Monday, September 29, 2014
The Star of David - Can we uncover its original meaning?
It has a geometric, abstract, origin. It is made up of two triangles which interlock in such a unique way, that it seems, despite being two-dimensional, that each side of one triangle goes above or below the side of the other triangle. The same impression on the viewer is created by the symbol that is comprised of two interlocked squares. The origin of these two symbols is the circle. If you have eight points on the circle and you connect each second point with a line - you get the interlocked squares, and if the circle has six points and you connect each second point with a line - you get the Star of David.
The importance of this distinction is that it rejects natural, concrete, forms, which are called the Star of David, and look like the Star of David, but you do not see where the two triangles are interlocked. Snowflake is not a Star of David in spite of having six vertices, as well as the crown of the pomegranate, and the same goes for the lily flower, the star in the sky, and certain species of cactus in which the Star of David is revealed when the stem's width is cut.
The abstract geometric origin of the Star of David, is compatible with the idea that is expressed in the biblical story of David and Goliath's war. David initially rejects the shield and armor that Saul offers him. Then he says to Goliath: "you come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you has defied" (1 Samuel, 17:45). David's shield in this case is God, and the same goes for the book of Psalms, whose creation is attributed to David. David turns a few times to God as his protector, such as: "The LORD is... my shield and the horn of my salvation" (Psalm 18:2).
There are also abstract shapes which are called the Star of David, and look like a the Star of David, but do not integrate its two triangles: full "Stars of David" as the yellow badge, or as the seven stars in Zim logo, and empty "Stars of David", in which only the external outline appears, as the symbol of the IDF.
The two triangles of the Star of David do not integrate also when you put two opposite triangles one on top of the other. The triangle that is close to the viewer can be with the apex up or down, and the meaning attributed to these symbols by members of the Zoroastrian religion is or of victory of the good over the evil or of the victory of the evil over the good.
For the Greeks the geometric origin of the Star of David is noticeable because its name, Hexagram (six-shape), is part of a series of names of geometric shapes that end up with the suffix "shape" (gram) that includes the shape of five, pentagram, seven, septagram, and eight- octagram (two integrated squares).
The Pentagram and the Hexagram are made not only from interlacing shapes, but also from triangles built on an internal frame: Hexagon in the case of the Hexagram and pentagon in the case of the Pentagram. No wonder people got mixed between them and in many cases gave them the same name- Solomon's Seal.
The Menorah is Symmetrical: what you see in the right you see in the left, and what you see in the front you see in the back, but the Menorah is a Menorah as long as it stands, and the Star of David is the Star of David even when put on its head, or if it is tilted on its side. This feature of the Star of David contributes to the meaning of the unity of the opposites because it integrates the opposites: right and left, up and down, front and back.
the Menorah is more concrete than the Star of David because is a replica of the vessel used for lighting, while the shield of David - is purely abstract.
Everyone knows that the Magen David is a symbol related to King David, but many do not know this symbol preceded King David in hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. It appears in all its glory in a number of Minoan seals created at the latest in 1700 B.C. These seals were found in archaeological excavations in Festus Palace, Crete. Later the Star of David appears in different cultures in other palaces and on other seals. Due to its appearance in palaces the Star of Davids gets the meaning of majesty, and its appearance on stamps results in its nickname, Seal of Solomon, attributed to King Solomon. Solomon's Seal is also the name of the pentagram, the pentacle.
The Bible describes Solomon as the wisest of all the wise men who preceded him. With or without King Solomon the Star of David appears as a symbol of wisdom and education in Nepalese culture, where it is drawn on signs in public schools framing the drawing of an open book.
In the book Ecclesiastes, which is attributed to King Solomon, appears the following verse: "I provided myself with male and female singers... male and female devils (Ecclesiastes 2:8). Talmudic sages understood from this verse that the wisdom of Solomon included its rule on demons. In other legends appears the tool used to control these demons - a ring on which was engraved the Star of David, or a pentagram, or the name of the Lord. The Bible also tells about the sins of Solomon who built temples for many of the foreign gods of his wives, and thus was associated with his seal over the generations the significance of the work of the stars and constellations, reinforced by the Christian name the Star of David instead of the Shield of David. Ethiopians believe the founder of their dynasty was the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, and therefore they adopted the star of David as one of the symbols of the royal family, and set the five-pointed star on their flag.
The meaning of majesty fits with the meaning of holiness. Both God and king are one single center unto which the eyes of the people are raised, and from which they derive their unity. The combination of the majesty and holiness is expressed in Jewish prayer by God's pronouns: "Our Father our King' and 'King of Kings'. Reinforces this meaning of the sanctity of the Star of David its appearance as a decoration in synagogues, churches and mosques, starting from the fifth century C.E. and in illustrations of the Bible and the Koran starting from the tenth century C.E. Majesty and holiness, serve the main significance of the Star of David as a symbol of protection, because people expect from God and from the king to protect them from their enemies. The Hebrew name "Shield of David" also reinforces this meaning, since shield is a weapon designed to protect. it is no accident that protection is also the main significance of the logo of the MDA. interestingly the figure of David (without shield and without David's shield, just with the name) appears in the Greek Roman period on charms designed to protect. Such amulets evolved in Kabbalah circles, where they added a "protection package" that included the names of angels, names of God, and combinations of letters.
Magen David as a symbol of protection is associated with messianic significance because of the prophecy about a Messiah from the House of David who will protect the people of Israel in the end of days, just as King David and King Solomon of Israel defended the Israelites during their prosperous period of rule. According to the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva interpreted the biblical verse: "A star will come out of Jacob" (Numbers 24:17) as predicting the birth of Bar Kochba. Following this interpretation, apparently, Christians interpreted the same verse as predicting the coming of their messiah, Jesus Christ.
The Star of David is far earlier than the birth of not only David, but even of the appearance of Judaism. The fact that it was borrowed and imported from neighboring cultures, started the study of the Star of David, because the first researchers did not understand who allowed such a symbol to enter the synagogues. Solomon's seal connection to idolatry caused them to question whether a Jew wearing a Star of David around his neck is committing a sin. These questions did not bother Zionists, most of whom were secular. They were responsible, in the end, that we have the Star of David on the flag of Israel. It is worth remembering that for hundreds of years before Zionism the Star of David was popular and beloved by the religious, but when the Star of David symbol became significant Zionist symbol, some religious leaders who were opposed to Zionism ordered to remove it from the synagogues. Zionists found the Star of David inside synagogues and on top of them, where it served as a symbol of protection, and they changed its designation to a national symbol. In the seam between nationalism and protection the Star of David has also served as a representative of the Jewish religion, and especially in Christian art. It appears several times in paintings or sculptures showing a blindfolded female figure representing the synagogue, along with a female figure representing the Church. Similar meaning of the distinction between Jews and Christians influenced the custom of marking graves in cemeteries where soldiers of different faiths were buried when the graves of Jewish soldiers bore the Star of David while tombs of Christian soldiers bore the crucifix.
Today, the Star of David arouses resistance among many Israeli Arabs, who feel that the shield of David represents only the Jewish citizens of Israel. After the War of Independence, the Star of David symbol became an outcast in some defeated Arab countries, and many Stars of David that were there in the past have been broken or removed.
The Interlacing of the triangles in the Star of David received for the alchemists the meaning of the unity of the opposites. Fire and water are examples of opposites. Water Turn off the fire. Fire vaporizes the water. In one triangle alchemists represented the fire and in the other - the water. In the Star of David the meanings of fire and water complement each other instead of fighting each other. Thus this symbol gets the meaning of peace and of acceptance, of two that are one, of two opposing triangles that create something new, Star of David, which contains both, but each one in itself is not half of it. In Hebrew the words for peace and acceptance, as well as for Solomon (in the Seal of Solomon) - come from the same root.
From the significance of fire and water for the alchemists the star of David developed in the Middle Ages as a symbol of alcoholic beverages and of wine houses, and the brandy was perceived as Fiery Water, a combination of water and fire. Interestingly, approximately two thousand years previously were Stars of David engraved on the handles of pots of wine in Gibeon, Israel.
More than a thousand years after its appearance as a single symbol in the seal at the Festus Palace in Crete the Star of David appears in dozens and perhaps hundreds of places throughout the Roman Empire, accompanied by a variety of symbols, including protection symbols like the Pelta (Amazons' Shield) and the pentagram. Protection symbols accompanied to the Roman Magen David strengthened its significance as a symbol of protection. The Pentagram served for the Pythagoreans as a symbol of health, and around its five vertexes bore the letters of the Greek word for health, Hygeia, from which is derived the word hygiene, which includes among its letters, incidently, the Hebrew word for protection - Hagana.
The Christian period coincides with the end of the Roman period. The Christian Star of David continues, often, the Roman style, and it has those same groups of symbols, but with the addition of a cross.
In the Muslim period we can already find Stars of David in a similar style centered by the Muslim crescent.
And among the Indians the idea of the Star of David as a frame was adopted and they added into its center the letters Om. Another incarnation of this idea can be seen in the Zionist period of the Star of David, when in the center appears the word Zion. all these graphics are continuing a very popular idea in the Roman period when the center of the Star of David was often occupied by a rosette with six leaves - vegetable motif which originated, apparently, in a geometric shape.
On antisemitic Nazi, anti-Israeli cartoons, the Star of David appears, usually, when it is clumsily drawn manually (not using a compass and ruler) on or near a grotesque figure of a Jew or an Israeli. This star is functioning as a substitute of the word Jew or an Israeli. Often these cartoons have an element of originality and invention as, for example, a Star of David made from spider web, or from the barbed wire fences surrounding Gaza.
Invention of new models appears also in the Muslim Star of David. Muslim, like Jews, have a prohibition on making sculpture and image, and their artistic passion was expressed in geometric decoration, which included, among other things, Stars of David.
Original Jewish way to circumvent the prohibition of making sculpture and figure was the micrographic Star of David which was usually built from verses, and not from lines.
In summary, the Star of David is currently used mostly as a Jewish symbol, but its origin is not Jewish. We are talking here about an abstract, geometric symbol, whose most prominent component is the interlacing. This component influenced throughout history only marginal phenomena as alchemy and the wine industry, but, without any agreed explanation, the Star of David was used in the last thousands of years in different cultures as a symbol of protection. In Judaism it was used as a symbol of protection mainly because of its name, David's Shield, and not because of its shape. In the last hundreds of years its designation changed and it became a religious symbol, and then a national symbol, and today it is used in both these meanings at the same time, when the meaning of protection is still remembered only by its name, David's Shield.