Holy Knitting!

Many of you know we have a big event coming up in 2 weeks (or 12 days as Max would remind me).

Max will be welcomed into our congregation as a Bar Mitzvah (son of the commandment) and we’re all pretty excited.

His portion is Yitro, which is a big deal because it’s the portion which contains the story of the giving of the 10 commandments.

It’s also part of his Hebrew name: Moshe Yitro.

Yitro (Jethro) is one of our favorite characters in the whole big story, and has the added attraction of being the only non-Jew for which a portion of the Torah is named.

Gems & Signatures

Some day Max will be very happy to have learned how to chant the whole 10 Commandments in Hebrew, but right now he’s just concentrating on getting through it.

He’s been attending Hebrew school on Wednesdays and Sundays for a few years, this past year that was amplified with individual weekly meetings with the Rabbi & Cantor, and weekly tutoring sessions with a lovely woman (whose mother is an avid knitter!)

Double Knit Edging

So Max will be ready.

He’s written his dvar Torah – the speech he’ll give about a section of his portion that resonates with him.  (Spoiler alert: It’s not about the 10 Commandments…) Family and friends are flying in from out of town, a band has been hired, food is being prepared.  But I wanted to do something more personal to show Max how proud I am of him.

So I knit him a tallit.

A tallit is the rectangular shawl that is worn by Jews when they pray.  There are certain rules about it, which are adhered to with differing levels of observance, but knitting one is perfectly okay.

It could have been any color, but I stuck with a traditional blue and white.  I used wool (Louet Gems merino) and tried to keep it simple.  I didn’t want it to be girlie, of course, but I did want to have some geometric lacework.

Too frou-frou?

The ribbon attempt

The atarah (crown) is the collar portion.  I could have created it in several ways.

I could have bought one; I could have written a Hebrew verse or blessing using fabric markers onto a band of fabric; I could have embroidered a message (but when I tried that route it didn’t look great.)

But I settled on knitting the atarah with the words Sh’ma Israel –  “Hear O Israel” in Hebrew:

שמע ישראל

Sh'ma - oops!

I cleverly selected a short phrase so the knitting wouldn’t be as odious.  I still managed to leave off a yud (head slap!) so I had to duplicate stitch that little bit in later.

All that’s left is to tie the tzitzit – the knots at each corner – which are the whole point of the garment.  Hannah’s very good at the tying, so she’ll be handling that part of our project.

A few years ago she painted a tallit in her 6th grade Hebrew school class, and it’s just lovely (she’s going to wear it at Max’s service) That was when she discovered her latent talent as a tzitzit tyer!

Making this ceremonial religious piece has been an adventure and a journey for me.  The pride and love I feel for Max and his accomplishment, my own excitement at being part of this, and just the great fun of this tal-knit will always be a part of my memory of Max’s big day.

I found myself exploring my own connection with Judaism, my feelings toward the traditions, and my place in our interfaith home as I worked through each section of the piece.

This past Sunday a group of women met at the Temple to knit healing shawls for folks in need.  I joined in to help some new knitters hone their skills, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.

This was week one of an ongoing series of meetings which had been planned in part by Jane Steinman, a lovely woman who used to be the president of the congregation.

Jane was so welcoming to Gerry and I when we were considering joining Mt. Zion, so it was with great sadness that we learned of her sudden passing late last year.  I was glad to see Betsy carrying on with the plan for the knitting sessions, and the women who showed up really enjoyed it!

Kipot for the Kepi

Jane had been a cancer survivor (Gerry bonding) and an avid knitter (Annie bonding) and I like to think that Jane would really appreciate the knitted tallit for Max. I wish she could be there to see Max wearing it on the bima.

I’m currently finishing up a crocheted kipot (yarmulke) and a tallit bag where he can carry all of this stuff (also crocheted)  I’m working these up mostly in the blue Gems, which has been a dream to work with (as always!)

Well, Max is 1/2 Hill People…

I hope I don’t sound like a broken record when I say that this project just SAILED by as I knit it up with my Signature needles.  They are the fastest needles I’ve ever use.

Next, we take Max and shop for duds!  I’m campaigning for a nice blazer and khakis, Gerry’s feeling a suit is necessary.

25 thoughts on “Holy Knitting!

  1. Wow this is an awesome gift and something he will treasure for ever. I actually teared up a little thinking about how proud you must be and how much you must have been thinking about your son and his growing up while knitting this item.

  2. Just beautiful and so meaningful. A true heirloom! About three weeks before my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah I decided I needed to design and knit a dress for her. (yes, clearly I was insane) I came out beautifully knit from chocolate brown Baby Cashmerino with a blue satin ribbon woven through a lace panel just below the bust, It had a square neck line and large lace paisleys along the hem. I think it is some of the my best work. She deserved that and more. Enjoy the ‘kvelling’.

  3. Mazel Tov! Your special touches for Max’s big day will hopefully be things he cherishes forever…and it really adds meaning to it all! I still wear the tallit I wove for my bat mitzvah, my grandmother embroidered the atarah and my mom sewed it all together. Btw, my bat mitzvah was on January 11th, 25 years ago today.

    If you can find the “right” suit, I think it might be worth it. My experience (long ago, as a tutor) is that the bar mitzvah suit is a really important bit of pride for some boys, just like the right dress would be for a girl’s bat mitzvah. It depends on the kid, of course, but it sometimes offers just that extra bit of confidence when facing a really BIG (and for some, scary) day. Enjoy!

  4. Mazel Tov to Max and to you too! It takes so much commitment in this day and age to put first what is most important.m and the years if study to become a man. Hebrew is the most beautiful language, full of deep meaning.

    Hon the Tallit you created for Max is gorgeous!!! I am amazed at how you did the atarah – Will you share the how to with us how you knit that ?

    And I personally would LOVE to know how one may tie the Tzitzit, because I received some gorgeous blue wool original spun yarn dyed with the teckelet blue. It is a gorgeous color. It was a gift to me from a friend who went to Jerusalem.

    She said that it was hard to find, and being a spinner I appreciated it all the more. The Naked Archeologist had a 2 part show on how they have found the sea snails, how the snails returned after thousands of years… and how the dye is created. Quite an amazing process. The yarn goes from a pale green blue to that rich dark blue by being exposed to the SUN.
    It is quite an amazing journey.

    I am very happy for you and your family, may the day itself be full of joy and the days to come be fulll of many blessings,

    Grace in VT

  5. Congrats to Max. Congrats to YOU as well for such lovely knitting to celebrate this momentus occasion! He will treasure those items for many, many years and perhaps one day, who knows, pass them to his son to wear on such an occasion.

    You inspire me!!!

  6. Wow! what a beautiful Tallit! Maybe you want to prepare a pattern for the rest of us if Max would not be offended.

    Mazel Tov to Max and to you.

  7. It is all so beautiful! And it will definitely be part of Max’s Bar Mitzvah memories. The first time I went to a Bar Mtizvah, I was surprised at how similar the Jewish liturgy was to our Lutheran liturgy (further proof that we are all one family!). Joy and blessings to Max and his family.

    • I honestly don’t see why you should care what my concept of god is, but I generally just try to be kind to folks. Beyond that I don’t have any firm sentiments.

  8. Congratulations on raising such a good looking “young man” It truly is a blessing to have them reach this stage in life. Your Tallit is beautiful and I’m sure he will appreciate your thoughtfulness and comfort in this time in his life. (Though it may not happen now, he is after all still a teenager).

    Gerry’s desire for a suit for this special occasion is understandable. However, The way children grow, the blazer and pants are more practical. Good shoes is a must though. Please invest in something other than his best sneakers.

    Enjoy this special day with your young man, family and special friends.

  9. Did you knit him a yarmulka to match? (I’ve been collecting yarmulka patterns – both crocheted & knitted & can send you the links if you’d like).

    • I crocheted the kippot. I think I will write the pattern and post them. Maybe I’ll sell them with a donation to the JNF for tree planting since Max’s Bar Mitzvah happened after that horrible fire and during Tu B’Shvat (Jewish Arbor Day)

  10. Mazel Tov, Annie! I am a secular Jew and identify culturally, but never have been religious. I find the ritual and the concept wonderful and hope that you and yours have a great day!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *