Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Meaning of the Hamsa

One of my favorite ancient symbols is that of the Hamsa. There are many stylistic variations of the Hamsa but it always appears as a hand within which is an all-seeing eye. The word Hamsa literally means 5 and the emphasis of this naming is obviously on the five fingers of the hand.

The Hamsa is a universal symbol. It predates modern religions as archaeology has found it in ancient Mesopotamia. The Hamsa is used today as a symbol in Judaism and more specifically in the Kabbalah. It is affectionately referred to as the Hand of Miriam. In Islam the same symbol is used and referred to as the Hand of Fatima. In ancient Christianity the hand was called the Hand of Mary. It is a symbol of unity among all religions which are derived from the Mesopotamian region and thus serves as the perfect symbol of collective spirituality and unity of the Abrahamic traditions. For this purpose some have called it the Hand of Abraham- Yod Avraham.

* The hand is a significant symbol of humanity as it represents our collective achievements. The hand is of the most supreme importance as the thumb appendage has allowed mankind to evolve from brute and brawn to brain and to accomplish the unthinkable in terms of scientific and technological innovations.

* The numeral 5 which is central to the Hamsa symbol indicates the perfection of the natural order indicated by the numeral 4 with the addition of 1- the Creative Essence Itself. As the thumb connects to the 4 fingers it is the Objective of all Essence which bestows the Light of benevolence upon existence.

* The number 4 indicates separation as in the 4 corners of the earth. Each direction is independent of the other but the 5 or fifth is the unifier since it resides in the midst of the 4. For this reason the fifth in Hebrew is called "agudah" - a group, with the fifth unifying the other four. The Maharal writes of this as such:

"(5) portrays the five directions of this world, for there is a spiritual dimension in addition to the four directions of physical expanse. The fifth dimension is the spiritual core of existence; it focuses the four diverse sides into a single entity, by infusing the world with purpose. Hence the fifth dimension is the intangible spiritual element to life."

* 4 is considered the number of exile and 5 is the number of redemption.

* 5 is the number of books in the Torah of Moses. The 4 books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are unified by the fifth and central book of the Torah- Leviticus. It is through the Torah that the universal rectification occurs.

* The soul has 5 components- Nefesh (living/animal soul), Ruach (intellectual soul); Neshama (Divine Spark); Chayah (Life force) and Yechida (Oneness).

The Hamsa also has a central eye located in its palm. The eye is indicative of Objective reality that exists within the completion and unity of the 5.

The Hamsa is commonly used as a lucky charm, decoration or as jewelry. The reality of the Hamsa is much greater than the superstitious misuse of it. It is a universal symbol of spiritual knowledge and wisdom.