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TETZAVEH (EX. 27.20-30.10)

TETZAVEH (EX 27.20 – 30.10)

So this week’s portion gives long and detailed instructions detailing the ordination of the priests (Aharon’s sons), but first- the “holy” garments they wear. I don’t really know why I put that in quotes but it feels sort of funny to write “holy garments”. Even though I literally just a few weeks ago bought a new Tallis, and I would definitely consider that a spiritual garment. Also, side note- while writing this I learned why some people say Tallis (Yiddish) and some say Tallit (Modern Hebrew).

I have had my Tallis since I converted to Judaism, over 17 years ago. It is white and gold, not especially effeminate, but not very big. It was long and rectangular and went just over my shoulders. Not like a shawl, but not like the large kind you see sometimes in synagogues. This past year at High Holidays I felt very odd wearing it. It didn’t fit me anymore- it felt small on my shoulders, and even though it really ISN’T exceptionally feminine, it was making me feel some BIG TIME gender dysphoria. I actually have trouble sometimes saying out loud when I feel dysphoric. There are lots (and I mean LOTS) of things that make me feel that way, but I never really talk about it. First off, most of my friends are cis, and no matter what they say, conversations about things like dysphoria or any trans-specific experience always ends up making me feel really weird. Like, I think its going to be fine, and then inevitably something happens, someone says something, and I am just kicking myself for having said anything.

Or, just bringing the dysphoria into words makes me feel worse somehow, as if, just by saying it out loud, the feeling grows bigger and more real. In any case, I don’t like to talk about it- even though I see other trans people talk about it all the time on chat groups and such. It just doesn’t work for me. I’m not one to talk much about deep feelings anyway. Different strokes and all that…. But in any case I definitely feel it- the dysphoria is pretty much endless- my hands, my fingers, my wrists, my hairline, my lips, my smile, my voice, my feet, my hips, you name it, on any given day so many things make me feel like they are just giant billboards broadcasting my transness….

In any case… I try not to focus on it. I try not to talk about it, not because I’m pretending its not there, but because I don’t think it does me any good. BUT, to get back to the tallis, and last year’s High Holidays- I was feeling some major dysphoria. But wearing my tallis to services is also a huge part of the HHD for me. It feels necessary. So after the holidays were over I decided I needed to get a new one. And transitioning is expensive, it feels like you’re constantly buying new clothes, new shoes, new coats etc. So I really thought about it before making that decision because they are not inexpensive. But they are, for lack of a better term, a “holy garment”. And something that help marks our rituals and practices as holy and special. So, I a long time thinking and researching about what kind of new one I would and should buy, what was right for me. After a long while I decided on a very traditional handmade one from Israel that I am getting in time for my naming ceremony (which hopefully will happen soon, because it’s now creeping very close to April and more Jewish events are now coming up- like my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah- I do NOT want to use my old Hebrew name in front of 150 of their closest friends).

But back to the Tetzaveh. What I really intended to write about this week was not my tallis, or dysphoria. This section’s garment description doesn’t even talk about creating a tallis; It describes an elaborately embroidered ephod, breastplate, robe, and headpiece. What I was going to write about was the direction from G-d (twice!) to write the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on stones (gemstones?) on the shoulders and chest of the garment. It made me think of the power of carrying our family history with us, even when it’s heavy. Sigh. But then I got sidetracked. By tallis talk. But that was sort of relevant too so I’m sticking with it.

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