A Bit of Magical Thinking

In several weeks, our older son will be returning to Israel to volunteer for an 18 month stint serving in the Israeli Army. As one might expect, this decision on his part, fills me with all sorts of mixed emotions.  I am, on the one hand, deeply proud that he would make such a grown up decision, and equally proud of the really adult way that he want about figuring out how to go about doing it. On the other hand, my heart is now filled with worry both for his safety and for the safety of the land of Israel.

A few months back, there was a sing along of old time Israeli songs at my synagogue. Those old time songs of hope and hope for peace just had me sobbing, thinking of my boy joining the many others who fought for the safety of Israel.

Earlier in the summer, I realized that I needed to put some of these emotions to work. I thought that while my son was doing his army time, I would make a Torah mantle in his honor, as a sort of amulet to keep him safe. A bit of magical thinking.

My rabbi thought that this was a dandy idea, and a bit of magical thinking was a fine thing. My husband, in a different take on magical thinking, thought that I oughtn't begin on the Torah mantle until our son came home safe and sound ( sort of a final payment on safe delivery). I figured that the Powers That Keep My Children Safe would be more likely to grant my desires if I made some sort of a down payment. OK, for you rationalists out there, none of this is rational,  clear thinking, theology. I know that.

Never the less, I have been spending the last many weeks while in synagogue poking through the prayerbook and through the bible looking for an appropriate verse for this Torah mantle. Last Shabbat, I think I found the right verse. it comes from the end of Psalm 27 which is recited daily from the month before RoshHa Shanah, until the end of the fall festival cycle.
Hope in God and be strong
Take courage , hope in God

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I decided to have a cascade of divine light coming down above the words. that light , also refers back to the beginning of the Psalm
God is my light and my help
Whom shall I fear

I have associated this Psalm strongly with my son since he was four or five years old. We were visiting various branches of the family in Boston. My son had left his security bunny at my sister's.  My son slept with bunny every night holding it curled between his thumb and index finger. My sister understanding his distress, Fed-Ex-ed the bunny to my son. When he opened the package, he said, "Bunny is my light, and keeps me from being afraid."

I was struck by the similarity of his phrasing to that of the Psalmist. So, I began reading the Psalm to him. He seemed interested, so I kept reading. When I was done. My son said, " You know, that's exactly what I believe."

I plan to make the ray of light out of a mix of golden beads in varying shades and shapes, the better to catch the light. Yes, it will be an obsessive piece, and that is exactly the point. Keeping my hands busy will give me a place to put my anxiety. I'm guessing that the base fabric will be a white velveteen. The letters in the sketch are sketchy and ugly, and will be nicer in the final piece. I will decide the color of the letters later on in the process.  I welcome ideas and input.


  1. How beautiful! Hopefully your prayers will be answered and he'll be safe.

  2. I don't know if it means anything to you, but I saw your mention your son was joining Friday and I prayed for his safety then and at both of the masses I went to this weekend. I can not know a mother's love and concern for him, but I do hope he comes home safe to you. No doubt others who read your blog do too.

  3. Thanks so much Nancy.I really appreciate your good wishes for my boy.

    Suzanne-all prayers and good wishes are welcome.

  4. Hi Sarah,
    just catching up with you after a busy month. It was so cool to read the Psalm you are going to use. It is my favourite, too. It got me through college!
    I like the fact that it tells you twice to hope. He knows we don't listen the first time when we are fretting.
    My son is getting involved with army things, too. Not actually at the point where he will face danger, but he wants to train with the paratroopers. yikes. I have to keep remembering that when he started jumping off stairs when he was 2 or 3, that I had to stand back ready to comfort if he fell. This is how I am treating this one now. perhaps the anology will help...and the little prayer with every little bead. Looking forward to seeing it.
    Sandy in the UK

  5. Sandy...glad it resonates for you too.The repeat of the line at the end of the Psalm is a common poetic trick in biblical poetry, ( particulary in Psalms ) similar to a coda in music.

    Some of these repeated phrases are used in Jewish folklore as magical incantations. Hebrew, unlike english, has no way to say "er' like happier , sadder and the like...They way you say that in Bilbical Hebrew is to use the descriptor more than once..like "holy, holy holy"

    Best of good luck to your son as well. my kids were never climbers, jumpers.. it is the mixed blessing of being my child. They were all born with the not so great vestibular sense. We are plodders rather than skiers, sky divers paratroopers..We don't do fast all that well.

    You hit the nail on the head. In normal client work, nutsy obsession means a loss of money. For family work I can do the nutsy handwork that no client could pay for.


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