Carrying on our series on religious symbols, we will be discussing Judaism symbols in today’s post. Without further ado, here is our extensive list of Jewish symbols, their meanings and importance for the people of the faith.
Mezuzah is a Hebrew word meaning doorpost, indicating the usage of this highly valued religious Jewish symbol. Jews place it on the doors of their homes, where it serves as a constant reminder of God’s presence in their lives and their allegiance to God’s commands.
A mezuzah is essentially a small case that contains a scroll of parchment with Shema prayer written on it. The parchment is called klaf and is made from the skin of a kosher animal. The case also often has the letter Shin written on it, the first letter of God’s name Shaddai.
In many Jewish homes, the mezuzah is placed on every door, except the bathroom door. Jews also touch the mezuzah every time they pass through the door that has it on to display their respect and commitment to God’s commands.
Star of David
The Star of David is inarguably one of the most popular Jewish symbols throughout the world. Made of two oppositely-faced, overlapping equilateral triangles, the Star of David is a hexagram named after King David’s legendary shield that had magical (protective) properties.
While the symbol has associations with ancient times, it is a fairly modern Jewish symbol. It may surprise many, but the use of the Star of David as a symbol and the practice of displaying it outside synagogues began during the 17th century only.
However, it gained popularity in the late 1800s and became widely adopted as a Jewish symbol. Today, it also appears on the flag of Israel and is generally recognized as a symbol of Jewish identity.
In Hebrew, the Star of David is called “Magen David”, which means the Shield of David.
The Seal of Solomon
The Seal of Solomon symbol is created after King Solomon’s signet ring which, according to the legend, gave King Solomon, the Great (the last ruler of the ancient Kingdom of Israel) power and control over spirits and demons. It is denoted by a hexagram (sometimes a pentagram) inside a circle.
The Seal of Solomon symbol is interpreted in various ways. Some believe it represents the harmony of opposites, while others associate it with human energy centers. Some believe it to be a symbol of good luck and fortune, while others use it as a talisman. The Seal of Solomon has been around since ancient times and used mainly as a protection symbol.
The menorah is one of the oldest and most sacred Judaism symbols. Research shows that it has been around since biblical times and historically revered by Jews and Christians alike.
According to Jewish belief, the menorah was the seven-branched lampstand or candelabrum that Moses lit up in the Tent of the Congregation (also called the Tabernacle). To commemorate this act of Moses, a similarly designed candelabrum was burned every night in the ancient temple in Jerusalem.
Ever since the temple’s destruction, a candelabrum with not seven but six branches (menorah) has been commonly used in synagogues. The reason for this is because the Jewish faith forbids replicating the things used in the Jerusalem temple.
The most important modern application or appearance of the menorah is on the official emblem of the State of Israel.
The menorah is commonly perceived as the symbolic representation of the core mission of Jewish faith – “light unto the nations” or universal enlightenment. The menorah is also considered a symbol of wisdom and represents that our knowledge comes from God. It is also believed to denote the creation of the world in seven days.
Tzitzit and Tallit
Tzitzit and tallit are another two Judaism symbols that lie at the core of Jewish faith and religious practices.
Tzitzit means fringes or tassels that Torah commands Jews to wear, on the corner of their garments, as a reminder of mitzvot (the commandments of God), in 15:38-40.
Tallit is the word for the four-cornered garment on which the fringes are made. It is also referred to as “the Jewish prayer shawl” by non-Jews. The tallit has 613 tzitzit, representing the 613 mitzvot that Jews are commanded by God.
During morning prayers, it is customary for Jewish men to wear the tallit, with tzitzit on all four of its corners. They may also wear it during other religious events, such as Sabbath. In some Jewish groups, women may also wear this sacred symbol.
Luchot is the word for two stone tablets widely used as a symbol in Jewish culture and communities. The symbol appears everywhere, from public buildings, including synagogues, schools and hospitals, to the uniforms of military personnel. The symbol denotes the two stone tablets God gave Moses on Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments inscribed. They are also often called “the Tablets of the Law”.
The Ten Commandments are the basic principles that (are supposed to) guide and govern the lives of Jews. And the luchot symbol serves as a reminder of how God wants them to live.
According to the Torah (Exodus 32:16), the stone tablets were made by God himself.
Dreidel is one of the primary things the Jewish religious festival of Hanukkah is known for. The game involving this four-sided spinning top is traditional to Hanukkah celebrations. While the game is fun, the dreidel itself serves as a reminder of why Jews celebrate Hanukkah.
Each of the four sides of dreidel is inscribed with a Hebrew letter – nun meaning nothing, gimel meaning all, hei meaning half, and shin meaning put in. While these Hebrew letters now control the flow of the dreidel game, they are actually acronyms for the Hebrew phrase “nes Ggadol haya sham”, which means “a great miracle happened there” and signifies the importance of Hanukkah.
Chai is a Judaism symbol associated with life. This is because the Hebrew word chai means life or living.
Some believe that the chai symbol represents the importance of life, while others believe it symbolizes the living God.
In Jewish numerology, the number 18 denotes life because the two Hebrew letters forming chai are composed of – chet and yud – with a combined numerical value of 18. 18 also represents good luck.
The Jewish tradition of giving gifts in multiples of 18 also stems from this concept. Chai is also one of the most popular Jewish symbols used in jewelry.
The Dove and Olive Branch
The dove holding an olive branch is considered a powerful symbol of hope, happiness, and joy; that comes after a long period of struggles, hardships, and darkness. This symbolism stems from the story of Noah, as described in the Torah.
While this is the most common interpretation of the symbol, its two components – the dove and the olive branch – also hold great symbolic values for Jews.
According to popular belief, the dove and olive branches are both Jewish symbols that refer to “Jews as the chosen people”, as per Jeremiah (Talmud, Menachot 53b) and the Song of Songs.
The Hamsa Hand
The Hamsa hand is one of the Judaism symbols that also hold symbolic meanings and importance in other religions and cultures. The symbol is also revered in Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.
As a Jewish symbol, the Hamsa hand is interpreted in multiple ways. It is believed to represent the five books of the Torah and a symbol of the Hand of God. The Hamsa hand is also popularly associated with Miriam, Moses’ sister, and is called the Hand of Miriam after her.
At present, the Hamsa hand is one of the popular Jewish symbols for protection, worn in the form of jewelry to ward off all kinds of evil forces.
This wraps up our piece on Jewish symbols, their meanings and uses. If you liked reading it, you should definitely check out our articles on the Lion of Judah here, sacred geometry symbols here and the 7-pointed star symbol here. Thanks for reading with us!