Even though we cannot take down our sukkah until the weekend, we are keenly aware that this favorite holiday is past, and that we move forward. Simchat Torah closes Sukkot, or rather amplifies in a final flash of enthusiasm the rejoicing of Sukkot, and initiates another beginning of everything that follows … there’s just nothing like watching the Torah scrolls re-rolled, making the material and philosophical connection from one end to another beginning.
Making One’s Hands Sing a Sacred Song
“In a sacred deed we echo God’s suppressed chant…We intone God’s unfinished song. God depends upon us, awaits our deeds.”Abraham Heschel (in Harvey J. Fields, A Torah Commentary for Our Times, Volume 3: Numbers and Deuteronomy (New York: UAHC Press, 1993), 164)
After the exhilaration of completing The Sukkah, I wonder what to tackle next. How can tikkunknitting express, or even enlarge, the meaning of Simchat Torah? It is a challenge to imagine what I might make, or how I might do so, for this relatively “modern” festival (dating only to the 11th century according to sources) that will implicate my impulse to tikkun, that will enable my hands to “sing a sacred song”.Having already sculpted fruits and vegetables on my knitting needles and worked with some silver yarn and wired ribbon (to create knitted crowns like this and this for the niecelets), my fingers twitch at the thought of knitted Torah crowns and breastplates. These tributes to the repository of our tradition will require more time to plan and execute than is left to me this year, so will be central to next year’s preparation for the extended season of awe. There will be plenty of models and inspirations – I can start with the extensive collection of historical ritual art at Congregation Rodeph Shalom, as well as the recent exhibit of Philadelphia’s Hebraica at the Rosenbach Museum, which contained many Torah containers, crowns and ritual decorations that will inspire knitted rejoicing for the return to Genesis.
But there are other beginnings to contemplate. Simchat Torah brings us back to Genesis. The return to Bereshit has inspired many hands, from explicitly sacred medieval calligraphy (Torah Bible Coran: Livres de parol exhibit, Bibliotèque Nationale de France), to contemporary kippahs (here or here). In spite of my affinity for illuminated manuscripts, I wonder what might initiate a train of tikkunthoughts beyond the contemplative.
I am curious about how Bereshit might explain what it mean to be made as if in a divine image.
While the authors of Comic Torah and Calvin & Hobbes have their uniquely entertaining or provocative takes on the subject, I’m looking to Bereshit as a guide to acting. I recently stumbled across an early Modernist exploration of Bereshit which immediately set me thinking about the gap between being human and reflecting a divine example, and prompted me to take another leap towards tikkun olam.
A TikkunKnitter’s Beginning
With the approach of Simchat Torah and the opportunity of Bereshit, I finally opened a post office box, a space in which to begin to work towards a tikkunknittivist dream – to create a community peace tree, a TikkunTree, a hand-made olive tree, an opportunity for anyone with the inclination to make a simple knitted (crocheted, sewn or embroidered) leaf to connect to the need for a just and peaceful resolution of the conflicts between Jews and Palestinians in Israel (and Diaspora). The goal is to include The TikkunTree in an art exhibit (in development) in Philadelphia dedicated to the olive tree, its real life for Jews and Palestinians in the mideast and Diaspora, and its symbolic life for others; the exhibit will be co-curated by artists from the American Palestinian and Jewish communities. So The TikkunTree Project is now live, open for business at P.O.Box 2088, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Any and all are welcome to participate, regardless of religious affiliation (or not), age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other criteria by which we usually divide ourselves. You’ll find all the information you’ll need here. Ideas and suggestions are very welcome.
We may have to close our sukkah for 5768, but with Bereshit in our grasp, we’ll keep the tent open, listening for the choral song produced by the work of many hands.