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Star of David is widely known as Shield of David. This is a highly recognized Jewish identity and a symbol of Judaism. Star of David has a hexagram shape which is the compound of the two equilateral triangles. Unlike Menorah, shofar, lulav and Lion of Judah, Star of David is a unique Jewish symbol.
This Jewish symbol has, therefore, become a representative of the Zionist community worldwide and eventually, the entire Jewish community also after which, Star of David was chosen as a central symbol on the flag during the very first Zionist Congress in 1987. The earliest usage of this Jewish symbol was inherited from the medieval Arabic literature by the Kabbalists for the use of segulot or talismanic protective amulets. This was also known as Seal of Solomon among countless Muslims. This Jewish symbol’s earliest usage includes its use on Christian churches as decorative motif before its very first known use in the Jewish synagogue.
In the 19th century, this symbol started proliferating among Jewish communities in Eastern Europe mainly being utilized among Jewish communities in the Palace of Settlement. One significant motivating factor based on Gershom Scholem is the desire of representing Jewish religion or/and identity in a similar way that the Christian cross emphasized the believers of the religion.
The identification of the “Star of David” with hexagram shape dates in the 17th century. The term is also being used in Siddur or the Jewish prayer book as the title of God of Israel.
History of the Jewish Usage
· USE AS ORNAMENT
Star of David is considered the oldest complete copy of Masoretic Text, Leningrad Codex that stood the test of time and dated 1008. Hexagram occasionally appears in the Jewish context since antiquity, noticeably as a decorative motif. The hexagram might have been initially employed as architectural ornament. In synagogues, this was perhaps associated with the mezuzah.
The utilization of hexagram in the Jewish contexts is potentially meaningful symbol occurs in the early 11th century in decorating the carpet page of renowned Tanakh manuscript, Leningrad Codex. The symbol similarly illuminates medieval Tanakh manuscript which was dated 1307 that belongs to Rabbi Yosef Bar Yehuda Ben Marvas who come from Toledo Spain. The Siddur which was dated 1512 from the Prague shows off a larger Hexagram in the cover along with the phrase “He will merit to bestow a bountiful gift on anyone who grasps the Shield of David.”
· KABBALISTIC USE
The hexagram was also noted in Jewish Tombstone in Southern Italy particularly in Taranto Apulia dated as early as 3rd Century CE. Jews in Apulia are noted for their scholarships in Kabbalah that has been linked to the usage of Star of David.
During the Renaissance Period, 16th century in the Land of Israel, Ets Khayim book conveys Kabbalah of Ha-Ari (Rabbi Luria). He arranges traditional items in the seder plate for pass-over to two triangles wherein they correspond explicitly to the mystical concepts of Jews. The 6 sfirot of masculine Zer Anpin correspond to six items in the seder plate whereas the 7th sfira being feminine Malkhut tends to correspond to the plate itself. But, the seder-plate triangles correspond into the plate itself.
Isaac Luria offered hexagram with deeper mystical meaning. The Etz Chayim book teaches that elements of the plate for Seder evening need to be placed in the right order of the hexagram above the 3 sefirot, Wisdom, Insight and Crown.
Some individuals say that a triangle represents Judah tribe ruling and the other one the previous Benjamin Tribe ruling. This was also seen as yud and dalet, two letters assigned to the Judah. There are 12 VAV or “men” who represent 12 patriarchs or tribes of Israel.
· OFFICIAL USAGE IN THE CENTRAL EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES
In the year 1354, Charles IV, King of Bohemia prescribed a red flag for Jews of Prague having both Solomon’s seal and David’s shield, while red flag with which the Jews met Hungary’s King Matthias in the 15th century. This flag shows 2 pentagrams with two noticeable golden stars.
In 1460, Jews of the Ofen in Budapest Hungary significantly received King Matthias Corvinus with a red flag with two stars and Shield of David. In the very first prayer book in Hebrew that was printed mainly in Prague in the year 1512. During this year, larger hexagram appears in the cover.
In colophon, this was written:
“Each man beneath his flag according to the house of their fathers…and he will merit to bestow a bountiful gift on anyone who grasps the Shield of David.”
Moreover, in 1592, this was the year Mordechai Maizel was permitted to affix a King David flag the same to that position in the Main Synagogue in his synagogue mainly in Prague. After the Battle of Prague in 1648, Jews of Prague were once again given a flag to recognize their contribution in the defense and protection of the city. The flag show off yellow hexagram in a stunning red background.
· AS SYMBOL OF JEWISH COMMUNITY AND JUDAISM
It was mentioned that the Star of David symbol has become the representative of the Zionist community and then, later on, the entire Jewish community worldwide. This was chosen to represent the First Zionist Community established in 1897.
One year before the said Congress, Herzl had written on his Der Judenstaat in 1896. What was written tends to state that they have no flag and they need one. If they want to lead numerous men, they should be able to raise a strong symbol over their heads. A white flag was suggested with 7 golden stars. White symbolizes new and pure life and stars represent 7 golden hours of the working day for people should march to Promise Land while carrying a badge of honor.
David Wolffsohn, 1856-1914, a prominent business in early Zionist Movement was fully aware that this nascent movement lack of official flag and the design proposed by Herzl is gaining significant attention and support.
“At the behest of our leader Herzl, I came to Basle to make preparations for the Zionist Congress. Among many other problems that occupied me then was one that contained something of the essence of the Jewish problem. What flag would we hang in the Congress Hall? Then an idea struck me. We have a flag—and it is blue and white. The talith (prayer shawl) with which we wrap ourselves when we pray: that is our symbol. Let us take this Talith from its bag and unroll it before the eyes of Israel and the eyes of all nations. So I ordered a blue and white flag with the Shield of David painted upon it. That is how the national flag that flew over Congress Hall came into being.”
In the early 20th century, this symbol started being used to express the affiliations of Jewish people to sports. A Jewish Sports Club named Hakoah Vienna was founded in 1909 in Vienna Austria with teams that competed with Star of David in their uniforms. They won the Austrian League soccer championships in 1925. Similarly, Philadelphia Sphas, a basketball team in Philadelphia also wore a big Star of David in their jersey. This is to proclaim their strong Jewish identity with pride as they battle on the first half of the 20th century.
Also in boxing, Benny Leonard or Ghetto Wizzard who stated that he felt like he’s fighting with all the Jews fought with the Star of David embroidered adequately in his trunks in 1910. Max Baer, the heavyweight boxing champion of the world also competed with the Star of David in his trunk and notably for the very first time since he knocked out Max Schmeling in the year 1933. Hitler never allowed Schmeling to fight against a Jew over again.
The Star of David, usually yellow has also been used by Nazis to identify the Jews during the Holocaust. Upon Poland’s German invasion in 1939, there were initially different decrees locally that force Jews to wear the distinct sign.
If Jews were found in public with no star, they would receive severe punishments. A requirement in wearing the Star of David with word Jude; the German word for Jew was eventually extended to all the Jews more than the age of 6 in Reich and Protectorate of Moravia and Bohemia by the decree issued in occupied areas.
However, others wear Star of David as a symbol of their defiance from Nazi anti-Semitism just like in the case of the US private army Hal Baumgarten. He wore Star of David essentially emblazoned in his back during the time of Normandy Invasion in 1944.
· CONTEMPORARY USE
The flag of Israel depicts a blue Star of David in a white background between two horizontal blue stripes. This was implemented on October 28, 1948, 5 months after the establishment of the country. The origin of the flag’s design dated 1897 from First Zionist Congress and subsequently known as ‘Flag of Zion”.
Numerous modern Orthodox Synagogue and synagogues of other Jewish movements have Israeli flag with Star of David displayed predominantly in front of Synagogues close to the Ark that contains Torah scrolls.
Magen David Adom or MDA is the only official disaster and medical ambulance service in Israel. It’s been an official member of International Committee of Red Cross since June 2006. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel, Magen David Adom was boycotted by International Committee of Red Cross that refused to grant organization membership since it was argued that having emblem utilized only by a country was a contrary into the principles of the universality. Additionally, other commentators stated that ICRC didn’t recognize the humanitarian and medical use of this particular Jewish symbol; Red Shield along with the Christian Cross and Muslim Crescent.
Uses in Sports
Since the year 1948, Star of David has essentially carried the double significance of representing the state of Israel as well as the Jewish identity. In the US, this continues to be used in the latter sense by certain athletes. When it comes to baseball, the main Jewish leaguer Gabe Kapler had a Star of David tattoo on his left calf with words that say “strong-minded” and “strong-willed” Major Leaguer Mike Epstein or SuperJew also drew the Star of David in his baseball glove. Another major leaguer Ron Blomberg also had Star of David emblazoned on his bat’s knob that is displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Amar’e Stoudemire, an NBA basketball star who keep telling that he is culturally and spiritually Jewish had his Star of David tattoo near his shoulders and on every side of his shoulders. Laetitia Beck, an Israeli Golfer, displays a Magen David symbol in blue and while on her golf apparel. Another Jewish boxer and light heavyweight champion of the world Mike Rossman, also known as The Jewish Bomber was seen fighting with Star of David embroidered in his boxing trunks. There is also a blue Star of David tattoo outside his right calf.
OTHER BOXING CHAMPIONS WITH STAR OF DAVID IN THEIR TRUNKS ARE:
§ Barney Ross (world champion at lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight champion)
§ Battling Levinsky, Victor Young Peres (flyweight boxing champion of the world)
§ Alphonse Halimi (bantamweight champion of the world), and just recently,
§ Yuri Foreman (Super Welterweight Champion World Boxing Association)
§ Cletus Seldin (Light Welterweight Champion), and
§ Boyd Melson (Light Middleweight).
Welterweight Zachary Wohlman, also known as “Kid Yamaha” also has a Star of David tattoo across his belly. Dmitriy even fights in boxing under the nickname Star of David.
Mystical Significance of Star of David
Star of David remains to be a significant symbol associated with Jewish people and Judaism. In Hebrew, this is referred to as Magen David or Shield of David. Star of David is a six-pointed star comprised of two equilateral triangles, one is pointing up, and the other one is pointing down.
Get to Know More about the Two Triangles in Star of David
The Zohar essentially states that there are 3 knots or entities that connect one another, The Holy One, the Torah and Israel. Jewish soul tends to connect with its Creator through study as well as observance of the Torah. The three overlaid triangles represent the connection between the three entities. The essence of the soul links with G-ds essence using studying the Kabbalah teachings.
Every entity is composed of pnimiyut or inner dimension or chitzoniyut or the external dimension. Torah is composed of exoteric teachings (The Jewish Law, Talmud and more) and esoteric teachings (Kabbalah). The “revealed” energy of G-d permeates and offers existence to the entire world. However, His true essence is entirely hidden and transcends to all creations.
The soul, which is the reflection of G-d has revealed element, the level that expresses itself from within and then vivifies the human body and also essence transcending it.
The Star of David’s double triangle indicates the connection and as mentioned these are connections between Israel, Torah, and G-d. External level of soul connects to G-d’s external expression through study and proper application of the Kabbalah teachings.
Star of David’s Seven Fields of Star
Kabbalah teaches Jewish people that G-d mainly created the world with 7 spiritual building blocks that are considered as His 7 emotional attributes. The whole collection is the reflection of such 7 foundational attributes.
· Netzach or perseverance
· Gevurah or severity
· Chesed or kindness
· Tiferet or harmony
· Yesod or foundation
· Tiferet or harmony
· Malchut or royalty
The seven attributes are divided into 3 columns, the right column, center and left. The Star of David is comprised of 7 compartments and six peaks that protrude from the center. Upper right wing is categorized as chesed, and the upper left wing is the gevurah.
The upper center peak is the Tiferet. The Kabbalah teaches that the Tiferet locates its real source in Keter or the Crown that’s infinitely higher than the entire divine attributes that are involved in the mundane pursuit of creating much better worlds.
Netzach is the lower right wing, while hod is lower left wing. Yesod is the center. This is the foundation, and by that, all other attributes rose from and rooted in this attribute. The bottom of the star which descends from the belly is the Malchut. This is the attribute responsible for absorbing energies of higher six attributes and utilizes them to descend and create everything and reign over them.
Star of David is a highly imperative symbol of Jew and Jewish people. But aside from being a symbol, it is also important to think, live and behave like a Jew. Study Torah, place mezuzah in your door, eat kosher foods, welcome Shabbat with a festive meal and candle lighting. By doing these things, you will undoubtedly become a living Star of David.
When talking about the Jewish people and their custom, there are a lot of things that need to be learned.
The Star of David is just one of the many aspects of Jewish life that deserves to be discovered and studied more.