Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Midrash for a Tallit

Rachel Kanter has developed midrash to describe her phenomenal fiber art work:
I remember sitting next to my father at synagogue and counting the strings on his tallis. How many times could I wrap the strings around my finger? Could I comb the strings perfectly straight, pretending it was the hair I wished for? When my brothers became a bar mitzvah my mother wove them each a tallis. It was soft wool with stripes of blue, grey and purple. When we sat in services I was a little envious they had something beautiful to pray with. When it was chilly in the sanctuary they were wrapped up and warm. When the Torah was marched around, they could reach out and kiss it using their tzit tzit. I had to reach for a siddur.
When I wore a tallis for the first time it felt uncomfortable, like I was wearing my father’s overcoat. A little too big, too masculine, and not mine. If I wanted to wear a tallis it should be made for me. But what would my tallis look like? What symbols would it use and what story would it tell?
I knew that a tallis created by my hands would speak of my experiences. “My Daughter’s Mothers” tells of my role as a spiritual Jew, a woman and a mother. It depicts my history and my prayers. It is made by a woman, for a woman; by a mother for her children. The quilted names of history’s women spiral over the blue watery background. They are my grandmothers, great-grandmothers and foremothers. And they are my future as well.

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