Is there any Jewish tradition of crossing oneself as in the Christian 'sign of the cross' hand gesture?

I'm aware of a crossover between Jewish tradition and other mystical traditions which involves this, called the "Kabbalistic Cross". That seems to be of medieval Hermetic origin, and in my reading of history it seems like sometimes wires get crossed in mysticism between Jewish, Greco-Egyptian/Hermetic, and other syncretic ideas. I wonder if there is some Jewish basis for this though as I recall seeing a Jewish mystic in Israel performing that sign and was surprised, but I did not confirm or pursue it further at the time.

I could see some basis for this in Kabbalah as that purely Jewish tradition has historically recognized the 4 elements. Related, the "Kabbalistic Cross" (whether a mystical Jewish or Hermetic practice) can be understood as corresponding with 4 important points of the Hebrew Tree of Life. It includes the prayer "Atah, Malkuth, Ve Geburah, Ve Gedulah, Le Olam Amen" while performing hand gestures similar to the sign of the cross. The words and hand gestures pointing to different parts of the body correspond with different parts of the Hebrew Tree of Life (Atah = Keter; Malkuth = Malkuth; ve Geburah = Geburah; ve Gedulah = Chesed; Le Olam Amen) and the related 4/5 classical elements that are expressed in the Tree of Life. I bring that up to note some Hebrew connection to a 'sign of the cross'-like exercise, but on the other hand, the words in that particular prayer are the last lines of The Lord's Prayer which is of Christian origin. Again this may just be an example of "wires get crossed in mysticism between Jewish, Greco-Egyptian/Hermetic, and other syncretic ideas", though if that particular prayer (the Lord's Prayer) was taught by Jesus, a Jew, to his disciples, maybe to Jesus this was considered a prayer for Jewish context.

Is there any basis for hand gesturing in a cross (raising a hand over head then touching one's forehead, chest, one shoulder then the other) in Jewish mystical tradition?

  • 1
    My theory has been that it is taken from the practice of touching/kissing the phylacteries judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/38592/…
    – rosends
    Mar 29, 2020 at 0:56
  • Lots of downvotes. Any explanation? Too far off topic? If your downvote is an answer 'no' you can answer that or give specific feedback with the downvote please.
    – cr0
    Mar 29, 2020 at 2:46
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    What exactly is 'Atah = Kepherah'???
    – user6591
    Mar 30, 2020 at 10:24
  • @user6591 I edited the 3rd paragraph to clarify that exercise and list of correspondences. What I meant is in this prayer practice, "Atah" is spoken and one's head is touched, which is meant to correspond with the sephiroth 'Kepherah' on the Hebrew Tree of Life.
    – cr0
    Mar 31, 2020 at 17:12
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    The name of the last letter of the Jewish alphabet, representing the t sound, is tav, meaning sign or mark. In ancient times, it had the form of an X or +, yielding the Latin T and Greek Tau. Initially, no body parts were united, but only the forehead was signed with tav (sign), per a certain Christian (re)interpretation of Ezekiel (9:4), associated with the 70 CE destruction of Jerusalem, mentioned in the Gospels.
    – user18041
    Apr 3, 2020 at 0:29

1 Answer 1


The LBRP has Hebrew words and Jewish inspired divine names, even those parts recited in English at the end. That being said- none of it, including the “kabbalistic cross”, the words, gestures, any act of crossing, are Jewish and never have been. I’m assuming the act of crossing during the LBRP is a mesh of faux Jewish theology with Catholicism, or the invention of medieval Christian kabbalists- not Jewish kabbalists. “Attah malkuth vegeburah vgedulah leolam amen” isn’t a Jewish sourced combination of Hebrew words.

The gestures used to reflect the Kabbalistic Tree of Life are inconsistent with Jewish Kabbalah. For example in Jewish Kabbalah, gevurah is associated with the left, not right, and chessed is never called gedulah nor is chessed associated with the left. The groin area where malchut is vibrated is not associated with malchut, the groin represents yesod (foundation).

For what it’s worth, the invocation of the archangels at the end of the LBRP is a Jewish sourced prayer, said nightly before going to sleep with the bedtime Shema in some prayer books. It’s never said with arms out, as the LBRP would suggest.

בְּשֵׁם הַשֵּׁם אֱלֹקי יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִימִינִי מִיכָאֵל, וּמִשְּׂמֹאלִי גַּבְרִיאֵל, וּמִלְּפָנַי אוּרִיאֵל, וּמֵאֲחוֹרַי רְפָאֵל, וְעַל רֹאשִׁי שְׁכִינַת קאֵ-ל In the name of the L-rd, the G-d of Israel, may Michael be at my right hand; Gabriel at my left; before me, Uriel; behind me, Raphael; and above my head the divine presence of G-d.

Jews in general are forbidden to pray or act in ways that reflect the non-Jewish world. Among other places, this is taken from parshas Vayikra 18:3

כְּמַעֲשֵׂ֧ה אֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְשַׁבְתֶּם־בָּ֖הּ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ וּכְמַעֲשֵׂ֣ה אֶֽרֶץ־כְּנַ֡עַן אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲנִי֩ מֵבִ֨יא אֶתְכֶ֥ם שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ וּבְחֻקֹּתֵיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א תֵלֵֽכוּ׃ You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you; nor shall you follow their laws.

Initially to steer Jews away from the paganism that was popular in those times, it’s been grafted to mean the non-Jewish world including Christians and Muslims, new age, or any non-Jewish religious practice (monotheistic or not). Crossing is not a Jewish concept, and appears nowhere in the written or oral Torah. Devout Jews are also careful not to even read religious material from non-Jewish sources, since this is included in “their ways”.

With this in mind, it would also be forbidden for a Jew to do the LBRP. Although it uses Hebrew and divine names, it’s incorporated into hermectic and Golden Dawn beliefs, which is 100%, undoubtedly pagan. Also, for a Jew to do this, especially publicly, it appears as a sin (mar’it ayin) to the onlooker (you), and is thus treated as one.

Lastly, using the divine names in the LBRP is taking Hashems name in vein, since those names are being said outside the context of traditional Jewish prayer and learning Torah. To a Jew, using G-d and divine names to justify paganism/hermetic agendas is a gravely disrespectful and abominable practice in the eyes of G-d, for Jews and non-Jews, as is all magic.

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