The Star of David, which is known in Hebrew as a Magen David, is the most common symbol for expressing Jewish identity in our times. From the Israeli flag to Israeli Air Force planes to the Magen David Adom ambulance service, the Star of David features prominently in today’s Jewish life. Even though in antiquity the menorah that once stood in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was the main Jewish symbol, since 17th century Europe, the Star of David has been the main Jewish symbol. This intensified after 1897, when the Star of David was formally adopted by the Zionist Movement. But what does the Star of David symbolize?
Some claim that the Star of David symbolizes King David’s shield, although there is no rabbinical support for that claim. Some profess that it is connected to Rabbi Akiva and the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Romans, while there is also little support for this as well. Additionally, there is a legend connecting it to the Seal of King Solomon, which was used to control spirits and demons. Others stated that the upper triangle in the Star of David strives upwards towards G-d while the lower triangle is faced towards the real world that we live in. Still others claim that the three triangles in the Star of David represents three types of Jews: the Kohanim, the Levites and the Israelites. However, none of these theories are backed up by history or the Jewish faith.
The Zohar offers a different idea. According to the Zohar, “There are three knots connecting to one another: the Holy One blessed be he, the Torah and Israel.” The Jewish soul connects to G-d through the study and observance of the Torah; the triangle in the Star of David represents the connection between these three. Since the Torah contains both exoteric teachings (Talmud, Jewish law, etc.) and esoteric teachings (Kabbalah), the double triangle of the Star of David symbolizes the connections between G-d’s revealed energy and hidden essence, the souls revealed elements and the essence that transcends the body as well as the different dimensions of G-d, the Torah and Israel.
Another explanation for the meaning behind the Star of David can be found in the Kabballah, which teaches that G-d created the world with seven spiritual building blocks that include kindness, severity, harmony, perseverance, splendor, foundation and royalty. Since the Star of David contains seven compartments, it is suggested that the Star of David represents these.
It is critical to note that equilateral triangles are a common symbol in the Middle East and North Africa, where it is believed that they bring good luck. In this region, people think that the upward triangle represents female sexuality and the lower triangle represents male sexuality; combined, they symbolize harmony and unity. The earliest known Star of David dates to the 6th Century BCE in the Holy Land. It was next used eight centuries later inside a Capernaum synagogue but only since the 1800’s was the Star of David a universally recognized symbol of Judaism