The Red Thread + Rachel’s Tomb

learn about the matriarch rachel and her tomb

The red thread worn on the left wrist is a popular look, and one of our most popular items at Alef Bet Jewelry.

We create the red string bendel bracelets in many forms, pairing it with eye-amulets and other artistic touches so that it may bring the wearer good luck, and also make a fashionable statement.

We’re just being honest here about fashion. 

Many other designers create and sell red thread bracelets, and when you visit Israel you’ll be swarmed by vendors of this classic yet mysterious piece of Judaica.  

Many will claim that theirs are the “real deal” because the piece of scarlet wool thread they are selling has been wound around Rachel’s tomb seven times, while prayers are chanted.  

True?

Not?

Important?

Not so much?

You decide.

But, before we go into the history and story the matriarch Rachel, I recently visited her tomb on my trip to Israel.

Inside Rachel's Tomb

With the current situation in Israel, and the many past sniper attacks, the Israeli government made the tomb into a fortress.

It literally, in all sense of the word is a fortress.

The first time I went there I remember taking a city bus right up to the graveside, but now it has been totally “rebuilt.”

You drive from the main highway that leads into Bethlehem and turn off onto a truly private road that only to one place–directly to Rachel’s Tomb.

It is two gigantic walls of concrete.

Gigantic.

After driving for some distance, you then arrive at the tomb.

It appears to open up, in an eerie way, after driving so long in the security “tunnel,” and immediately you find yourself in a quiet place.

For many different reasons, people come to pray here.

More than anything, I found, in the women’s-only section for prayer is that you hear weeping.

No talking at all, but tears.

Gut-wrenching prayers and tears.

But, sometimes the celebration of a Bat Mitzvah occurs at Rachel’s Tomb, changing the tone to one of celebrating womanhood.

In case you’re wondering, here’s a little background on the reference to Rachel’s tomb.

Rachel is one of the Jewish matriarchs, and the favorite wife of patriarch Jacob.

Her tomb, known as Kever Rachel, is considered Judaism’s third holiest site and is located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. 

It is one of the oldest sacred places of prayer on earth.

The tomb resembles a cube topped by a gilded dome, and 11 stones are set on the tomb representing Jacob’s 11 sons. 

As found in the Book of Genesis 35:16-21, it tells of Rachel and how she died giving birth to Jacob’s 12th son, Benjamin, in the year 2198 (1560 BCE) at the age of 36. 

Tradition says Jacob buried her along the road instead of in the family burial cave in nearby Hebron, so that future generations of her descendants would stop and pray at her grave and be comforted.

She also is the mother of Joseph, her’s and Jacob’s first born son.

Oh, what a love story that was!  

Jacob was struck by Rachel’s beauty the first second her saw her at the watering hole.

He kissed her, and wept.

But, it took him seven years to marry her!

But, in the end they were wed.

Back to the story….

Back to Rachel.

Remember, it is one of the oldest sacred places of prayer on earth.

Jews have made the pilgrimage to her tomb for centuries.

She is felt by many to represent the physical world we live in.

Her life ended in what is perhaps that most extreme of physical experiences, a woman giving birth.

The legacy goes that Rachel desires only to protect and defend her children, and many readers of the Zohar interpret this as promising the return of her children (the Jewish people) to the Promised Land.

Women who are having trouble conceiving have historically visited Rachel’s tomb, since she really is the prototypical Jewish mother.

Thus the weeping mentioned earlier.

We’ve heard about women wishing to conceive wearing the red thread around their midsection.

True story–the first time I visited Rachel’s Tomb in 1998 with my in-laws, all of the sudden my mother in-law pulled out a spool of thread and began wrapping the red cord around the tomb seven times.

I can still hear my mother in-law whispering very loudly to my father in-law to grab the spool of thread!!

Don’t forget, the men and women have separate prayer areas, but they are connectedd by the grave itself–so they had to pass it around the tomb from one side to the other!

We brought the cord to my sister in-law and voila! 

Within a year she had a healthy, gorgeous baby boy! 

Just saying!

It couldn’t hurt.

If you’re hoping to have a baby, or simply want to surround yourself with the powerful protective energy of Rachel, intercepting negative vibes, maybe all it takes it a thin red thread.

hamsa hand worn for luck and prosperity 

Disclaimer: our red threads are not blessed from the Tomb of Rachel.

However, you are encouraged to make your own blessing when placing the red string on your wrist.

Wear in good health!

 

Random Acts of Kindness

What exactly is a random act of kindness? 

Can you just pick a nice “thing to do out” of a hat and say, “yes this will work–I’ll do this today for so-and-so?”

Or, is it the occasional NICE thing to every do once in awhile?

I think it can go either way, what about you?

Let me start by sharing a story– now you know how we can make virtual friends, right? Someone we converse with on social media, maybe in a group or on a page you both share an interest in.  On Facebook or Instagram, for example.

Sure we’ve all struck up conversations that way.

In some cases, we can almost create a small community in a sense.  Be it for business, recipes, entertainment or fashion, etc.

So, over the years I’ve struck up a virtual friendship with a lady out of Minnesota who runs a page on yoga and it’s very interesting to read her thoughts and words of encouragement.

Her recent post was how she explained about her very rare medical condition and how she almost died.

And then, she went on to write about the outpouring healing messages and random acts of kindness she has encountered throughout her stages of recovery.

It touched me so much, hearing and reading her stories on her instagram page, that I decided to send her a healing blessing as well.

We make a charm that reads, El Na Rafa Na La.  You can read about it here on our blog, but to recap– it says in Hebrew, “Please G-d, Heal Her.” Numbers 12:13.

Moses asked G-d to heal his sister, Miriam when she is struck with leprosy.

These biblical words are often recited when we ask for healing.

Healing of the mind, body or soul.  

I didn’t tell her about the gift, I just mailed it to her.

Then I got a message on my phone with hearts all over it saying “thank you.”

The beauty of social media is also that I was able to see her message that she actually shared on her page, when she made a live and showed the token gift to her followers, you could hear her voice choke up a bit. 

The gift wasn’t gifted to sell jewelry.

Neither is this post, even though I am sharing the pendant with you and I will link to it.

The reason I am writing this was to suggest that we do stop and try to set aside time to think of others, and actually act on our random act of kindness, that is what is important.

Whether we know someone or not (and in my case I really didn’t know her), whether we just send a text, make a phone call, or actually send a gift–it’s the act of doing that counts.

That is what an act of kindness is all about.

Taking that few minutes, thinking of someone other than ourselves, and acting on it.

I am not claiming to be perfect, NO WAY!

I am just saying it feels really good to perform a random act of kindness.

➡ What about you?  What have you done lately?

— This isn’t a brag about me time, but it is just to share what made you feel good.

Made your soul truly smile.

So, I’d love to hear it.

And you know that social community, that becoming friends with someone you’ve never actually met that was written about before?

So, I’d love to hear it!

 

 

 

 

 

Why is this Night Different From All Other Nights?

Passover begins at sundown, Friday March 30, by the secular calendar for 2018 CE.

Long before Dr. Atkin’s carb-free regimen, observant Jews have abstained from eating leavened bread in order to keep the feast called Passover—only matzo, which contains no yeast.

At the Pesach Seder, three matzo have a place of honor on the table, regally, and somewhat cryptically, kept in a linen bag. The Seder climaxes with the eating of a broken piece of matzo, called the afikomen”.

 

There is mystique, mystery, possibly misunderstanding, lots of discussion and scholarly argument about the meanings and origin of the afikomen tradition.

Some traditions encourage hiding and ransoming the broken piece, rewarding the children who find it.

In some parts of the world, a bit of the afikomen is preserved, kept as a talisman against (you guessed it) the evil eye, even tossed into the sea to calm the waves before ocean-travel.

Let’s start with the obvious: the word itself.

Like many other words in our vocabulary—let’s say, “Sephora”—it may “sound” like Hebrew. In context, we may think it’s Hebrew—sounds good, as in,  “Please allow me to introduce Miss Sephora Bindefeld of Great Neck, New York.”

But unlike “Sephora”, which is a completely made-up word (kudos to those clever marketing people!), afikomen is a Greek word.

Depending upon who you ask, this Greek word means literally “nothing”, or “what comes after”, or something else entirely. For the record, Christian scholars who study Greek give the word a specifically Messianic interpretation.

Most people would translate “afikomen” as “dessert”, because this is how it’s used at the Seder table: “Bring out the (flourless) dessert!”. 

(For all the moms and other Passover bakers out there, check out these flour-free, fruit-filled, mouth-watering Passover-perfect dessert recipes from epicurious.com. 

A more complete reference is the law of Passover: “Ein maftirin ahar he-pesah afikomen”, usually translated as “One may not eat dessert after the Passover offering.”

Another reading is more to the effect of “Do not go out after eating the Paschal lamb.”

Okay, wait a minute.

You may be thinking to yourself, Hey, I’ve been to a lot of Seders, and we’ve never eaten lamb, although Moses makes reference to the traditional sacrificial lamb whose blood was used to mark the doorways, protecting the families within.

You know the story by now.

But lamb was edited out of the Seder menu after the destruction of the Temple.

Now matzo stands in its place, since without the Temple, proper sacrifice could not be offered.

Some scholars draw on the interpretation of Rav, who wrote that the phrase means that after the Passover meal, one should not wander from group to group.

Rashi interpreted this to mean that we are commanded not to take our utensils from the table and go off for a nosh, elsewhere.

Oy, the opinions.

There are more esoteric interpretations, too.

Shemuel and R. Yochanan, for instance, describe the word as meaning “mushrooms for me and pigeons for Abba” (?), dates, “parched ears” (which we’re thinking is like toasted wheat and barley…), and nuts. Finger-foods? Snacks? You decide.

In modern times, this familiar Talmudic passage has also been interpreted as a reference to a slightly different Greek word, “epikomazein”, transposed into Hebrew as “epikoman”. This may refer to the fact that the Hellenic Greeks were terrific partiers, and frequently stopped by the homes of friends after dinner for a few goblets of the grape, maybe some ouzo, some dancing, a few laughs.

There’s a sharp division between the Hellenic world and the Hebrew world.

Passover is not the time, the Talmud tells us, for getting rowdy.  Although Passover is absolutely a time of joy, the holiday keeps its solemnity. It is a time to connect with the Almighty—a different sort of celebration.

Okay, right now I happen to be swooning over the recipe for Chocolate Caramel Crackers made with matzo on www.smittenkitchen.com

It’s frum-yum, but indeed, the last taste in our grateful mouths at the end of the Seder is the taste of matzo—an “olive-sized” bite, as the Talmud tells us.

Not dessert in the conventional sense. It indeed is sweet, not literally but symbolically, and, it’s a mitzvah—a commandment.

I’m still thinking about those mushrooms for me…. and pigeons for Abba.

Or, maybe….just perhaps start a new tradition in your family with afikomen gifts.

Gift ideas for afikomen

Nothing too expensive, well best we don’t decide for you what expensive is, but a small token of a gift.

Perhaps a hamsa necklace from Alef Bet Jewelry, a cute cell phone case with a Jewish Star, or maybe a box of chocolate matzah?  Something little, something the kids will remember you by.

L’chaim ! Next year in Jerusalem!

What does your family do for the afikomen?  

King Solomon, I Am My Beloved’s Song

Can we feel the love on other days’s besides Valentine’s Day?

 

Valentine’s Day is often a holiday people love to hate.

Why?

Maybe it feels like it was made up by Hallmark.

Men say they feel pressured. Women, especially if they’re single, say they feel left out.

What about on an anniversary?  A wedding?

Can we feel the love then?King Solomon's Song of Song Love Necklace

We suggest going to a higher authority, none other than King Solomon the wise.

Alef Bet’s pendant, I am my beloved’s…,  is a celebration of love from a sacred source, King Solomon Song of Songs from the Tanakh, or Bible, which is the same as the version of The King James’ Song of Solomon.

The pendant is a circular starburst of Hebrew characters which proclaim, “I am my beloved’s, And my beloved’s is mine.”

The verses radiate out from a center point, like the fiery expansion of love itself.

This passage from Scripture is unusual in many ways.

If you haven’t read it, or heard it recited at a wedding lately, it’s touching and moving.

It’s also really sexy.

Yeah, you heard right.

The Song of Songs is an openly sensuous dialogue between two lovers.

They praise each other’s beauty, and the verses contain many poetic comparisons, including references to heaps of pungent spices and the calling of doves from the clefts in the rocky walls—familiar experiences if you’ve been in Israel, by the way.

Because these verses celebrate the very human aspect of love, The Song of Solomon as it is also called has created controversy over the centuries. Rabbi Akiva (50 – 135 CE) considered it “the Holy of Holies”, and warned people about singing it like a casual love song even though it contains many alluring (actually, frisky!) passages about embraces and kisses.

Many scholars prefer to read these verses as an allegory, about the Almighty’s love for Israel, rather than the erotic longings of a man and woman.

Great minds have quarreled over this for centuries.

Of course we are all familiar with the image of the Sabbath bride and groom, and their mystical union. That’s why this pendant is such a meaningful symbol of married love, where the frank pleasure of the body is made even more gorgeous by the presence of the Almighty.

If you’re celebrating an anniversary, a wedding or a just because—- this is a touching and meaningful Hebrew biblical quote that is a gorgeous piece of jewelry your loved one will adore.

 

Florida Shootings and What Can We Do?

The Shema Israel prayer is recited daily.

Yea, but what does that have to do with the mental state of our community after the shootings in Florida of innocent children?

It is also recited to give us strength and healing in hard times.

You see, I, a parent of three school-aged kids, heard about this tragedy and was stunned.

Then, a customer wrote me on Facebook and sent me a video of her daughter’s interview from a local news station in Florida. Turns out that she is a teacher the Parkland, Florida high school and kept her kids safe in her classroom.

So, I got to thinking:

How do we work together as a community?

I know my thoughts, I know you have yours, and the next person has theirs.  We all have ideas on how to solve the problems.

I also know that our children need help. 

My son is in high school in Los Angeles.  He is at a small school compared to other local high schools in our area.

There is one psychologist on staff, full time, for a school of 1500 students.

He told me that two years ago they had two psychologists on staff, and the students were able to benefit and receive services.  There were even social skills programs for the students, but that ended when the district made cuts.

And that is a small school!

Imagine if all students were able to easily access mental health services.

If parents could walk in and report issues and seek help.

If other students could ask for advice.

The list goes on and on.

And this doesn’t pertain to only high school aged students.

Early intervention is key.

As we mourn as a nation, for the Las Vegas victims, the Sandy Hook victims, the Pulse nightclub victims, and so so so so many more, we need to support one another.

A friend of mine sent me a Valentine’s Day card this past week.

She included a little tiny bottle with confetti and wrote, “Sprinkle kindness to others like it’s confetti.”

How perfect.

Smile, treat others nicely.

And give your kids a hug.

Be strong, be kind, say a prayer for strength and healing for our country.

And, if you liked the pendant in the image, Alef Bet Jewelry donated 100% of the proceeds from the purchase of this charm, the Shema Israel prayer, to Go Fund Me in support and aide of the victims of the shooting.

-Alissa

 

Strudel That Came in a Shoe Box

Not so long ago we came across the Jewish Food Society’s website, that strives to preserve Jewish family recipes.

Immediately, our mouths began watering at the images and recipes posted.

And the memories started flooding in about our family recipes.

So, we wrote to them about our Auntie Blanche Schiff’s famous strudel recipe.

Of course, not being biased or anything (ha ha!!), we think this is the best strudel recipe out there.

Here’s the article written:

Shared by: Alissa Haroush sharing a recipe from her Great-Aunt Blanche Schiff
Recipe Roots: Denver > Los Angeles

When Alissa Haroush was growing up in Southern California, shoeboxes of sweets would arrive at her family’s doorstep. There were hamantaschen for Purim, mandel bread, and sometimes, for no occasion at all, strudel, filled with flakes of coconut, nuts, and apricot or pineapple preserves. Tucked into the boxes, were often handwritten recipes for what was inside like one for bletel, what Alissa’s family calls strudel, the Yiddish word for sheet, in this case, of dough. They were care packages from her great-aunt Blanche Schiff who lived in Denver. “She didn’t think us Californians knew how to cook, so she’d just send [us strudel] randomly,” Alissa told us.

Strudel from Alef Bet Jewelry and Jewish Food Society

On one occasion, when Alissa’s mother was visiting her aunt, she gave her a shoebox to take home, telling her there was strudel inside. “There was actually a Kosher salami,” says Alissa. “Because she thought there was nothing Jewish in California.”

Blanche was born in 1908 in Colorado, only six years after her father emigrated from Grodno Gubernia, now located in Belarus. To escape being sent to the front lines to fight in the Russo-Japanese war he intentionally injured his trigger finger, and left for America.

Blanche’s recipes like the one for strudel were a mix of her family’s Russian roots and ideas she picked up from her community in Denver, where she was active in the Pioneer Women’s Group, a Zionist organization in Denver and the Hebrew Educational Alliance, both of which produced community cookbooks.

“The ladies were, for the most part, of Eastern European descent, and baking strudel was a delicacy that required time and concentration to bake at home. You could have easily gone to the Kosher bakery, but nothing was as good as homemade strudel,” Alissa told us when she first sent us her recipe.

Blanche wove the recipe into her family’s fabric. Alissa’s mother, who grew up nearby, remembers the smell of fresh baked strudel in the house. Over time, the recipe stretched across state lines. “Even my aunts in California have it,” Alissa adds. And she’s passed it along to her sister-in-law who lives in Israel. Today, Alissa’s teaching her 11- and 19-year-old daughters to roll logs of strudel, finished with a dusting of powdered sugar.

The strudel isn’t the only recipe from great-aunt Blanche that’s well loved in her family. Blanche’s famous dill pickle recipe will make an appearance when a cousin opens a deli in Denver soon. But the strudel is a simple one — an easy way to keep great-aunt Blanche’s cooking alive. “It’s so easy to make, even a lazy cook like myself can make it” Alissa says. “There’s no reason everyone else can’t as well.”

Great-Aunt Blanche’s Sour Cream Strudel

Serves: 10-12
Time: 1 ½ hours, plus overnight refrigeration

Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour, plus a little more to roll out the dough
2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into ¼ ” chunks
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups apricot preserves (or other favorite)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
¾ cup walnuts, finely chopped
½ cup confectioners’ sugar (to sprinkle on top)

Preparation
1. Place the flour in a medium bowl. Add the butter and cut it into the flour using a fork or your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Gradually fold the sour cream into the flour mixture, until a soft dough forms.

3. Remove the dough from the bowl, form into a thick disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

4. Remove dough from the refrigerator and let it warm up on the counter before rolling – about 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 350° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a thin round circle – about 18” in diameter, and about ⅛” thick (if it cracks a bit, that’s ok, it will be covered when you make the roll).

6. Spread the apricot preserves (or preserve of your choice) in a thin layer over the entire surface of the dough circle.

7. Evenly sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon, coconut, and walnuts over the layer of preserves.

8. Starting at the bottom edge of the dough circle, carefully roll into one large log. Cut the log into four, equal sized bars. Score the top of each bar with 3-4 diagonal slashes to allow for steam to release.

9. Place the 4 bars on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through for even baking.

11. Remove from the oven and let cool.

As Aunt Blanche would say, “when you are ready to serve, slice them on the “bias” and gently sprinkle with powdered sugar”.

 

— We hope you can make this strudel.  It’s really so simple!!

And let us know how they come out. 

My “auntie” as we called her, would be so proud that this recipe is being  passed along.

She had no children, so her baking and her love of her nieces and nephews were her pride and joy!

I know she’d be so happy.

-Alissa

 

…OF LUPERCALIA AND LOVE

We’ve all heard of the “Aha!” moment – when you have a realization.

We’re having that, plus an “Ahava” moment about Valentine’s Day, and February in general.

In case you don’t know, “Ahava” means “love” in Hebrew, and idea celebrated in lots of our original jewelry designs.

Judaica-inspired jewelry is, of course, our passion, and we’ve been asking ourselves if Valentine’s Day is really our kind of thing, thinking that February 14 is a Christian holiday.

However, even a quick browse of our Encyclopedia Brittanica has us laughing out loud.

 

Here are a few highlights of what we’ve learned about Valentine’s Day:

 

  • First, let’s start with the word “February”. Named after strips of goat-skin, called “februa” in Latin. On February 15, as part of the pagan Lupercalia Festival, young men named Luperci, named for the cave where the she-wolf nursed Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, would charge around the city, snapping these leather strips at random women. Some historians suggest that this fertility festival pre-dated Roman civilization.

 

  • (We’re hoping this was done in a spirit of, well, fun—sort of like being playfully snapped with a wet towel at the pool?  We’re not sure.)

 

  • Apparently, Roman women believed that a snap from one of these leather straps would prevent infertility. Okay…

  • February was named after the “februa”, or leather strips—and February was the last month of the old Roman year. So, perhaps it was all a party-atmosphere.

 

How did we get from this scene described above to lacy love-letters, romantic roses and heart-shaped boxes chocolates?

Speaking as a nice Jewish girl, with almost six thousand years of monotheisim behind me, I’m really not sure.

The involvement of a genuine Christian saint in this holiday also seems a bit sketchy here—remind me to do more research!

Meanwhile, let’s just stick with the idea of human AHAVA.

No ritual whippings with pieces of goat-leather, and no mama wolves, please.

Maybe just a nice little necklace—a current favorite is our square gold heart pendant, a modern look with a window looking to your soul on a solid gold chain.

The slightly organic shape of this piece give this necklace a really sensuous, handmade, artistic feel.

Or choose whatever says “I love you.”

 

Can You Give an Evil Eye for Healing?

Can you gift an evil eye for healing?

 

The short answer: yes, of course.  

And also please call your health professional if you or someone you love isn’t feeling so well.

 

As we often talk about in our blogs, the “evil” in the use of the phrase “evil eye” is frankly misleading.

Sometimes we wonder if there’s a better way to say it.

Because the evil eye as a symbol – a circle with a dot in the center, or a group of concentric rings, or an elongated, pointed oval with a dot in the center —really is about protecting.

Protecting you from harm.evil eye gold necklace

To our knowledge, the evil eye charm is never worn to inflict harm. That would be a shonda!

 

So, for this discussion, we’ll call it the protective eye.

Like the eye of a good mother, Jewish or otherwise (the eye charm is worn by non-Jews, and has been worn by Moslems for centuries, too…just sayin’…), tracking her beloved child around the park or playground, scanning the crowd at the marketplace for strangers, keeping a watchful gaze not only upon her beloved, but also on the larger scene.

Wearing the eye, and the cultural awareness from the great deserts of western Asia and North Africa (which is where the eye was first worn), suggests an awareness of a world where not everything is milk and honey.

As Jews, centuries of our humor, our scholarship and our attitude bears the sting of hardship.

 

Then again, whose history is free of hardship?

For instance, many people in the world use the Scandinavian countries as a model of how the world should be.

These are tall, athletic people who like to chop their own firewood.

They like clean, open rooms and polished surfaces.

They are known to be modest and hard-working.

This is why in contemporary economic and societal studies, countries like Norway and Sweden are often cited as ideal modern cultures.

To which we say Mazel tov.  

 

But did you know that history is filled with centuries of war, enslavement and really bad vibes between Norwegians and Swedes, for example?

We’re off-topic, so please Google it yourself, but yes.

For instance, Norway as a nation was conquered and oppressed by the more militaristic and technologically aggressive Sweden.

Norwegians were forbidden to speak their own language, forced to speak Swedish, and until recently considered themselves underdogs.

So, it’s not all swoopy, minimalist furniture and butter cookies, folks!

 

Back to the idea of hardship.  

Scandinavian folklore, prior to Christianity, is filled with what would be called superstition and magic.

The terrain of Scandinavia is rugged.

The coast is ruthlessly dangerous.  

And then there were those pesky Vikings—who knew when they’d show up and steal your horses, burn down your village, and TAKE ALL YOUR GOLD JEWELRY (talk about a shonda !?).

The world was dangerous to all of our ancestors, and they all had responses of a magical nature to create a feeling of security and self-empowerment.

People of pre-Christian Scandinavia, like people everywhere, wore charms to deflect bad luck, keep kitchen pots from boiling over, etc.

 

The trials of living in the southern Mediterranean, North Africa and western Asia were more about drought than too much snow, so the evil eye as we know it references drying up and loss of moisture as the primary motif.  

For a scholarly insight, you can read the work of the brilliant Dr. Alan Dundes, a Berkeley professor who concentrated on folk beliefs, especially the evil eye and apotropaic magic.

 

And back to healing.

If we accept that our world, though marvelous, is potentially dangerous, wearing a charm that makes you safe can only be a good thing.

Doctors in the modern West are just beginning to acknowledge the dialogue between physical symptoms and what some call the “subtler body”, meaning our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and spiritual context.

 

If your baby has an ear-ache or a fever, or if you slice off the end of your thumb while cooking, call 911 or go to the emergency room.

No kidding.

Never take chances when you have overt physical evidence that something’s wrong.

One of the great blessings of living in the industrialized world is that we don’t have to light candles and hope for the best.  

 

And when you’ve gone to the doctor, studied the lab results, gotten a second opinion, then a third, looked at the facts, taken every step that the modern world has to offer, then we do love to add an evil eye charm to the mix.

Without putting too fine a point on it, we often have given an eye charm to someone with chronic health condition.

Could be rehab.

Could be chemo.

A wise Rabbi once told a friend, “Take all the good advice you can get.”

If someone you love is recovering, may the gift of an eye charm bring swift and total recovery.

Amen!

 

Best Gifts for Bat Mitzvah Girls in 2018

Mazel tov ! Best Gifts for a Bat or

Bas Mitzvah

 

Oh, to have a daughter.

To have a Jewish daughter.

OK, we’re not Rabbis. But to have a Jewish daughter, speaking as Jewish mothers, is a flowering of joy.

Judaism often is accused of being patriarchal.  

Again, we don’t need to go there. Think Ruth. Think Esther. In some places of engaged Jewishness these days, we observe a ceremony for a new baby girl called Simchat Bat – “the joy of the daughter.” This mystery, this midnight, this crescent moon, this unfolding rose, this girl-child.

 

It’s a new world, and your daughter will not spend her life in the shadows, subordinate to a man, most likely. So by the time she’s 12, 13, she’s heading out into the huge world with a mind of her own. This can be an exhilarating, intimidating experience for the young lady—and a bittersweet realization for her parents. Sunrise, sunset…

 

Planning her Bat or Bas therefore will require communication with the daughter who is being called to the Law.

Today’s Bas or Bat is usually a pretty light-hearted affair. Can we say, it’s all about the socks? We don’t make or sell socks, but we’ve gotten a few invitations to a Bat lately that include a pair of plushy socks with “gripper dots” (which sort of feel like gummi bears!). The reason for the socks: so ladies can slip off their heels once the party really starts to rock.

 

 

 

We’ve got so many really exquisite pieces—especially pendants and bracelets– that are perfect for the cherished Bat-Girl (those décor themes really can get out of hand!), that we recommend you simply call us.  A very dainty, feminine gold pendant, whether a Mogan David, Hamsa, or eye, on a delicate chain, is always appropriate for a young lady taking this transformational life-step. We have many variations, and can guide you to something that is perfect for the Bat Mitzvah Girl. A few things we love for the BMG and possibly her mother and other matriarchs: delicate diamond pave Star pendant on fine gold chain, Jewish Star pave diamonds set in 14k gold, or the same Magen David in sterling silver, perhaps even a pendant with LOVE.

star of david jewelry

And here’s the bigger gifting situation: if you’re the parent of the BMG, you will be throwing a heck of a party. When planning, keep in mind the number 18.  This numeral—Chet = 8, Yud =10, so 8 + 10 = 18, and 18 represents Chai, to Life!. Multiples of 18, whether it’s the number of guests, the dollar-amount of a cash gift (18, 36, 54, 72—add zeros at will!), and so on, will all bring your BMG lots of mazel.

 

Also, here’s this: it’s possible, even likely, that some of the guests at the Bat will not be Jewish. Besties bond across all boundaries today! With this possibility in mind, we suggest guest favors that aren’t explicitly religious in theme. We really love our 3-d squared heart pendant on a bead chain. For a slightly hipper gift for young ladies, check out our hand-beaded bracelets in silver, yellow or rose gold.  Just warning you – lots of moms actually covet this edgy yet classic piece for themselves — so better have a few extra on hand! 

 

Ditto for our long strands of protective evil eyes, eye-stations set on fine chain, in shades of green, blue, and other colors (eye85) – you can’t go wrong, in case there are a few ladies who may not have been on the original list but who absolutely deserve the star treatment on the day of the Bat.

 

We have many lovely options for buying in multiples. Some are fit for a princess.  Some are a little more casual. Connect with us at 818 882 9030 or online at www.alefbet.com, and whether you’re getting guest-prezzies for 18 or 180, we’ll guide you to something that’s really perfect for a specific Jewish daughter and her circle of besties as she makes this powerful and poignant step.

The Hamsa– Up or Down? Which is the Right Way to Wear it?

From “Om” to “Shalom”

diamond hamsa necklace

The Hamsa is one of our most familiar and favorite symbols to wear as fine jewelry. At the moment, we’re just loving this very feminine version (fch39), a small, but very fiery Hamsa pendant, set with diamonds and suspended from links of diamond stations in yellow, rose or white 14 karat gold. It’s not bling-y at all—meaning it doesn’t yell at you from across the room.

 

Instead, it’s sophisticated and chic.

 

Here’s the thing: lots of our customers practice yoga, and this is one of their favorite pieces to wear while in the “Om” space—we have to say, it does look really sleek and modern on a spaghetti-strap tank top. This is truly a cross-cultural moment, because the Hamsa, as we know it, is not a Hindu or Buddhist symbol. The Indian Vedic scriptures have a beautiful tradition of powerful, symbolic hand postures called mudras, but that’s a whole different thing. We think. In any case, here’s the Hamsa, at a yoga studio near you, doing the downward dog and sun salutation.

 

Jews call this hand-shaped amulet the Hand of Miriam. Moslems call it the Hand of Fatima. There are many interpretations of these particular usages.  The hand is often depicted with an eye in the center of its open palm, presumably to ward off negative energies, including the gaze of envy.

 

Berkeley scholar and folklorist, Professor Alan Dundes, incidentally Jewish, studied the origins of the evil eye for decades, and identified the ancient cultures that live along the Sahara as the source of the specific practices and symbols we use to signify the evil eye today. Dr. Dundes concluded that the arid desert landscape itself, in almost permanent drought, created a highly defensive and protective consciousness, where precious moisture, including tears, breast milk and human spit, traditionally took on magical properties.

 

The brilliant and outrageous Dr. Dundes, unfortunately, is no longer with us. So we’ve done our own unofficial survey.

Usually, the Hamsa points down.

But we do offer several pieces where the fingers point up. Some people feel that, like with a horseshoe, the symbol seems “luckier” if the direction is up, not down. Okay. If this is your groove, try our sterling and turquoise-gemmed Hamsa pendant

 

 

 

 

 

Come to think of it, our round disk sterling Hamsa pendant has a serene, lotus-look which makes sense with yogic practice. round hamsa for yoga on amazon

 

 

 

 

Two downward-facing Hamsa pendants that are favorites have the look of the Mediterranean and Middle East – a slender, elongated Hamsa in sterling silver  or diamond dotted version in gold. 

 

Today, we’re truly living in McLuhan’s global village. We eat sushi in Texas. We listen to vintage Rolling Stones anthems in space. So, who’s to say whether the Hamsa should point up or down, or whether it “goes with” yoga?

Wear your Hamsa, and feel safe and empowered in your wonderful place in our amazing world.

So, how do you wear your hamsa?