Red string (Kabbalah)

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Red string from near the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Wearing a thin scarlet or a crimson string (Hebrew: חוט השני, khutt hashani) as a type of talisman is a Jewish folk custom which is practiced as a way to ward off misfortune which is brought about by the "evil eye" (Hebrew: עין הרע). The tradition is popularly thought to be associated with Kabbalah and religious forms of Judaism.

The red string itself is usually made from thin scarlet wool thread. It is worn as a bracelet or band on the left wrist of the wearer (understood in some Kabbalistic theory as the receiving side of the spiritual body), knotted seven times. The person has to knot it 7 times while saying the kabbalah bracelet prayer.

In relation to traditional beliefs[edit]

Red strings around the wrist are common in many folk beliefs;[1] for example the kalava is a Hindu version. There is no written mention in the Torah, Halacha, or Kabbala about tying a red string around the wrist. It seems to be a custom that has been around since at least the early 1900s.[1]

Biblical history[edit]

A scarlet thread, tied about the wrist, is mentioned in Genesis 38. Tamar becomes pregnant by her father-in-law, Judah, and gives birth to twin boys. The following verses about this event are taken from the King James Bible:

Genesis, chapter 38:
27 – And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.
28 – And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.
29 – And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.
30 – And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.[2]

Modern trend[edit]

Madonna wearing a red string, on the 2006 Confessions Tour

Today in Israel, it is common to see elderly women peddling scarlet thread for pilgrims and tourists, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem.[3][4] Outside of Israel in the late 1990s the red string became popular with many celebrities, including many non-Jews including Madonna and her children, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Michael Jackson, and later by Ariana Grande.[5][6][7][8] The wider popularity is often linked to Philip Berg's Kabbalah Centre.[9][10] It also gained a surge in sales for Madonna according to editors of Changing Fashion: A Critical Introduction to Trend Analysis and Cultural Meaning (2007).[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Red String Bracelets: What's the Jewish Significance?". Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  2. ^ Genesis 38:27
  3. ^ (Teman, Elly. 2008. "The Red String: A Cultural History of a Jewish Folk Symbol," in: Bronner, Simon J. (ed.), Jewishness: Expression, Identity, Representation, Inaugural volume in book series on Jewish Cultural Studies, Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)link to article
  4. ^ Simon J. Bronner. "Jewish Cultural Studies, Volume 1 – Jewishness: Expression, Identity, and Representation". Retrieved 18 October 2010. Elly Teman (January 2008). "The Red String: The Cultural History of a Jewish Folk Symbol". Bronnersj, Editor. Jewish Cultural Studies. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  5. ^ "Kabbalah: who has a red string and why?". Archived from the original on 2011-06-11.
  6. ^ BritneySpearsVEVO (25 October 2009). "Britney Spears – Everytime". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 31 January 2018 – via YouTube.
  7. ^ Nephin, Dan (12 February 2005). "Kabbalah not a celebrity fashion statement, Jews say". Deseret News.
  8. ^ Lappin, Elena (11 December 2004). "The Thin Red Line". The Guardian. London., investigative article
  9. ^ "Inside Hollywood's Hottest Cult". Archived from the original on 2008-05-27.
  10. ^ "Madonna Gives Her Money Away". Fox News. 2006-07-12.
  11. ^ Lynch & Strauss 2007, p. 1

Book sources[edit]

  • Lynch, Annette; Strauss, Mitchell (2007). Changing Fashion: A Critical Introduction to Trend Analysis and Cultural Meaning. Berg Publishers. ISBN 1845203909.

External links[edit]