Friday, June 19, 2009

It's a wrap--but not yet, unfortunately

I had planned to buy a new tallit for my sixtieth birthday in February, but, what with breaking both wrists, then returning to work to face a major project, I never got around to it.

Then my brother called from Jerusalem and told me that our mother didn't have long to live.

The very next day, after work, I went to a Judaica store, figuring that, if I were going to have to say Kaddish for my mother, it would show more respect for her to say it in a new tallit (prayer shawl), rather than in an old beat-up one with the atarah (neck band) falling off.

I chose to shop in a store that has to serve an extremely mixed clientele, from Chareidi to completely non-practicing Jews, in order to stay in business, so that I could see a variety of tallit styles and also not get too many weird looks for being a woman ordering a tallit for herself. The store had some very nice-looking colorful tallitot, some of which were "unisex" and some of which were obviously intended for women. But, the more I thought about it, the more I just wanted to avoid the whole man-woman thing. I didn't want to continue to wear a tallit that looked like what my great-grandfather probably wore, but neither did I want a tallit that screamed "beged ishah, woman's garment." I remembered reading, in Haviva Ner David's Life on the Fringes, that she had bought a tallit that was all white (S'fardi style?), and decided to order one, but with Ashkenazi tzitzit (ritual fringe/tassles). (The one I was shown had S'fardi tzitzit, which I'd never seen before--the manner of tying appears much more complicated, with one thread wound diagonally around all the knots.)

The order was duly placed. But alas, by the time the tallit arrived, my mother's n'shamah (soul) had already departed.

Since the Shloshim (the thirty-day post-burial mourning period) for my mother runs right into the Shalosh HaShavuot/Drei Vachen/Three Weeks leading up to the fast of Tisha B'Av (commemorating the destruction of the Temple), and one is not supposed to buy new clothes during either period, I'll be saying Kaddish in my old tallit until early August, a few days after Tisha B'Av.

I tried, Mom.


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