fbpx

Magen David – A Jewish Shield

Wearing this treasured star is a reminder of the powerful presence of the Divine, both male and female.
[additional-authors]
December 20, 2023
nito100/Getty Images

These days have brought great fear and insecurity to many Jews in America, a rather unknown and unfamiliar feeling. From the moment we entered these lands there was an underlying assumption: The melting pot was a safe haven for all immigrants from different countries with their own unique cultures and ways of living. Even at times when groups tried to carve out their own territory, so well depicted in “West Side Story,” they were welcome to thrive and build their own neighborhoods, fully present, engaging in the American Dream.

Synagogues blossomed and Jews were proud of their heritage. Growing up in Canada, my experience was no different. Our treasured streets, in the midst of a bustling metropolis, were full of markets and vendors known for their kosher products, dill pickles, seltzer water and even religious wares. Eventually moving toward the outskirts, the suburbs, Jews created new communities with day schools and modern synagogue buildings, settling in to the ever-expansive promise of acceptance and success. Deeper connections into civil institutions developed and we found ourselves helping to build a country based on principles that only reinforced social complexity and civil discourse.

Like much of our treasured traditions, teachings, and customs, the star lives with us in our hearts and perpetuates a connection between all our people, no matter what part of the world. 

We are part of the very foundation and soul of this country. We have been proud participants whose unique traditions have not been hidden but worn with dignity. Just as the cross has been an identified symbol of Christianity, so the Star of David has been our own motif whose rich meaning goes back centuries. The Star of David with two overlapping triangles has represented our pride and joy, sitting with honor between two stripes on the flag of Israel. The stripes represent the tallit, a symbol of faith, while the star brings hope. Despite its use during the most horrific moments of the Holocaust, an attempt to create shame for our people, that hope has remained strong and is imbedded in our N’shamahs. Like much of our treasured traditions, teachings, and customs, the star lives with us in our hearts and perpetuates a connection between all our people, no matter what part of the world. My most treasured memories in Europe were being identified by locals, “You must be Jewish, welcome to our home.”

This is why it is so disturbing when people tell me they are afraid to have their Magen David visible, seen by others in public. How quickly the pressures of invisibility have taken hold with the rise of antisemitism. But is this the kind of response we want to reinforce? Will the reality of war for our brethren force us to hide who we are, or should it fortify our beliefs, standing visibility strong?

In Hebrew, magen means shield. The first inference is to G-d, the deliverer, referred to as a shield, a refuge, “V’Atah Adonai Magen…” as well as in psalms and proverbs, “For You Adonai are a shield…” Torah is also a referred to as a magen, a shield for all of us. And when the rabbis created one of the most important blessings that opens the central section of the prayer service, the Amidah, they enshrined G-d as the “Shield for Avraham.” Wearing the Magen David connects us with our past, with our forefathers, and with G-d.

This shield is two triangles that overlap becoming one: one pointing upward from the earth, the feminine, Shechinah, and one pointing downward from the heavens, the masculine, Kaddosh Baruch Hu. “The Heavens are the Lord’s, the earth is for the children.” The lower triangle points up from our physical plane and the body, while the upper points down, representing the spiritual and higher wisdom. These two polar opposites merge and become Shaleym, a wholeness. Polarities, a reality of life, need to be massaged, unified, and often compromised. This “star” is a symbol of taking differences and merging them into new possibilities.

It also represents symmetry, balance and harmony, bringing a sense of equanimity when in its presence. Wearing this treasured star is a reminder of the powerful presence of the Divine, both male and female. Two become one, so much greater than the sum of its parts. Wearing my star is an expression of my identity and when I see it worn by others I am comforted once again, knowing I am not alone.


Eva Robbins is a rabbi, cantor, artist and the author of “Spiritual Surgery: A Journey of Healing Mind, Body and Spirit.”

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Are We Going to Stop for Lunch?

So far, the American Jewish community has been exceptional in its support for Israel. But there is a long road ahead, and the question remains: will we continue with this support?

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Hollywood’s “Meeting of the Masters” Brunch

Guy Shalem’s Meeting of the Masters is more than just a dinner club; it’s a testament to the power of food, conversation, and community in bringing people together and creating a space where everyone, regardless of background or belief, can find common ground and friendship.

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.