Tefillin and Tallis

August 16, 2010

I just got the best gifts I have ever received. They have such a huge significance, that it made me cry when my great uncle  gave them to me. He gave me my great grandfather’s (on my mother’s side) tallis and tefillin! I mean, I’ll probably never use the tefillin just because while I can see tallis and kippahs being used by women, for some reason I can’t see tefillin being used for women. Besides the rocking chair my great grandfather made for my grandfather (on my dad’s side),  I have never received anything that previously belonged to a family member. Especially not something of such meaning that has such a relevancy to my life right now. I mean, here I am, trying to find my place in this world and my path in Judaism, and I get this amazing gift that I just cannot believe I have been given. I’ve never met my grandparents besides a grandmother on my mom’s side who I don’t really talk to, and to have been given something that was once theirs makes me feel like I have a connection to them that I never had before, and to be given something with such significance to them, and that is so relevant to where I am right now, the feeling is just beyond words. For some reason, it has fueled my desire to continue along my path of Judaism (not like I was going to stop) and to better understand it and find my place in it. It has given my faith a really big, new, fire because I feel such a deeper connection to it. It’s awesome.

On a side note, I’m having a lot of fun in New York.  I’ve gone to go meet all types of family members, and I’ve made some really great memories. I met a distant cousin of mine (5th) and we (my mom and I) stayed with him and his wife for a couple of days. They have llamas and sheep and dogs and cats and chickens, and pretty much everything. It was pretty cool. It was also pretty cool to meet family members that are observant of the mitzvots. They taught me quite a bit in the couple of days I stayed there. And tomorrow, I’m going to go with my great aunt, mom, and cousin to some small town with an apparently awesome little Judaica shop. I’m very excited for that. And I’ve also gotten to have shabbat dinner (only my third. Can you believe that? I’m going to be working on being shomer shabbos in the next couple of months, maybe when the high holidays come up) which was awesome. And I went to a conservative shul (for morning minyan), and it was pretty cool to see what they did (and to go to a morning minyan and recite the prayers, although I couldn’t read the hebrew in the siddur).

So all and all, I’ve had an amazing vacation so far (and it’s only going to get better, I hope!) to add onto an even more amazing summer vacation.

Well, I’m off to go learn the prayer for donning the tallit so that perhaps I can wear it to shul next week.

Ahavah Olam,

The Jewbie

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Tzniut

June 23, 2010

Tzniut is a Jewish law, that, according to wikipedia (yes, I know, not the greatest source for information, but for this it works) ” is a term used within Judaism and has its greatest influence as a notion within Orthodox Judaism. It is used to describe both the character trait of modesty and humility, as well as a group of Jewish religious laws pertaining to conduct in general and especially between the sexes. The term is frequently used with regard to the rules of dress for women.”

Basically, Tzniut covers dress codes, saying that men and women alike  have to dress modestly. Women wear womens clothes that cover a majority of there body, and men wear mens clothes that cover a majority of there body. Now, Orthodox communities and synagogues are mainly the only place in which you’ll find people strictly adhering to. You can also find this being practiced in Conservative temples, but not in the Conservative lifestyle (for the most part), and while it is practiced in Reform temples as well, it is not usually mandated, nor is it usually adhered to in daily life. But I’m not speaking for everyone in each of these communities, because everyone follows differently, no matter what denomination they follow, whether it be Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, et cetera.

I go to a Reform temple, and I LOVE it! They are so inviting and sweet and kind, and so accepting.  But from what I’ve observed, most Jews that identify with the Reform movement don’t really observe many, if any, of the 613 mitzvots.  Since I am “new” in a sense, to Judaism though, I’ve been teaching myself all of the stuff that I’ve missed  by not attending a Hebrew day school, or Monday night “youth group” or temple for the past 16, almost 17, years. And with that, I am very confused on which mitzvots each movement does and does not follow, or how they all celebrate, et cetera. So I’ve been relying on the Torah and books on Judaism to teach me how I should follow and practice. I’ve been reading over the 613 mitzvots and I’m trying to slowly incorporate each of them into my life, to the best of my ability. Now, some are harder than others, such as saying a prayer before many simple tasks (such as hand washing), and others are easy, such as knowing that G-d exists.

To get back on subject, I’ve been researching some of the Jewish laws, such as Tzniut, and while it sorta kinda isn’t a mitzvot (sort of), I want to try to abide by it, but it’s really hard to go all out and start wearing skirts down to my ankles and shirts down to my wrists, especially living in the hot and sunny state of Florida.  So, I’m going to try to follow the mitzvot that corresponds with Tzniut, which basically states  that a women shall not wear a mens clothing.

Now, this has changed in modern times, because women are always wearing pantsuits, jeans, and shorts. It’s what we do, but it hasn’t always been that way, of course. Before the 19th or 20th century, mainly before the 1920’s-30’s, you’d be a little hard pressed to find a women wearing a pantsuit and not being ridiculed by at least one person for it. This is why both the Reform, and Conservative movement, and even sometimes the Orthodox one, are becoming more lax on this law.

So, while I’m not going to go and totally throw away my skinny jeans and shorts just yet, I am going to try to incorporate more dresses and skirts into my wear, and keep my short and jeans wearing to a minimum, and wear them mainly when I’m going to be doing “dirty work” or going to a close friends house.

Apart of the  Tzniut law, also, is married women must keep there hair covered. It is also a mitzvot (correct me if I’m wrong) to wear a yarmulke. Now, women are exempt from this mitzvot, and some say it’s because women are naturally spiritually closer to G-d, and men aren’t, so therefore women don’t need to wear yarmulkes or tallits, as men do, but it’s becoming more and more popular in temples, mainly Reform and some Conservative ones, for women to observe both this law and mitzvot. Now, maybe it’s just because I’m trying to follow the mitzvots to the best of my ability, or because I love the idea of wearing a yarmulke, or even because I believe in being egalitarian, but I plan on (hopefully) crocheting my own yarmulke and start wearing it to Temple or when I’m praying. I also might either make (it might be too hard to make, with my little bit of expertise in crocheting), or buying a Tallit, because traditionally, you wear the two together, and many women I’ve talked to insist on wearing both together, even if the men in the Temple don’t.

Comment me with your opinions on the Tzniut and mitzvots discussed in this entry!

With much love,

The Jewbie