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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Three types of jewelry serve as the underpinnings of Jewish jewelry. They are the Star of David, the Hamsa and the Chai (to life) symbol. Looking closely within at the symbolism underlying this Jewish jewelry, one is overwhelmed at the depth and breadth of this extraordinary Jewish heritage representing a people persecuted for thousands of years who have managed to retain their dignity, education and spiritual identity amidst unbelievable and prolonged persecution and violence. The Jews have emerged as victorious not only for themselves but as fighters and advocates for others who have had their lives and civil liberties threatened. They have made their suffering count in numerous ways by defending others disenfranchised and violated.

The Star of David as a singular focus of Jewish jewelry is a six-pointed star made up of two triangles superimposed over each other. In Hebrew it is called the Magen David, which means the “shield of David” While originally it had no religious significance in Judaism, this piece of Jewish jewelry has become one of the symbols most commonly associated with the Jewish people and is a symbol of unity. Many Jews wear this Jewish jewelry with the Star of David as part of the design. The flag of Israel has a blue Star of David in the center.

There are many ideas about the symbolic meaning of the Star of David as representative of Jewish jewelry. Some Kabbalists thought that the six points represented God’s absolute rule over the universe in all six directions: north, south, east, west, up and down. They also believed that the triangles represented humanity’s dual nature and that the star could be used as protection against evil spirits. Thus wearing this particular piece of Jewish jewelry became almost an amulet of protection.

The structure of the star, with two overlapping triangles, has also been thought to represent the relationship between God and the Jewish people. The star that points up symbolizes God and the star that points down represents us here on earth. Stripping this piece of Jewish jewelry from its ethnic content, it can also be seen as representative of the intertwining of yin and yang qualities or masculine and famine attributes. Whatever its religious significance, this piece of Jewish jewelry has managed to rise above a parochial status to becoming an interesting symbol of interfaith unity.

This piece of Jewish jewelry eventually rose to its status as a Jewish symbol when during World War II, Hitler forced the Jews to wear a yellow Star of David as a “badge of shame.” How interesting now that this piece of Jewish jewelry has risen to a badge of honor for anyone who wears it. In the 20thth Century, more than any other minority, ethnic or cultural, Jews have been recipients of the Nobel Prize, with almost one –fifth of all Nobel laureates being Jewish. In fact, in the history of the Nobel Prize, Jewish names appear 127 times on the list, about 18 per cent of the total. This is an astonishing percentage for a group of people who comprised up to 1/24th of one percent of the world population This positive disproportion is seen even further in the over-representation of Jews, compared to the general population, in the fields of physical and social sciences and in literature. Some have even boldly stated that notwithstanding wearing the piece of Jewish jewelry, just to be Jewish is a true Badge of Honor.

Another popular symbol used in Jewish jewelry is the hamsa, also known as “hamesh hand”. The hamsa appears often as a hand with three fingers raised, and sometimes with two thumbs arranged symmetrically. This Jewish jewelry is used for protection and as a superstitious means to ward off the evil eye in amulets and charms. This piece of Jewish jewelry can also be found in various places such as home entrances and cars. It is also common to place other symbols in the middle of the hamsa that are believed to help against the evil eye such as fish, eyes and the Star of David. The color blue, or more specifically light blue in Jewish jewelry, is also considered protective against the evil eye and we see many hamsas in that color or with embedded gemstones in different shades of blue, often decorated with Jewish prayers for a protective quality. Perhaps because the lives of Jews have been so threatened through the millennia, that is why they toast and honor “life.” This symbolism is seen in the particular piece of Jewish jewelry called the “Chai,” meaning “life,” When one toasts at a Jewish get-together it is “L’Chaim. L’Chaim reveals a lot about the Jewish approach to life. The phrase is not to a good life, to a healthy life, or even to a long life. It is simply to life, recognizing that life is indeed good and precious and should always be celebrated and savored: L’Chaim!!

For these and other Jewish jewelry products, visit Ma’s India Spiritual Gift Store.

by: Mas India 1 Comments

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Today the word “interfaith” has enormous influence in the world. We are asked to move from a parochial way of viewing the world and ourselves in it to widely consider a more global view. We can no longer in the interest of planet survival take a solipsistic view of the world in which we think of ourselves as the sole purveyors of religious or spiritual belief, or the dominant religion to which all persons must adhere. One need only look to the violence in the name of holding to one’s spiritual or religious belief as the only truth to see the danger of holding such views. As we gaze out at the enormous global problems of starvation, violence and ignorance proliferating in the world, we must have a philosophy of interfaith that acts as an umbrella under which all religions and spiritual beliefs may gather. Seeking the diversity of cultures, mores, religions and beliefs can only enrich us with an interfaith view.

What is interfaith? Interfaith allows members of all religions and spiritual teachings to reach out across barriers to understand and communicate with each other. Interfaith affirms and supports the true goodness of each person as we set about to heal the planet. While there is not an effort to homogenize religious differences, one is asked to honor and respect religious differences, recognizing that we are each individual and unique. As such, with interfaith, we have the freedom to choose whatever fits us in our desire to lead spiritual or religious lives. What is most important during these times is that we begin an interfaith dialogue that supports the common ground on which we meet and that we recognize not only our differences, but affirm our sameness in attempting to do good in this life. Interfaith dialogue is very important at this juncture. When there is dialogue, then there is a desire to promote acceptance of difference and in that acceptance, one achieves the pinnacle of interfaith philosophy.

In the Jew in the Lotus, one is treated to an extraordinary experience of a Jewish man as he encounters Buddhism at Dharmasala for a Jewish/Tibetan Buddhist interfaith dialogue. This interfaith get together was inspired by not only Jews who had become Buddhists but the Dalai Lama’s perception of Jews as experts in exile and preservation of faith and practice.Some of those attending aa the group were surprised by the similarities between these two beliefs, both in how they coped spiritually and how they resonated in service to mankind. These interfaith discussions shed an important light on the similarities rather than differences in all religious and spiritual belief. When seen through the door of “sameness,” one can only see the vista that interfaith dialogue provides to the world. Kameneth approaches these weighty matters with skill, personality, and a wonderful sense of humor.

Kashi Ashram is noted for its promotion of interfaith dialogue. In all of its projects including “feeding the hungry,” and its affordable living facility By the River, it promotes and welcomes interfaith discussion and philosophy. In fact, it is a contributing member of the Parliament of World Religions whose mission is to sustain the interfaith view. This beautiful sterling silver Interfaith Necklace with sterling silver chain was designed by artists at Kashi and depicts the symbols of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism and Taoism. Not only an interfaith statement you are making when wearing this necklace, but you might consider this an interfaith amulet that will bring the world peace and interfaith dialogue.

When one thinks of interfaith, one thinks of the similarities of messages and exhortations to do good in all religions. In the book Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Lao Tzu one sees the similarity in the message of service and doing good to others that reaches across all religions and transcends religious differences. As one contemplates the teachings of Christ, juxtaposed with those of Buddha, Krishna and Lao Tzu, one witnesses the true parallels and similarities in their most integral teachings. This book is a wonderful seminal book for those interested in conducting an interfaith discussion with others in an effort to point out humanity’s similarities rather than their differences, thus promoting interfaith cooperation and cohesion rather than divisiveness and disharmony.

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