In light of Yom Kippur I found it fitting to write a blog post about something related to Judaism. Those who know me well know that I’m not particularly religious. I am the first one to flock to a restaurant serving Bacon-anything and I rarely know the dates of Jewish holidays; however, I refuse to leave the house without wearing at least one Hamsa, an item many view as a religious symbol. I’ve had a handful of friends question this, usually saying something along the lines of, “Why wear a Jewish symbol if you’re not religious” and after sharing the story I’m about to share here, they usually run out and purchase a Hamsa of their own.
|I bought one of mine here, on Etsy :)|
As a side note, the Hamsa is a not strictly symbolic of Judaism; many other religions have similar (or in some cases the same) items that represent a parallel meaning. I was taught about it as a Judaic symbol, therefore that is what I view it as. It has also been adapted as a Yoga symbol. I distinctly remember a guy hitting on me once when he saw I was wearing a Hamsa ring by saying, “I’m into Yoga too! I bet we’re both super flexible in bed.” I stared at him blankly, trying to figure out how he knew I did Yoga. He pointed to my ring and it dawned on me, he thinks I wear this is to show the world I’m a Yogini. We never found out if our mutual "love of Yoga" made us super flexible in bed.
|See, Yogini's stole the Hamsa!|
When my sister was 17 she took a life changing trip to Israel. She spent seven weeks experiencing Israel; she spent two weeks volunteering on an Israeli army base, a few weeks living on a Kibbutz and a day or two getting her hands dirty on true archaeological dig that led her to write a riveting short story about the history of Israel (remind me to ask her for a copy, she really is talented). One day, on a particularly long bus ride to one of their many journeys, her tour guide told the story of a girl who had been sitting on a similar bus, a week prior.
It was a day like any other, hot and humid, as most days are in Israel. A young woman chose that day to take the bus across town to visit with a friend. She paid her fare and found a seat two rows behind the driver, giving her a clear view of the road ahead. At the next stop a young man got on and sat down next to her. She noticed he was sweating heavily, but assumed this was due to the blistering sun and long coat her wore, which wasn’t uncommon for religious men in Israel. As the bus lurched into movement she felt something slide down her shirt. Her hand instantly went to her neck where she found that the clasp of the chain that had been holding her cherished Hamsa had somehow opened up; she instantly knew what the unfamiliar item sliding down her body was, the small charm. She stood up, trying to find her Hamsa, realizing too late that her sudden motion caused it to fall out of her clothing and onto the floor of the bus.
She caught a glimpse of it sliding towards the back of the bus, so she pushed past the young man and crawled on her hands and knees to the last row of the now very crowded bus. She spotted it in the very corner, almost out of reach, so she bent down as far as her body would manage and strained to reach it. After struggling for a few minutes she finally succeeded and her fingers closed around her precious Hamsa. As she pulled her hand to her body- BOOM – a bomb exploded in the front of the bus. She was still crouched behind the seat, as action which shielded her from the explosion; she managed to walk away with just a few scratches. Most of her fellow bus riders were not so lucky. She later learned that the young man she had been seated next to, the one who was exceptionally sweaty and wearing a long coat on a hot and humid summer day, was a suicide bomber.
If her clasp hadn’t failed; if the Hamsa hadn’t fallen; if she hadn’t gone to retrieve it; she wouldn’t have been there to share her story with a bus full of American Teenagers.
Maybe I’m superstitious, but the story sent chills down my spine the first time I heard it. Honestly, it still does. L’Shanah Tovah.