The hamsa, or hamsa hand, is a talisman from the ancient Middle East. In its most common form, the amulet is shaped like a hand with three extended fingers in the middle and a curved thumb or pinky finger on either side. It is thought to protect against the “Evil Eye" It is used in many decorative forms such as wall hangings, but most often in the form of jewelry--necklaces or bracelets.
Its popularity and ubiquitous identity as a more uniquely Jewish vernacular religious practice took shape in the sixteenth century, when kabbalah emerged as a significant Jewish religious movement. While the origins of the practice seem shrouded in mystery, a study of the roots of the practice and its subsequent appropriation into Near Eastern religious life, coupled with an analysis of the broader role of ayin hara (evil eye), amulets, and the significance of the number five and Yad HaShem (Hand of G-d) in Judaism sheds further light on the practice.