Hamsa — we’ve all seen it. The little hand on a necklace, earrings or ring. But what does a hamsa hand symbolize? And why is it significant in Jewish jewelry?
For centuries, the palm-shaped amulet has been a popular design. Recognized as a universal sign of protection, the image is believed to ward off the evil eye. But where did this notion come from?
In the days of ancient civilizations, similar symbols were used to invoke divine protection. Historical digs have revealed that the hand of Venus (or Aphrodite) was thought to hold special protective powers during the times of ancient Greeks and Romans. Ancient jewelry recovered from archeological digs have included necklaces with similar hands carved from silver. Silver was believed to represent purity and hold magical powers, infusing the hamsa hand with even more divine symbolism.
In Jewish culture, the hamsa first gained popularity in ancient Sephardic and Mizrahi communities. Women gave hamsa necklace presents to each other and their young daughters as a reminder to always praise God. Some also believed that the five fingers of the hamsa hand represented the five books of the Torah.
While not religious in and of itself, the hamsa talisman also appears in many Kabbalistic manuscripts. Some have even gone as far as linking the hamsa with the Hebrew letter “Shin” which is the first letter of the word “Shaddai” — one of the names for God.
Today, you can find hamsa necklaces made from silver, gold and other precious metals. Hamsas adorned with precious and semi-precious stones, and even ones crafted from glass.
Whether you choose to wear hamsa jewelry, or hang this amulet as a decorative piece in your home, may it always serve as a gentle reminder that God exists in everything.