The most important Jewish symbols

The most important Jewish symbols

Judaism is considered the oldest religion between the three main monotheistic creeds, which are Judaism, Christianism, and Islam. Since its foundation, this religion has been full of different symbols and signs, representing and expressing the multiple commandments and directives of Judaism. In addition, some of these elements, have a very important history, due to the traditions and customs they represent.

One of the most important purposes of the Jewish symbols is to make more visible the relation between God and men, in other words, a lot of these representative elements were created to symbolize the proximity and closeness between God and Jews. In this post, we will see some of the most significant figures used by Jewish people, not only in their holidays and ceremonies but in their daily life.

The Menorah

This is probably one of the most known and used symbols in Judaism, and it is currently the main image in the Emblem of the State of Israel (the Menorah has been part of this emblem since 1949). This transcendental Jewish element could be described as a six branches lamp, which accompanies a central chandelier. According to the sacred texts, a pure gold made seven lamp chandelier was used by Moses at the tabernacle, the portable sanctuary built by the Israelis under the God’s orders given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Various years later, the Menorah was used in the Temple of Jerusalem, burning olive oil in their candles to keep the light on.

The Menorah symbolizes in six of its seven branches the human knowledge, and in the central candle the light of God, which means that God is the only one who can guide in the best way the human knowledge. The Menorah also represents the seven days and nights of the world’s creation, where the central lamp signifies the Shabbat, which is the seventh day of the week and the rest day for Jews.

In a few words, we can say that the Menorah, is an essential symbol for Jews, not only for its history but for being one of the clearest representations of God and his guiding light (the central candle).

The Star of David

Like the Menorah, this could be one of the most popular signs in Judaism. It is shaped by two equilateral triangles put in opposite way, which forms a hexagram figure. Historically, the six points of the Star of David has been considered a perfect number, giving to this sign a very important meaning. For a long time ago, this representation has been present in multiple Jewish ambits, like Synagogues, schools, texts, art articles, literature and many more fields, making the Star of David an imperative connotation.

The Star of David could have multiple significances; for some Jews, it could be the representation of the Jewish spirit, expressing the human soul and its relation with God. For others, this sign indicates the wisdom of the Jewish people, and for others, the star means that God is always with us and he is the biggest and greatest support for Jews and humans.

This symbol is used mostly to represent the Zionist movement, since the first Zionist Congress in 1897 in Switzerland, where the Zionist Organization was founded (1897-1960). In addition, since 1948, the flag of Israel has the Star of David with a white background between two horizontal blue stripes.

Image courtesy of Zachi Evenor at Flickr.com

The Hamsa

This symbol has become in a very popular sign in the last years, especially in Jewelry. The Hamsa figure is a right-hand palm-shaped with an eye in the middle and is used by Jews to guard them and their families against bad energies and from the evil eye. This representation is also known as the hand of God, giving always protection, strength, and power.

It is believed that the Hamsa origins go back to the ancient Egypt, Carthage or Mesopotamia, where some amulets with this figure have been discovered. In addition, this figure is used not only by the Jewish people but also for some Muslims and Christians. For Jews, the Hamsa’s five fingers represent the five principal books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).

As we mentioned, the Hamsa symbol is very used in jewelry, but this amulet could be seen also in wall hangings, or other places. This sign is more common in countries from the Middle East and North Africa.

Tablets of Stone

This symbol is the representation of the ten commandments given by God to Moses in Mount Sinai. The tablets of stone are represented by two round topped rectangles, each one with five commandments. This figure is commonly used in temples, where is accompanied by a blue background as the representation of the sky and heaven, where God is.

Other important Jewish figures are the Lion of Judah, the Chai and the Shin symbols, the Shofar or the Four Species sign.

Related: The three principal Judaism branches by Yosef Meystel

* Featured Image courtesy of Shawn Anderson at Flickr.com