All Wrapped Up in Love: Incorporating a Tallit into Your Jewish Wedding


I have heard that many couples incorporate a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) into their wedding. What is the reason for this?

There are two main ways a couple can incorporate a tallit into their Jewish wedding ceremony:

  • they can use it as the canopy for the chuppah (marriage canopy)
  • the couple can be wrapped in the tallit for a portion of the wedding ceremony

Why do this?

When my daughter was a newborn, my beloved aunt made for her a beautiful baby blanket. The enclosed note read:”May she always be wrapped in love.”

As that small flannel blanket serves, for my daughter, as a reminder of abiding love, another four corned cloth serves, in Jewish tradition, as a reminder of an abiding, loving relationship: the tallit.

A tallit is a four cornered garment, with special knots at each of the four corners called tzitzit. Going back to the Torah, those tzitzit serve as a reminder of the sacred relationship that the Jewish people have with God and Torah. When we look at the tzitzit we are to remember the commandments and traditions of our people. (If you’d like to learn more, Rabbi Amy Scheinerman has a great explanation of tallit.)

Beyond this: if you were to ask someone who wears a tallit, or who remembers sitting next to a beloved grandparent or parent in synagogue who wrapped himself in a tallit, she might well share with you that the act of wearing (in the Hebrew, wrapping oneself) in that tallit helps her feel connected with, surrounded by, even enveloped by the loving protection of the Holy One.

A tallit can thus serve as a reminder of the Jewish home you are creating together.  Beyond this, it can be a way to consciously invite the loving Presence of the Source of Life and Love to surround you at the moment of your marriage. To be with you and guide you as you build your life together. Indeed, to help you wrap each other in love.

A Southern Springtime: Celebrating our Personal Redemption this Season of Passover

spring blossoms

Just look at what was I saw on my morning walk last week!

Growing up in Southern California, I never really understood the fuss about Spring. We didn’t have the magical week when everything, it seems, all at once blossoms, bringing forth pinks and whites and pale greens. Dusting our cars and driveways and screened-in porches with a coating of pollen.

The blossoms, the pollen, the shoots of leaves – the entire experience of a Southern Springtime – has given me a renewed understanding of Passover.

When we think of Passover, most of us tend to focus on the grand miracles of the holiday. We think of the exodus from slavery in Egypt, a story filled with signs and wonders. And, at the end of the seder when we open the door for Elijah, we express our hope for a future – one for which we work and wait – of a world redeemed, a miraculous time that will yet bring justice and peace for all.

Despite these grand miracles, Jewish tradition also places great emphasis on the miracles of the everyday. Indeed, the morning prayers are sometimes referred to not as daily blessings, but daily miracles. What are these miracles? Waking up in the morning. Opening our eyes. Going to the bathroom and finding, on good days, that everything works as it ought. Being created in the Divine Image – endowed with free will, intellect, and dignity. There is even a tradition of saying a hundred blessings a day – finding a hundred moments of gratitude and amazement.

In other words, rather than look for the miraculous outside of nature, Jewish tradition encourages us to look for the wonder embedded within the world.

I think we benefit from this encouragement. So often it can seem that our human nature – even without the added distraction of smart phones, texting, Facebook, and the like – causes us to be distracted and to forget to take note of the wonder that surrounds us.

The seder plate literally bring the signs of springtime into our homes and onto our dinner table. Pay attention to what’s right outside your window, it would seem to say.

For the signs of spring – the new growth, blossoms, sprouts – are not only miracles within nature. They point us to an another aspect of redemption: the potential – in all of life – to begin again, to grow anew, to branch out in a different direction, indeed, to transform our lives.

Even as we celebrate our ancestor’s redemption from slavery, even as we are called to work for the repair of the world, the season of Passover reminds us that we are also able to plant the seeds of change and rebirth in our own lives. This too, I believe, is a redemption worthy of celebration!

A Good Enough Passover

Stack of Matzoth from kosherstock;

Perhaps no holiday in the Jewish calendar comes with as much preparation. Cleaning. Shopping. Getting rid of certain foods. Stocking up on certain foods. Suddenly so many foods and products are off limits.

For some folks, a strict Passover celebration is a cherished tradition. If this describes you, there are many resources in print and online to help guide you through the steps to a joyful, and fully kosher, Passover.

However, there are others for whom an intense focus on the rules is either overwhelming, or, quite frankly, off-putting. If you find yourself in this camp, I encourage you to take a different path to your Passover celebration.

Remember the meaning behind the foodways: The special ways we eat at Passover are tangible reminders of the message of the holiday itself: the story of how we were redeemed from slavery in Egypt by a Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm, an eternal story of the need to bring an end to injustice and oppression.

The two main Passover food traditions – eating matzah and avoiding (and getting rid) of chametz (food with leavening) can both be tied directly to this story of liberation.  Remembering the reason why we celebrate can help keep things in perspective.

Matzah, called the “bread of affliction,” reminds us of the oppression our ancestors endured as slaves in Egypt.  It also connects us to the night our ancestors left Egypt in such haste they did not have time for the bread to rise. Now that we eat matzah in freedom, it can even be seen as a symbol of liberation.

Similarly, avoiding chametz (food with leavening) has a spiritual meaning. In his post Rabbi Eric Berk describes it this way:

“Have you ever watched dough rise in the oven, or have you ever just seen bread? Dough rises, and what results is ‘puffed-up,’ bigger than before. Full of air – or perhaps full of itself. That is exactly what chametz has come to symbolize. Philo, a Greek-Jewish philosopher, described chametz as ‘pride,’ because leavened bread is ‘puffed-up.’ Removing chametz on Passover from our homes, our lives, our families, is a struggle between who we really are now and who we can be once we strip away all the trappings of self-importance.”

(His article also does a great job of clarifying the complicated question of what, exactly, constitutes chametz.)

Take a few steps into Passover at a time: Passover need not be an all or nothing proposition. Instead, choose a few practices that you feel comfortable trying out this year.

You might start by eating matzah at seder or by having matzah available throughout the holiday. You might choose to remove all chametz from your kitchen, or you might decide to simply avoid foods like bread and pastries that are obviously leavened. You might experiment with matzah sandwiches at lunchtime. Or there might be another Passover food practice you’d like to try out.

Above all, create traditions that you cherish: For most of us, the connections that matter aren’t found in scholarly writings. We remember Passover not because it is an intellectual idea, but because it is a lived experience. Finding your own Passover foodways can be a powerful way for you and your family to connect with the foundational story of our people.