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Friday, 11 April 2014

The Giving of a Tallis

By Sondra Terry

When I was in my early fifties, I found my way to a synagogue that had a woman rabbi which intrigued me and lured me into ultimately becoming a member of the congregation.

I wanted to learn, to study and to participate in prayer with others. And, after a time, I wanted to wear a prayer shawl, a tallis which was worn by not only the men of the congregation but also some of the women.

Speaking on the phone one day, I told my father about my desire for a tallis and I asked him to buy one for me. There was a hesitant silence and then he said, “My dear child, I can’t do that.”

I pressed him, “Why not? I want to wear one. Why would you say you can’t do that?”

He explained that the way he was raised, the tallis was a ritual item worn only by men. To go and buy a tallis, knowing it was for a woman - well, he just could not do that.

I remember quickly ending the conversation, putting the phone down and sobbing. The hurt was too much to hold in. I knew my father would have given his life to save mine yet he would not do this simple thing. To have a tallis from him would have meant so much to me and it was not to be.

The next few days, the thought of his response kept coming to me: “My dear child, I can’t do that.”

I wondered if he understood how that answer hurt me. I wanted to call him but I stubbornly determined that I wouldn’t and I would never raise the question or talk about it with him again. It was too painful.

Then he called. I know I must have sounded cool to him at first, but he soon said he wanted to talk about the tallis.

“What about the tallis?” I asked.

“You must remember that I gave your husband the gift of a tallis before you married. That is traditional. I don’t know and it’s not my business whether he ever wore it. But I want you to ask him to give you that tallis and I will buy him a new one.”

I heard his words and I blurted out, “No, I want my own from you.”

He slowly and firmly repeated what I was to do. “Listen to me. You take the tallis I gave your husband. Let that be yours and I will give him another.”

I heard his words, I thought for a moment and I understood his intent. This was how he resolved his dilemma. I will have a tallis from my father, bought by my father, but it will have resided in my husband’s possession for a time. How clever.

And so it came to be that I have a beautiful woolen tallis, given by my father.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Sondra - how generous of you to accept your father's solution - so often we are blinded to other's dilemma by the intensity of our own needs.Wear your tallis with pride and may the love with which it was given infuse your prayers.


I was raised in a very religious family, too..Except that we were Roman Catholics.

We had, and still have, many customs and rituals that have caused quite a bit of hurt and anger between the generations, so I completely understand your feelings toward your Father and his hesitancy in giving you the Tallis directly.

This could have caused a rift between you two but you were both too kind hearted and sincere for that to happen.

I think you have a very wise and loving Father and you are very much like him in your acceptance of his clever plan.

Yours is a lovely story of how folks can accept a solution that seems less than perfect. It takes humility and love to do so and your story is a beautiful story reminder for those of us whose pride gets in our way too often!


I loved your story. I could imagine being right there with you while this was taking place. Knowing your father for the short time that I did I can also "hear" him also.

A lovingly told lovely story about how you and your father settled both of your dilemmas. Thanks so much.

I love this story. I love the way you accepted his solution. I also love to imagine the after-effect of that first phone call, when both of you hung up dissatisfied with the conclusion and each withdrew into your own corner, trying to figure out how to best move beyond hurt. It was generous of you to accept his compromise and generous of him to concoct it. This is a short story that highlights human nature at its best. Thank you!

Your dad was a very special man.How fortunate you were to call him Dad.

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