Glossary beginning with P

Portion or chapter. The weekly parasha (parashat hashavua) is that portion of the Torah read weekly in synagogue. The entire Torah is divided into the number of weeks that occur over the course of a year. (Not precisely 52, because the Hebrew calendar is lunar, some weeks have holidays with special readings, and some years are leap years.)
The curtain covering the ark (aron kodesh).
Passover (Hebrew: Pesach)
Passover commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from slavery and exodus from Egypt. Its name derives from the 10th plague, in which God "passed over" the homes of the Jewish firstborn, slaying only the Egyptian firstborn. Passover is celebrated at home at a seder meal. Jews tell the story of the exodus, using a text called the haggadah, and eat specific foods, including matzah, maror (bitter herbs), and haroset.
Pidyon Haben
The ceremony, a month after birth, through which the firstborn son is “redeemed” from Temple service. When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the eldest son of the family was expected to serve there. If his family did not want to give him for service, he was redeemed monetarily. Today, when there is no Temple, a symbolic gift of coins is given to the Cohen to symbolize the child’s “redemption.” Some families now perform this ceremony for firstborn daughters as well.
Piku'ach Nefesh
Saving a life. All laws of Judaism except the prohibitions against murder, adultery, and idolatry must be suspended to save a life, which supersedes all else.
Pirkei Avot
Ethics of the Fathers. A tractate of the Mishna filled with pithy sayings of rabbinic sages.
An arbiter of Jewish law.
Puah, like Shifra, is one of the Hebrew midwives mentioned in Exodus 1 who defies Pharaoh's orders to kill the boy babies, instead enabling them to live. This first act of defiance was instrumental in leading to the Israelite exodus from Egypt. Puah is often identified in the midrash with Miriam, Moses' older sister.
Lit., "lots." A carnival holiday celebrated on the 14th of Adar, commemorating the Jewish victory over the Persians, as told in the Book of Esther. Purim is celebrated by reading the megilla (Book of Esther), exchanging gifts, giving money to the poor, and holding a festive meal. At the megilla reading, merrymakers are dressed in costumes, people drink, and noisemakers are sounded whenever the villain Haman's name is mentioned.
Charity (tzedakah) box [Yiddish, also, pishke]
P’sak din
Legal judgment.
The plain or simple meaning of a text; the face value of a text, as opposed to the drash or interpretation of it.
P’sukei d’Zimra
Lit., verses of song. Psalms recited in the early part of the morning service.