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!

 

Red String Bracelet?

What is it about the red thread, worn around the wrist?

Bendel bracelet with heart charm and lucky chai
Bendel bracelet with chai and heart charm.

 

Speaking from the Judaica perspective, we call this simple, traditional bracelet a bendel. Our “red thread” bracelets, accented with a tiny charm (protective eye, star, hamsa), are one of our most popular items.

With the popularity of Kabbalah studies on the rise these days, these red threads are everywhere. The Book of Splendor (Zohar) tells us that the red thread invokes the protective power of the matriarch Rachel, who guards the wearer like her own child. Speaking as two generations of Jewish mothers (and descended from many more), trust us—this is a very good thing.

Mauli red string
Mauli red string drying

But here’s a mind-blower. It’s not just a Jewish thing…..while India is significantly east of our frame of reference, there is apparently a parallel Hindu tradition.  In India, the red thread is called Mauli, Mouli, Kalava, Charadu, Nada Chadi, Raksha, Rakshi….and if I’m getting it wrong, sorry! These red threads, sometimes with jeweled charms, are knotted around the wrist in observance of puja, or ritual.

The Indian red thread may have a yellow bar-pattern, and is knotted around the wrist as part of many rituals. There is a special tradition, for instance, of brothers and sisters knotting the thread around each other’s wrists.

Depending upon who you ask, some Hindus say that wearing the thread signifies protection by the Mother Goddess Shakti. The general idea seems to be that you wear it until it naturally disintegrates or falls off.

Some discussions of the Hindu red thread say that it even turns to “gold”, although we’re taking this metaphorically, not literally. In many of our bendels, the red thread is woven through a gorgeous sterling chain-link bracelet. You just replace the red thread when it unravels. If your bracelet turns to gold, please call me personally!

Hamsa red string bendel bracelet

 

Here is an excerpt from www.hindu-blog.com:

“Legend has it that Lord Vishnu during his incarnation of Vamana tied a red thread on the hands of King Bali to grant him immortality and to rule the netherworld.

There is also a popular belief that the sanctified red thread with blessing of the deity protects a person from diseases, enemies and other dangers.”

Tony Blair and red string
Tony Blair with red string

A few years back,UK Prime Minister Tony Blair made headlines when he wore one which had been gifted to him by Swaminarayan Mandir at theHinduTemplein Neasden in Northwest London.

And not too long ago in The New York Times, we read about William Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder empire and Lauder company chairman, wearing a red thread bracelet that he picked up at a Hindu shrine at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Raksha red string
Raksha red string

Good ideas know no boundaries! Wear your red thread bracelet, by any name, in good health!

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Charm Bracelet: Hamsa, Evil Eye Charms on a Bracelet

Today, a charm-bracelet is a standard piece of jewelry for women everywhere. The “charms” may be pretty tame stuff—a tiny golden poodle, a stiletto shoe, maybe a cute mini-cupcake.

But the origin of the charm-bracelet, and the wearing of charms, was originally a bit more powerful. Charms are amulets, talismans. Their general purpose: to protect the wearer from harm.

The English word “charm” comes from “carmen”, the Latin word for song, or singing. Romance languages clearly reflect this origin. In Spanish and French, a polite greeting translates “I am enchanted to meet you” (enchante, encantado)—and in these words, we see the word “chant”, as in song. Meaning to literally be charmed, or bewitched, by singing or song. 

Many of our favorite pieces of jewelry may be called charms, because their ancient origins trace back to a belief in protective magic. With cultural roots deep in the Mediterranean and Middle East, the “eye”, the protective hand, the “red thread” bracelet, even the emblem of the fish are now worn by people all over the world. We’ve seen the “eye” and the Hamsa worn by young hipsters in Oslo, Tokyo, and lots of other places far from the lands where these symbols originated.

Do charms “work”? We certainly believe that a symbolic gesture of love, such as giving the gift of our “eye” or Hamsa jewelry, surrounds and shields the wearer with good vibes. That’s the great thing about love: one size fits all.

 

Star Gazing

As you know, people of the Mediterranean and the Middle East have been using traditional jewelry to ward off the “evil” eye and bring them good luck for…well, for as many generations as the pomegranate has seeds.

These amulets and talismans were not really a fashion-statement. Often, they consisted of no more than a single blue bead on a leather strand. Like a good pair of boots or a good hat, they served a functional purpose—mainly, for protection.

But, guess what: the Beautiful People have discovered these ancient emblems of protection, and they’ve become glamorous. We especially love the fact that brilliant businesswoman Lynda Resnick wears a red bendel bracelet in her executive portrait. By the way, we are in no way suggesting that Ms. Resnick, or any of the other celebs, is wearing a piece of Alef Bet jewelry—we only wish. But, it’s still cool. Ms. Resnick is the strategic powerhouse behind POMWonderful, the brand who put fresh pomegranate juice, cleaned pomegranate arils (seeds) and other fantastic pomegranate products on the shelves of mainstream American supermarkets. Her Los Angeles-based company also owns Fiji Water and Teleflora. Did the magical red thread around her wrist help it all to happen? Couldn’t hurt.

And check out these pics of LiLo, Kim Kardashian, Shakira, Rihanna and even Paris Hilton riffing on the Evil eye theme. Since the rich and famous inspire so much envy, again, a little traditional protection certainly could not be a bad thing.

 

Let’s Lighten Up for Purim

At first glance, the Jewish calendar seems to be strewn with solemn sacred occasions.  Many holidays do command reverence in its most solemn forms, such as atonement.

Then there’s Purim.

Traditions vary, depending upon where in the Jewish world you are. It’s safe to say that Purim is triumphant, noisy, even rowdy, and brings a playful carnival atmosphere to this holiday which will be observed come sundown March 19-20, 2011.

One of the most universal Purim celebrations is the giving of  mishloach manot.  The Book of Esther—and Esther really is the heroine behind Purim—commands us to give gifts of food (or money for food) to the needy.  And, many people do more than this—friends and families exchange yummy gifts, too.  Baskets of cookies, especially the buttery poppy-seed treats known as “Hamantaschen”, are a Purim classic, and lots of other favorites find their way into Purim gifts. In this sense, we consider Queen Esther to be the grandmother of the modern-day “goody-bag’!

Our suggestion: in addition to snacks and sweets that will be gone before you can say, “baruch Mordecai” (“Blessed be Mordecai”), include a gorgeous, enduring piece of Alef Bet jewelry in your special Purim gift-baskets.

Our selection includes many small treasures, such as a bendel bracelet featuring the simple red “protection” cord, clasped by a delicate hamsa in sterling silver (our stock #: bendel-15a). Or maybe a dainty, sterling silver hamsa necklace with a Chai charm (our stock #: 905-18), or a gemstone bracelet— one of our popular Bat Mitzvah items, too. Lots to choose from, something sweet and lasting to celebrate a joyful Purim.

Bendel BraceletChamsa and Chai Necklace

Hamsa and Gemstone Bracelet

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