My mother created a gorgeous tallit for me, and this poem was a thank you to her…
A tallit is a Jewish ritual prayer shawl, worn during a prayer service.
In our community, when we recite the Priestly Blessing ("May the Lord bless you and keep you…") we wrap our tallitot around the shoulders of those standing next to us, understanding that it is not priests or rabbis who are the bestowers of blessing, but we to each other.
My mother and father together made tallits for each of my children as they came of age. Being far beyond the coming of age, I did not feel I could ask for one of my very own (which I never had).
When I did, my mother created a gorgeous one for me. I picture her working on it: an ancient tribeswoman, an artist, whose hands and vision bring about miracles.
And the daughter who was herself beyond two score and ten
saw that the woman’s fingers had begun to twist like branches of an ageless tree
and she asked this of the woman
and the woman said
and the woman took up
the tool of her ancestors
and set to work,
of perfect stitches
each nestled snugly to the next
like lovers spooning in exquisite fit.
On the virgin white cloth
that the woman cursed for its slipperiness
the stitches multiplied
in mitotic unfolding
as if the silken threads
were spun from the very tips
of her fingers.
The story rose off the cloth,
a sculpted bas relief
that could be read by touch as much as by sight
spun for the younger one
as unique as a fingertip’s whorl
and mythic as the song sung on reedy shores
when being came into being:
begotten and begetter
beloved and lover
seeker on her way from Eden to Canaan
carried on the tides of history, the shoulders of her people
her own feet wet from the crossings made.
And the older woman gave the garment
To the younger
a swaddling cloth of pictographs
that wrapped the girl season upon season
in the gift of her own life.
November 3, 2007
|The author's Tallit|
Sheri Lindner, Ph.D., a former teacher of English, and currently a clinical psychologist, is also a poet and essayist interested in the processes of development and maturation as they are reflected in Biblical stories and children’s literature. Her writings have appeared in Jewish Currents, The Reconstructionist, Reconstructionism Today, Kerem, Jewish Women's Literary Annual, Poetica, Performance Poets Association Literary Review, Matzoh Ball Soup, Soul-Lit, The Ritual Well, and The New York Times.
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