Yesterday’s Art show and a really interesting problem

Yesterday was my synagogue art show. I was delighted to meet one of the readers of this blog ( and her husband) who came from Brooklyn—and biked most of the way to see the show and say hello. It always sorts of amazes me that I have readers that just found this blog and are loyal readers. 

 

The show was better attended than I had expected, but my expectations were really low. I always wonder after the effort of getting my work together, schlepping my stuff, setting up and being there if such a show is really worth the enormous physical effort. I don’t like sounding like a sore head, but when I think about  the financial payback for all of the effort it’s just depressing.

 

At the show my friend Ruth brought me  the object pictured below.   What do you think it is?

Christian tallit (2)

Actually, at first glance it looks an awful lot like a tallit.  but looking at it a bit more closely, it may not be a tallit at all.

 

This object was a gift from a co-worker of Ruth's.  This co- worker is an evangelical Christian. She gave it to Ruth with all honest good intentions.

 

Let’s look at the pinot/corner pieces.

Christian tallit (5)Christian tallit (3)

 

The first alarm bell to go off is that the text is in English. Let’s look at the texts themselves.  Is one of those texts from the New Testament??? from Matthew????  The  verse talks about a diseased person being cured by touching the corner of  a garment.

Messianic tallit description

The Isaiah verse  is one of those verses that is used by Christians as a proof text of the foreshadowing of the coming birth of Jesus. 

Now let’s look at the atara…. You can decide how weird it is that the atara is sewn on upside down.

Christian tallit (6)

Christian tallit (1)

 

What is of particular interest to me is the symbolic glyph in the corner. Going from right to left you have  menorah, connected to a star of David that terminates with a Jesus fish.  I just Googled “Messianic Jewish image” and that is the image hat appeared first and most often.Messianic Jewish Symbol

This object makes me deeply uncomfortable. It takes a Jewish ritual object and subverts it and makes it a Christian one. What is especially objectionable about this pseudo tallit is that it’s purpose is to subvert Judaism. The symbol is about the transformation of Judaism into Christianity.  The verses chosen on the tallit are chosen to negate Judaism.

 

 

If you think I’m being paranoid, just Google “Messianic Tallit” and read the descriptions  on the product pages. 

One of the doormen who works in my building is spiritually seeking. He is Christian and thinks hard about creating spiritual meaning in his life. He often asks me questions about Judaism. Recently, he asked me what I thought about his wearing a tallit.  I thought for a minute and asked him what he would think if I started wearing a crucifix. He said that he would find it a little creepy given how serious I was about being Jewish.  I told him that  his wearing a tallit as a Christian would make me feel creepy.

This object, and I refuse to call it a tallit, is  not an homage it’s Jewish roots, but is used to belittle Judaism and to insist that Judaism is wrong headed.  It is a subversive and nasty object.

 

My next question, and for this I need to consult halachic minds greater than my own…is it possible to transform this from being an object whose purpose is to uproot Judaism, into an actual tallit.

Comments

  1. Interesting commentary. I appreciate that you took the time to point out how and in what ways this is offensive to you. In some way,(admittedly perhaps only a small way), I can understand your distress.

    I would be interested to learn if you do find you can make it acceptable.
    Sandy in the UK

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  2. Sandy... I guess part of what makes me see red about this is that tallit is commanded to us from the bible ( for us a very high order of mitzvah) and is in many ways a reminder for us to follow all of the rest of the 612 commandments... ...to see it turned into a sort of proof that you don't really have to follow the commandments while retaining the form of a tallit is really offensive. Think about horrible nasty inappropriate things one might do to a crucifix, grinding up the host and making into a coating for fried chicken...turning a church into a brothel but still calling it by it's old church name..and insisting that it's really the same place...

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  3. I too find this object very distressing. Is there reason to try to transform it into something acceptable? My first thought is to burry it, and that level of honor only because it has tiztizt. What was the purpose in bringing this to you?

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  4. Karen - The tzitzit have been tied with a synthetic thread that unwraps if you sneeze nearby.. all of the last sets of wraps is undone, so that isn't an issue. Since they were not tied l'shem mitzvah...in order to fulfill a mitzvah..then they may not count as being tzitzit....even though the look like tzitzit. I find the whole issue of intentionality regarding this object to be fascinating.

    The reason to transform the object is that it was given to my friend Ruth with every good intention, by someone who didn't get how horrible a gift this is. the purpose of bringing it to me is to see if it ca be transformed back into a fully Jewish object. I'm still waiting to hear from my rabbi who is pondering the issue.

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  5. I would just want to be rid of it. Keep us posted, please. Shari in NM

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  6. Sarah,
    It was wonderful to meet you and see your beautiful creations.
    Your post was eye-opening; I share your discomfort.
    vivien

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  7. Hi Sarah, Sorry I have been right out straight and didn't get back.
    thanks for the further explanation about the mitzvah aspect. I don't do crucifix or host, as that is too near worshipping something made by man for me. But I get where you are coming from ...your horror is clear!

    I am still interested in what your Rabbi says. But for me, I think I would at least take off the offensive parts and dispose of them in the meanwhile. then they wouldn't be causing you such distress.
    Big hugs,
    Sandy

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  8. Vivien - I am so happy to have met you in person!!

    I still haven't heard from my rabbi. I'm sure I will though . I had put off posting hoping to hear from him...but I am realistic enough to realize that he might have more important things on his plate at the moment.

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