My Hebrew is solid - I am able to get around Israel - but when I learn works of Halacha (Aruch HaShulchan, Mishna Berura, Kitzur) I am not able to follow due to not knowing words and acronyms.

What is a good resource to be able to learn these works without an English translation? A learning dictionary that includes acronyms?


3 Answers 3


The challenges with halachic Hebrew are multiple

  • halachic texts use quite a few Aramaic words from the gemara ...
  • as well as abbreviations ...
  • and they often stick very close to the language of the sources in the gemara

As such what worked best for me was to first learn by heart all the keywords the gemara uses (learning a few dozens makes a huge difference already) as well as have a reference text for common abbreviations. Three good resources for this are the following small brochures with lists of the most frequently used terminology

Having some comfort with the sugya in the gemara helps understand the vocabulary or expressions the halacha uses. In many cases the halacha will refer to cases that only makes sense if you have some understanding of the sugya (e.g., picking up fish from the sea together with a baby, or making traces in the sand when pulling a bench). All halachic works have commentaries on the side providing the sources. Even a superficial reading of the gemara in English translation will help significantly.

Then it would be best if you learned halachic texts with someone fluent in the language so he can teach you. The best is to write down all the words you don't know, learn them and repeat. This way you will very quickly become able to learn independently.

If you learn more visually, you might want to experiment with flashcards, e.g., through an app like Quizlet, which has lots of existing flashcards with Hebrew and Aramaic vocabulary (search for gemara).

If you don't already have a learning partner, or want to find more, you could go to an organization such as Partners in Torah which will match you with someone.

For complex cases, the reference I found the most helpful is R Yitzhak Frank's Practical Talmud Dictionary. And you can always ask here !


If you have an understanding of grammar and are able to look at a word and see what is the shoresh (the root) and what is prefixes and suffixes, I recommend using a hebrew-english dictionary. There are multiple that should be for sale in physical/online seforim/judaica stores.

  • Will the many Aramaic words used in halachic words be found in such dictionaries??
    – mbloch
    Commented Jan 21 at 15:26


Here is one of the many websites one can go to for the actual abbreviations themselves.

If the words contain non Hebrew words such as Aramaic, you can try to look up the root using the online Jastro dictionary

As an alternative, WikiSource has that same Aramaic to English dictionary in digital text form

(I know you said "without an English translation?" But I assume you would be fine with a complete dictionary that has English as well, just not sub-par ones)

WikiSource also has several all Hebrew books of loshon hakodesh dikduk

(They don't help with Aramaic per se but they do explain dikduk from Mikrah which may be different than modern day Ivrit)

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