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Kabbalah symbols - Tree of Life, Merkabah, Star of David, Hamsa...

Updated on March 22, 2012

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life, or Etz haChayim in Hebrew, is a mystical symbol used in the Kabbalah of esoteric Judaism to describe the path to HaShem and the manner in which He created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing). The Kabbalists developed this concept into a full model of reality, using the tree to depict a map of Creation. Some believe the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah corresponds to the Tree of Life mentioned in Genesis 2:9. This mystical concept was later adopted by some esoterically inclined Christians as well as some Hermeticists. Among the Christian Kabbalists, the Sephiroth were called Dignities, and were referred to by their Latin names, instead of Hebrew Names of the ten Sephirot[citation needed]. Christian Kabbalah also places emphasis on Christ, as Sustainer and Preserver of the Universe, and the Malkuth of Jewish Kabbalah is absent, as it is considered of a different order-of-being . Ramon Llull, beatified by the Catholic Church, is well known among Christian Kabbalah lore for his writings on the subject.

Kabbalists believe the Tree of Life to be a diagrammatic representation of the process by which the Universe came into being. On the Tree of Life, the beginning of the Universe is placed at a space above the first Sephirah, named Kether ("crown" in English). It is not always pictured in reproductions of the Tree of Life, but is referred to universally as Ain Soph Aur (Ain - Without, Soph - End, Aur - Light). To the Kabbalists, it symbolises that point beyond which our comprehension of the origins of Being cannot go; it is considered to be an infinite nothingness out of which the first 'thing' (thought of in science and the Kabbalah to be energy) exploded to create a Universe of multiple things. Kabbalists also do not envision time and space as pre-existing, and place them at the next three stages on the Tree of Life. First is Kether, or the Crown in English, which is thought of as the product of the contraction of Ain Soph Aur into a singularity of infinite energy or limitless light. In the Kabbalah, it is the primordial energy out of which all things are created. The next stage is Chokmah, or Wisdom, which is considered to be a stage at which the infinitely hot and contracted singularity expanded forth into space and time. It is often thought of as pure dynamic energy of an infinite intensity forever propelled forth at a speed faster than light. It is considered to be the primordial masculine energy, which is also referred to in Chinese Taoist philosophy as Yang. Next comes Binah, or Understanding, which is thought of as the primordial feminine energy, the Supernal Mother of the Universe which receives the energy of Chokmah, cooling and nourishing it into the multitudinous forms present throughout the whole cosmos. It is also seen as the beginning of Time itself. It is analogous to the Chinese concept of Yin, which together with Yang are considered to be the basis of all of Creation. There are many parallels between Taoist philosophy and the Kabbalistic conceptions of the Tree of Life.

Numbers are very important to Kabbalists, and the Hebrew letters of the alphabet also have a numerical value for the Kabbalists. Each stage of the emanation of the Universe on the Tree of Life is numbered meaningfully from one, or the Sephiroth of Kether to ten, or the Sephiroth of Malkuth. The nature of each number is thought to express the nature of its Sephirah.

The first three Sephiroth, called the Supernal Sephiroth, are considered to be the primordial energies of the Universe. The next stages of evolution on the Tree of Life are considered to exist beyond a space on the tree, called the Abyss, between the Supernals and the other Sephiroth, because their levels of being are so distinct from each other that they appear to exist in two totally different realities. The Supernal Sephiroth exist on a plane of divine energy. This is why another correspondence for Binah is the idea of suffering, because the Supernal Maternal energy gives birth to a world that is inherently excluded from that Divine Union. After Binah, the Universe gets down to the business of building the materials it will need to fulfill its evolution, and creating new combinations of those materials until it is so dense that, by the stage of Malkuth, the initial pure limitless energy has 'solidified' into the physical Universe. Since its energies are the basis of all Creation, the Tree of Life can potentially be applied to any area of life, especially the inner world of Man, from the subconscious all the way to what Kabbalists call the higher self.

But the Tree of Life does not only speak of the origins of the physical Universe out of the unimaginable, but also of Man's place in the Universe. Since Man is invested with Mind, consciousness in the Kabbalah is thought of as the fruit of the physical world, through whom the original infinite energy can experience and express itself as a finite entity. After the energy of Creation has condensed into matter, it is thought to reverse its course back up the Tree until it is once again united with its true nature. Thus, the kabbalist seeks to know himself and the Universe as an expression of God, and to make the journey of Return by stages charted by the Sephiroth, until he has come to the realisation he sought.

KABBALAH FLOWER OF LIFE & TREE OF LIFE PENDANT
KABBALAH FLOWER OF LIFE & TREE OF LIFE PENDANT

Flower of Life

The Flower of Life is the modern name given to a geometrical figure composed of multiple evenly-spaced, overlapping circles. They are arranged to form a flower-like pattern with a sixfold symmetry, similar to a hexagon. The center of each circle is on the circumference of six surrounding circles of the same diameter.

It is considered by some to be a symbol of sacred geometry, said to contain ancient, religious value depicting the fundamental forms of space and time. In this sense, it is a visual expression of the connections life weaves through all sentient beings, and it is believed to contain a type of Akashic Record of basic information of all living things.

There are many spiritual beliefs associated with the Flower of Life; for example, depictions of the five Platonic Solids are found within the symbol of Metatron's Cube,[citation needed] which may be derived from the Flower of Life pattern. These platonic solids are geometrical forms which are said to act as a template from which all life springs.

The symbol of the Tree of Life, which may be derived from the design of the Flower of Life, is studied as part of the teachings of the Kabbalah.

Blue Opal KABBALAH MERKABA NECKLACE
Blue Opal KABBALAH MERKABA NECKLACE

Merkabah

The Hebrew word Merkabah ("chariot", derived from the consonantal root r-k-b with general meaning "to ride") is used in Ezekiel (1:4-26) to refer to the throne-chariot of God, the four-wheeled vehicle driven by four "chayot" (Hebrew: "living creatures"), each of which has four wings and the four faces of a man, lion, ox, and eagle..

[Merkabah is used 44 times in the Old Testament, but is not used in Ezekiel 1.]

Several movements in Jewish mysticism, including the Ma’asei Merkavah of the late Hellenistic period following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, and later, students of the Kabbalah, have focused on these passages from Ezekiel, seeking underlying meaning and the secrets of Creation in what they argued was the metaphoric language of the verses. Due to the concern of some Torah scholars that misunderstanding these passages as literal descriptions of God's image might lead to blasphemy and/or idolatry, there was great opposition to studying this topic without the proper initiation. Jewish biblical commentaries emphasize that the imagery of the Merkaba is not meant to be taken literally; rather the chariot and its accompanying angels are analogies for the various ways that God reveals Himself in this world. Hasidic philosophy and Kabbalah discuss at length what each aspect of this vision represents in this world, and how the vision does not imply that God is made up of these forms. Jews customarily read the Biblical passages concerning the Merkaba in their synagogues every year on the holiday of Shavuot, and the Merkabah is also referenced in several places in traditional Jewish liturgy.

Red String

Red String KABBALAH BRACELET with Zircon Evil Eye Charm
Red String KABBALAH BRACELET with Zircon Evil Eye Charm

Wearing a thin red string (as a type of talisman) is a custom, popularly thought to be associated with Judaism's Kabbalah, to ward off misfortune brought about by an "evil eye". In Yiddish the red string is called a roite bindele.

The red string itself is usually made from thin red wool thread. It is worn, or tied, as a type of bracelet or "band" on the left wrist of the wearer (the receiving side).

KHAMSA PROTECTION HAND PENDANT
KHAMSA PROTECTION HAND PENDANT

Hamsa

The hamsa (Arabic: khamsa, lit. five, also romanized khamsa and chamsa) is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The hamsa is often incorporated in jewelry and wall hangings, as a defense against the evil eye. It is believed to originate in ancient practices associated with the Phoenicians of Carthage.

There are two main styles of a hamsa hand: the stylized hamsa hand with two symmetrical thumbs, and hamsa hands that are not symmetrical and shaped like actual hands. Either hamsa hand can be worn with the fingers pointing up or down.

The hamsa is popular as a charm most often worn as a necklace, but can be found as a decorative element in houses, on key chains, on other jewelry items. Many artists use the image of the hamsa hand in jewelry, paintings, sculptures, wall decorations, and amulets.

The renewed interest in Kabbalah and mystical Judaism is a factor in bringing the hamsa pendant back into vogue. In Jewish mysticism, fish are a symbol of good luck, so many hamsas are also decorated with fish images. Sometimes hamsas are inscribed with Hebrew prayers, such as the Sh'ma, Birkat HaBayit (Blessing for the Home), or Tefilat HaDerech (Traveler's Prayer).

Blessing for the Home With Jerusalem embossment
Blessing for the Home With Jerusalem embossment

Blessing for the Home With Jerusalem embossment

 

Star of David

"Hear O Israel" Sterling Silver Ring
"Hear O Israel" Sterling Silver Ring

The Star of David is known in Hebrew as the Shield of David or Magen David.

According to Judaic sources, the Star or Shield of David signifies the number seven: that is, the six points plus the center. The earliest known text related to Judaism which mentions the symbol is Eshkol Ha-Kofer by the Karaite Judah Hadassi, in the mid-12th century CE:

"Seven names of angels precede the mezuzah: Michael, Gabriel, etc. ... Tetragrammaton protect you! And likewise the sign, called the 'Shield of David', is placed beside the name of each angel."

However, it should be noted that (1) this book is of Karaite, and not of Rabbinic Jewish origin; and that (2) it does not describe the shape of the sign in any way.

The number seven has religious significance in Judaism, e.g., the six days of Creation plus the seventh day of rest, the six working days in the week plus Shabbat, the Seven Spirits of God[dubious – discuss][citation needed], as well as the Menorah in the ancient Temple, whose seven oil lamps rest on three stems branching from each side of a central pole. Perhaps, the Star of David came to be used as a standard symbol in synagogues because its organization into 3+3+1 corresponds to the Temple's Menorah[dubious – discuss][citation needed], which was the more traditional symbol for Judaism in ancient times. There are also six words in the Shema, the most important prayer in Judaism, and it is not uncommon to find the Shema written around a Star of David.

In Kabbalah, the Star of David symbolizes the six directions of space plus the center, under the influence of the description of space found in the Sefer Yetsira: Up, Down, East, West, South, North, and Center. Congruently, under the influence of the Zohar, it represents the Six Sefirot of the Male (Zeir Anpin) united with the Seventh Sefirot of the Female (Nukva).

Some Kabbalistic amulets use the symbol to arrange the Ten Sefirot. However, reference to the symbol is nowhere in the classical kabbalistic texts themselves, such as the Zohar and the like. Therefore, its use as a sefirotic diagram in amulets is more likely a reinterpretation of a preexisting symbol.

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    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 7 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      Do teachers of the Kabbala accept or renounce the violence of Joshua and his covenant?

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      michael-idowhathelike-barrett 5 years ago

      Question: Does the Magen David also represent in 2 dimensions the shape of the Merkaba? The first explanation I ever received regarding the star of David was that the upward-facing triangle was man honoring God, and the downward-facing triangle was God honoring man. Also, I have seen Kabbalistic depictions of the star of David with the triangle pointing upward in flames, which I took to represent the burning of incense and offerings from the earth, and the triangle pointed downward dripping water, which I took to represent God providing rain and sustenance from Heaven. Of course I have assumed that the symbols contain much deeper meanings than simply sacrifice and earning God's favor.

      So are the two symbols, the Merkaba and the Magen David, essentially the same? Or have I been misinformed? I have developed the notion that the symbols both represent the interaction between the humanity and the Divine, a dualistic concept.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      i love the red necklace with evil eye. i could go for that. thank you for sharing.

    • kabbalahwisdom profile image
      Author

      kabbalahwisdom 5 years ago

      @KabbalArt: I will. Thank you.

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      KabbalArt 5 years ago

      Nice summary. I have a site which looks at Kabbalastic art. You might be interested in stopping by.