chapter  1
4 Pages

PROLOGUE

It is not my intention to provide a micro-analysis of the minutiae of rites, laws or customs, but rather to observe the origins of a bigger picture emerging from the tradition. These origins, dating back two thousand years, are relevant still, and are in evidence in the contemporary private and public spheres. Today both in Israel and within orthodox diaspora communities, one sees affixed to doors, walls and windows of homes, business premises and even motor vehicles, various amulets that echo magical prayer formulae. Also commonly found are, for example, laminated cards inscribed with amuletic verses that incorporate the tradition of using patriarchal and matriarchal names (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or Sarah, Rachel and Leah) as well as the names of three powerful angels dating back to the Talmudic period, as symbolic phylacteries for the bedrooms of infants or even older children. I am offering an explanation for these contemporary phenomena with a particular selection of ancient texts, analysing them in terms of general themes, where their underlying cultural constructs and symbolic significance have persisted and endured through time.