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These days no one really knows how or why the Magen David (the Shield of David) with its 6 pointed star became the official symbol of Judaism, but story has it that the Star was emblazoned on the Shield that David, the future King of Israel, used when, as a boy, he went up against the giant Goliath on the battlefield in the Valley Elah. But, everyone who knows that story also knows that David defeated the Giant with no protection–he just had his sling shot and his faith.

Of course, that is where the shield really does come in. His shield was not a physical object bearing an insignia–his shield was his faith.

For those who knew ancient magic and studied the Kabbalah, the hexagram was a longstanding symbol of the unity and single- mindedness that is achieved when one has total faith in God. So, in the 17th century, when it came time for Jews to chose a symbol, Kabbalah scholars recalled the young David who connected his faith with action–and chose the hexagram, a ancient symbol of perfection-- to represent the deepest meaning of Judaism–the Sefirah Tifaret.

The upward-pointing triangle (the symbol of the element Fire) represents the yearning of the manifest to reach or return to the Divine, with the downward-pointing triangle (the symbol of the element Water) signifying the descent of the Divine into matter. Where these two meet in the center of the hexagram, a point of balance and beauty is reached, corresponding to Tifereth on the Tree of Life.

Some say that the intertwining makes the triangles inseparable, like the Jewish people.

Some say that the three sides represent the three types of Jews: Kohanim, Levites and Israel. Some note that there are actually 12 sides (3 exterior and 3 interior on each triangle), representing the 12 tribes.

In the mid- 12th century the hexagram was used in the in connection with amulets and names for God and in the Kabbalah at that time the ten Sefirot were arranged within the six-pointed star and seen on amulets. From the 14th century through the 18th century, the terms "Shield of David" and "Seal of Solomon" (the magical signet ring that Solomon wore to ward off demons and spirits) were used in magical texts and it is in this context that the Prague Jewish community chose to use a golden six-pointed star as its symbol when King Charles IV granted them the privilege of having their own flag in 1354. This very flag is now in the Altneuschul, the oldest synagogue in Prague.

Most recently Theodor Herzl popularized the symbol when he chose it to represent his new Zionist Movement. The philosopher Franz Rosenzweig employed the star as a motif for structuring his ideas about the relationships between God, Jews, and the world, in a work entitled The Star of Redemption. Shortly after World War II, the star was placed on a field of white between two blue stripes (the white field and blue stripes symbolizing the tallit) becoming the flag of the newly reborn State of Israel, a symbol of pride and belonging.

Today, the Star of David is the most popular and universally recognized symbol of the Jewish People.