Symbols of Faith
The requirements of the second commandment and its strict interpretation by Jews: –
You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them (Exodus 20:4-5a).
– means that much Jewish symbolism tends to be abstract in nature.
The key symbols of Judaism:
– The Magen David (Shield or Star of David). The oldest example of this dates from the seventh century BCE. In the synagogue at Capernaum the hexagram is next to a pentagram and a swastika so it appears to be simply a form of decoration. By the 6th century CE it was called the ‘Seal of Solomon’.
– In 1354 Charles IV allowed the Jewish community in Prague to have its own flag with the symbol on it and this became known as ‘King David’s flag’.
– The Magen David is on the flag of Israel but the symbol of the country is the Menorah: a menorah is a seven-branched candlestick representing the one which stood in the Temple.
You shall make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be made of hammered work; its base and its shaft, its cups, calyxes, and petals shall be of one piece. Six branches shall issue from its sides; three branches from one side of the lampstand and three branches from the other side of the lampstand (Exodus 25:31-32).
– The Lions of Judah are often on the curtain in front of the ark:
Judah is a lion’s whelp;
On prey, my son, have you grown.
He crouches, lies down like a lion,
Like the king of beasts-who dare rouse him? (Genesis 49:9).
– There is also a crown (Keter Torah) – for the Torah is the crowning glory which G-d gave to the world.
These are the physical symbols of Judaism which express Jewish beliefs about G-d and the Torah as well as Jewish history.