Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lost Culture


Star of David remains from a destroyed synagogue in Bonn, Germany.

Picture is courtesy of Maxg from Flickr.

Destroyed Synagogue


Star of David on a German sign in Bonn - picture is courtesy of maxg from Flickr who translated the sign from German: 

"Close to this place stood the synagogue, built in the year 1878, and with the Nazi acts of violence against our Jewish fellow citizens on 9 November 1938, destroyed."

Who invented the Jewish Star of David?

Most Jews are proud of their Star of David without knowing who invented it or where it came from. Even the renowned Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote explicitly in his book, Igrot Moshe, that "We don't have the origin of the form of the Magen David".

 

When asked some cling to the legend about the Shield of King David or the Seal of King Solomon, Or the Shield of Bar Kochba, but they have no artifact or research to prove their argument.

 

Others say that the Star of David came from the Yellow patch that the Nazis made the Jews wear during the Holocaust. They believe that the fact that it is now in the center of the Israeli flag is a kind of poetic justice, similar to the Christian explanation about the origin of their emblem from the structure on which Jesus was crucified; Measure for measure – what served as a source of shame became a source of pride.

 

Not knowing about the origin of your emblem is not as bad as knowing that it came from other cultures. Many young Israelis travel to India and are surprised to discover their national symbol on the walls of many ancient temples. The Internet is full with theories about the ancient pagan and astrological origins of this symbol.  It is important to notice that although the Star of David is a hexagram, a six pointed star, not every hexagram is a Star of David.

 

Uri Ofir came up with a research in which he has a very good explanation about the origin of the Jewish Magen David from the Menorah in the Tabernacle. It was made by the Lord and not by a human being about a year after the exodus of the sons of Israel from Egypt. This theory satisfies the need to know but more than that – it provides a new source of pride, and a new educational tool.

 

What amazes me is that very few people know about Uri Ofir's research. He is lecturing about it every week for years and the audiences are always surprised and disappointed they didn't hear about it beforehand. I hope that by translating his research from Hebrew and by writing this posting I'll help the message get through.

 

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The scope of this blog

This blog is focused on Jewish Stars of David (Magen David), but includes information also about the following subjects which refer to other sorts of hexagrams in other cultures:

Bronze Age hexagrams

Iron Age hexagrams

Arabs' and Muslims' hexagrams

Christian hexagrams

Eastern Religions hexagrams

Alchemy hexagrams

Witchcraft, Occultism hexagrams

Astrology hexagrams

Estoiles

Mullets (or molets)

Chinese checkers

Shatkona (Yantra), Mandala, Indian hexagrams

Snowflakes

Scientific

Raelism

Non Jewish heraldry and flags

Red Magen David

Theosophy

Zion Christian Church

Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

Buddhism Hinduism and Jainism


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pentagram and Magen David

M. Costa in his (Hebrew) book "Hatakh ha-zahav, hotam Shelomoh u-Magen-David" (Poalim, 1990) claims that there was no clear distinction between the pentagram and the Magen David until the 20th century.

 

After giving a lecture about this subject one of his pupils told him that there's a Midrash (interpretation of the Holy Scriptures) that connects the pentagram and the Magen-David. The Midrash explains that the Magen David was meant to pass from father to son for generations, but King Solomon was too modest to inherit his father's emblem and chose a less honorable one by taking off one of the sides of the Star of King David and by that he created his own (Solomon's) seal...

 

Ebay

Searching on Google for the keywords "star of David" Ebay retrieved about 282,000 results, which means that it is a very popular item on eBay.

Clustering the first 150 results on vivisimo shows the main categories of these products:

38 results deal with Jewelry

24 results deal with Ebay Store

12 results deal with Designer

9 results deal with Crystal

7 results deal with Symbol

7 results deal with Star of David necklace

8 results deal with Italian Charms

6 results deal with Heart

4 results deal with Magen David

5 results deal with Books

Searching on Ebay for the keywords "Star of David" retrieved 668 items:

Jewellery & Watches (385)

Necklaces & Pendants (163)

Charms & Charm Bracelets (74)

Earrings (18)

Collectables (172)

Religions, Spirituality (148)

Historical Memorabilia (6)

Decorative Collectables (5)

Pottery & Glass (43)

Glass (40)

Pottery & China (3)

The overall picture is that the most popular items are Jewellery, Necklaces and Charms.

I'd like to read an analysis of the Star of David world market. Maybe one of you readers can guide me where to find it. Then I'll have an answer for the question – How much does it cost?

Under the Heaven

1: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3: A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

The Star of David is composed of all the possible opposites...

Discovering New Possibilities

For me the Star of David is about discovering new possibilities: the upper right and the upper left triangles are like arrows showing the way to opposite sides.  There are football players who use both legs in the same virtuosity, but I kick the ball much better with my right leg. I write with my right hand much better than I do with my left hand. What will it take to train the left to equal the right; to train the weak to equal the strong? These are new possibilities. This kind of thinking shows you who you are (right handed) and what are the directions you can explore. There's a whole new world if your right hand goes on strike and you are forced to use only your left hand…

 

For me the Star of David is about discovering new worlds: the bottom right triangle may symbolize the active voice in grammar while and the bottom left triangle may symbolize the passive voice – they are like arrows showing the way to opposite sides. There are whole novels written without a certain letter, but I didn't hear yet about a whole novel written in the passive voice. Usually we describe how WE ate the breakfast – not how the breakfast made its way down towards our stomachs… This kind of thinking shows you where you stand and opens new horizons of never-taken-choices.

 

I leave it to you, dear reader, to contemplate the possibilities of the up and down arrows and what's even more complicated – to imagine what the right and left DIAGONAL opposites could symbolize…

  

Friday, May 26, 2006

My Blook

What I'm writing here is more like a blook than a blog.

 

A blook is an online book. A blog is an online- something-else. But what is the difference, actually? If you take more than 50 written pages (of poetry, for example) and bind them - it's a book, right? If you have more than 50 postings on your blog and you print and bind them - it's a book, right? You may say that blooks and blogs have links while books are link less but it doesn't seem to be an essential or crucial difference.

 

I Once thought about publishing blogs in paper-back and I still believe that in the future some of the 30 million blogs or so will become books, but the main difference between a blook and a blog is the intention: a blog posting is meant to express itself, with no commitment to the other postings, with no overall architecture or message or order. It is more like flirt than marriage.

 

Usually a blog is like a diary. You write about something that you felt like writing, without putting too much planning into it. Then you write another posting that pushes all the previous postings backwards, and conquers the head of the blog page… until the next posting. When you look back at your, say, 10 postings you might see that there's a link between them, that they all talk about your girlfriend, for example, but you know that it's not a book.

 

Blogs cling on the moment, on the present – they have no special interest in the future or the permanent. When you read a blog that was written three years ago most chances are that it lost its edge (unless you have interest in history). Blooks aim at writing evergreen postings. In a blook that declares its bloogness there is some development, and the more postings you read the overall picture and concept become clearer. Nevertheless any blog that is composed of evergreen postings has the potential to become a blook or a book.

 

In my case I think I'll only have to choose the best postings, to arrange them in chapters, to convert the links to notes, to add introduction and bibliography, to print and bind and voila – the book is ready. I also have a name for it: The Star of David Blook.



Tobias Foa

Foa Jewish printer mark-1 

 Foa Jewish printer mark-2


Foa Jewish printer mark-3


Gershom Scholem mentions in his article about the origin of the Star of David (published in the Encyclopedia Judaica) that the Foa family was one of the book printers who used the Star of David as printers' sign and says that they incorporated it in their coat of arms.
Gershom Scholem was a professional researcher and had access to rare sources, so rare that it is hard to find them. That's why I was so thrilled to see a photo of a page printed by the head of the Foa family, Tobias Foa, in 1556. But unfortunately there was no photo of the other side of that page where there was (as the Kestenbaum Company auctioneers wrote):
"woodcut printer’s mark containing two rampant lions flanking a palm tree in whose center there is a Star of David, all within a cartouche; surrounding are the words, “A just man will flourish as a palm tree” (Psalms 92:13) and the name “Tobias Foa.”

Encampment of the Tribes

Encampment of the Tribes magen david

Dr. Gabriel H. Cohen from the Bible Department of  Bar-Ilan  University in Ramat Gan, Israel, wrote an article about Parashat Bemidbar which "is devoted to the array of the Israelites' encampment" . There were many ways in Jewish history to order the encampment of the tribes; Dr. Cohen mentions three of them and the third is:

 

"Jewish folklore describes the encampment of the tribes in the desert as forming a Star of David, twelve focal points being connected one to another, and all of these arranged around a central, thirteenth, focus--the Tabernacle and the tribe of Levi ministering the sacred service. A Yiddish anthology for the holidays describes the unique arrangement of the Israelite camp and its symbolism as follows:

  

According to this picture, the Star of David is the symbol of tribal unity in Israel, a single formation protecting the Sanctuary shared by all".

 

Photo is courtesy of the "project of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center, and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Sponsored by Dr. Ruth Borchard of the Shoresh Charitable Fund (SCF). Published with assistance of the President's Fund for Torah and Science. Permission granted to reprint with appropriate credit".


The following paragraph is from Dr. Asher Eder’s book The Star of David, which was published in 1987 in English in Jerusalem by Runin Mass Ltd. The publication here is courtesy of Oren Mass
Other examples are:
- the division of the people of Israel into
Cohanim (priests), Levites and the common people. In our context it is noteworthy that this tripartite people of Israel is meant to function in and through its land. The latter is an entity which is symbolized by the number four. This may indicate that the people is in constant development within the frame of the established physical world;
- the division of the Temple into three sections,
the Holy of Holies, the Hall of the Altars and the Public Court. Also here, these three sections are placed in the rectangular temple yard, indicating the idea expressed above (during the forty years of desert roaming, before the Temple was built in Jerusalem, the same idea was expressed by subdividing the 12 tribes into four times three tribes the latter being placed into the east, south, west, and north sides respectively of the camp);
- the division of functions in the Kingdom of Judea into that of
King, Priest, and Prophet (which pre-figures Montesquieu's demand that a modern state should divide its powers between the legislative, administrative and executive branches);
-
truth, freedom and love as the three pillars of a sound humanity.

All these form power fields on the social, political or spiritual level, and these fields could each be depicted by a triangle.
In this context, mention should be made of Hegel's triad of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, which gives the above discussion a philosophical dimension.
Referring back to the hydrogen atom and its different probability clouds, we can derive an interesting lesson from it for our human society. As all kind of possibilities are inherent in hydrogen atoms, including the six-lobed pattern which may eventually manifest as six-pointed snowflake crystals, likewise in human society. Descending from Adam, its common ancestor, its different ethnical, cultural etc groups can develop specific cultural and spiritual patterns, including the one characterized by the hexagram, or
Star of David
In the following we will trace the width and depth of this symbol’s message as well as the influence it could and should exert on society for its well-functioning.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fallen Tabernacle

In 1944 the Nazis killed the 300 Jews of Crete and put an end to a continuity of 2300 years of Jewish life on this Island. The Etz Hayyim Synagogue in Hania was deserted until 1999 when it was restored. Now the synagogue is a resource center for tracing family trees; it has a library for studying Judaism, Christianity and Islam and it hosts exhibits. Most of the time there are not enough people for minyan (prayer quorum of 10) since there are only 7 Jews living today in Hania.

This story reminded me of the verse "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen" (Amos 9:11), even though the verse is about the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. It seems that the first half of the prophecy about the fallen tabernacle of David was never so accurately realized in history as after the Nazi period, and each little restoration as the one in Hania is a step in the fulfillment of the second half…

Sukkah is called so because of its cover (scach in Hebrew). This cover is all about protection (from sun and heat) the same as the Shield of David is all about protection. David is the seventh Ushpizin (visitor) to the Sukkah, and I feel that decorating the Sukkah with our 3D Star of David Sukkah lampshades will convey this idea of redemption…


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Our Sukkah Lampshade Poster

SUKKAH LAMPSHADE

Three Dimensional Star of David

Original design of Yevu-Yashir

The six sides of the Magen David symbolize the six Ushpizin

Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph

The Magen David in its entirety symbolizes the last Ushpizin – King David

Yevu-Yashir, Shimony 32/a` Jerusalem 97226785636 972522623345

 

Sukkah Lampshade New Model Blue

Sukkah Lampshade New Model Blue magen davidThis new model of our sukkah lampshade arrived yesterday. We hope that the shipment of the 3D folded paper sukkah lampshades will arrive here in time. Meanwhile we chose about 8 different colors.

I changed the "dull" realistic background with Photoshop. You can see the original and all the other models on http://www.flickr.com/photos/98026251@N00/

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Tattoo Controversy

I already wrote about Star of David tattoos but since then I learned that this phenomenon is [1] growing and [2] becoming more and more controversial. People want to take part in the debate. Michael Lerner, 42, New York-born who made aliyah to Israel in 1985, has a Web site titled Tattoos are Not for Jews. Soon enough he got a letter from an angry opponent:

"Why should the Nazi's have been the last ones to make a statement regarding Jews and tattoos? I love my Star of David tattoo. It is much better than gold, which could be lost or stolen".

Marisa Carnesky, 32, is a British performance artist. She is heavily tattooed and pierced. She has a solo show titled Jewish Tattooess. 

So, my dear reader, where do you stand? Do you have a tattoo already? Is it in the shape of the Star of David; the shape that can tolerate two opposite sides of a hot argument without breaking down.

Marc Chagall


Star of David framing Hebrew letters in 
Marc Chagall's 
"The Pinch of Snuff" 1912

Source: 
wikipaintings.


Jewish artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985) came from a Hassidic family and that's why critics assume that paintings contain symbols such as the Star of David. In the Nazi period Chagall became a model of the "degenerate artist" and his
  "Most famous painting at the time, "The Pinch of Snuff," featuring a Rabbi and a Star of David, was dragged through the streets and exposed to public ridicule".
 In the Knesset (the Israeli parliament building) there's a hall, which is used for state receptions where Chagall designed a floor of mosaics. One of the main subjects described in this mosaic is the Star of David. It seems that this symbol is appreciated so highly that it enters naturally to the most distinguished and representational places in the country.
 The Knesset offers guided tours on Sundays and Thursdays between the hours of 8:30AM-2:30PM.
I hope to join one of these groups in the near future and take a picture of this work if it's allowed.

Messianic Shield

Nobody knows how the original Shield of David looked like in the past: It was never found in any dusty excavation; It was never painted or drawn by eyewitnesses. There isn't any written testimony about its look. All we have are modern versions about how it COULD HAVE BEEN LOOKED LIKE; for example the rectangular model Uri Ofir made for his exhibition titled MikraOr; or Arthur Szyk's lithograph entitled Israel (printed in 1949) in which we see Bar Kochba sitting next to a big blue Magen David holding in his hand a round shield with a yellow Star of David on a blue round background.

One of the theories about the origin of the Star of David is that during the Bar Kochba rebellion against the Romans in 70 C.E. a new technology was developed for shields so that behind the shield there were two interlocking triangles.

The translation of the Hebrew name Bar Kochba is the "son of the star". (His real name was Simon ben Cozeba, spelled also as Shimeon Bar Kosiba).

According to Jewish messianic expectations the Messiah is an offspring from the house of David. No wonder that in the past when a Messiah presented himself to the people he connected himself to the Shield of David. That was the case with Bar Kochba; that was the case with the Southern Iraqi Jew David Al Roy (aka Menachem Ben Shlomo), who started in the twelfth century a Jewish crusade aimed at conquering Israel by force of arms. That was the case with Shabbatai Zvi (1626-1676) who adopted the Magen David as his principle emblem.

The next Messiah will ride on a white donkey and I'm sure that in his hand there will be…a Shield of David.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Guards On the Walls of Jerusalem

Solomon’s seal Jerusalem Walls 

In the past I read several times about Stars of David decorating the walls around the old city of Jerusalem. I even went to take a photo of the one that was supposed to be on the dung gate - but couldn't find it. Recently Rafi Kfir, lecturer and owner of the Ahavat Yerushalayim company, told me on the phone where are these Stars of David on the walls of Jerusalem. He told me about two places but I found a third one by myself. I enjoyed so much riding in the car slowly along the walls searching for these symbols...

 Anyhow I didn't know what's behind this phenomenon until I stumbled upon an article about Sultan Suleiman (1494-1566) the Magnificent who built these walls (1535-1538). 

It was Sultan Suleiman's messianic consciousness which led him to develop the link between himself and King Solomon. 

From the above excerpt readers may conclude that the Stars of David on the Walls of Jerusalem are not merely aesthetic Muslim decorations but that they are connected to the Jewish sources, to King Solomon.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Crystal Glass

Frankie Fox Jones, torch working crystal glass artist from Atlanta, Georgia, made some amazing Stars of David. She is a staff member of Frabel Galleries. In one of the three works I saw there is a Chai inside the Star and in another there's a Menorah. The height of each work is approximately twelve inches. The Stars of David Frankie Fox Jones created symbolize "strength and resilience of the Jewish people", hope and promise.

Hans Godo Frabel, who is one of the most influential glass artists in America, founded Frabel Galleries. He is famous for sculptures that make ordinary things look extraordinary.  Frankie Fox Jones surely walks in his footsteps.