Jewish Knowledge A-Z Ltr. Ma-Mel



Ma'aseh Books

Books in Ivri-Teutsch, the earlier and more Hebraic form of Yiddish, written particularly for the benefit of women.  The earliest date from the 15th cent. The themes  mostly relate to Jews and Judaism; some are merely translations of popular poems and legends current in the countries in which the Ma'aseh books were published.


The cave purchased at Hebron by Abraham as a burying place for his wife, Sarah. Later it became the burial place of the patriarchs and matriarchs, excepting Rachel. Muslim and other traditions claim that Adam was buried there. The tradition of the site is generally accepted. Benjamin of Tudela saw the tomb at Hebron which was called St. Abraham by the Crusaders. There are allusions in Charisi to Jews praying there in his day. The inscriptions in the mosque over the cave date the repairs and additions made by Mamluk sultans. Admission was generally refused to non-Muslims, and the cave was opened to Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, by a special order of the sultan which the local governor was not inclined to obey. Since the issue of the mandate for Palestine there has been less restriction, but whilst the central hall of the sub-structure has been photographed, the actual burial caves have never been exposed.

Magen David

"David's Shield." The intersecting equilateral triangles are accepted as the symbol of Judaism, and with the word Zion in the center are regarded as the symbol of the Zionist movement. During the World War it was used by Jewish organizations doing military relief work, as equivalent to the Red Cross, such organizations described themselves as the "Red Magen David," and were recognized by governments. The symbol was so accepted by the American and Allied governments as an insignia ranking with the Red Cross to be worn by all those attached to the Hadassah Medical Unit dispatched to Palestine in 1918.

The history of the symbol has not been definitely settled. It was used by Jews in the third cent. It has been suggested that the combination of the triangles is an accidental conventionalizing of the ancient Hebraic signature of King David. The three letters, Daled, Waw, Daled, by extension compose a double triangle. It was at one time used on amulets.


Itinerant preacher. Those possessed of a stock of parables or witty stories illustrative of their texts are the most popular.


Festival prayer-book. The oldest known collection is the "Mazhor Romaniya" which was compiled in the Byzantine empire, and was printed with additions in Constantinople in 1573. It contains some of the oldest plyutim. It was superseded by the Roman ritual. The Ashkenazic Mahzor was published in 1521, and the Polish ritual  in 1522; the Sephardic ritual was published in 1616. The variations in the text are mostly the response to local preference for different piyutim. The texts go back to ancient mss. Thus the Mahzor Vitry, the oldest mss. extant, compiled by a pupil of Rashi, is the "control" copy for specialists who study the detailed history of the liturgy.

Mantle of the Law

The use of a mantle to cover the scroll of the Pentateuch dates from the custom of spreading a layer of fine silk over the full length of the scroll so as to prevent injury to the text.

Ma'oz Tzur

First words of the popular Hanukah hymn, composed according to the acrostic by Mordecai, an Ashkenazic poet of the 13th cent. The song recounts the wonders of the Exodus, the Babylonian exile, the fall of Haman, and the Maccabaean victory. It is sung both at home and in the synagog, after the kindling of the lights. Though the English version in vogue is Gustave Gottheil's "Rock of Ages," the following is a fair translation of the first stanza of the Hebrew text:

Mighty, praised beyond compare,
Rock of my salvation
Build again my house of prayer
For thy habitation!
Haste my restoration; let a ransomed nation
Joyful sing
To its King
Psalms of dedication!
                                                                                                                           Solomon Solis-Cohen.


"Bitter," applied to the horse-radish or bitter herbs eaten as part of the ceremonial of the Seder after a benediction is recited, in remembrance of the bitterness of Israel's enslavement in Egypt.


Jester or rhymster, who attends wedding ceremonies and plays the part of the court fool.


Enlightened scholar. This term, first popularized with the rise of the Haskalah.


Perpetual student. One who perfects himself in Hebraics.


"Unleavened bread," prescribed food for Passover made from dough that is not allowed to rise or ferment. Matzos are baked by putting the dough into the overn immediately after the mixing of the flour and the water. No salt must be used. Unleavened bread is the symbol of the haste with which the Israelites had to leave Egypt, so that they could not wait for the dough to ferment: it is also called "the bread of affliction" (Deut. xvi, 3), a reminder of the poverty and affliction of the Israelites under Pharaoh's yoke. Unleavened bread is thus at the same time the symbol of slavery and of deliverance. "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; by the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel (Ex. xii. 15).


Collectors; the name given the group of writers who created and contributed to the periodical "Ha-Me'assef," which published between 1784 and 1811 created a sentiment for the modernization and development of the Hebrew tongue.


Treatise in the Talmud, Mishnah and Tosefta but generally used with reference to the Book of Esther.


Salting of meat in the process of making it kosher. The theory is that the salting provokes the free flow of stagnant blood before cooking.


Website: The History
Article Name: Jewish Knowledge A-Z  Ltr. Ma-Mel
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of Books: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Knowledge In One Volume, Edited by Jacob De Haas; in collaboration with more than 150 scholars and specialists. Behrman's Jewish Book House New York, 1934.
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