Stars and Superstitions

January 20th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

Why do people say “Bless you!” to a sneezer? Well, you see, in olden times they believed…Why do so many believe that walking under a ladder brings back luck?  You see, about 5,000 years ago, Egyptians thought…What is the ‘evil eye’? It was something feared by the ancients… See the subtext here?  Dismiss something as ‘from yesterday’ and you condemn it to irrelevancy.  Only today and tomorrow count; yesterday is probably only a superstition.

What is the significance of the Star of David? Well, it was found on a 3rd-century Jewish tombstone…It is discussed in medieval Kabbalah texts…In the early 1600s, it appeared on a flag flying over a Czechoslovakian synagogue. 

Does it really have no contemporary significance?  Is it just a six-pointed star that ignorant people used to draw that Jews later adopted as a symbol?

6 is the first of what are called “perfect numbers”.  All the numbers that can be exactly divided into 6 also add up to 6.  (1 + 2 + 3 = 6)  The second perfect number is 28 and the third is 496. More importantly, it is the number of directions at which we can look at our world. Imagine yourself embedded in the middle of a lucite cube. You can look out of its six faces: forwards (north), left (west), rear (south), right (east), up and down. 

Most importantly, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them…” (Exodus 20:11).  But the Star of David, known in Hebrew as the Shield of David is not just a six-pointed star.  It is one triangle superimposed on another. It is actually two triangles, one of which is rotated half a circle (180 degrees) and then superimposed upon the other.

That is important because a triangle is the most reliable engineering shape. For this reason, the truss bridge, which is the most common kind of bridge,  is made up of nothing but triangles.

There is no stronger arrangement into which you can shape 3 lines than by making them into a triangle.  If I had to give written instructions for constructing one, I’d say connect one end of line A to one end of line B, and then the other end of line B to an end of C.  Now join the other end of C to A.  Connected this way, the resulting triangular structure cannot wiggle or move. It is perfectly stable and strong. Two triangles superimposed on each other will look like the final drawing in this series:

 

If a triangle is the strongest way of connecting three lines, what might be the weakest way of connecting three lines?  It would be doing the opposite of my earlier directions.  Connect three lines, A, B & C and then do not connect C back to A.  It might look something like this:

Now, let’s take two of these shapes, rotate one of them half a circle and then superimpose it upon the first.  Look what we obtain:

 

Thus we see that both the triangle and the basic element of the swastika comprise three lines, A, B & C.  What do the three lines represent? 

A: God.
B: The physical world which He created and into which He placed us.
C: People.

In the triangle, each line is linked to the other two in an inseparable matrix of might. The triangle is asserting that if we remain connected and bonded with God, other humans, and our physical world, we are firmly planted in a dependable reality.

By contrast, the swastika’s basic element also contains three lines, however,  were you to push on the ends, the structure would wiggle, shake, and deform. Here we see the intrinsic fragility of a worldview in which we humans are not linked both to our Creator and to His world in a very practical way. 

You might be wondering why two triangles are needed.  Why couldn’t the symbol of the Jewish covenant just be one triangle? The answer is that each of the three lines represents something that must be considered from two perspectives. 

  • We face God during our lives as the essence of Holy but we also recognize a timeless God that exists beyond death.
  • The physical world can only be understood as a conjunction of both time and space.
  • People are either male or female.

Those are the six faces of that lucite cube from which we contemplate reality and struggle to understand it.  The Star of David graphically represents that with geometric precision, while its mirror image, the swastika, represents failing dismally at that task.


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15 comments

Debbie E says:

Thank you, certainly is very eye opening.

Pablo Riboldi says:

Dear Rabbi,
Thank you for sharing the beautiful symbolism of the Star of David and contrast it with the swastika.
Another ways to look at the Star of David that I have really like are as follows:
1) The triangle pointing up is a representation of God’s people turning to the one true God through covenants, and the triangle pointing down is the infinite love of God shed on each one of God’s children.
2) The triangle pointing up represents Mount Sinai, God’s invitation to his people to sanctify themselves to enter His presence. The triangle pointing down represents God’s condescension to sacrifice His Son for all His children to serve them (Matthew 20:25)
3) The triangle pointing up reminds me to draw closer to God. The triangle pointing down reminds me to serve the poor and the needy.
There is no better symbol for the children of Israel than the Star of David.
Thank you,
Pablo Riboldi

Ben says:

I’d read your description of the star of David before, but never the swastika. While I knew that the swastika stands against the things the star of David stands for, I didn’t realize how it is also geometrically opposed. That is fascinating, thank you for the elucidation!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Exactly Ben,
You could call the Swastika the geometric opposite of the S of D.
Cordially
RDL

Ruth says:

God’s Word and the Creation

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6.

Since the book of nature and the book of revelation bear the impress of the same master mind, they cannot but speak in harmony….

Inferences erroneously drawn from facts observed in nature have, however, led to supposed conflict between science and revelation…. Millions of years, it is claimed, were required for the evolution of the earth from chaos; and in order to accommodate the Bible to this supposed revelation of science, the days of creation are assumed to have been vast, indefinite periods…. Such a conclusion is wholly uncalled for.87

Of each successive day of creation, the Sacred Record declares that it consisted of the evening and the morning, like all other days that have followed.

In regard to the work of creation itself the divine testimony is, “He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:9. With Him who could thus call into existence unnumbered worlds, how long a time would be required for the evolution of the earth from chaos? …

It is true that remains found in the earth testify to the existence of men, animals, and plants much larger than any now known…. But concerning these things Bible history furnishes ample explanation. Before the Flood, the development of vegetable and animal life was immeasurably superior to that which has since been known. At the Flood the surface of the earth was broken up, marked changes took place, and in the re-formation of the earth’s crust were preserved many evidences of the life previously existing…. These things … are so many witnesses mutely testifying to the truth of the Word of God.

Just how God accomplished the work of creation He has never revealed to men; human science cannot search out the secrets of the Most High. His creative power is as incomprehensible as His existence.
Do you agree with this?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Ruth,
Partially.
Cordially.
RDL

James says:

Thanks for the grand enlightenment on the Star of David and the flimsy swastika. Begging your pardon if I venture down the rabbit hole, for some time I have reflected on the Hebrew letter ALEPH, with its associated meanings as the first letter of the alphabet, such as Echad, Divine unity, and the beginning of all things, etc. I could not help but notice the ‘sacred’ swastika of the Hindus, purloined and perverted by the National Socialists, as bearing a vague resemblance to the letter aleph. Yet the swastika, with no disrespect to the Hindus, appears to me like an aleph schematically designed in blind, mechanical automation, by a mindless and soulless robot. The consequences of such a realization are indeed frightening.

Dr. Robert D. Hughbank says:

Hi James,
I always understood that Bet is really the first letter of the Aleph-Bet. Can you shed light on this Rabbi?
Bob

Susan Lapin says:

The book of Genesis opens with the letter, Beit, Bob, but the alphabet starts with Aleph.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear James,
There is actually no connection between the aleph and the swastika. This is because the latter is two identical 3 line-element shapes with one rotated 180 degrees and superimposed upon the other. This of course is the identical geometrical definition of the Star of David. But it is not a description of the aleph which comprises 3 elements. One Hebrew letter vav lying diagonally with a yud beneath it to the left and another yud above it to the right.
Cordially
RDL

Joanie says:

Dear Rabbi,
This is absolutely enlightening from every aspect. Your teaching and Susan’s musings shows me how much I must depend on The Lord God for wisdom and strength.

You opened my mind and heart.

Thank you!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Enlightening is the right description for ancient Jewish wisdom, Joanie,
It’s certainly how we feel. We deliberately confine ourselves to a specific word count in all our weekly teachings in order to avoid them becoming too long and arduous to absorb. The only downside is that we publish each piece aware that there is so much more we had no room to include. We then make a note to devote a future teaching to the omitted material.
Cordially
RDL

celesta says:

Hello dear Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin!

WOW!!!! Wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow!!!! and WOW!!! My mouth dropped open when I scrolled down and saw that evil swastika, the antithesis of EVERYTHING the Star of David stands for! And I appreciate James’ comments about the Aleph, I have also noticed the similarities, I was wondering if you were going to also write a segment about the Aleph in this Thought Tool along with the Star of David and the swastika. Now that is really really really amazing! Surely do appreciate the insight that you give us all the time, and how God’s inspiration leads you step by step through each gem of wisdom that you so faithfully express to us!!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

See, Celesta,
You’re part of the reason we love writing for y’all! You’re just so enthusiastic and excited which we think is exactly the appropriate response to some of the most astounding information on the planet.
Cordially
RDL

Laura says:

Thanks for this. Such beautiful symbolism mixed with the factual explanation that the triangular shape is indeed the most strong shape to build a bridge with. I agree wholeheartedly with this and I have always loved the Star of David and all it represents. I never would have connected that the swastika was a geometric opposite. But I see that now. As a judeo bible believing Christian there is also something I have always noticed about the swastika. I have always seen it to be an anti-Christian symbol because it looks like a broken cross to me. So the nazis took the most revered symbol of Christianity “Christ’s Cross” and made the antithesis or opposing symbol and broke both ends of it. But now I have something more to add when I teach my children about the Star of David. I believe both viewpoints to be great examples of how evil the swastika and the plans and actions of those who waved it were.
Thanks for all you and Susan do to educate us on ancient biblical wisdom.

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