Shelach Lecha: My Father’s Tallit

The Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Children of Israel and instruct them to make for
themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a
cord of blue to the fringe at each corner…Thus you shall be reminded to observe all my
commandments and be holy to your God. (Bamidbar 15: 37-40).

I perch on the bench, feet floating,
the fringes of my father’s tallit
held fast in my hand.

Standing, he draws me close,
tucked under his tallit, inside
a haven of muted white light.

I peep out at a sea of tallitot
striped waves softly billowing,
a hum of prayer quietly rising.

I lift my eyes to the lofty windows,
to the swathe of blue, where
I think God resides.

The strings of my father’s fringes
I still hold fast,
entwined in my fingers.


The Rabbis chose these verses as the third paragraph of the Shema. They are the basis for the practice of wearing the tallit (prayer shawl) with the ritual fringe (tzitzit) on each of its four corners. In the Talmud (BT Menuchot 43b) it is surmised that the fringes are intended to serve as a reminder to keep the mitzvot: “Seeing leads to remembering and remembering leads to doing.”

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