Cloth and Betrayal
בגד בגד Beged - Bagad
I believe there’s a connection between an article of clothing and betrayal.
It all started with a cup of homemade cappuccino. If you love coffee, especially cappuccino, you know its real treat.
Usually, it’s a time in the day when I take a few minutes to relax, enjoy the warmth and taste of the frothed coffee and let my mind and thoughts drift.
To my delight, my husband Jon joined me for coffee on our lanai (porch in Hawaiian) which is surrounded by palm trees, birds of paradise flowers, and even coffee that my husband lovingly grows.
One of the things we love to do is get hooked on a question, an issue, and these days many of us have lots of issues to debate. I can already imagine you nodding your head, maybe even sighing.
This time we were talking about cloth, fashion and as quite often happened, we somehow drifted to talking about the Tallit.
A common talk would start with me saying; The Hebrew word Beged means an article of clothing. By that point, Jon knows what’s coming. He is waiting for the twist.
Beged = garment. The three-letter root of the word Beit ב Gimmel ג Dalet ד
Another word actually the same word, just pronounced differently- Bagad means betrayal.
I must agree it sounds weird. Could it be there’s a connection between Beged and Bagad? Garment and betrayal?
I love to get dressed and create different looks for different days or occasions which will include the outfit, the jewelry, the make-up, and never forget the shoes and bag.
Funny enough, I don’t like to dress up in costumes on Purim, the ultimate time we pretend to be something/someone else. I assume I celebrate Purim on a daily basis.
People say that clothes make the person, which means, whatever one chooses to wear and present is the persona one wants to project, which will attract the results that a person wants to benefit from, whether it’s respect, authority, admiration, friends, companionship, promotion, etc.
However, we have the privilege to change our clothes which will create our new persona; we accentuate another part of who we are.
In essence, we are like chameleons; they change their colors, while we do the same just with our clothes.
One can be dressed as a professor wearing tie and jacket projecting authority, respect, and importance, while after hours he’ll be wearing jeans and a t-shirt which gives one a totally different impression of the same person.
I had a funny episode with my neighbor.
We were invited to our next-door neighbors for a dinner party. As we all do and especially women I put my nice outfit on, did my hair, make-up, jewelry, etc.
It was a lovely evening.
The next morning as most Mothers I was busy getting my daughter ready for school. Every morning, the school bus stops at the bottom of our driveway which saves me the time to get ready to drive her to school.
My daughter went on the bus and I turned back, walking towards the house when I saw my neighbor. After a lovely happy good morning, he looked at me. I’m not sure if he was surprised or just found it amusing when he asked me; “Are you the same woman from last night?”
Personally, I found the question quite entertaining. And when I think of it, it was as if I lied to him, cheated. I’m not the same person, how could it be? The persona I projected last night isn’t the same. How can you be both, so different and far from each other?
I assume that’s what happens when someone cheats; you see the other version, a new version of them.
If that’s the case with clothes, I wonder how I will see it with a different cloth, our cloth- The Tallit.
Jewish people are a big mishmash of people from different countries around the world, different skin colors, different ages, and different customs. And still, everyone knows their people.
And the same goes for the Tallit. The Tallit can tell us which part of the world and stream of Judaism the person is from.
Changing your Tallit to a different one might be interpreted as you changing affiliation- and yes to some it will be felt as a betrayal
People from East Europe usually will wear white wool Tallit with black stripes, and on the 4 corners of each Tzizit will have one blue string. The Tallit is usually during services during the week, Shabbat and holidays.
In total contrast, the original Yemenite Tallit is totally black, with white Tzizit. It has no blue strings. The Yemenite people believed they didn’t need to put the blue thread, called Techelet since for them their black color matched what was called Techelet. The famous Torah sage Rambam gave his seal of approval and agreed that the color of the Techelet is almost dark black rather than the color blue we use these days.
And in comparison, the Yemenite people wore their Tallit all day every day. It reminds me of the classical joke about the two Jews who were found on a desert island. The only other things on the island were 3 synagogues.
Why do you have three synagogues?
The perfect classic answer was: “one for me, one for him, and the one we don’t set foot in.
Apparently, anything outside one's affinity is a betrayal. And of course, it is expressed with a sense of superiority.
Yemenite men wearing Tallitot
Just to make it real, I was watching several videos that show the different ways to tie the Tzizit. Remember 2 Jews 3 synagogues’? The same idea goes for the Tzizit, there are quite a few ways to tie the Tzizit.
In one of the videos, a Jewish elder was featured tying the Tzizit. To be quite frank it was a beautiful way of knotting the Tzizit. But then, the elder added “… and ours (the knots of the Tzizit) don’t come untied, never”.
Hmmm… some are more equal than others. And, yes, as you say, hands down, he would never have his Tallit be knotted in any other way.
A 91 yrs. old woman who was a Reform Jew for most of her life was very upset. According to her one of the most prominent differences between the reform and the rest of the streams that she liked was the fact that they did not wear a Tallit. Nowadays, many of the Reform Jews are wearing a Tallit.
She was so upset that she decided to leave the movement. “It’s not the same anymore-people are wearing Tallitot” To her, this was a betrayal.
The same goes for the customer who asked the store owner whether he can put on his Ashkenazi Tallit a Sephardic knotted Tzizit style.
I’m not sure what is your reply would be, I immediately knew mine.
The owner answered: It’s a question for a good Rabbi. If you asked me I would say no. it is important to maintain Jewish customs to be passed down throughout the generation. It should not be taken so lightly.
The Sephardic Tzizit might be for your liking, but you must look at the big picture and follow the customs. You can just follow what customs suits you.
And to make my point here is another true story.
In one of the neighborhoods in my town, there was a Sephardic man. And just like the people on the desert island, he will not set foot into an Ashkenazi synagogue. One day his father came for a visit. He took the grandchildren to synagogue with him. As they sat down one of the grandchildren handed each an Ashkenazi siddur.
How could that be? An Ashkenazi Siddur?
The truth was that the family was actually Ashkenazi. When the father was young and chose to attend Sephardic synagogue he was declared as a convert. He converted to becoming Sephardic.
Tallit - Betrayal
Really? ReallyWomen of the wall https://www.womenofthewall.org.il/
I would love to believe that in this time and place where anyone who wishes to wear a Tallit, pray, be close to the source of light, be it men or women, orthodox, conservative, reform, reconstructionist, renewal (did I forget anyone?) will choose their own Tallit, that will present who they are, standing next to another Jew with a different Tallit with different Tzizit both praying in the synagogue they wouldn’t step into before.
How do you feel about it?
On a personal note:
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