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!

 

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.