the holy ark - where the torah is kept

Alfred: the Yad?...

Rabbi Gurkow: it is the pointer used while reading the Torah

Alfred: What is the Keter?

Rabbi Gurkow: it is the crown that sits atop the torah

Alfred: What is the Ner Tamid?

Rabbi Gurkow: the constant/eternal light

Alfred: Is the Machzor the Siddur?

Rabbi Gurkow: yes, but it usualy refers to the high holiday siddur

Alfred: Thank you

Rabbi Gurkow: please come back any time to chat with our askmoses agents

Rabbi Gurkow: and Shabbat shalom

All names, places, and identifying information have been changed or deleted in order to protect the privacy of the questioners. In order to preserve authenticity, the chat sessions have been posted with a minimum of editing. Please excuse typographical errors, missing punctuation, and/or grammatical mistakes which naturally occur in the course of informal chat sessions.


  • 1. Ed. Note: "Gelilah" is the ceremonial wrapping of the Torah scroll in its belt, velvet coat and silver accoutrements. This is done after the "hagbah."


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Mitzvot » Prayer » Synagogue

(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
The horn of a Kosher animal. The Shofar is sounded on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and is intended to awaken us to repentance. Also blown to signify the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.
Literally means to rise up. Has two popular meanings: 1. Being called up to the Torah scroll and recite the blessings when the Torah is being read. 2. To emigrate to the Holy Land.
(Yiddish) Synagogue.
Candelabra. Usually a reference to the nine-branched candelabra kindled on the holiday of Chanukah.
Prayer book.
High Holiday prayerbook.
A cantor, or any individual who leads the congregation in prayer.
Literally: a box. Aron is usually a reference to one of the following: 1) The Holy Ark wherein the holy Tablets were kept. 2) The Ark in the synagogue where the Torah scrolls are kept. 3) A coffin.