Jews refer to a six-pointed star made of two interlocking equilateral triangles, like the one on the Israeli flag, as a “Star of David.”
The symbol’s name in Hebrew, Magen David, means “Shield of David,” and I presume it was so named because, historically, the Star was inscribed inside a circle, making it look more like a “shield” than simply a “star.”
Despite having been named for King David, this star was not a Jewish symbol during the time of David. In fact, much to my surprise, it has been a Jewish symbol for less than 800 years!!
In 1897, the First Zionist Congress chose the Star as its symbol. A few decades later, the Nazi regime chose to use that star to identify and segregate Jews during the Holocaust. And then, the Star was chosen for inclusion on the Israeli flag.
But the first Jews to use the symbol were 14th century Kabbalists, who gave it the name Magen David. While there are multiple explanations for the star’s meaning, some Kabbalists taught that the two triangles represent the intersection of Heaven and Earth. One triangle fills with Heaven’s needs, the other fills with Earth’s needs, and the over-lapping portions of the triangles remind us that we must balance and honor those competing needs. The “key” to living a well-lived life, then, lies in keeping yourself in the center of the star.
So . . . where did the Kabbalists get this star that has become the most widely recognized Jewish symbol??
It appears the Kabbalists “borrowed” both the shape of the star and its meaning from Hinduism, in which the symbol represents the heart chakra.
http://www.deborahkingcenter.com/blog/2012/11/26/the-heart-chakra-the-center-of-your-being/ (last visited 1-19-2014).
Hinduism teaches the heart chakra is the fourth of seven energy centers, or chakra, in the body and is located near a person’s heart. The three chakra above the heart represent Heavenly concerns — speech, intuition, and connection to the Divine — while the three chakra below the heart represent Earthly concerns — groundedness, creativity, and sense of self. “And right there in the middle is the heart chakra, which has to mediate between heaven and earth.” Id.
I don’t know whether the Jews who chose to include the star on the Israeli flag knew about the meaning ascribed to that star by Hindus and Hasidim. But could there be a more appropriate symbol for the State of Israel?
Israel is, after all, the land to which the Jewish heart longed to return for two-thousand years, and now it is the place where, as a nation, Jews attempt to balance the needs of heaven and earth, to remember our obligations to G-d and “the stranger,” while also living in the reality of the present day.
And, regardless whether each of us agrees with the way the State of Israel handles any particular problem that arises, the State’s existence, and the Star on that flag, can be reminders for us that we each have an individual obligation to balance the demands of heaven and earth, to do our best to walk a path that honors our immediate earthly needs and the Divine spark that glows inside us and everyone else, to become warrior-poets like King David . . .
Praying each of us strives for (and finds some) balance, jen