A food is classified as bishul yisroel when the Rabbi has taken part in the cooking process of the food (by lighting the fire, putting the food on the fire, or adding heat to the fire). Kosher law requires this status for many foods (generally higher end foods that are inedible raw i.e. meat, poultry).
Chametz means leaven, meaning any food made of grain and water that has been allowed to ferment and "rise." Bread, cereal, cake, cookies, pizza, pasta, and beer are overt examples of chametz; but any food that contains grain or grain derivatives can be, and often is, chametz. Derivatives or products containing any of the five grains: wheat, oats, barley, spelt, or rye that have not been prepared in a special kosher for Passover manner, are considered chametz. These foods may not been eaten or owned by a Jewish person over Passover. If these items have Jewish ownership over Passover, they are rendered non-kosher even after Passover.
All dairy products including milk and cheese and anything that has dairy in the ingredients such as cereals, cookies, ice cream or chocolate bars etc, fall under two categories, cholov Yisroel and cholov Stam. Cholov Yisroel refers to milk or dairy products that have been under constant rabbinic supervision from the time of milking the cows until the completion of production and packaging the product. Cholov Stam refers to dairy products certified without constant rabbinic supervision. In countries where there is strong government oversight of the dairy industry, most kosher certifying agencies will certify these dairy products; this is permitted by many rabbinic authorities. Products certified as kosher are assumed to be cholov Stam unless specifically labeled as cholov Yisroel. As well in dietary laws, one has a set of milchig or dairy dishes, cutlery, pots, pans and utensils.
Glatt means smooth. Technically, this refers to the lungs of a kosher slaughtered animal being free of any adhesions and thus is on higher kosher level. It has come to be used in the vernacular to refer to any kosher item that is of a "higher standard."
The word halakha is usually translated as Jewish Law. Halacha is the entire body of Jewish law and tradition comprising the laws of the Bible, the oral law as transcribed in the legal portion of the Talmud, and subsequent legal codes amending or modifying traditional precepts to conform to contemporary conditions. Halacha deals with every aspect of a Jew's life: what you do when you wake up in the morning, what you can and cannot eat, what you can and cannot wear, how to groom yourself, how to conduct business, who you can marry, how to observe the holidays and Shabbat, and perhaps most important, how to treat G-d, other people, and animals.
Hashgacha means supervision and is commonly used to refer to Rabbinic supervision or a kosher supervising agency.
A hechsher is the special marking found on the packages of products that have been certified as kosher. Rabbis may add text after the hechsher on a package to provide the kosher consumer with additional aid. Examples of this extra text are M to denote the product contains meat, D to denote the product contains dairy, DE to denote dairy equipment or P to denote the product is pareve.
The Hebrew word kosher means 'fit' with the kosher laws defining the foods that are fit for a Jew to consume. Please see the section entitled What is Kosher? for a more lengthy explanation.
Kitniyot is referred to generically as legumes, but it also includes rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds. Even though kitniyot cannot technically become chametz, Ashkenazi Jews do not eat them on Passover. Some certifying agencies will certify products specifically for those segments of the kosher market that do eat kitniyot on Passover (those of Sephardic and Middle Eastern descent). For all segments of the kosher market, there is no problem with owning kitniyos on Passover.
The Mashgiach (literally: inspector) is the on-site supervisor of any type of food service establishment including: slaughterhouses, food manufacturers, hotels, caterers, nursing homes, restaurants, butchers, groceries, or cooperatives. He represents a kosher certification agency or a local rabbi, who makes the policy decisions for what is or is not acceptably kosher. Many kosher facilities employ non-Jews and the Jewish owners are not always there; it is the job of the mashgiach to make sure that no non-Kosher products enter the facility, and that the meat is constantly under Jewish supervision.
In Jewish dietary laws, meat does not only mean a steak or hamburger. It also encompasses any food that contains meat or any kosher animal or fowl by-products. In kashruth the colloquial term is fleishig. As well in dietary laws, one has a set of fleishig or meat dishes, cutlery, pots, pans and utensils.
A minhag is a custom that developed for worthy religious reasons and has continued long enough to become a binding religious practice. These customs are a binding part of Jewish law, just like a mitzvah. An example of a minhag: the second, extra day of holidays was originally instituted as a law by the rabbis to prevent people from unintentionally violating commandments so that people outside of Israel, not certain of the day of a holiday, would not accidentally violate the holiday's mitzvot. After the mathematical calendar was instituted and there was no doubt about the days, the added second day was not necessary. The rabbis considered ending the practice at that time, but decided to continue it as a minhag - custom: the practice of observing an extra day had developed for worthy religious reasons, and had become customary.
Loosely translated mevushal means boiled. It is not required to make a wine Kosher and cannot make a non-Kosher wine Kosher. Boiling or cooking the wine allows a non-Jewish wine maker to enter the barrel room, open a barrel, and get a sample of wine out for a tasting. It can also allow the non Sabbath Observant person to pour the wine and touch the wine, which cannot be done with non-mevushal wine.
Pareve is a Yiddish word meaning neutral, containing neither dairy nor meat ingredients. Pareve refers to items that have a neutral status and may be prepared and/or served with meat or dairy. (See fleishig and milchig above)
Pas Yisroel literally means bread of an Israelite. A Torah observant Jew must ignite the flame used to prepare, cook or bake a grain product, which means he or she is a participant in the baking. This requirement is considered restricted to the five classical grains of Judaism - wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye.
Pas palter is bread or pastry that has been baked without the involvement of a Rabbi in the baking process. Pas Palter is kosher and items will be certified as such without a specific designation. Products certified as kosher should be assumed as pas palter unless specifically marked as pas yisroel on packaging.
Shechita is the Jewish religious and humane method of slaughtering permitted animals and poultry for food. It is the only method of producing kosher meat and poultry allowed by Jewish law. It is a cardinal tenet of the Jewish faith that the laws of shechita were Divinely given to Moses at Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy XII:21); the rules governing shechita are codified and defined and are as binding and valued today as ever.
A shochet is a person who has been specially trained and licensed to slaughter cattle and fowl in the ritually prescribed manner in accordance with the laws of shechita.
The Shulchan Aruch means Set Table and is a compendium of those areas of Jewish religious law that are applicable today. It was composed by Rabbi Yosef Karo of Safed (Israel) in the 1560's, and became generally accepted as authoritative after Rabbi Moshe Isserls of Cracow (Poland) supplemented it in the 1570's with notes (known as the Mappah - "Tablecloth") giving the rulings followed by Ashkenazic Jews. The Shulchan Aruch is divided in to four sections: Orach Chaim - Way of Life: Details the laws pertaining to daily life, lifecycle events, and holidays. Yoreh De'ah - : Laws which a practicing rabbi must be proficient in, such as complex nuances of the kosher laws, laws of mikvah, and laws of slaughtering. Even Ha'ezer - Stone of Help: Laws of marriage, divorce, reproduction, and the like. Choshen Mishpat - Breastplate of Judgment: Monetary and judicial laws; required study for a member of a rabbinical court.
Shemitah means release or relinquishing procession. As soon as the Jews settled in the Holy Land, they began to count and observe seven-year cycles. Every cycle would culminate in a Sabbatical year, known as Shemitah. Shemita is still observed in Israel. Every farmer and landowner is commanded to leave his farmland, his vineyard and orchard and stop all agricultural activity. He must refrain from plowing, seeding, reaping, fertilizing, planting, pruning and gathering both the fruit from the trees and the vegetables of the ground. Although farmers in the diaspora do not have to let their land lie fallow, shemita has an affect even on those living outside of Israel. It is forbidden to export shemita produce outside of Israel. And if this produce is cultivated in Israel in a forbidden manner, which is unfortunately often the case, even more restrictions and prohibitions apply. So effectively, any Israeli produce sold even outside of Israel during the shemita year (and for certain fruits, even afterward), are on the one hand prohibited, and on the other hand, must be treated as holy. Another issue of the shemita year, which is in effect even outside of the Land of Israel, involves loans. Any private loan that is due during the shemita year is nullified such that the borrower is exempt from paying back the loan. Nowadays, a procedure or document referred as prozbul, transfers the loan to a religious court or beit din, which enables the court to collect on one’s behalf. Accordingly, someone outside of Israel who has such a loan can either fulfill the mitzvah of allowing the shemita year to nullify the loan, or must otherwise prepare a prozbul in order to be able to collect it.
The word treif refers to anything unkosher. Literally, treif refers specifically to an animal that has died a violent death. More broadly defined, this also includes animals that have physical defects that halachah - Jewish law determines will limit their lives. Even if such animals would be properly slaughtered and salted, their meat would not be kosher.
Yashan literally means old. Yashan is flour (made from the five grains: oats, spelt, barley, wheat and rye) used in any baked item that came from wheat which took root in the ground before the previous 17th of Nissan. Products from Israel bearing a reliable Kosher supervision are Yoshon. Products imported into Israel are not necessarily Yoshon. If a package has multiple hashgachos - kosher certifications and also states Yoshon then one must ascertain which kashrus agency assumes responsibility for the Yoshon status of the product.