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Key symbol meaning

The symbol of a key has been a universal symbol for thousands of years.  In many cultures and religions, the key symbolizes the ability to access that which is hidden from us, the way to achieve an understanding of both the physical world and the metaphysical world. In the kabbalah, it also signifies success and prosperity and provides the wearer with protection from the Evil Eye.  Together, protection, understanding and success, provide us with the tools we need to fully live and appreciate our lives.

metal key with Hebrew letters on a leather lace

metal key with Hebrew letters on a leather lace

Did you know?  Across the millennia, emperors, kings, princes gave elaborate keys as a symbol of office to those appointed to important positions. Not only was it a sign of that person’s authority (as a key holder) but it also indicated the rulers trust in that person.

In the Kabbalah

As we already said, the key is seen as a symbol of success, prosperity and protection from the Evil Eye.  Having said that, many commentators are of the opinion that these attributes stem from what the Kabbalah sees as the need to find the keys that will unlock our understanding of the written and the unwritten lore.

In fact, throughout the kabbalah, the Zohar and many commentaries, the allegory of the key is used to illustrate how each individual must strive to obtain insight, awareness and understanding in order to find the leys that will allow them to obtain enlightenment and fully understand and merge with the Divine.

  • The Baal Shem Tov, when comforting a person who felt that he had failed to attain the proper focus or state of mind (kavanot) to properly blow the shofar, used the key allegory.  He told the person that there are many keys to God’s house and many ways to obtain and use them and that it was one of life’s tasks to find the “master key” that would unlock enlightenment.
  • The Zohar illustrates this quest for understanding and spiritual enlightenment with the story of “The Lock and the Key”.  This tells the allegorical tale of Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Yossi who were engaged in the search for spiritual ascendancy as they discussed the keys to the Tree of Life that unlock and lock everything.  The story describes the process of creation and how spiritual forces were unlocked in order bring about the birth of the physical and the divine universes. As the Zohar describes the manner in which these forces were unlocked and released, so we too can gain an understanding of how to use this same power to unlock spiritual forces within ourselves.
  • The Tree of Life, one of the central pillars of the Kabbalah, is also seen as a key or series of keys that can be used to help us unlock the secrets to our inner selves and feelings and access the door and the path to our true destiny.  

 The key symbol appears throughout the Kabbalah, its teachings and commentaries.  For this reason, it is also a popular Kabbalistic symbol used in kabbalah jewelry both for it powers to protect and sustain us but also as a means to focus our thoughts, our efforts in order to obtain our goals in life.


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