Sunday, January 23, 2011

My New Talis

I'm reading: My New TalisTweet this!

I wore my grandfather's talit, or prayer shawl, when I became a bat mitzvah in May 2010 (more here). It was at once special and a bit awkward to don it. You see, back in the day, this was a holy garment designated for men only.

What would he think if he could see me wearing his talit? As proud as I was to wear it on my special day, I knew I wouldn't keep it for long term use. My parents offered me a new talit as a gift. I wanted something more than his traditional blue and white striped shawl for myself; something a bit more feminine, too.

After seeing how one of my b'nai mitzvah classmates created a beautiful talit with the help of a local artist as well as family members who donated special fabric scraps, I decided to follow her lead.

I engaged the same artisan, Rebecca Hamlin of Chichonia Designs, to design a custom talit, incorporating bits and pieces of my grandfather's talit.

Yes, bits and pieces.

Meaning, she had to Destroy. His. Talit., an object of prayer.

Just as I felt some uneasiness wearing it in the first place, I wondered if it was ill advised, blasphemous even, to destroy a prayer shawl even if the end goal was to give it a new life.

I heard my dilemma addressed, and solved, in a recent episode of "This I believe." Listen to (or read) Priya Chandrasekaran's thoughtful essay on cutting her grandmother's saris.

I know I did the right thing.

As the name talit implies, donning this shawl, I create a "little tent," a small, sacred space. It truly feels special to be wrapped in fabric in which my family history is quite literally woven.

For another look at my talit, check out this episode of Property Sluts, "Kim on Holmes, God and Homes."

No compensation was received for this post. Rebecca is just wonderfully creative and talented.


Melisa with one S said...

I can tell you that a member of our congregation who is a trained Orthodox rabbi (but not practicing: we're at a reconstructionist shul!) and is more knowledgable than anyone I know about Jewish matters, has spoken in the past about how a tallit/talis is just a piece of cloth. (he tossed his on the floor, to demonstrate his point) It is an adornment which we place special meaning on, but it isn't sacred like a siddur or other items.

So I wouldn't necessarily refer to what you did as "destroying" your Grandfather's tallit to help make yours. Think of it as recycling and passing down traditions! :)

Naomi said...

Oh, Kim- that turned out beautifully. I love that now it is a keepsake from your grandfather and you. Your boys will pass it down one day!

Kim Moldofsky said...

Good to know @melisa! I did not realize that.

@Naomi Uh, let's hope for a granddaughter down the line! (Give me at least a decade, though, please.)