Saturday, February 4, 2012

What's with that red string bracelet so many people are wearing?

During the first week of class, we learned about the Q-Ray Bracelet and all of its "benefits" for the human body. The Q-Ray bracelet then reminded me of the famous red bracelet worn by dozens of celebrities, most notably seen on Madonna. I wanted to know why many celebrities wore this. Is it just a fad? What is the true meaning behind the bracelet?

As I looked further into this topic, I learned that this bracelet is a custom of the religion of Jewish mysticism, known as Kabbalah. Before this string becomes a bracelet worn around one's wrist, it first starts out as white wool thread that is dyed red. The string is then brought all the way to Israel by important Kabbalah figures, who make a trip to Rachel's tomb. Rachel was the wife of Jacob and gave birth to two sons after many years of not being able to conceive.
On the way to her tomb, these people hire an armed guard to escort them because it is located in the dangerous part of the country.Once they get there, they wind up the string around her tomb, as tradition dictates, and the string is then enhanced with mystical powers. It is then cut into pieces ready for members to wear it around their left wrist.

Why their left wrist?  According to the Kabbalah website, the left wrist symbolizes the receiving side for the body and soul. What is the purpose of this red string bracelet and why go through such an extensive process to make it?

The purpose of this bracelet is a form of protection from the evil eye, which many believe is a negative force that imposes harm with just a look. The Kabbalah bracelet is supposed to help face the negativity in one's life, such as bad influences, selfishness "unfriendly stares" and glances. It is to aid those in getting rid of the negativity in one's life forever. It acts as a "protective shield," a powerful healing instrument, and helps in bringing good fortune to one's life. 

The string is tied close around the person's left wrist and is knotted seven times by someone you love while reciting the Ana Be'Koach prayer. It is worn on one's left wrist because it receives the "vital connection to protective energies surrounding Rachel's tomb" and one could extract her protective energy through that bracelet at any time. The prayer helps "seal" her protection and deflects any kind of negative influences directed toward that person. As this is being tied, the person must promise to reject any negative thoughts or saying anything negative. The person tying the knot then finishes by reciting the Ben Porat prayer, which prevents from receiving the evil eye. New members need not be worried, the prayers are provided in the bracelet package!

There are some assumptions as to why this red string bracelet provides protection. History states that "Rachel selflessly agreed that her sister marry Jacob first to spare Leah from shame and embarrassment." Rachel also willingly let her soul go back to God and prayed for Jews that were on their way to being exiled or were held captive by enemies. Some other assumptions include the idea that there is so much negativity in our lives that we cannot confront them on our own and it is through that bracelet, people can face these issues. Thus, Rachel's actions and protection are channeled into the bracelet. It is also implied by the Kabbalah community that members, through this bracelet, should follow and imitate Rachel's kindness, consideration, and selflessness towards others. As long as the bracelet is still on, one will still be protected by Rachel. Once it's off, you're on your own.

The issue with this bracelet is that most rabbis reject the practice surrounding this bracelet. According to these rabbis, there is nothing in the Torah or other religious Jewish books speaking of the practice of tying a red string around one's wrist. One rabbi, Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky states that there is nothing mentioned in the genuine Kabbalah works about the color of the string, Rachel or thread. He also says that in the Tofefta, a compilation of Jewish oral law, it is prohibited to tie red string around one's wrist because it is like a form of idolatry.
Another issue surrounding this red bracelet is its authenticity. There are some accounts of the string being made in China. Also, members must pay, according to the Kabbalah online store $26. But right now, they are selling it for the sale price of $19.50! 

I'm not fully convinced about the purpose of the bracelet and all it has promised. It hasn't sold me on converting to Kabbalah just yet. I do believe that this bracelet is a fad popularized by so many celebrities and that's why many people joined the religion. However I do believe it's a good idea in terms of trying to boost self esteem. As for protection from the evil eye, I find it ironic that the ones who are known for wearing the bracelet are the celebrities, who are always under constant watch. As far as I know, there are still negative thoughts and opinions about them being said by the media. Is the bracelet really doing what it is intended to do?