THE 9 JEWISH SYMBOLS
And the history of these well-known emblems.
Is there a universal Jewish symbol? Around the world, people associate a plethora of signs with Jews and Judaism, from the Star of David to the menorah or hamsa (hand). Here are some symbols that are generally identified as Jewish, along with their history and symbolism.
THE STAR OF DAVID
The Star of David, the Magen David , is one of the most recognizable Jewish signs. We find it in many Jewish tombs and it is the central symbol of the Israeli flag. Surprisingly, given its widespread popularity, the Star of David is relatively recent, having only been associated with the Jews for a few hundred years.
While the six-pointed star may be more recent, the term Magen David is ancient. The Talmud mentions the Magen David (literally King David's shield), which protects King David and his descendant, the Mashiach (Pesachim 117b). This beautiful image is also found in the Jewish liturgy: every Shabbat after hearing the Haftarah in the synagogue, the reader refers to the Divine Magen David , the protector of David and of the Jewish people.
14K STAR OF DAVID NECKLACE WITH NANO WRITING
There is a legend that says that King David actually wore a six-pointed star as a shield, just like his soldiers. This was made up of two triangles, one pointing up and one pointing down, joined in the middle, forming a six-pointed star. This construction made King David's shield stronger than those of his opponents.
Some symbolic explanations of the six-pointed star include kabbalistic explanations that it represents two arrows, one pointing towards the sky and the other towards the earth. The Star of David also has twelve sides, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. It can also be seen as a correlation to Shabbat, with a central axis (corresponding to Shabbat) surrounded by six dots, corresponding to the other six days of the week.
Six-pointed stars have been found in Jewish scenes for hundreds of years. A Jewish tomb in southern Italy from the 3rd century CE is decorated with a six-pointed star. In 1354, King Charles IV of Bohemia presented the Jews of Prague with a red flag with a six-pointed star, and the star was adopted by the Jews of Prague as their symbol. A Jewish prayer book printed in Prague in 1512 shows on its cover a beautiful Star of David with the quote: "Every one under his banner according to his father's house... and he will have the merit of giving an abundant gift to everyone who clings to David's shield."
The Star of David soon began to spread to other Jewish communities, and we find Jewish synagogues and tombs decorated with the Jewish star. During the Holocaust, the Nazis forced Jews to wear yellow patches in the shape of a six-pointed star. Yellow had long been considered a distinctive and humiliating color that European Jews were forced to wear in some European communities, and so the Star of David was considered the basic Jewish symbol.
The official emblem of the state of Israel, the menorah is a key Jewish symbol. The Torah recounts that on Mount Sinai, God himself gave Moshe the instructions to build this sacred seven-branched candelabrum: "You shall make a menorah of pure gold..." (Exodus 25:31-40).
The gold menorah was in the Mishkan, the first Jewish house of worship. When the Jews conquered Jerusalem and built the Temple there, they brought the menorah to the Temple, where it remained lit all the time. The holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the moment this chandelier was relit after it was desecrated by Greek soldiers, when the Jews recaptured and restored the Temple in 139 BCE.
HANUKKAH MENORAH MADE WITH WOODEN DREIDELS WITH JERUSALEM AND GRENADES MOTIF
One hundred and eleven years later, in 70 CE, Roman soldiers, led by Titus, looted the Temple and took the beautiful menorah back to Rome. To this day, an engraving depicting that day can be seen on the Arch of Titus in central Rome, showing how the menorah was carried away.
When the state of Israel was declared in 1948, the new country asked artists to supply ideas for a national symbol. Maxim and Gabriel Shamir were well known graphic designers. They were born in Latvia and studied art in Germany before moving to the Land of Israel in the 1920s, where they established a famous graphic design studio in Tel Aviv. They proposed the emblem that today millions of Israelis know as the national emblem: a modern representation of the ancient menorah.
Gabriel Shamir stated: "After deciding to use the menorah, we looked for another element and concluded that the olive branches were the most beautiful expression of the Jewish people's love for peace." In their design, they surrounded the menorah with olive leaves, reminding the world of the ancient heritage of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.
THE HANDS OF THE PRIESTLY BLESSING
This distinctive two-handed symbol is sometimes found on the tombs of Jews who belonged to the clan of kohanim, the priests, descendants of Moses' brother Aharon, who served in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. This symbol reflects the special position of the hands that the kohanim in ancient times and also today use when reciting their beautiful blessings to the Jewish people.
The Kohanim continue to bless the congregation in synagogues around the world, just as their ancestors did thousands of years ago in the holy Temple in Jerusalem. They make this sign with their hands and bless the congregation using the very words that God told Aaron to recite shortly after the Jews came out of slavery in Egypt: “May God bless and protect you. May God enlighten you with His presence and grace you. May God turn His presence toward you and grant you peace" (Numbers 6:22-26).
Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in Star Trek, took this gesture and used it as the Vulcan salute.
Because the custom is to avoid making this symbol by hand unless one is a kohen giving the blessing of the kohanim, this ancient Jewish symbol is not used much, and is generally only found on Jewish graves or in books.
This image of a hand has many names: Hamsa (from the Arabic word for "five"); iad (Hebrew for "hand"); the hand of Miriam and the hand of Fatima. Hamsas have been popular in the Arab world since the Middle Ages. Though primarily considered a Muslim symbol, it was adopted by Sephardic Jewish communities and today it is a popular symbol among Jews and around the world.
ONYX HAMSA WITH SHEMA ISRAEL AND 14K GOLD CHAIN
Today, some hamsas contain drawings of eyes to protect from the "evil eye". There are those who say that the hamsas bring luck or protect from the evil eye. This is not a Jewish perspective, as the Torah warns us not to believe in lucky charms or omens, but only to place our faith in God.
THE GRAPES – SYMBOL OF THE ISRAEL MINISTRY OF TOURISM
The symbol of Israel's tourism ministry is a stylized representation of two men carrying a bunch of grapes so large that they must carry it between them on a stick.
The image depicts the well-known Biblical story of the ten spies. After leading the Jewish people out of Egypt, God brought them to the border of the Land of Israel. So the Jews asked permission to explore the country.
Twelve men entered Israel and were surprised by what they saw: pomegranates, figs, grapes and other delicious fruits grew in the area. They returned with huge bunches of grapes to show the people. Ten of the spies returned and gave bad reports. They held up the grapes as proof of the giants that lived on the earth. But Yehoshua and Calev, the other two spies, gave a positive report.
THE LION OF YEHUDAH – THE LOGO OF THE CITY OF JERUSALEM
The official coat of arms of Jerusalem is a lion against the background of the stones of the Western Wall, surrounded by stylized olive branches representing peace. This alludes to the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
When our patriarch Yaakov was about to die, he gave a blessing to each of his twelve sons, who founded the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. When Yaakov blessed Judah, he compared him to a lion and said that one day his descendants would be among the most prominent Jews: “A lion's cub is Judah; from the dam, my son, you ascended. He knelt down, lay down like a lion, like an old lion; who will lift it up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver from among his descendants" (Genesis 49:8-10).
After the reign of King Solomon in the 10th century BCE, the northern ten tribes broke up and were eventually lost. Only the tribes of Yehudah and Benjamin, later known as the kingdom of Judea, remained. The area of the tribe of Judah encompassed Jerusalem, which was its capital, making the image of the lion of Judah a particularly suitable emblem for the city of Jerusalem.
In Hebrew, jai means "life." This inspiring word is often found on jewelry and other Jewish objects, affirming one of the most important values in the Jewish religion; preserve and celebrate life. A common way of toasting on festive occasions is to say Lechaim, which means "for life."
The word chai is made up of the letters chet and yud, and its numerical value is 18 ( chet=8, yud=10). For this reason it is customary for Jews to give gifts or donate to charity sums that are multiples of 18.
YEMENITE FILIGREE STERLING SILVER HAI OR JAI NECKLACE
THE TREE OF LIFE
The Torah and its commandments are compared to a "tree of life." King Solomon wrote: "It is a tree of life to those who cling to it, and blessed are those who sustain it" (Proverbs 3:18). The expression appears for the first time in Genesis, when God tells Adam and Java that they can eat any fruit in the Garden of Eden, except the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Seduced by the wicked serpent, Adam and Java transgressed this commandment and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (The tree of life was not touched).
MEZUZA DECORATED WITH THE TREE OF LIFE IN STERLING SILVER
In later works, the Tree of Life is used as a metaphor for the Torah. Rav Chaim ben Yosef Vital's famous 16th century book, Etz Chaim (The Tree of Life) , is a classic work of Jewish mysticism that exposes the relationships between the spiritual world and the material world.
THE DOVE AND THE OLIVE BRANCH
In Genesis, the Torah describes a flood that covered the entire Earth and put an end to life. The only people and animals that survived were those saved by Noah, who built an ark and gathered his wife, sons, daughters-in-law, and a couple of each animal species there. For forty days and forty nights a terrible storm raged across the land. When the storm ended, not a single patch of land or vegetation remained in sight.
We can imagine the despair felt by Noah and those with him on the ark. He tried to find land, and sent out a raven to see if the bird could find a place where it could perch to rest. The raven circled the ark without finding land. Noah waited another week and then sent out a dove to see if it could find a place to rest and something to eat. The dove found nothing and returned to the ark. Noah waited another week and sent the dove back to look for vegetation. This time, the dove returned with an olive branch in its beak. The earth had finally become habitable again. (Genesis 8).
The image of a dove with an olive branch in its beak recalls this moment of deep hope and joy, when Noah realized that the long months they had to live in a dark ark had come to an end, and that life could return to life. begin.