What is a Jewish tallit

Symbols of Judaism From the Star of David and the Torah Shrine

Star of David

The Star of David is one of the most famous symbols associated with Judaism. It is a hexagram formed by two interwoven equilateral triangles. One of the triangles faces up and the other faces down. The Star of David adorns synagogues, cemeteries, the Israeli flag and much more.

From the Middle Ages, and especially from the 17th century, the symbol was attached to synagogues. At the end of the 19th century, it was adopted as a symbol by the Zionist movement. During National Socialism, the Star of David was imposed on the Jews as a stigma ("Yellow Star", "Jewish Star").

The Israeli counterpart of the aid organization "Red Cross" is the "Red Star of David".


The menorah is a seven-armed candlestick. In addition to the Star of David, the menorah is one of the most famous and most widely used symbols of Judaism and also adorns the Israeli national coat of arms. The menorah symbolizes the creation of the world in seven days. The seventh arm, the axis from which the other arms extend, stands for the Sabbath. The menorah is first mentioned in Exodus 25: 31-40. There it is said that she will later stand in the temple in Jerusalem and illuminate it.


The eight- or nine-armed candlestick refers to the menorah and is called Hanukkiah. It is lit on the feast of Hanukkah.


The kippah is the small circular head covering worn by the Jews. It is also called a skull cap and expresses awe of God. It is a sign that God is above man. Men must wear a head covering when praying, studying religious scriptures, and visiting synagogues or cemeteries. A baseball cap or hat is also an option.


The Hebrew word chai means "life" and is one of the most famous Jewish symbols. It is made up of the two letters "Che" and "Jud". The Chai has a great meaning for Judaism: It symbolizes the value of life and the will to protect it. The chai can be seen a lot as a decorative element and is very popular as a pendant on a necklace.


The symbol of the protecting hand is also known in Islam and Christianity. The word Chamsa is Arabic and, like the Hebrew word Chamesch, means "five" and stands for the fingers of one hand. The Chamsa is especially important for Jews from North Africa. But the symbol is also enjoying increasing popularity among Jews of other origins, whether religious or secular.

Eternal light

In Jewish prayer rooms and in synagogues, an eternal light hangs for all to see. It burns day and night, which is why it is called "Ner Tamid", in German: "everlasting light". It symbolizes the permanent presence of God. According to tradition, he accompanied the Israelites as a pillar of fire through the Sinai desert.


In Orthodox Jewish communities, men and women sit separately from each other during the service. This spatial separation of the sexes by means of a curtain, a wall or something similar is called mechiza. Thus, distractions are to be shielded and concentration promoted. In large synagogues, a women's gallery makes the mechiza superfluous.


The mesua is an elongated capsule that is attached to the door jamb. It contains a rolled parchment with sections from the Torah. It should have a protective meaning. It is attached to the upper half of the right door frame and marks a Jewish house. Every door of a house or apartment (except bathroom or toilet) is equipped with a mezuzah. Devout Jews kiss the hand with which they touched the mezuzah as they walk through the door.


The mikveh is a ritual immersion bath that is very important in Judaism. For example, according to Jewish tradition, blood and death are impure. Believers who have had contact with the dead must visit the mikveh. Women should clean themselves on the eve of their wedding, after menstruation or after the birth of a child. Men are recommended to bathe before the Sabbath or Yom Kippur. Even when converting to Judaism, immersion in the mikveh is mandatory. According to the Torah, the mikvah may only be filled with water of natural origin, i.e. rain, spring or ground water. So that the body comes into full contact with this pure water, everything foreign to the body, such as clothing, jewelry or make-up, must be removed before taking the bath.

Sabbath candles

The Sabbath, the last day of the week and day of rest for Jews, begins with the lighting of the Sabbath candles. The two candlesticks stand for shamor and sachor - remembering and holding. On Friday evening, just before sunset, the woman of the house lights the Sabbath candles. She holds her hands first over the candlesticks, then in front of her face and speaks the Sabbath candle blessing, a so-called bracha.


An important ritual symbol for the New Year celebration of Rosh Hashanah is the shofar, a ram's horn that is blown during the service and whose tone is intended to encourage people to contemplate and repent. In earlier times the shofar was blown to announce danger or war. It was later used in temple service.

Tallit and Zizit

The tallit is a shawl that is worn in prayer. It is traditionally put on for morning service. Four tassels are attached to the scarf, which are also known as peep threads (zizit). The quotations should remind of God's commandments.

Orthodox Jews wear a so-called tallit katan (small cape) under normal clothing in everyday life. This is a piece of clothing or a poncho to which four tassels are also attached.


The tefillin are phylacteries made of leather with two boxes. The small, square boxes are often referred to as prayer pods. In the tefillin there are small rolls of parchment, which are provided with certain sections from the Torah

The tefillin are placed around the arm and on the forehead in a specific way. The bent arm touches the heart. The tefillin serve as a reminder to obey God's commandments.


The Tanakh is the holy book of the Jews. Part of the Hebrew Bible is the Torah. The other two parts are the Prophets (Neviā€™im) and the Scriptures (Ketuvim). The Torah consists of the five books of Moses.

The term Torah means "doctrine, law". The Torah is written in Hebrew letters on handcrafted parchment made from the skin of kosher ("pure") animals.

The Torah scroll is wrapped on two wooden sticks. The sticks are called the "tree of life" (Hebrew "Ez Hachajim"). A special ribbon is tied around the Torah scroll. Then it is covered with an embroidered coat that is supposed to protect and decorate it. The Torah scroll must not be touched with bare hands. Therefore, a silver stick serves as a reading aid. At the end of it is a small hand with an outstretched index finger. The reading aid is called Jad, from the Hebrew word for "hand".

During the course of a year, Jews read the Torah through completely once in a service. At Simchat Torah the end and the beginning of the Holy Scriptures are read again. That way the reading never comes to an end.

Torah shrine

There is a Torah shrine in every synagogue. The holy scriptures, the Torah scrolls, are kept in it. It is always oriented towards Jerusalem. The Torah shrine is covered by a curtain. In front of the Torah shrine is the Bima, a slightly raised desk from which the Torah is read out during the service.

Torah mantle

To be respectful of the Torah is to enclose the rolled up Torah with a cloak. So it goes without saying to choose fine fabrics such as velvet, silk or brocade and to provide the coat with valuable embroidery made of gold and silver threads. The choice of motifs for the embroidery is varied, such as crowns, the federal boards, two lions, the Star of David, floral motifs and almost always corresponding texts that indicate the importance of the Torah scroll, the founder or the owner.


The Torah pointer (Jad) is a pointer for interpreting the lines of text in the Torah reading. It usually consists of a silver rod with a small hand with an outstretched index finger at the front end. The pointing sticks are designed to avoid touching the handwritten scrolls with your hands, as the Torah scroll is considered sacred. The Torah pointer is part of the Torah jewelry and is kept together with the Torah in the Torah shrine.

Source: MDR, Central Council of Jews in Germany