Contributed by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis
In the Bible, red is a symbol of life and power. The presence of blood on the lintels of Israelite house averted the Angel of Death during the tenth plague. In the ancient Temple a scarlet cord was hung up on Yom Kippur and its miraculous change to white signaled that the nation had been forgiven its sins.
According to the Book of Numbers, one overcomes the ritual impurity of contact with a dead body by being sprinkled with the ashes of a red heifer burned with cedar wood, a crimson compound, and hyssop. A barren woman will wrap a red cord around the tomb of Rachel as a ritual to restore her fertility.
Red also has anti-demonic properties. As a result, there are a number of amulets that are made incorporating red materials: thread, coral beads, or henna. In Sefirotic theosophy, red is the color of gevurah.
Article copyright © 2004 Geoffrey Dennis.