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Donning a Prayer Shawl

Donning a Prayer Shawl
I have been a bit obsessed lately with tapestries, weaving, and prayer shawls. In preparation for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, I am secretly hand-making tallitot for both my parents, which has launched me into thinking about the similarities in various traditions, including Judaism and Tantric Yoga. The tallit refers to the Jewish prayer shawl. “TAL, means “tent” and ITH, means “little.” The tallit, when wrapped around the shoulders and pulled over the head, forms a “little tent” or “prayer closet where he may meet intimately with the Infinite”, while turning inward to our deepest selves.
Similarly, Tantra literally means “loom” and refers to the weaving of spirit into matter and weaves together opposites such as mind and body, masculine and feminine, heaven and earth. I further take it to mean that we each artistically weave together strands from many aspects of our lives, including our lineages, our futures, our challenges and triumphs, our joys and sorrows; all the experiences that make us who we are. Our lives become unique artistic expressions, our yoga practices moving, transforming works of art. It is not our business to judge the worthiness of these tapestries. But Life is the constant invitation to offer our unique “tapestries”, if you will. The world needs what only you can offer.
The loom of Tantra invites heightened awareness of all of our senses in which we may use them as portals “to go beyond the realm of form into the realm of formlessness. We step into intimate relationship with all that is, seen and unseen.” (Anodea Judith) Native Americans use the same metaphor, as in the song below.
When donning a prayer shawl or “tallit”, we use our intention and imagination to deem an object as sacred, pouring our devotion and practice-over time- into the garment. Just as we may claim certain places and times as sacred. we choose our sacred meditation or prayer shawls, literally or figuratively, woven of our lives’ experiences. We need not be trapped by our experiences, because we do not need to hold onto or resist anything. Of course, it is not about the physical form of the garment or place, but about what it invokes in us. As I hand sew “tallitot” (multiple tallit) for my parents, I imbue them with my love and desire for them to feel the love and protection that I have received, throughout my life time, from both of them.
O Mother Earth, O Father Sky
We bring you the gifts of Love.
Weave for us a garment of brightness;
May the warp be the white light of the morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening.
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow.
Thus weave for us a garment of brightness,
That we may walk fittingly where birds sing,
That we may walk fittingly where grass is green.
Oh Mother Earth, O Father Sky      Song of the Loom, Tewa Indian