Apr 2, 2011

Don't Get Your Tallitot in a Twist, But...

I feel like a jerk for how this article made me react, but I am not about to post this without saying how I reacted ... and that reaction was one of ... "seriously?"

The article is about one woman's creative take on tallitot for women. Now, I have never been able to wrap my head around the kippah or tallit thing for women, because it has never made sense to me, even when I was Reform. But I appreciate and respect the right of everyone to do Judaism in whatever way they feel comfortable -- even if it makes me tilt my head in discomfort. That being said, I feel like there should be limits, and making a tallit look like an apron crossed with a dress crossed with a tallit seems too much.

Yes, they are pretty, but... What do you think? And let's keep it clean.


Batya said...

This looks like an apron. I wouldn't wear it out of the kitchen.

Debbie said...

Looks absolutely nothing like a tallit. The apron or dress or whatever it is looks quite silly with those strings hanging from it! I wonder if they sweep the floor? BTW, I agree with you on the "never made sense" part.
BTW2, I couldn't read the article, all I get when I click on it is NJN asking me to sign up.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

The link should work now!

SSP said...

I know Rachel and her work, and know that she explores the fine line between contemporary ritual object and its history and origins in a very serious way. The mitzvah is to wear tzitzit at the corners of your garment, not originally to craft a separate garment but to wear it on what you're already wearing. I love that Rachel has taken that original intent and combined it with things that women might be comfortable and happy to wear today, to contemporize the original mitzvah and make it meaningful to a generation of women who only have the standard male interpretation to orient themselves.

Frume Sarah said...

It is certainly an interesting take, though I find it hard to imagine that the current generation of women would find an apron to necessarily be a comfortable garment. Furthermore, there are plenty of men who would take umbrage at that, given their comfort level in the kitchen.
(As an aside, one of my favourite photos of my father is of him making kiddush...while still wearing "I'm a Jewish American Princess" apron.)

As my own Bat Mitzvah service approached, I asked my parents for a tallit. Which was not the standard, by any means, in 1984. My mother, uncomfortable with the notion of her daughter wearing traditionally-male garb, designed an atarah. Along with many other symbolic elements, she included two Shabbat candlesticks on it as a reminder of my primary duty. It was clearly meant for a woman to wear without being either overly-frilly or something completely other.

This new interpretation is not something that resonates with me.

Anonymous said...

The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

Far be it from me to impugn the motives of these women, but yes, it looks lke an apron. And if your soul thirsts to wear tzitzit, why do you need to do it in everybody's face? Personally, if I felt a need to daven with a tallit, I'd do it at home; I don't like making people stare at me.

My skeptical mind finds in this echoes of The Cat In the Hat, "Look at me, look at me, look at me now!..."

Tamar SB said...

I actually agree, I am conservative and wear a kippa and tallit only on shabbas when davening. But I would never wear that. It seems that it's more about fashion than the mitzvot of wearing a tallit and it look like something Julia Child would wear when cooking! If anything its an attempt at feminizing tzittit (which I do not wear or have any desire or plan to). I've seen these on the internet before and always tilt my head and go, "eh, what ever floats your boat." But I guess that is what some people say about my wearing of a tallit and kippah on shabbat!


Anonymous said...

My first thought...who wakes up on Shabbat morning and says, "I want to wear my kitchen apron to temple"?

Or more importantly in 2011, thinks, "This one domestic role--that might not even be my role in my family--is how I want to be represented in my congregation"? To me, this garment just screams stereotypes of women belonging in the kitchen. What's next for men, tallitot tool belts?

Shorty said...

yep. apron.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it looks like an apron . . . but as fiber art, it's quite striking, don't you think?

Elle said...

my first thought was :

ummm.... no.

my second thought was:


This tradition has lasted so very very long and I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would want to mess with it! There is so much meaning behind wearing talis... so much more than is even spoken. It is so much the clothing of a religious man as it is something of pride and probably frustration... and heritage... and bonding between men... and I'm sure more that I don't know. Why mess with that? just because we can? That seems extremely self centered.

Just because something can be changed doesn't mean it should be. We are in this society that thinks so much about ourselves and our own wants that we lose the bigger picture of what is good for everyone. THIS is not good for everyone, it's good for few. And though I admit, I would LOVE to wear talis and count for a minyan, and spend half my life in formal study (truly I really really would!) I know it's not what's best for the people at large. I'm sure there are men who'd rather not do those things, and would instead prefer the womenly roles... but again... being Jewish (imho)is about treating a nation as one, and not as only yourself. Western thinking is "ME, me me" and Judaism is "us us us".

so I'm back to -

Ummm... no.

Ilana said...

I don't particularly care for it. I think if a woman wants to take on the mitzvah of wearing a kippah and tallit or even tzitzit, fine. The existing ritual garments should do just fine.

This just looks silly to me- I don't see why anyone would need this. As someone else said, as fibre art this is very nice, but it doesn't look like a ritual garment to me.

Chava said...

I think it's a really pretty.. apron. I was confused at first, when I read that it was a tallit.

Esther said...

Her work is validated by the fact that it has elicited this discussion about woman's participation in male-centered rituals.

sheldan said...

You and I had the same reaction...I just don't see it as a viable option. Although I think the designer meant well, I still mentally did a double take on the picture!

Joy said...

Actually Rav Moshe Feinstein grants permission for women to wear a tallit or tzitzit (which are in essence the same thing) as long as it is feminized in some manner, so the woman does not transgress the prohibition of wearing men's clothing.
So from that perspective, she has exactly the right idea.

Suburban Sweetheart said...

Lovely apron, silly as anything else.

Though Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret, if your soul thirsts to judge what other people's souls thirst for, maybe you're the one who shouldn't leave the house? "Why do you need to do it in everybody's face?" makes this sound almost like the :Why do gay people feel the need to hold hands in public?" argument. Someone else choosing to practice differently than you do is hardly threatening your own way of practice. And as for your final sentence about "making people stare," my sense is that women who chose to wear tallitor & kipport as they pray probably don't have you in mind - rather, they have God in mind. Why don't you just NOT stare at people who do things a little bit differently than you do?! Seems as simple as that. Sigh.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Only two guys have responded? That surprises me!

You all make valid points, and I think that most of us are on the same page. And mad props to Esther for pointing out that -- if anything -- the article and these apron/tallit things have rumbled up conversation.

The question is, as many of you have said, when do we take traditions and move them outside the realm of how we've lived forever? I'm all about being progressive and forward-thinking, but I'm a fan of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The artist said that her tallit kept falling off, well, there are tallit clips for that. Make it work.

Chavi out!

Unknown said...

Personally, I have never had a desire to wear kippah, tallit, tefillin, tzitzit, etc...but I also take a "whatever floats your boat" approach, even if I don't fully understand the motivation. I wouldn't have an interest in wearing this but I can't say it "goes too far"--I'm not offended by it in any way. It just holds no allure.

YC said...

In terms of the art -al ta'am v'rei'ach

But as for a woman wearing a talis- what are the big objections?

(I tried commenting earlier but alas tis a poor craftsman ...)

Laura said...

YC: There are no objections; not really. Especially if you eliminate the "But traditionally...!" argument. But you can take two approaches: Either you can say that women are prohibited from wearing a tallit, because it's a 'man's garment'", or you can say that women are exempt due to it being time-based.

I don't think the first argument works, because the thing that's supposedly a 'man's garment' is the tallit, which (as a previous commenter mentioned) can be made feminine. The commandment is to attach tzitzit, not to wear the tallit itself. The tallit only came into existence because we no longer wear four-cornered garments. And who could argue that tzitzit is a garment?

The second argument is no better, because women were originally obligated in tzitzit (Menachot 243a), but one person—just one, Rav Shimon—came along and said that tzitzit is time-based because you are to "look upon it", which allegedly can only be done during the day.

Now, I have a few objections to that. First, the commandment is to attach tzitzit, not to actually wear the garment. Next, just as it's not something that you must do during the day, so too is it not actually prohibited at night. In fact, you can wear tzitzit into the night, but if you actually put on a garment with tzitzit, you don't say a blessing. Simple. And hardly time-based at all.

I believe that women actually should wear tzitzit; it's not a "man's mitzvah" at all; not inherently.

Unknown said...

yes, her designs are great but it really doesn't look like a tallit to me in any way! it can definitely pass as an apron or a summer dress. no offense meant.

Jasper @ Best Kippah

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