Ozer Hamsa

May 2008
Sterling silver

I'd always wanted to make an old-school style, overcrowded kabbalistic protective amulet. This one was inspired by an oft-rushed line in the Amidah (the central prayer of the Jewish service, sometimes just called Ha-Tefillah, or "The Prayer"). מלך עוזר ומושיע ומגן (Melech Ozer u'Moshia u'Magen), which appears here in the fingers of the hamsa, is a reference to God that is frequently translated as "King who helps, saves and protects." But there is another way of interpreting the line that doesn't use the last three words as modifiers of the first, and instead uses each of them to describe a progressively intimate relationship with God.

The relationship between a king (מלך) and a citizen is a very distant one--the king ostensibly has his subjects' welfare in mind, but is removed from them by distance and stature. The average person may only get an an audience with the king once in a lifetime, but even then would have to avert his or her eyes in the king's presence. A helper (עוזר) is someone who is a bit closer. You might not know the stranger who picks up something you've dropped or the person who holds the door when your hands are full, but they've made a more tangibly direct contribution to your life than a distant overlord. On the other hand, someone who helps you by pulling you to safety if you've fallen through the ice on a frozen lake is legitimately your savior (small "s," מושיע), an even more personal relationship. Finally, God as a shield (מגן) is such an intimate relationship that nothing can get to you without first having to penetrate God's protection.

By really focusing one's kavanah, or spiritual intent, on this progression of intimacy, one draws the Shechina in to one's self. My purpose in putting it into this amulet is to ensure that this protective intimacy is always with the wearer.

The other design elements are significant as well. The hamsa is a traditional amulet of protection in Judaic and Arabic cultures, which is appropriate to this piece, and a large metal hand makes a pretty good shield. It's interesting to note that I usually make "two-thumbed" hamsot, but for this pendant the single-thumbed design allowed for the placement of the phrase in the fingers. The large Hebrew word, אלד (Elad) is one of the 72 Names of God derived from Exodus 14:19-21. אלד is used in Kabbalah to protect one against the Evil Eye, which itself is an element typically included in the design of a hamsa--hence the use of that Name here. The crown over אלד of course refers to God's kingship, but by giving it three spikes it resembles the letter ש (shin), which by itself represents שדי (Shaddai, "the Almighty").