Yesterday evening we finished a four-day tallit making class at a local synagogue. Eighteen students participated, most of them around bar and bat mitzvah age, but some as young as eleven and also several adults. Yesterday’s class was dedicated to finishing tying the tzitzit, which we started the week before. So much positive energy. Every time a student finished their tallit there was applause and photos. Helping the kids tie their tzitzit, standing by while they recited “L’shem mitzvah tzitzit” to signal their intention to fulfill this mitzvah, felt like a privilege. This might be the only time in their life they perform this mitzvah, I realized, or it could be the beginning of a lifetime of using this skill they were learning for the first time. Standing with them, helping them hold the strings as they recited the phrase and started knotting, making the connection between the physical world we know and the spiritual world we seek to encounter, felt like standing in sacred space. And to see the kids walk out the door at the end of class with their completed handmade prayer shawls: an absolute joy.
Maria Bywater is the author of Sew Jewish: The 18 Projects You Need for Jewish Holidays, Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebrations, and Home. She teaches hands-on Judaica sewing workshops.