Torah mantles are characterized as klei kodesh, “implements of holiness.” In 2005, I was invited by Rabbi Liza Stern of Congregation Eitz Chayim (Cambridge, MA) to create an “everyday” mantle for the community’s Torah. The task of fabricating a ritual garment – that by virtue of its beauty and function would signal the central presence of Judaism’s core sacred texts and implicate the human body in undressing and dressing the Torah scroll – was daunting. Over several years’ time the project inspired my in-depth encounters with the ancient narrative that I experienced in conjunction with rabbinic traditions of midrash, the interpretation and re-interpretation of the biblical text, in close relationship with the vibrant life of the congregation. The time-intensive, laborious fabrication of the mantle proved itself to possess an unfathomable depth of potential as it led me in an unfolding journey of hiddur mitzvah, “beautification of the Commandments,” where each stitch is encoded with meaning. The investigation guiding my design of the mantle spawned an additional congregational project for the collective spinning and weaving of a ritual textile used to bind the Torah scrolls together.
Eitz Chayim Torah Mantle (completed in 2011) | Photos: George Bouret