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World Wide Wrap

World Wide Wrap

The week before I became a Bat Mitzvah, my father called me into his study and said, “I have something for you.”  Before I could ask what it was, my dad showed me a small velvet bag containing a pair of tefillin.  “But Dad,” I said, “I’m a girl.”  My father, well ahead of his time, told me that gender shouldn’t matter when it comes to wearing tefillin.  He reasoned that since I had received the same education and had been taught the same skills as both the boys and the girls in my class at Solomon Schechter Day School, and since I was about to become a Bat Mitzvah, and about to wear a tallit, and about to lead the service and read Torah and Haftarah, didn’t it make sense that I would also lay tefillin?

Even as an almost 13-year-old, I couldn’t deny my father’s logic.  He showed me how to wrap the tefillin shel yad (tefillin for the hand) around my arm, he fit the tefillin shel rosh (tefillin for the head) to my head, and the Monday after my Bat Mitzvah, I went to school with my tallit and tefillin.  That morning, I stood at the table at the back of the prayer room with the boys who had already become Bar Mitzvah – there were no other girls who were putting on tefillin at that time, and I tried to remain calm and confident and I put on my tefillin.  In reality, I was a nervous wreck.  Many questions went through my head.  What if I didn’t do it right?  What if the kids laughed at me?  What if I wound too tightly and cut off my circulation?  What if I wound too loosely and the straps fell down?  What if the shel rosh ruined my hair?

My first few prayer services while wearing tefillin were rocky.  I did, in fact, wind too tightly sometimes and too loosely other times, and the shel rosh often ruined my hair.  I am happy to say that the other kids at my school did not laugh at me, and the boys came to accept that I would be standing at the table with them.

My tefillin story is a bit unusual for a woman.  I wore them for three years before I met another girl who put them on.  Regardless, tefillin have been a meaningful ritual object for me since becoming a Bat Mitzvah.  They are physical reminders of spiritual commandments, made up of small boxes containing four passages of Torah text, connected to leather straps to keep them on the arm and the head. 

I share all of this with you because on Sunday, February 3, Congregation Beth David will participate in the World Wide Wrap.  On February 3, which is Super Bowl Sunday, Conservative and Masorti communities around the globe will participate in this annual opportunity to learn about tefillin and to put them on. (See page 11 for details)

Whether you have been laying tefillin for years, or whether this is the first time you have heard the word, I invite you to join us at a modified minyan on Sunday, February 3 beginning at 9:00 in the sanctuary.  I will teach more about tefillin, and you will have the opportunity to put them on.  Please bring a tallit and tefillin if you have them, and otherwise, we will have extras you can use.  We will also be joined by Beth David’s seventh grade class.

Following minyan, there will be a breakfast sponsored by CBD Women and the Men’s Club.  I hope you will join us for a spiritual kickoff to Super Bowl Sunday!

I hope to see you on February 3, and in the meantime, here is a link for more information: