Jewish Symbols and Meanings
By Editorial Staff
by Catalogs.com Info Guru Terri Wallace
Religions often come with a myriad of symbols and images that help others to define and recognize a certain faith, and to serve as visual reminds to believers of the tenants of their conviction.
The Jewish faith, steeped in history and tradition, has many emblems and representations that have developed over the centuries. Here are some of the more readily identifiable symbols of the Jewish faith.
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10. Bar Mitzvah
The Bar Mitzvah might be one of the most commonly identified of the Jewish traditions. It’s symbolic of the end of “official” childhood and marks the onset of grown-up Jewish responsibilities and is recognized as an iconic rite of passage.
9. Kiddush Cup
Reciting Kiddush before the meal on the eve of Shabbat and Jewish holidays a commandment from the Torah, and the Kiddush cup is part of this Jewish ritual. The cup is used to honor the mitzvah of reciting Kiddush, and has become a familiar image of the faith.
The Talis, or Jewish prayer shawl, is worn over the outer clothes. It is worn during the morning prayers (Shacharit) and during all prayers on Yom Kippur, and is a familiar image of fidelity and observance.
Jewish homes often have a small case attached to the doorframe; this contains a “mezuzah,” which is a piece of parchment inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah. The commandment to affix a mezuzah to the doorpost is widely followed in the Jewish world. The important part of the mezuzah is the klaf, or parchment, contained inside the decorative case’ however, mezuzah cases become something of an art form.
The Torah is a central symbol in Jewish tradition, and it can have many meanings depending on the context in which it is used. It can refer to the first five books of the Tanakh, or the interpretation might refer to first five books and also to the rabbinic commentaries on them. The Torah might also refer to the narrative from Genesis to the end of the Tanakh, or it might refer to all of Jewish teaching and practice.
Another familiar Jewish image is that of the kippah, or yarmulke, which is a platter-shaped cap that is often worn by Orthodox Jewish men in compliance with the tradition observed by some orthodox halachic authorities that the head be covered at all times.
Perhaps one of the most identifiable representations of the Jewish faith is that of the menorah, a nine branched candelabra. The menorah has been a symbol of Judaism since ancient times and is the emblem on the coat of arms of the modern state of Israel.
The Hand (Khamsa), particularly the open right hand, is a sign of protection. It represents blessings, power, and strength, and is viewed protection against the evil eye. The hamsa became identified with Jewish culture via the North African and Middle Eastern Jewish communities. The image is also referred to as the Hand of Miriam.
The word chaya means “living thing” or “animal” in Hebrew—from the word chai which means life. This sign is often crafted into elaborately detailed jewelry as a representation of the slogan “The people of Israel live!”
1. Star of David
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The Star of David a readily identifiable image of Judaism–from the yellow arm bands which the Jews were forced to wear under Nazi occupation during the Holocaust, to its current use on the flag of Israel, the Star of David (also known as the Shield of David) has long been associated with the Jewish identity and culture.
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