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"Whoever puts on a tallis..."

First thing this morning I wrapped myself in tallit and tefillin and stepped outside onto the deck. The sky was bright and the sun was brighter, and the wildflower meadow sparkled with butterflies. As I made my way through shacharit, the rise and fall of cricketsong accompanied me.

I love being able to davven surrounded by the leaves of the trees that flutter in the wind like sign-language applause.

When I went to the post office, later in the day, I found that a colleague had sent me a Yehuda Amichai poem, called "Symbols," which resonated so strongly that I'm reprinting it here to share it with all of you. The lines about the finitude of squares are especially powerful, and I really like the way the poem's closing image turns something ordinary into something sanctified...



Whoever puts on a tallis when he was young he will never forget;
Taking it out of the soft velvet bag, opening the folded shawl,
Spreading it out, kissing the length of the neckband (embroidered
or trimmed in gold.) Then swinging it in a great swoop overhead
like a sky, a wedding canopy, a parachute. And then winding it
around his head as in hide-and-seek, wrapping
his whole body in it, close and slow, snuggling into it like the cocoon
of a butterfly, then opening would-be wings to fly.
And why is the tallis striped and not checkered black-and-white
like a chessboard? Because squares are finite and hopeless.
Stripes come from infinity and to infinity they go
like airport runways where angels land and take off.
Whoever has put on a tallis will never forget.
When he comes out of a swimming pool or the sea,
he wraps himself in a large towel, spreads it out again
over his head, and again snuggles into it close and slow,
still shivering a little, and he laughs and blesses.

-- Yehuda Amichai

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