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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Peevey thingy

Is it wrong of me to be bothered by the whole Prayer Shawl thing?

Not the concept, per se, except that I'd imagine that anything made for someone you loved (in whatever manner) would be made with good thoughts for the recipient, and so I can't see why you'd need an organization. But others might feel differently about that, or like that it's part of a whole thing, and so that's not my problem.

It's the name. It's that prayer shawls in Judaism have been around forever (at least a thousand years, if not more). It's that they have a specific role to play in Jewish religious observance and prayer. They are considered sacred objects, and those who wear them are supposed to behave in a proper manner while wearing them.

And while this usage doesn't exactly *cheapen* the term, it changes it from something very Jewish and holy to to us to something...else.

I know terms change and meanings change, and I'm sure the ladies who invented the concept thought they were coming up with an original name, but I keep reading things about "knitting a prayer shawl for Aunt Martha to wear to church", and my mind breaks for *so* many reasons. And, anyway, the original meaning of the phrase is still around and still in use.

I don't know. "Prayer Wraps." "Good Thoughts Shawls." "Love Shawls." Something else.

Edit: I think it's that, unlike most people, I did grow up with the preferred term being "prayer shawls."


Doesn't bug me at all - I can't say I ever think of tallit, tallis, tallesim, etc. as prayer shawls, or any other English word. Obviously your mileage does vary.

Way I grew up, I guess.

Um. I dunno, Debbie. It bothers you, and that's valid for you and I would be the last person to suggest that what you feel is wrong for you.

For me, it doesn;t bother me one bit. I grew up thinking of what Jewish men wear as a tallis, so calling a shawl for a Christian woman a prayer shawl is fine, because it's like comparing apples and jellybeans to me.

Just my $.02, though.

I think that's about where I am. I don't think of a tallis as a "prayer shawl." It's kind of like "phylacteries" or "ritualarium" - weird English equivalents for Jewish concepts that I've never heard anyone use.

I think of a tallis as a type of prayer shawl, because IIRC "special garments for prayer or worship" are found in many cultures. And, as other people have said, the proper name of any Jewish ritual garment (or object) is never the English name.


I'm getting that feeling.

I personally don't see a problem here . . . or rather I see lots of problems, but no jewish problems.

"Prayer Shawl" always struck me as a set to which tallitot belong, but as a more general term than "tallit," useful for explaining to gentiles what a tallit is, but not much else.

I would be troubled if there was something like imitation of a distinctive characteristic, like the tzitzit. But this? It's just mishegaas.

It was the preferred term for my family.

It weirds me out a bit, as I'm equally familiar with the English and Hebrew terms. I'd be more comfortable if they called it something else, but really, it doesn't affect me directly. If I did come into contact with one personally, I'll just act all confused, and explain why.

It bothers me more that it's being used as if it were the only meaning.

They might well not know that it isn't. What's the likelihood that these people have been exposed to Jewish terms?

Meant as a reply to Deb's comment above. Sorry about the incorrect parentage of the comment.

I'm definitely getting a "bzuh?" reaction from the name, and in fact it took me quite some time to realize (upon reading the site) that no, this is not a newageified reinterpretation of the Tallit.

I'm not the only one. Thank you.

And, goodness knows, Jews do enough reinterpretation on their own. :)

No, it's not wrong. I am bothered as well.

Just like when my mom told me about the guy who came and played a concert at her church on the shofar. Yeah. She said that it had holes drilled in it and he played tunes. I was horrified.

It's the evangelical tendency to co-opt Jewish things and assume that it's OK to do so.

It's... a little weird, certainly. Special garments for prayer are pretty common across religious traditions, and render the experience more meaningful for plenty of people (including me). So it doesn't surprise me that some variants of Protestant Christianity, which developed by rejecting many of the medieval Church's outward trappings of faith (a tallit was a type of stola before it was a type of prayer shawl, and where priests' stoles came from is rather unclear), have become interested in creating new, um, prayer accessories. But "prayer shawl" is a term that's used in contemporary English primarily to translate tallit, and it strikes me as unfortunate that nobody in this group would realize, or acknowledge, the extent to which they're borrowing just a bit from Judaism. (I mean, Jesus kvetches about Pharisees showing off their extra-long tzitzit in the Gospel of Matthew, so this could very legitimately come up even in a New-Testament-only Bible study.)

At least nobody's started referring to their WWJD jewelry as phylacteries. Uh, I hope. ;)

Is the word "phylacteries" used to describe, umm, religious accessories used in any religion other than Judaism? (The artifact from the back pages of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide doesn't count. :-)

Your own views are totally valid as an expression of you, your upbringing. But prayer shawls exist in other cultures as well -- Islam, some sects of Buddhism, Hinduism. It's not unique to Judaism, it's simply that Judaism, perhaps, has larger numbers in NA then these other religions, and so the term has come to be associated with the tallit?

The overall idea of a prayer shawl, though, is far more widespread.


It makes me twitch a little. One of my friends had a teddy bear that is wearing a pink poncho-type thing.

She told me that her friends from church had knitted a "prayer shawl" for her teddy bear.

This broke my brain on SO many levels.

At least it doesn't have tzitzit.

I'm a Unitarian Universalist Christian who grew up in the United Methodist Church, and I was thrown by the term "prayer shawl" at first for the same reason you are. I actually imagined the knitter there with the white wool and the blue wool and everything.

Now I just use context clues. If the knitter says it's for a woman, for example, I usually assume it's a shawl that's been prayed over as it's being knit.

Likewise if the post ends with John 3:16. 8-)