Followers of my page know that I recently celebrated the 55th anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah—the most important day of my life.
On that day, I walked up the steps to the bema on shaky legs. There, my father waited to enwrap me in the Tallit my grandmother had bought me . I still remember the pride on her face when she showed me the embroidered words in the corners near the fringes, “Best Quality.”
My father said the blessing in Ashkenazic Hebrew . The key words in Sephardic Hebrew are
לחתעטף בציצית (l’heet-ah-tafe bah tzitizit). But when my dad said it in Ashkenazic pronouncing the first “t” as an “s” it sounded to me like “adhesive tape.”
The word to enwrap is a reflexive verb but the plain meaning of its three letter root, ayin, tet, fay, is “to faint” or to falter.
I was certainly ready to faint or falter that day, but my father’s application of “adhesive tape” helped me to stand upright.
As time went on that adhesive tape had me somehow connected to Torah in a way that — though it seemed tenuous to me as a 13- year old boy — has attached me to Torah through all of these years..and my connection continues to grow stronger.
As a rabbi I have collected a good number of tallesim over the years, but I wore my grandmother’s “best quality” one when I read the Torah for my 55th Bar Mitzvah anniversary. On that occasion, I noticed for the very first time that in the same little patch where it says, “Best Quality” there is a quotation in Hebrew from Psalm 137, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.”
What a powerful symbol my first — and now seldom worn — tallit remains. It reminds me of my grandmother’s love, my father’s support, and my connection to, and love for, the land of Israel. But most of all, it is the adhesive tape that binds me with love to Torah and its teachings.