WHY DO BABIES OFTEN HAVE A HAMSA SYMBOL ATTACHED TO THEIR CRIB OR IN THEIR ROOM?

The Hamsa is a very recognizable symbol of the Jewish faith and remains an important part of their community. To be sure, the Hamsa has actually been used in much of the Islamic faith as well. The symbol of the Hamsa depicts an eye in the center of an open hand. As a historic symbol, there are some variations that have evolved in its expression. Some Hamsa symbols show a standard hand while others create a symmetrical shape by displaying two thumbs on one hand. The Hamsa is commonly featured on religious jewelry, buildings, clothing and other objects related to Judaism. The earliest representation of the Hamsa is in the Alhambra of Granda, Spain. Sometimes, the Hamsa is combined with other symbols important to the Jewish faith such as the Star of David.

There are many meanings that are attributed to the symbol of the Hamsa. The word itself is derived from a Hebrew word meaning 'five'. This is meant to symbolize the 5 fingers represented in the hand. Others believe the significance of five also points to the five books of the Torah. The Hamsa is also known as the Hand of Miriam, who was Moses' sister. The eye within the hand is a symbol of God's hands, warding off the 'evil eye' which is a powerful motif in Judaism concerning the evils in the world. The Hamsa is believed to protect against this evil eye. Overall, the Hamsa symbolizes good fortune and happiness.

The carriages of newborn Jewish babies are often adorned with the Hamsa. This symbol represents the protection of the child by the hand of God and is believed to bring good luck, happiness and health. All of these good things are wished for a newborn in Judaism and the Hamsa on the carriages ensures that the protective qualities of the symbol are always present near the baby. Furthermore, the biblical story of Lilith can tie the symbol of the Hamsa to newborns and explain the importance of its symbolism.

Throughout early Jewish myths and literature, Lilith was synonymous with demons and other evil spirits. Some believe this powerful character was actually derived from earlier Mesopotamian mythology. According to popular Judaic folklore, Lilith was the first wife of Adam. Stories written within the latter years of the Middle Ages tell the story of how Lilith ran away from Eden. Lilith, who did not want to live subservient to Adam, never returned to the Garden. It is from this character that the Lilith demon and evil spirit was derived. Some say it was the spite of not being able to experience motherhood that drove Lilith to seek out newborns and pregnant women. The Hamsa symbol is now a very popular adornment to put on the top of baby carriages because it is believed to protect babies from the wrath of the jealous Lilith. Overall, the Hamsa symbol has come to represent protection and safety for newborn babies in Judaism from all forms of evil, including Lilith and the Evil Eye

SHUSHANA DJAVAHERI