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Points of View
God's Embrace
My Point of View--1996
© Rabbi Jack Moline

My grandmother, of blessed memory, bought a tallit for my bar mitzvah. It was unique at the time, the product of a training school for orphaned or underprivileged boys in Jerusalem. It is the size and shape of a winter scarf, of course with tzitzit. I was very proud to wear it at my bar mitzvah, but as I got older, I wanted a bigger tallit. When my grandmother next went to Israel, when I was 16, I asked for and received a large one.

Among the advantages of a large tallit is the ability to fulfill in spirit as well as in letter the meaning of the brakha: l'hitatef batzitzit, to wrap myself in the fringes. In the moments between the blessing and the prayers, I can drape the cloth around my entire upper body, including my head, and feel enfolded by its comforting presence. It is almost as if I am in God's arms.

The moment of spiritual uplift many women find in front of Shabbat candles can also be found in donning the tallit. And while it is tempting to offer you a kavvanah to recite in that tender moment, I prefer to offer you one which is wordless.

Take a breath, the same breath you would draw when touched unexpectedly by someone you love. Hold it for a moment as the soft caress of the tallit settles around your shoulders, head and back. Keep your arms folded across your chest, the edges of the tallit still in hand, so that you are wrapped in the reflected warmth of your body and the opaque light. In your heart, hold the moment, so that if/when it returns in prayer, you will recognize it. Exhale gently and settle the folds of the tallit around your shoulders.

If your tallit is narrow, you can still perform this kavvanah. Though it will not enfold your body, when it settles across your neck and back, feel the reassurance of God's mighty hand and strong arm resting on your shoulders.

Then, as our prayers and your prayers begin to flow, you will be able to look at the fringes in the corner of your garment and remember all of the mitzvot, that is, remember the fullness of God's embrace.

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