Do We Sell Jewish Earrings? Body Part Jewelry?

WHY NO EARRINGS?

We love jewelry. A precious ornament says “I love you” when
given as a gift. A piece of adornment can also be a great gift to yourself,
serving as a silent, tactile affirmation – to give strength, give confidence,
and make the wearer feel beautiful.

 

Contemporary Judaic bracelets, necklaces and pendants are
the specialty of the house here at Alef Bet. We create jewelry from many
different materials, with many different “vibes”, literally ranging from
diamonds to leather. In fact, perhaps we should experiment with combining these
two, for a really interesting fusion?

jews and tattoos
Jewish Tattoo Hamsa

 

What we don’t have too much of: earrings. Or nose-rings. Or
ornaments which would fit into any other punctured body-part.

 

We do get requests for earrings. And, we’ve gotten feedback
that some people conclude that we don’t make or sell earrings because we are
opposed to piercing, on religious, moral, ethical or esthetic grounds.

 

Not really. While we don’t pose as Talmudic scholars, we do
note that in the days  of Rebekah, wife
of Isaac, and other Jewish matriarchs, piercing—of the NOSE, not the ears—was
accepted, and a woman’s nose-ring was a normal part of her attire, like her
bracelets…and maybe a nice cashmere sweater.  (Genesis 24:22)

 

Piercing of the ears in those days seems more controversial,
and seems to have an association with enslavement (see EXODUS 21:6). The same
association, by the way, follows tattooing, which in ancient times was the mark
of a slave, like a cattle-brand. In other cultural traditions, tattooing has
strong associations with the criminal underworld and other behaviors considered
“deviant” by the mainstream.

Both piercing and tattooing get mixed reviews in various
traditions within the Jewish community, but hey, times change. In the past couple
of decades, extravagant multiple piercings and tattooing of the face, and even
the most intimate (!) reaches of the body, have become much more commonplace. The
fact that these once-taboo practices are so ordinary, so suburban, so
“everywhere”, seems to have robbed them of their once-outlaw or deviant status.

 

From a Judaic standpoint, this contemporary theatrical
approach to piercings—way beyond a discreet opening in the ear-lobe for a delicate
post or wire—seems to have more in common with pagan practice, and even with
some aspects of Christian sacred art. I am thinking especially of Latin (Italian,
Spanish, Mexican) Roman Catholic art, where drops of blood, crowns of thorns,
the Passion of Christ on the Cross, the sacred heart pierced by a sword, the
mortified flesh, and so on are depicted with graphic realism. This is where we
get the word “excruciating”—as in, the pain of a human body being removed from
the Cross. But, I digress.

 

Jewish sacred art has historically forbid this kind of
depiction, the stated reason being that it verges on idolatry. And in my
observation, the art of Islam follows a similar reasoning. This is part of why
the art forms of the Middle East and North Africa are filled with such dazzling
mathematical and geometric designs. Strictly speaking, depictions of humans and
animals were often discouraged in those artistic traditions.

 

In any case, maybe we’ll design some earrings for pierced
ears—almost no one I know can stand to wear clips or screw-backs. In fact, the
latter do indeed seem like something from the Spanish Inquisition!  What about thorns….

image from I love Mariannas
Thorns of the Cross

 

But the nose-ring, in spite of its long Jewish history, will
have to wait. Ditto for the belly-button jewelry and all the rest.

Travel Safe | Jewish ways of Protection and Travel

SUMMER TREK

It’s summer, and your schedule is probably packed with travel: weddings, family reunions, class reunions, and hopefully some gorgeous vacation-time to restore and refresh you.

Travel itself is dehydrating. Whether you’re flying first-class or crossing the country in a beat-up van (both can be fun, in their different ways), you’ll find your sleep schedule interrupted, perhaps a bit of anxiety as you wait for your suitcase on the luggage carousel at the airport, pass painstakingly through security and customs, the occasional frustration if your flight is delayed, etc.

Fear not! Wearing an evil eye amulet or one of our Hamsa designs cannot guarantee that your baggage won’t get temporarily misplaced in Cleveland. But, as we always say, it couldn’t hurt. Hamsa Design with Pearls

Wearing a piece of “protective” jewelry is like carrying-on a little peace of mind. We also like to take a bit of ribbon and tie a Hamsa or “eye” inside our suitcases when we travel. A reader of this blog recently even suggested that we create a Hamsa-shaped luggage tag, and we’re considering it.

Now, back to the hand-symbolism of the Hamsa itself. We have to re-blog ourselves. Our last blog on the origins of the Hamsa contained a rather esoteric illustration of the Aaronic blessing.

But we left out some of the more important aspects of this hand-position which is familiar to many Jews worldwide, as part of worship. This blessing-gesture forms the hands into the shape of the Hebrew letter “Shin”.

Shin in Hebrew
Shin in Hebrew

This letter appears on the mezuzahs which sanctify and guard Jewish homes, and call to mind the names of Almighty God, Shaddai, and the Shechinah, the Divine Presence and Sabbath Queen. Of course, thousands of scholars have written thousands of pages about the implications of all of this, over the past few centuries. Just a little light reading for the beach this summer.

An aspect of this blessing, offered to the congregation by the priestly Kohanim, involves an emanation of powerful light through the gesture—a light which is so powerful that we are commanded to look away.

Does this light emanate from a galaxy far, far away? Wait a minute….yes, there is a similarity to the famous “Vulcan salute”, created by actor Leonard Nimoy for his half-Vulcan character, the unflappable Mr.Spock.

Mr. Spock

Nimoy was inspired by the Aaronic blessing which he observed as a child in Temple. Below, from his autobiography, I Am Spock”:

“The special moment when the Kohanim blessed the assembly moved me deeply, for it possessed a great sense of magic and theatricality… I had heard that this indwelling Spirit of God was too powerful, too beautiful, too awesome for any mortal to look upon and survive, and so I obediently covered my face with my hands. But of course, I had to peek.”

Even if you’re not a Trekkie, travel safely this summer—and live long and prosper.