Adina Plastelina

In the heart of Old Jaffa lies the magical gallery of Adina Plastelina that has become famous for the enchanting hand-made jewelry made using the ancient Millefiori technique.
Adina Plastelina opened its doors in 2004 and from the very beginning breathed life into the Millefiori technique, originally a glasswork technique that can be traced to ancient Roman times, reinventing it with the use of precious metals and polymer clay.
Visitors to the gallery receive explanations of the technique and watch a fascinating demonstration video, as well as watching the creation process live.
In 2006 an exciting archaeological discovery was made in the gallery when, during excavations, ruins of a round ancient structure was uncovered. Incredible artifacts were uncovered which provide a glimpse into the lives of local residents, as far back as the Bronze Age. Visitors can visit the permanent exhibition free of charge.
Adina Plastelina has received warm reviews both in Israel and on an international scale with the Israeli Ma’ariv newspaper describing the jewelry as, “extraordinary and unique,” and the Walla portal expressing wonderment at the way, “an ancient technique returns to life.” The National Geographic Magazine succinctly sums up Adina Plastelina as, “amazing creation and archaeology living in harmony,” and the Israeli Mapa publication rightly states that, “the combination of art and archaeology makes Adina Plastelina one of the surprising and original shops in Israel.”
All that remains to do is to come and check out this enchanting, rainbow-colored world of Adina Plastelina…

Adina Plastelina

Red String in the Kabbalah

Why do some Jewish people wear a thin red string tied around their wrist?

The wearing of a red string is a custom. It is commonly associated with Kabbalah and is believed to ward off the evil eye. The string is a simple red woolen thread. Often the red string has been wound around the tomb of the matriarch Rachel which is located near Bet Lechem. Most Rabbis do not endorse the custom of wearing a red string.

Where is a red string mentioned in the Bible?

In the first book of the Bible, Bereishit, chapter thirty-eight, Tamar gives birth to twin boys. When she was giving birth, one of the babies stuck his hand out and the midwife tied a scarlet thread so as to know which one emerged first. The baby then drew back his hand and the other baby emerged. The baby who came out first was named Peretz, which is Hebrew for “Breach” or “Burst out”, alluding to the nature in which he pushed himself out, despite his brother having put out his hand first. The baby who had stretched out his hand then emerged and was named “Zerach” which means scarlet in Hebrew.

There is no mention in the Bible of a red string being associated with warding off the evil eye.

Why are red strings wrapped around Rachel’s tomb before being worn?

Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman, of Ohr Somayach (a Yeshiva in Jerusalem), explains that although there is no basis in Jewish law for tying a red string around the wrist, it is a custom that is considered to be a protective act and has been around for some time.

He explains that the Jewish people are called “Am Segulah” or “Treasured People” in the fifth book of the Bible, Devarim. Rabbi Chaim of Voloshzin explains that it is due to the Torah and the commandments that they fulfill that they are considered treasured.

Rachel is renowned for having allowed her sister to have married the man she loved before her and is buried on the way to Bet Lechem so that Jews passing by can pray there. Rabbi Ullman explains that perhaps this is the reason that the red string is considered a protective measure. Recalling Rachel’s great deeds and emulating her ways leads to doing more commandments which in turn spare one from misfortune.

Hamsa

What is a Hamsa?
Hamsa is a hand-shaped charm. It commonly has three extended fingers in the middle and two shorter fingers on either side. It is well-recognized in the Middle East and North Africa. It is a shape often incorporated into jewelry and wall-hangings. It is believed to ward off the evil eye.

What is the source of the name Hamsa?
Hamsa is the Arabic word for five, in reference to the five fingers. The word Hamsa is closely related to the Hebrew word for five, Hamesh. Some Jewish people believe that the five represents the five books of the Pentateuch.

Alternative names for Hamsa are the hand of Fatima, in reference to Fatima the daughter of the prophet Mohammed and the hand of Miriam, referring to the sister of Moses.

Why is the Hamsa also called the hand of Fatima?
The story is told that Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed was stirring a pot when her husband entered with a new wife (Muslim men are allowed to marry up to four women). Fatima was overcome with sorrow and as a result did not notice that the ladle she had been using to stir the soup had slipped from her hand and she was using her own hand. Due to her intense grief she didn’t notice the pain. Ever since then Fatima’s hand has become a symbol for patience and faith.

What is the origin of the Hamsa?
Hands are a universal symbol of protection. Evidence of such can be seen in Mesopotamian artifacts, in teachings of Buddha and Christianity. Some claim that the Hamsa is connected to an ancient Egyptian two-fingered amulet that represented the protection of parents over a child.

The Hamsa is very strong in the Islamic world, believed to ward of the evil eye. It seemed to have made its way into Jewish culture via the Jewish communities who lived in Islamic countries.

Why is the Hamsa a popular item?
Due to the belief that it wards off the evil eye, the Hamsa made it into main-stream Israeli culture. Hamsa shapes are often hung from walls and worn on necklaces or bracelets. Judaism has its own signs of protection which are much more solidly based in valid Jewish sources such as the Mezuzah so the adoption of the Hamsa is somewhat strange. Having said that, the beautiful shape of the charm and the common incorporation of fish, a Jewish sign for good luck, in Hamsa-shaped pendants have made these items increasingly popular.

Bar Mitzvah Gifts

What is a Bar Mitzvah?
“Bar Mitzvah” translates to mean “son of the commandment” and is used to describe a Jewish boy that reaches the age of thirteen. In Judaism, the age of thirteen for males is a milestone at which the young person becomes responsible for keeping the commandments of the Torah.

Bar Mitzvah is also used to describe the event that many of these boys will hold to celebrate their “coming of age” even thought strictly speaking it refers to their status. Even if a boy does not have a special ceremony or event to celebrate their coming of age, he will still automatically become Bar Mitzvah.

What is the mystical reasoning behind the Bar Mitzvah status?
According to Kabbalah, just as thirteen is an age at which boys often begin to change physically, their souls are also changing and it is believed that a person’s spiritual being has several levels of soul and at the time of Bar Mitzvah a new level of soul is awakened leading to moral awareness and sensitivity which enables the taking of responsibility for one’s actions.

Furthermore, there is a well-known rule in the Talmud that a commandment performed by one who is commanded to uphold it is considered greater than the commandment performed by one who isn’t obligated to do so. This is because when told to do things people have a natural aversion to do so. To overcome this aversion shows maturity and this is what the Bar Mitzvah celebrates- the stage of obligation.

Calling up to the Torah
On the Sabbath of his thirteenth birthday, the young man celebrating his Bar Mitzvah is called up to the Torah and in most synagogues it is customary to pelt the young man with candies. It is customary for the father of the young man who has reached Bar Mitzvah age to recite a blessing symbolizing the fact that from here on his son takes responsibilities for his own actions.

The Bar Mitzvah will then read a portion from the Biblical prophets and after services a small buffet is often held that begins with a blessing over the wine.

The Reception
It is popular to hold a reception in celebration of the Bar Mitzvah, ideally on the day the boy turns Bar Mitzvah. Often the Bar Mitzvah boy will give a short speech that is related to Torah thoughts. It is preferable that the celebration not be ostentatious so as not to place the emphasis on the wrong things- the spiritual significance of the day comes first and foremost.

The Gift
It is the accepted practice to give a gift to the Bar Mitzvah boy. It is always advisable to check what is deemed acceptable in the community of the Bar Mitzvah boy regarding gifts. It is a nice idea to give something meaningful for this important milestone event; a beautiful charity box can be a lovely idea, a Jewish book that the Bar Mitzvah boy can enjoy, Tefillin that the Bar Mitzvah boy begins putting on can be an expensive but truly special gift, a Tallit in the case of Sephardi communities where the boy will also begin wearing one at Bar Mitzvah, etc.

The Hamsa in Jewish Religion

What is the Hamsa?
Hamsa is Arabic for five. Other names for Hamsa are the “hand of Fatima” or “hand of Miriam”. It is a charm that enjoys much popularity in the East and Africa. It can often be found adorning jewelry or walls of houses as it is believed that it defends those who wear it or own it from the evil eye.

What is the evil eye?
The evil eye is a concept that is found in many different cultures and refers to a look that has the power to cause misfortune to the person it is directed at. Often, it is believed that if people look at someone enviously this can cause bad luck for that someone. Also, if someone looks upon someone with dislike or hate this too can cause a bad eye for the person being disliked/hated.

What is the source of the Hamsa?
There is archaeological evidence that proves that the Hamsa predates the monotheistic religions. It can be found universally as a sign of protection in many different cultures and religions. There are different theories that relate the Hamsa to ancient deities.

How Did the Hamsa makes it’s way into the Jewish religion?
The Hamsa is a symbol that is widely known in Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish communities. The reason these communities adopted the Hamsa is believed to be related to the fact that they lived in the Islamic world and were influenced by their neighbors in the same way that Christians living in such countries were too.

What different forms of Hamsa exist?
There are countless designs of Hamsa on the market today, ranging from the traditional to the more modern designs in which the original hand shape can barely be identified. There are also many, many Hamsas that contain eye symbols and this is surely related to the idea of warning off the evil eye.

How has the use of the Hamsa changed in the history of the State of Israel?
When the State of Israel was established the use of the Hamsa was looked down upon as it was associated with “backwardness” by the dominant Western Ashkenazic stream. In recent years there has been a renewed awakening of interest in roots for Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews, leading to a pride in folklore and customs associated with them. Therefore, the Hamsa has once again become fashionable and is a symbol that has been adopted by all kinds of people in Israeli society. It can be seen often on jewelry, in homes, on greeting cards, on tiles etc.

Facts About The Shofar

What is a Shofar?
A Shofar is a horn of a Kosher animal (one that chews it’s cud and has split hooves). In ancient times it was used by the Jewish people to announce the beginning of the new Hebrew month. It was also used to call the people to war, to gather them together and to signal a sacrifice and to announce the Jubilee year. Nowadays, it is used most commonly on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah during prayers.

Why is the Shofar blown specifically on Rosh Hashanah?
Rav Saadia Gaon, a renowned sage from the tenth century compiled a list of ten reasons for blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah:

  • Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world in Judaism, the day the Jewish people accept G-d as the Ruler of the world. In the same way that trumpets are blown at coronations, the Jewish people blow Shofarot to “re-coronate” G-d.
  • The Shofar is traditionally a ram’s horn. This reminds the Jewish people of the binding of Isaac and the way G-d had compassion on Abraham. We strive, through hearing the Shofar, to attain the level of faith in G-d that Abraham had.
  • The Shofar sounds like a cry, reminding us that we are still in exile without the Temple and inspiring us to pray for the ultimate redemption.
  • The Shofar sounds like someone crying out. In the same way that the prophets of old would cry out and tell us to return from our bad ways, we should remember to act in the name of justice and mercy, in the ways of G-d, as the prophets advised us to.
  • The Shofar was blown at Mount Sinai when we first received the Torah. We remember to study and cherish the treasure we have been given.
  • The call of the Shofar is meant to arouse us to return from our misguided ways and to repent before Yom Kippur, the ultimate Day of Judgment. Rosh Hashanah is the first of a ten-day-count-down to Yom Kippur.
  • We are meant to be humbled by the Shofar’s powerful cry and then to remember the mightiness of G-d.
  • On the Final Day of Judgment a Shofar will be blown announcing G-d’s Oneness- it is blown now to remind us that we should be preparing for that day constantly.
  • The blowing of the Shofar foreshadows the times of true peace and freedom that will come upon us at the end of times with the arrival of the Messiah- we are reminded to have unwavering belief in G-d’s ability to redeem us at any given time.
  • At the time of the Messiah the call of the Shofar will proclaim redemption for the entire world when all people on earth will recognize G-d’s Oneness.