Talit and Tefillin Jewelry

Star of David jewelry, Hamsa necklaces, evil eye bracelets and other accouterments associated with Judaism are actually relatively modern in the realm of Jewish jewelry. There is, though, an actual commandment, or mitzvah, to adorn various Jewish objects and practices with their own jewelry. It is actually more a general imperative than a specific commandment, but if comes from the Song of the Sea, which the Israelites sang after the Egyptians drowned in the Sea of Reeds.  The verse is, “This is my God and I will decorate him, the God of my father and I will exalt him.” Since you can’t exactly decorate God, the Rabbis interpret that you decorate His commandments by beautifying them.

This takes the form of things like Sukkah decorations, etrog boxes, challah covers, beautiful shabbat candlesticks, a torah reading yad and things of the sort. Besides the high priest, there are few sources for jewelry on actual people. The closest thing to jewelry on people are the tallit and the tefillin. The tallit, though it is a simple cloth, is actually supposed to be topped off with royal blue fringes called techelet. The techelet have been out of use for some time, though they are coming back in use due to the rediscovery of the sea creature used to produce the royal die. The subject is still a matter of dispute, but today you may see many Jews with blue fringes hanging from inside their shirts. The die is quite expensive and was widely used in antiquity among monarchies and as a sign of material wealth, but it is an incredibly potent and stable die.

Tefillin, which despite the long complicated process of its production, the precise way to make it has never been forgotten, is another example of authentic Jewish jewelry, since it is often compared with a crown. It was a custom of several medieval Rabbis to put on their head tefillin after reciting the morning blessing of “Blessed is He who crowns Israel with glory.” In many cases teffilin are even more expensive than jewelry, selling for anywhere between $300 and $1200 for a set. A good pair of tefillin, though, like jewelry, can and will last a lifetime, provided you take care of them, keep them dry, and don’t lose them.

For the women, it may make you feel a bit better to know that buying jewelry for your wife is actually a requirement for a husband.