Do you wear any symbols that communicate your faith and beliefs to others? They could be things that you can take on and off, such as a piece of clothing or jewelry, or something more permanent, such as a tattoo or piercing. Perhaps you wear your hair a certain way, shave symbols into short hair, or shave your head completely.
If you said yes to any of the above, do you know the history behind your symbols and how their meanings may have changed over time? Do you know why you wear them? Do feel that something is missing, that you are in some ways naked, when you leave your home without them? Perhaps you wear them for sentimental reasons--their meaning bound up in the people and places you know and have known.
These questions have been swirling around my mind for the last few weeks because I do wear symbolic jewelry whenever I leave my home and I do feel that something is missing if I forget to put them on. The items I wear consistently, besides my wedding ring, are two pinky rings and a necklace that I have had for many years.
The necklace contains the first words of the prayer Shema Yisroel that proclaims my belief in G-d as the Create of all things. It connects me to my faith and my belief that I am part of a Divine plan, and that even though I don’t know what that plan is, there is so much more to existence than what I experience with my five senses.
One of my rings is silver, engraved with the Hebrew letters Chet-Yud which spell the word chai, the Hebrew word for life. These two letters also represent the number 18, my father’s (obm) birthday. So when I put this ring on, it reminds me of my father and of the Jewish commandment that we must choose life over death (Deuteronomy 30:19).
My other ring has the Star of David on it. I bought that ring because I liked it, and it is a visual reminder of my Jewish identity. I have never thought much about why the Star of David is a Jewish symbol, so I did a bit of research and was surprised to discover that its origins are shrouded in mystery. Although it has been associated with the Jewish people for over 2000 years, no one knows exactly how that happened.
The Star of David has been found carved into ancient synagogues. In the 13th century it was suggested that it was the symbol on King David’s shield. In the 15th century it was incorporated into the flags of Jewish communities in Prague and Budapest. In the 17th century it became a symbol for the Jews in Vienna. And in the 19th century it spread as a symbol to Jewish communities around the world, it became a symbol for Zionism, and in the 20th century the center piece of the Israeli flag.
As I did my research, I realized that one of the reasons why I never thought much about the meaning behind the Star of David is because, as much as it identifies me as Jewish, it doesn’t in and of itself represent Judaism. Over the centuries The Star of David has been imbued with many mystical meanings and interpretations, but the true symbol of the Jewish people is the Torah that, as Rabbi Pinchas Taylor says, “…is what we live on; it beats through our veins.” (see The Star of David Demystified).
I invite you to examine your symbols--the ones that you wear everyday. Do they connect you with your faith, beliefs, friends or family? Whatever you wear, does it connect you to something bigger than yourself...to something that runs in your veins?
Fiona Prince, MA, is a coach and teacher who provides fundamental communication and writing skills through her own company and through Royal Roads Professional & Continuing Studies. Fiona acknowledges that her home and office are located on the traditional territories of the W̱SÁNEĆ and Lkwungen-speaking peoples, on whose traditional territories, she is thankful to live, learn, play, and do her work. She worships at the Chabad Family Shul in Victoria and volunteers by teaching children and adults how to read Hebrew.
You can read more articles on our blog, Spiritually Speaking at https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking