Making Your Own Ritual Objects

Creating a tallit (prayer shawl) or designing a bar/bat mitzvah invitation can add a meaningful personal dimension to the celebration.

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    5. If the material ravels easily, you might want to pull threads for three inches on each end, then gather 10 to 20 threads and make a knot, as extra fringe. This, however, is not the necessary fringe for the tallit.

    6. If you want this fringe but either cannot or do not want to unravel the ends, you can buy fringing at fabric stores and sew this to the ends.

    7. If you want neither to buy a print nor to use a plain color, there are many possibilities for embellishment and personal creativity:

a. Fabric stores sell various-sized colored, designed hemming material (ribbon), which is perfect for use as stripes. Simply decide the progression and spacing you want and sew them to the material. This should be done carefully to ensure that the stripes will lie straight. One disadvantage of this method is that the stitches show through to the other side.

b. Many people like to embroider the stripes, an obviously more difficult and intricate process. Karen Abromovitz recommends using a white or off-white basket weave or other large weave as the base material so that you can use the threads as a grid for the embroidery.

c. Other methods can be tried such as tie-dyeing or batiking.

d. We have also heard of the possibility of silkscreening stripes.

    8. An atara--or crown--is often placed on the edge of one side for the purpose of providing some spatial orientation for the tallit (or tallit-wearer). This can be made from bought material--hemming ribbon, brocade, velvet--or silver and gold crowns can be purchased at most Hebrew bookstores. Or this piece can be embroidered. It is often effective and beautiful to embroider the blessing, or one of the many phrases from the ritual for putting on the tallit, or any other Hebrew phrase that you feel would deepen the wearer's kavvanah [spiritual focus].

    9. If you buy a little extra material, you can cut out patches for the corners. This both reinforces the area and gives a clear indication of the corner. These also can be embroidered with inscriptions, flowers, symbols, or any decoration.

How to Tie Tzitzit: Ritual Macrame

    1. Before you try tying tzitzit to your tallit, it is advisable to practice with twine or heavy string looped around a chair leg.

    2. Although you can spin or devise your own tzitzit strands, it is easier to buy a tzitzit pack, which is available at most Hebrew bookstores.

    3. There will be 16 strands in the pack--4 long ones and 12 short ones. Separate these into four groups with one long and three short in each.

    4. The longer strand is called the shamash [or helper] and is the one used for the winding.

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Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

Michael Strassfeld is the rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Manhattan, co-author of The First Jewish Catalog, The Second Jewish Catalog, A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah, and author of The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary.

Sharon M. Strassfeld is co-author of the Jewish Catalog series.

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