Jewish jewelry and Jewish art is often bearing beautiful blessings and verses, some more popular than the rest like Shema Yisrael and the Priestly Blessing, but have you ever wondered the origin of these different spiritual phrases? Many of these can be found in the Torah and some from the more modern, but still ancient, Song of Songs or Book of Psalms from the times of King Solomon and King David. Although there are over a dozen blessings and verses that are commonly found in jewelry and art, we chose just a few of the most popular ones to explain to you.
Hebrew: Sh’ma Yisrael Ado-nai Elolkeinu Adonai Ehad
English: Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One
Origin: Deuteronomy 6:4
Shema Yisrael is the prayer that represents the bond between the Jewish people and G-d, and declares that Hashem is the one and only god of the Jewish people. This prayer is one of the first ones taught to children to say before they go to sleep and is actually the last prayer said by one who is going to pass away. Shema Yisrael is also said during Shacharit- morning prayers- every day.
Hebrew: Yivarechecha Ado-nai viyishmirecha, Ya’er Ado-nai panav elecha veechuneka, Yeesa Ado-nai panav elecha viyasem lecha shalom
English: May G-d bless you and keep you; May G-d cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you; May G-d raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.
Origin: Numbers 6:24-26
In Israel the Priestly Blessing or Birkat Kohanim is said every day, whereas the rest of the world only says it on specific holidays; Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot, Simchat Torah, and Sukkot. Priests or Kohanim as they are called in Hebrew, are the only ones who can say the blessing, and they do so under their tallit with their fingers separated in the traditional way. Before going up to say the Priestly Blessing, Levites wash the hands of the Kohanim and remove their shoes for them (if needed). As they return to the room, the Kohanim are called up to the bima by the Chazan. As the Kohanim begin to recite the blessing, everyone in the room lowers their eyes until the blessing is done and the Kohanim have uncovered themselves from their tallitot.
Hebrew: Ana bekoach, g’dulat yemincha, tatir tz’rura; Kabel rinat amcha sagveinu, tahareinu nora; Na gibor dorshei yichudcha, k’vavat shamrem; Barchem, taharem, rachamei tzidkatcha, Tamid gamlem; Chasin kadosh, Berov tuvcha nahel adatecha; Yachid ge’eh le’amcha p’neh, zochrei k’dushatecha; Shavateinu kabel ushma tza’akateinu, yode’a ta’alumot;
English: Please, by the great power of thy right hand, O set the captive free; Revered G-d, accept thy people’s prayer; strengthen us, cleanse us; Almighty G-d, guard us as the apple of the eye of those who seek thee; Bless them, cleanse them, pity them; ever grant them thy truth; Mighty, holy G-d, in thy abundant grace, guide thy people; Accept our prayer, hear our cry, thou who knowest secret thoughts; Blessed be the name of his glorious majesty forever and ever;
Origin: Rabbi Nehonia Ben Hakana, written in the 1st Century
Ana Bekoach is a Kabbalistic prayer made up of the 42 letter name of G-d, written in seven sentences, representing the seven days of creation. It asks for the redemption of the Jewish people, allowing them to return to Israel, but that is just one of the many meanings behind it. Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, is very complicated but very meaningful at the same time.
Hebrew: Ani Ledodi v’Dodi Li
English: I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me
Origin: Shir HaShirim 6:3
This Jewish love quote is often incorporated into Jewish weddings, through the Ketubah or even the wedding ring itself! Ani Ledodi shows a balance of love and support and how each person in the relationship should be giving as much as they are getting from the other.
Woman of Valor
Hebrew: Eshet chayil mee yimtza Verachok mi’pninim michra Batach ba lev baala Veshalal lo yechsar Gemelat’hu tov velo ra, Kol yemay chayeha Darsha tzemer ufishtim, Vatas bechefetz kapeha Hayta ka’aniyot socher, Memerchak tavee lachma Vatakem be’od layla, Vateeten teref levayta vechok lenaroteha Zamema sadeh vatikacheyhu, Mepree chapeha nata karem Chagra b’oz matneha, Vateametz zro’oteha Ta’ama kee tov sachra, Lo yichbe balayla neyra Yadeha shilcha bekishor, Vechapeha tamchu falech Kapa parsa le’ani, Veyadeha shilcha le’evyon Lo tira levayta meshaleg, Kee chol vayta lavush shanim Marvadim as’ta la, Shesh várgaman levusha Noda bashearim ba’la, Beshivto im ziknei aretz Sadin as’ta vatimkor, Vachagor natna laknani Oz vehadar levusha, Vatischak leyom acharon Piha patcha bechachma, Vetorat chesed al leshona Tzofiya halichot bayta, Velechem atzlut lo tocheil Kamu vaneha vay’ashruha, Bala vayehal’la Rabot banot asu chayil, V’at alit al kulana Sheker hachen, Vehevel hayofi, Isha yirat A-donay, He tit’halal Tnu la Mipri yadeha, Vi’yhaleluha bashearim maseha
English: A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value. Her husband’s heart trusts in her and he shall lack no fortune. She repays his good, but never his harm, all the days of her life. She seeks out wool and linen, and her hands work willingly. She is like a merchant’s ships; from afar she brings her sustenance. She rises while it is still nighttime, and gives food to her household and a ration to her maids. She considers a field and buys it; from the fruit of her handiwork, she plants a vineyard. She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms. She senses that her enterprise is good, so her lamp is not extinguished at night. She puts her hand to the distaff, and her palms support the spindle. She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute. She fears not snow for her household, for her entire household is clothed with scarlet wool. Bedspreads she makes herself; linen and purple wool are her clothing. Well-known at the gates is her husband as he sits with the elders of the land. Garments she makes and sells, and she delivers a belt to the peddler. Strength and splendor are her clothing, and smilingly she awaits her last day. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She anticipates the needs of her household, and the bread of idleness, she does not eat. Her children arise and celebrate her; and her husband, he praises her: “Many daughters have attained valor, but you have surpassed them all.” False is grace, and vain is beauty; a G-d-fearing woman, she should be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and she will be praised at the gates by her very own deeds.
Origin: Proverbs 31:10-31
The Woman of Valor poem is often read on Friday evening before Kiddush, not only as a way to welcome the Shabbat Queen, but also to acknowledge the woman of the house and all she does. Women in Judaism have an important role, thus they were actually presented with the Torah before men were. The Woman of Valor poem is something special and shows the different components of every woman, even the ones we might not notice on a daily basis.
This Too Shall Pass
Hebrew: Gam Zeh Ya’avor
English: This too shall pass
Origin: Unsure but according to Jewish folklore, it was said by King Solomon
The tale that goes with this phrase has many different renditions, but overall it has to do with a mystical ring that King Solomon desired. The ring was supposed to make a sad man happy, and a happy man sad. No matter which version of the story you read, it ends with King Solomon owning a ring with the words “Gam Zeh Ya’avor” or “this too will pass” engraved onto the ring. The phrase is meant to remind one that power, hardships, and things of the like are fleeting, and to realize that the bad days always come to an end.
Hebrew: Yehi ratzon milefanecha Ado-nai Eloh-einu veilohei avoseinu shetolicheinu leshalom vesatzideinu leshalom vesadricheinu leshalom vesismecheinu leshalom vesagi’einu limechoz cheftzeinu lechaim ulesimchah uleshalom (If he intends to return immediately, he adds: vesachazireinu leshalom) vesatzileinu mikaf kol oyeiv ve’oreiv velistim vechayos ra’os baderech umikol puraniyos hamisragshos uva’os le’olam vesishlach berachah bechol ma’aseh yadeinu vesitneini lechein ulechesed ulerachamim be’einecha uveinei chol ro’einu vesigmeleinu chasadim tovim vesishma kol tefilaseinu ki Atah shomei’ah tefilas kol peh. Baruch Atah Ado-nai shomei’ah tefilah.
English: May it be Your will, G‑d, our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that You should lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace, and guide us in peace, and support us in peace, and cause us to reach our destination in life, joy, and peace (If one intends to return immediately, one adds: and return us in peace). Save us from every enemy and ambush, from robbers and wild beasts on the trip, and from all kinds of punishments that rage and come to the world. May You confer blessing upon the work of our hands and grant me grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us, and bestow upon us abundant kindness and hearken to the voice of our prayer, for You hear the prayers of all. Blessed are You G‑d, who hearkens to prayer.
Origin: The Gemara
The Traveler’s Prayer is said when leaving the city by any means of transportation and should be said about a kilometer away from the city limits. It wishes the traveler good luck on their journey and a safe return.
Hebrew: Im eshkachech Yerushalayim tishkach yemini. Tidbak l’shoni l’chiki im lo ezrerechi, im lo e’aleh et Yerushalayim al rosh simachati
English: If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy
Origin: Psalm 137: 5-6
Im Eshkachech is the most famous of all the Jerusalem prayers. It is sung as the groom breaks the glass under the chuppah, and during times of mourning for Jerusalem. This powerful song will always remind you of Jerusalem.