Saturday, November 29, 2014

To Tallit or Not to Tallit

Eighteen months ago, I bought several tallitot in Israel hoping that my husband, my daughter and I would all be draped and wrapped for her upcoming bat mitzvah.  My daughter picked the one she liked, my husband clung to the one he always wore, and mine sat in a drawer.  I wanted to wear it but I felt like an imposter.  I thought it was a sign that I was more observant that I am, followed more rituals than I did, or one might think I am more knowledgeable than I am and therefore might ask me to participate in a synagogue ritual that I am unable to perform.

And then, something shifted.  The desire to wear the tallit came strong during a conversation about egalitarian prayer.  How can a synagogue be truly egalitarian if men and women don't perform the same rituals?  How can I expect my daughter (or son) to want show up more, to learn more, to participate more if I don't do the same?

Some say, "What is the big deal?"  For me, it is the desire to be part of a community and not outside.  So I made myself a deal.  Even though I became a bat mitzvah almost 10 years ago as an adult, I still felt as though I hadn't earned it.  I decided to do some research about my Hebrew name Leah (see previous blog) and once I understood more about Leah, I could wrap myself in my tallit.  As I began to read about Leah (and I have so much more to do), I was struck by her connection to prayer.  And there was my moment, I may not know every ritual, speak Hebrew or even read all the prayers, but when I am in meditation or services, I am deeply connected spiritually to God and my community.  And to go one step further, I found a deep sense of connection within me to my whole being.  The tallit is now a symbol of my journey, a reflection of the work that I have done for myself that has brought me closer to God, my family and to my community.

Today in shul I wore my tallit.  I fumbled over the Hebrew prayer, but I recited it perfectly in English.  And it felt great. It felt natural.  It was my celebration and my alone.  And no one made a big deal, no one noticed (except my sweet husband who smiled when he saw me wearing it), and I was proud to be in this moment in time.

So what is the big deal?  The big deal is that for years the tallit belonged to others - men mostly.  And now mine is no longer sitting in the drawer.  My tallit means something to me - I'm wrapped in my family, my community, and my own learning.  And that is a big deal.

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam
asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hitateif ba'tzitzit.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe,
who has sanctified us with commandments,
and commanded us to wrap ourselves in fringes.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך-הָעולָם
אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְותָיו
  לְהִתְעַטֵּף בַּצִּיצִית

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