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Judaica
Kosher Menorahs --> Hanukiah Menorahs --> Lions faces Star of David Menorah

Aharon's Jewish Books and Judaica
600 South Holly Street Suite 103
Denver, Colorado 80246
303-322-7345
800-830-8660

Map to Aharon's Jewish Books and Judaica

Store Hours

Monday through Thursday 9 AM to 6 PM
Friday 9 AM to 2 PM
Sunday 9 AM to 4 PM

The Star of David, known in Hebrew as the Shield of David or Magen David (Hebrew ????? ??????; Biblical Hebrew Ma?en Dawi?, Tiberian [m?'?en d?'við], Modern Hebrew [ma'gen da'vid], Ashkenazi Hebrew and Yiddish Mogein Dovid ['m?ge?n 'd?vid] or Mogen Dovid) is a generally recognized symbol of Jewish identity and Judaism.[1] Its shape is that of a hexagram, the compound of two equilateral triangles. The hexagram has been in use as a symbol of Judaism since the 17th century, with precedents in the 14th to 16th centuries in Central Europe, where the Shield of David was partly used in conjunction with the Seal of Solomon (the hexagram) on Jewish flags. Its use probably derives from medieval (11th to 13th century) Jewish protective amulets (segulot).

The term "Shield of David" is also used in the Siddur (Jewish prayer book) as a title of the God of Israel.

History

The Jewish Encyclopedia cites a 12th-century Karaite document as the earliest Jewish literary source to mention the symbol.[2] Its use as a symbol of the Jewish community dates to the 17th century.
Early use as an ornament
The Star of David in the oldest surviving complete copy of the Masoretic text, the Leningrad Codex, dated 1008.

The hexagram does appear occasionally in Jewish contexts since antiquity, apparently as a decorative motif. For example, in Israel, there is a stone bearing a hexagram from the arch of a 3rd–4th century synagogue in the Galilee.[3] Originally, the hexagram may have been employed as an architectural ornament on synagogues, as it is, for example, on the cathedrals of Brandenburg and Stendal, and on the Marktkirche at Hanover. A pentagram in this form is found on the ancient synagogue at Tell Hum. In the synagogues, perhaps, it was associated with the mezuzah.

The use of the hexagram in a Jewish context as a possibly meaningful symbol may occur as early as the 11th century, in the decoration of the carpet page of the famous Tanakh manuscript, the Leningrad Codex dated 1008. Similarly, the symbol illuminates a medieval Tanakh manuscript dated 1307 belonging to Rabbi Yosef bar Yehuda ben Marvas from Toledo, Spain. A Siddur dated 1512 from Prague displays a large hexagram on the cover with the phrase, "…He will merit to bestow a bountiful gift on anyone who grasps the Shield of David."[4]
Origin of the name
Star on a window

The name 'Shield of David' was used by at least the 11th century as a title of the God of Israel, independent of the use of the symbol. The phrase occurs independently as a Divine title in the Siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book, where it poetically refers to the Divine protection of ancient King David and the anticipated restoration of his dynastic house, perhaps based on Psalm 18, which is attributed to David, and in which God is compared to a shield (v. 31 and v. 36). The term occurs at the end of the "Samkhaynu/Gladden us" blessing, which is recited after the reading of the Haftara portion on Saturday and holidays.[5]

The earliest known text related to Judaism which mentions a sign called the "Shield of David" 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.[6]

This book is of Karaite, and not of Rabbinic Jewish origin, and it does not describe the shape of the sign in any way.
Kabbalistic use
Page of segulot in a mediaeval Kabbalistic grimoire (Sefer Raziel HaMalakh, 13th century)

A Shield of David has been noted on a Jewish tombstone in Taranto, Apulia in Southern Italy, which may date as early as the third century CE.[7][8] The Jews of Apulia were noted for their scholarship in Kabbalah, which has been connected to the use of the Star of David.[9]

Medieval Kabbalistic grimoires show hexagrams among the tables of segulot, but without identifying them as "Shield of David".

In the Renaissance Period, in the 16th-century Land of Israel, the book Ets Khayim conveys the Kabbalah of Ha-Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria) who arranges the traditional items on the seder plate for Passover into two triangles, where they explicitly correspond to Jewish mystical concepts. The six sfirot of the masculine Zer Anpin correspond to the six items on the seder plate, while the seventh sfira being the feminine Malkhut corresponds to the plate itself.[10][11][12]

However, these seder-plate triangles are parallel, one above the other, and do not actually form a hexagram,.[13]

 

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