I’m happy to report that the tallit with the amazing, bittersweet backstory that I was blessed to be gifted with this week is back in ritual use. This morning, I wore the tallit of Phillip Shenkler at Shabbat services. It was the first time Phil’s tallit had been in use in a congregational setting for at least 26 years, and it was the first time I wore a tallit at services, ever.
Phil’s tallit received a wonderful welcome this morning. My rabbi, Michael Zedek, read the original blog post and when he saw me wearing it, asked me if I would like an aliyah in honor of the tallit and its history. More than that, when I got up on the bimah, before I chanted the Torah blessing Rabbi Zedek invited me to tell the story of the tallit and Phillip’s family. And even more than that, he told me to stay on the bimah to help him dress the Torah, so that I could sit with it on the bimah and give Phil’s tallit the chance once again to be nestled with a Torah.
This, my friends, is Jewish continuity in action, and I’m overjoyed to be able to be a part of it.
I also want to bring the tallit back to life a bit more. It wasn’t in great condition after so many years in its tallit bag, and its fringes were frayed beyond hope. However, as I commented to Mim Golub Scalin, who gifted me the tallit, under the original blog post this morning:
An update on the tallit. I will use it this morning at Shabbat services and hope to make this my Saturday morning practice. Freshly ironed, it looks wonderful, too.
The tzitzit and decorative strings were badly frayed at the bottom. I have cut them all back by two inches (which is permissible for tzitzit as long as the strings remain at least four inches in length below the final knot) and now they hang individually as they should.
I will be removing the existing tzitzit and restringing them with new strings (a wonderful skill I learned back in April when I began exploring wearing a tallit katan). I am also looking for a local tallit artisan to remove and replicate the decorative string design.
Finally, Ryan and I are trying to figure out the best way to clean the garment, itself. Most likely, Woolite in a sink with special care to not make the strings any worse than they already are.
And with that, Phillip’s tallit will hopefully last for another generation.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.