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?
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.
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.
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.
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.