Hidden Hands, Hidden Hamsas

When we look at our hands, we can’t help but remember one of the most beautiful lines from the Book of Isaiah, where the speaker is feeling neglected and forgotten by the Almighty.  The Almighty responds that it would be easier for a mother to forget the growing child in her womb than for Him to “forget” Zion, adding rather fiercely, “I have carved you in the palm of my hand.”  Looking down into the creases of our own
hands with this passage in mind, especially if we’re feeling a bit lost, can be
a comforting meditation.

 

Much of the beauty of Judaism is its sense of Mystery.  We’ve all heard
that expression, “The Lord moveth in mysterious ways.”  So true.

 

As you know from reading our blog, one of our favorite icons of Judaica is the Hamsa, the protective hand. And our “Hidden Hands” series of necklaces and bracelets is among our most alluring and meaningful.

 

This design is not the straightforward Hamsa, or stylized protective hand, which appears in many of our most popular pieces, though we love those, too. The “Hidden Hamsa” pattern looks like a delicate, dainty, floral filigree abstract, punctuated with a tiny
gem. We offer this design in several different iterations—silver, gold-dipped,
on leather, or on a fine chain.  (Check out our items Hidwn, hid4, hidn3, hidhn1.)

 

The fact that the protective hands Hands
are  “hidden” from plain sight is
intriguing. Perhaps a reminder that even when we can’t see the actions of the
Almighty, we are always in good hands.

 

CAPTION : On the
subject of hands, here is a drawing of the traditional Priestly Blessing of
Aaron. Occasionally, one sees this esoteric image carved into the entryway of
Temples. The interpretation of the characters and the mathematical meaning of
the numerical sections of the drawing could cross a Rabbi’s eyes. Suffice to
say, the name of G-d, and the word “Koach”, or strength (derived from the
Hebrew number for 28, since the hands are divided into 28 sections), are the
take-away message.

 

 

 

 

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GET AN EYEFUL

Our “evil eye” jewelry is extremely popular. Some of the feedback we enjoy receiving is that our designs offer ancient talisman in modern, feminine, cool, hip, even glamorous and fabulous form. Basically, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing a museum relic—not that there’s anything wrong with antiquities, by the way. 

People from Israel, Greece, Sicily, Italy, Turkey, North Africa and other areas around the Mediterranean are usually familiar with this idea of the “eye”—it’s part of the culture and has been for thousands of years. The eye (usually blue) gazes out over doorways, dangles from the rear-view mirrors of taxicabs, and is carefully pinned inside baby-clothes. It even hangs around the necks of hard-working donkeys!

But maybe the concept loses a bit in translation. The use of the word “evil” puts some people off.

Blue Diamond and Gold Evil Eye

“Evil” sounds really aggressive, but folkloric scholars (and yes, there are such people) generally share the opinion that the evil eye is generally perceived as passive. Foremost among these scholars was Dr. Alan Dundes, who worked and taught at the University of Berkeley.

Dr. Dundes’ exhaustive and fascinating studies include an essay called “The Wet and the Dry: The Evil Eye.” Here, he discusses the idea that the evil eye is usually associated with envy, jealousy, or longing. The classic example: a childless woman, for instance, may gaze with yearning at a baby, and this results in the child being affected by the evil eye. The woman isn’t really “evil” in the contemporary sense of the word.

As for the title of Dr. Dundes’ essay, he associates traditional affliction by the evil eye with becoming parched, dried-out, and drought, true to the Middle Eastern origins of the symbol, where fresh water may be more precious than rubies and pearls.“Google” him for a really fascinating read.

Silver Evil Eye

And meanwhile, have yourself a nice, cool glass of water—hydration is key!—and check out our great collection of eye jewelry. Think of it as a “protective” eye watching over us all.

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Red Thread on the Wrist?

What is it about the red thread, worn around the wrist?

 

Speaking from the Judaica perspective, we call this simple, traditional bracelet a bendel. Our “red thread” bracelets, accented with a tiny charm (protective eye, star, hamsa), are one of our most popular items.

With the popularity of Kabbalah studies on the rise these days, these red threads are everywhere. The Book of Splendor (Zohar) tells us that the red thread invokes the protective power of the matriarch Rachel, who guards the wearer like her own child. Speaking as two generations of Jewish mothers (and descended from many more), trust us—this is a very good thing.

But here’s a mind-blower. It’s not just a Jewish thing…..while India is significantly east of our frame of reference, there is apparently a parallel Hindu tradition.  In India, the red thread is called Mauli, Mouli, Kalava, Charadu, Nada Chadi, Raksha, Rakshi….and if I’m getting it wrong, sorry! These red threads, sometimes with jeweled charms, are knotted around the wrist in observance of puja, or ritual.

The Indian red thread may have a yellow bar-pattern, and is knotted around the wrist as part of many rituals. There is a special tradition, for instance, of brothers and sisters knotting the thread around each other’s wrists.

Depending upon who you ask, some Hindus say that wearing the thread signifies protection by the Mother Goddess Shakti. The general idea seems to be that you wear it until it naturally disintegrates or falls off.

Some discussions of the Hindu red thread say that it even turns to “gold”, although we’re taking this metaphorically, not literally. In many of our bendels, the red thread is woven through a gorgeous sterling chain-link bracelet. You just replace the red thread when it unravels. If your bracelet turns to gold, please call me personally!

Hamsa red string bendel bracelet

 

Here is an excerpt from www.hindu-blog.com:

“Legend has it that Lord Vishnu during his incarnation of Vamana tied a red thread on the hands of King Bali to grant him immortality and to rule the netherworld.

There is also a popular belief that the sanctified red thread with blessing of the deity protects a person from diseases, enemies and other dangers.”

A few years back,UK Prime Minister Tony Blair made headlines when he wore one which had been gifted to him by Swaminarayan Mandir at theHinduTemplein Neasden in Northwest London.

And not too long ago in The New York Times, we read about William Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder empire and Lauder company chairman, wearing a red thread bracelet that he picked up at a Hindu shrine at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Good ideas know no boundaries! Wear your red thread bracelet, by any name, in good health!

#

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“MADE” OF HONOR!

We checked the statistics, and according to Brides Magazine, the US Census Bureau and other sources, June is still the month of choice for weddings in theUS. To this we say, “Mazel tov!”.

Typically, the bridal jewelry is a family heirloom or a really significant investment piece. This isn’t just a Jewish thing, by the way. When we travel and shop the world for our company, we’ve stood breathless in the presence of traditional Indian wedding jewelry sets (collar, bracelets, earrings, head-piece), for example, ornately rendered in 22 karat yellow gold, and swaying with ruby-drops. Now, THAT’s a fashion statement!

August, September and October also are popular months for stepping beneath the chuppa, tie the knot, jump the broom—choose your metaphor. Our collection includes many items which are ideal for the maid or matron of honor, bridesmaids, flower-girls, ring-bearer and groomsman. But the real hit this season for the bridal party is our new “Looking For…” series of “message” bracelets, ideal for the bridesmaid who is still on the matrimonial market!

The ideal bracelet

Looking for a Jewish Guy

These sterling silver chain accessories are sleek, modern, “ID”-style bracelets with a message-plate inscribed with the lady’s priority. The nameplate may read, “Looking for (Jewish) guy”, “Looking for (Smart) guy”, “Looking for (Nice) guy”, etc. The specific adjective of choice is set in gold-wash in the sterling plaque area.

Looking for a Nice Guy

What we love most about

Looking for a Christian...

these is that each word is accented by a cute little icon. For instance, “Jewish” is accented with a small Star of David. “Smart” is accented by a tiny illuminated light-bulb, for bright ideas.  “Rich” (yes, we call this our “gold-digger bracelet!) is accented by a glittering bit of prong-set bling! And so on. We have a Christian version too, set with a small cross.

And, we offer an equivalent for the guy who’s still looking—his version has the same basic message-plate designs, reading “Looking for a (Rich) Girl”, etc., set on a manly leather band.

Looking for a Rich Guy
Looking for a Smart Guy

 

 

So, let’s say you want it all in one package, and who doesn’t? Nice, smart, rich, etc.? It may take more than a bracelet to get it. But start by asking for exactly what you want.

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“HANDS-ON” PROTECTION

Tattoo Hamsa Necklace

One of our most popular jewelry motifs is the Hamsa, or protective hand. This icon is used as an amulet by many Middle Eastern people.

Of course, we see it created in silver, gold, bronze, diamonds, pewter, glass, as a personal ornament. I have also seen it woven into lush Turkish rugs, and painted on gorgeous
fountain-tiles in North Africa. As you know from previous blogs, especially in
the desert, protection and well-being are linked symbolically to having easy
access to water.

I have heard the Hamsa called the Hand of Miriam, as well as the Hand of Fatima, depending upon who wears it.  I have seen it displayed with the fingers pointing up, and pointing down, although the fingers pointing down in my experience is more common.

Middle Eastern Hamsa Necklace

Sometimes, as in our alluring “Middle Eastern Necklace” (our item # art-m), the hand and fingers are stylized to abstraction, though we know the protective powers are still there!

It’s intriguing to know that the icon of the hand extends beyond our immediate frame of cultural reference. “The Mano Poderosa”, or Hand of Power, is often portrayed in Latin Roman Catholic  sacred art, especially religious art from Spain and Mexico.

Abhaya MudraAnd check this out: the Mudra (hand-position) of Protection, known to Hindus and Buddhists as the Abhaya
Mudra. Portrayals of the Buddha often depict his right hand in this sheltering, yet liberating gesture, which is often translated from the Sanskrit to mean  “Fear not”.

Scholars say that Buddha first made
this gesture when he became enlightened. Prophets and saints of many other spiritual paths also are often depicted with their right hand in this position.

Coincidence? Doesn’t seem likely.
In any case, enjoy this universal symbol of protection from harm.Image of a Mudra Hand

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What is a Jewish Mama?

Great Grandma
Great Grandma Boobie Brooks
So what is a Jewish Mama?
 
According to Wikipedia, the stereotypical  Jewish mother is ” a nagging, overprotective, manipulative, controlling, smothering, and overbearing mother or wife, one who persists in interfering in her children’s lives long after they have become adults.”   Or is  a Jewish mother one that a warm,  plump woman that always has a pot of chicken soup boiling on the stove?
Boobie

We all have mothers.  But not all fit in the same mold. 

I am now a mother, am I like the old European Jewish mother that came over at the turn of the cenury?  Am I the mother that nags, “put your clothes away, do your homework, wash you face!”  Or am I the soccer mom that drives all day long from one activity to the next? What kind of mother are you? 

 
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Mimuna Festival

Mimouna Festival

Posted on April 26, 2011 by jewishstarjewelry

Have you ever wondered how to end the
Passover holiday? Usually you just start eating bread and call it quits, right?

Not my family in Israel! I was introduced to the
Mimouna festival, which the Israelis of North African descent celebrate to mark
the end of Passover. I was lucky enough to “steal” these current photos from
Facebook of my family’s celebration.

First you make the mufleta, which is a
cross between a tortilla and Indian fry-bread, a difficult, fattening process.
It takes time to make, and don’t forget that you have make a market run to buy
the flour and yeast, since you have none in the house.

For about 20 mufletas:

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
    oil
    For serving: Butter and honey

Total time: 2 hours

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, water and
yeast. Knead and let rise until doubled in size. Break off golfball-sized lumps
of dough, roll into balls and dip into oil. Let rise again until doubled in
size.

On a flat surface, take one ball of dough,
flatten, and using your fingertips, stretch into a round, flat disc. You want
the dough to be thin, and round. Sort of like a tortilla. Dough might tear,
that is okay.

Heat a frying pan, and lay the flattened
dough into the pan. Let cook for a minute on one side, until it dries slightly,
and then flip. Meanwhile, flatten another dough ball.

Lay the second flattened dough ball on top
of the first mufleta in the pan and keep flipping and adding more mufleta.
There will be a pile of mufletas. Continue like this until either the dough is
gone or the stack becomes too tall.

To serve, spread the hot mufletas with
butter and

honey, and fold into quarters. They’ll get warm, drippy and gooey.

My sisters in law always decorate the table
with mint leaves and flowers. Food really isn’t necessary since you will be
over-loading on mufletas.

If you are really in the partying mood,
have the Mimuna party continue on through the next day with a bbq. You should
see what goes on in Israel!!
The thought just makes me hungry and home-sick, but all the work and calories
are worth it!!

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I love learning….

I love learning about culture, history, art.  I like to read simple articles with the facts stated.  Sometimes my eyes see a huge page of information and they start to play tricks on me immediately.  Does this ever happen to you?  What do you love to learn about?

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Faceshuk.com is a new site I just joined.

So for all you bloggers, there is a new site out there up and running.  See www.faceshuk.com .  To activate my blog I posted this stream of letters and numbers.  I think it is interesting to read through all the daily thoughts we have out there!

c61edf840379b84d9599bb3ec0791a9b

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Feeling Lucky? Feeling Fortunate?

Maybe it’s just the smell of Spring in the air, or the time spent with family during the Spring holidays, but we’ve been thinking about the idea of “fortune” this week.

We use the word “fortune” the way we use the word “luck”—we have both good and bad “fortune” and “luck”.

From fortune-tellers and fortune-cookies, human beings have always been obsessed with this idea of “fortune”.  In this sense, “fortune” is used in the context divining the future. In our more suggestible moments, we look to a Magic 8-Ball, or read the patterns of swirled coffee-grounds and tea-leaves, cards, creases in the palms of the hand, cowrie shells, and a
thousand other “methods” for telling us what will happen next. And hoping for
the best.

We may also use the word to mean a large sum of money– “I spent a fortune on that dress”. Using the word “fortune” to mean material wealth suggests that we got rich by being lucky.

We may in fact plan, strategize, invest, scrimp, save and work very hard to collect our cash and goods. But they can vanish in the wink of an eye, i.e., a bad divorce-settlement, or worse. The latter half of this is definitely “bad fortune”.

As modern people, we want to feel that we control our destiny. Do we? Our persistent interest in fortune and luck suggests that there is a cosmic wild-card which may be played at any time. Our fortunes may reverse in a heartbeat, in spite of all our planning, fretting,
bitten fingernails and sleepless nights.

In fact, the popular game-show, “Wheel of Fortune”, finds its roots in ancient Rome: Fortuna was an especially fickle goddess, who became associated with a revolving wheel, because no one’s fortune, or luck, is always constant.

Like the classic Sinatra song goes, ” you’re ridin’ high in April, shot down in May. That’s life!”

It’s human nature to want to protect our wealth, our health, our well-being, and to protect our loved ones in the same way. Some of our most popular designs literally feature the word “protection”. Others protect the wearer symbolically, with the Shield of David
(Mogen David), the hamsa, the eye. If you’re feeling really lucky, wear them
all!

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