Red String: Symbol of Cheshvan

There are no holidays in Cheshvan (except Shabbat), so it was harder to decide which object to explore this month.  I thought about exploring Besamin, the spices we use at Havdalah, since according to the Sefer Yetzirah the sense of the month is smell.  I thought about yahrzeit candles because there are many famous yahrzeits celebrated in Chesvhan.  I even thought about umbrellas because rain is so closely associated with Cheshvan.

Finally I decided that the “red string” was the appropriate physical object to explore as a symbol of Cheshvan.  One of the yahrzeits we celebrate in Cheshvan is that of Rachel Imeinu, Rachel the matriarch.  The “red string” as protective amulet is closely associate with Rachel and her tomb, although it’s not the only association.  The use of red as a color of protection and spiritual cleansing is a common on in Judaism, just think of the “Red Heifer.”   Red, or scarlet/crimson, is also one of the four classical colors of Hebrew scripture.  Red generally symbolizes joy, life, and sin.  It also symbolizes the earth and man (think Adam, and Adamah).

These days most people think of the red string around the wrist as the “kabbalah string” because it was made so popular by the Kabbalah Centre, a particular modern school of kabbalah made famous by celebrities like Madonna, but it’s actually a pretty ancient practice.  One of the interesting things about its resurgence is that “knot tying” is one of the forms of magick technically prohibiting in the Torah.

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