Today is February 19, 2019 -
by Cindy Dolgin
Ceremonial textiles form one of the largest categories of Jewish Folkart. one of the most charming and personally expressive of the custom surrounding the milestone of birth, for example, was a practice developed four hundred years ago of using the cloth from the circumcision ceremony for embroidering or painting a special wrapper for the Torah. Thus, from the moment of birth forward, a connection was established between the child and the Torah.
The custom of Wimples (“Mappah” in Hebrew and “vimple” in Yiddish) became common amongst Jews of Germany in the 1500’s and all but died out in the flames of the Holocaust. In the last few years there has been a revival of interest in customs and crafts of different Jewish communities. Since Wimples have varied in size, style, and purpose it is a well suited custom for us to re-establish in our Jewish community.
Wimples have been made by mothers, relatives, or friends on the occasion of the birth of a boy. The length of time to work on and embellish the Wimple depended on when the woman would donate her finished craft to the synagogue. Some would bring it when the child was one month, others at one year, still others when the child learned to read. The Wimple would be brought to the synagogue and a blessing made at it’s presentation, reminiscent of Hannah when her young son Samuel left home and was dedicated to Temple service.
I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart, in the council of the upright of the congregation. For this child I prayed and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of him. As for me, in the abundance of your loving kindness will I come to your house. I Samuel 1:27; Psalm 5:8
The Wimples were decorated to match the parents hopes and aspirations for their children. If a name lent itself to illustration, it was often illustrated. For example, if the child’s name was David, there might be an illustration of a Biblical David playing the harp. Flags denoting country of origin were also common. Zodiac signs and family interests would be displayed and often a picture of a Torah and a wedding canopy were included, showing the hope that the child would grow up to a manhood of “Torah, marriage, and good deeds.”
Indeed the Wimple would be used to wrap the Torah on the day of a child’s Bar Mitzvah and would be sewn as part of the Chuppah on the day of the child’s wedding, As the boy grew, the Wimple was incorporated into each phase of the life cycle.
Today, Wimple collections offer a wealth of information to genealogists, social historians, and students of period costume and gastronomic tradition!
We have the opportunity to create our own customs right here at HJC! The Aleph class, in celebration of learning to read Hebrew and in honor of their consecration, joined together with their parents to create their own Wimples, depicting their own lives. We will wrap the Torah in the child’s Wimple on the day of his or her Bar/Bat Mitzvah and G-d willing, one day the Wimple will again be used at their wedding.
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