Friday, May 31, 2013

Sh’lach Lecha: Wrapped Tightly in Tzit Tzit

Sh'lach Lecha: Wrapped Tightly in Tzit Tzit
May 31, 2013 ~ 23 Sivan 5773
Rabbi Jen Gubitz, Temple Shir Tikva

The fringes
dangled between their fingers
as they grasped on tightly
to their newest baby.  
Over their shoulders
a tallit
worn with memory
swaddled
their now family of four.
But their young son,
unenthused with this ritual
of welcome to his new sister
squeezed away into another room.
“Caleb! Come back!”
His dad called.
“I don’t want to,” he replied.
“But don’t you want to play a game
and hide under this fringy blanket?!”
Enticed quite quickly
back into the four corners
of his family’s tradition,
the rabbi chanted the priestly benediction,
and a new baby girl
entered the covenant of the Jewish people.

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam,
Asher Kid’shanu
B’mitz’votav Vitzivanu
L’hit’a’tef Ba’Tzit Tzit.

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
Who has Sanctified Us With your Mitzvot,
and Commanded us
to Swaddle Ourselves in Tzit Tzit.

*
The fringes
dangled between her fingers
as she grasped softly
her grandson’s hand.
He had grown at least a head
since she saw him last
which was only a few weeks ago.
And he was really starting to resemble
his father
and his father’s father...
And it was
his tallit
that she gently draped
over his ever broadening shoulders.
Every time she turned around -
it was as if he was taller,
more mature,
and of course,
more handsome.  
But for one second,
he looked like the little boy
who once sat next to his grandfather in shul,
fingering the fringes of his tallit...
that now belonged to him.
And now on his day
of becoming Bar Mitzvah,
she stood proudly, as he recited:

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam,
Asher Kid’shanu
B’mitz’votav Vitzivanu
L’hit’a’tef Ba’Tzit Tzit.

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
Who has Sanctified Us With your Mitzvot,
and Commanded us
to Drape Ourselves in Memories of Tzit Tzit.

*
The fringes
dangled above their heads,
as they grasped hands,
warmly
beloved to beloved.
The chuppah,
a symbol of the Jewish home,
swayed...
it was a tapestry of tallitot -
open on all four sides
to generations
of family and friends
past, present, and future -
who would always support them
and who would always envelop them
It was a tapestry of tallitot -
with which they might one day
bless their own children.
And in this potential of
two families merging
to create anew -
their mothers
placed a fraying tallit
around their shoulders,
and they were consecrated
according to the laws of Moses and Israel.

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam,
Asher Kid’shanu
B’mitz’votav Vitzivanu
L’hit’a’tef Ba’Tzit Tzit.

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
Who has Sanctified Us With your Mitzvot,
and Commanded us
to build loving homes amid Tzit Tzit.

*           
The fringes
dangled between fingers
as they
ritually
lovingly
carefully
and respectfully
prepared him for burial.
His long
full
and rich life
would continue on
in joyful memories.
For his long
full and rich life
children would be named,
For his life,
regardless of length,
he would be missed.
For his long
full and rich life,
that he might
lie wrapped in his beloved tallit,
his family was comforted,

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam,
Asher Kid’shanu
B’mitz’votav Vitzivanu
L’hit’a’tef Ba’Tzit Tzit.

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
Who has Sanctified Us With your Mitzvot,
and Commanded us
to rest eternally shrouded in Tzit Tzit.

*
Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe
who commanded us
in this week’s Torah portion
that we should make for ourselves
fringes
on the corners of our garments
throughout the ages,
as a reminder of your commandments,
and all that you have done for us.

Midrash Rabbah offers that:
The strings of the tzitzit
are like a rope
a captain stretches out
to the one struggling in the sea.
"Take hold of this rope with your hand,”
he shouts,
“and do not let go;
for if you let go,
you have not life!"

For all the moments
in the arc of our Jewish living
where the fringes of tallitot
dangle,
entice,
swaddle,
drape,
sway,
fray,
envelop,
shroud,
and comfort -
we prayerfully weave
the threads though our fingers,
and while delicate,
we find strength
in these knotted fringes
affixed to our prayer shawl. 
Like the knotted rope
thrown to us at sea,
our tallit
becomes
our holy life preserver.

The Midrash calls out to us:
“Keep it, let it not go,”
Keep the wisdom,
hang on tightly to traditions,
to instructions,
to understanding,
as the proverb invokes,
“for it, the richness of Torah, is your life.”

Blessed are You,
Ruling Spirit of the Universe,
who gives us the enlivening opportunity
to reach so many precious moments
wrapped
tightly
in tzit tzit.

Amen.