I was given a red string by a friend -- she called it a "Kabbalah bracelet" and says it brings success and protection and guards against the Evil Eye. Is this for real?
There is absolutely no doubt that red strings have brought astounding success -- to the people selling them for $29 a pop. The question is what they do for everyone else.
Although not written in any Kabbalistic source that I have seen, the red string is an old tradition. A thread is wrapped seven times around the tomb of Rachel in Israel, and then cut into little cords. It is then said to give protection from the "Evil Eye" for one who wears it on his or her wrist.
The Evil Eye is the name given to harmful negative energy which is created by people looking at you with envy or ill-feeling. The red string is supposed to deflect this energy.
This is a widely accepted belief and whatever its source it seems pretty harmless. But the Talmud says that the Evil Eye can only affect you if you worry about it, whereas it leaves you alone if you ignore it. So a more effective (and cheaper) way to avoid the Evil Eye is to forget about it.
If you are concerned that some sinister power has designs on you, there are other solutions. The most powerful protection against evil forces is the force of goodness. Whether a red string helps or not I do not know, but it is definitely not a replacement for sincere prayer, generous charity and moral conduct.
It is certainly easier and less demanding to just buy a piece of string. But the world does not become better as a result. There is still negative energy, it just hasn't caught you. But when you increase in positive energy by doing more selfless and holy acts, rather than just deflecting those forces you are combating them and diminishing their power.
For someone who lives an ethical life, a red string is nothing more than an accessory.