I really identified with Johanna Ginsberg’s Exit Ramp, “Losing my religion” (May 18). I began wearing a tallit in the ’70s, probably one of the first women to do so. I, too, felt moved out of this world when I put it on; I felt as if God were embracing me. Since that time, that feeling has diminished, after all these years and four tallitot later. For me, that’s OK. One way I’ve amped up the spiritual feeling is with a meditation I say when putting it on. There are many different meditations that one can say and one can also write their own. The one I chose says “Hineni mitatefet b’tzitzit; ken, nitatef neshamati.” In translation, “Here I am wrapping myself in tzitzit. Please [God, similarly], wrap my soul around You.”
I even made a crocheted tallit bag that said, “Hineni mitatefet tallit,” announcing it to the whole world, as if to flaunt the right that I have adopted.
Also, it helps me to remember that everything we are excited about in the beginning calms down and takes on new meanings: the love that we have for our spouse is euphoric in the beginning and then grows deeper. The first time we vote or have a drink in a bar because we’ve reached the legal age is the most exciting. And how many women feel euphoric every time we vote, remembering that women weren’t granted that right until 1920?
Lastly, this is where I rely on my feminism; I have to remember that I was not allowed to have a bat mitzvah or an aliyah until I took those rights upon myself, again in the ’70s. And whoever thought of wearing ritual garb at that time? But if we don’t use it, we lose it, as they say. So every time I put on my tallit, I remember this, and that’s why I chose the meditation that I did.
I wish Ms. Ginsberg luck in finding her own meaning for her adopted tradition.
Nita Polay Levin