Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Kavvanah, 3/29/2011 - The Internal Tallit

When I was wrapping myself in my tallit (prayer shawl) this morning, one of the morning minyan attendees asked how I kept it so clean. I had personally never noticed that it was particularly clean, and actually have been wondering lately about what to do about a small tear in the atarah (the decorated portion that goes around the neck). In any case, I answered that I always fold it along the creases when I am done with it, and occasionally get it dry-cleaned.

A few minutes later, during the more contemplative part of Shaharit (the morning service), I hovered for a moment over one of my favorite lines, one that is, curiously, in small print in our siddur (prayerbook):

לְעולָם יְהֵא אָדָם יְרֵא שָׁמַיִם בְּסֵּתֶר ובגלוי וּמודֶה עַל הָאֱמֶת וְדובֵר אֱמֶת בִּלְבָבו
Le-olam yehei adam yerei shamayim beseter uvgalui, umodeh al ha-emet vedover emet bilvavo...
We should always revere God, in private as in public. In our hearts, we should recognize truth and pursue it faithfully... (from Tanna Devei Eliyahu, a midrashic collection from the 10th c. CE)

The tallit is an outward manifestation of spirituality; a clean tallit should reflect inner spiritual cleanliness as well. Doing so takes a little care: metaphorically folding up your soul after use, and occasionally getting it dry-cleaned. Daily prayer can be part of that regimen, and Shabbat dinner with family, and holiday observances, and learning Jewish texts.

We put a lot of effort into our outward appearance. Our inward appearance should not be neglected.

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