This is an article that St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe published in their monthly bulletin about Rabbi Malka’s visit to their Prayer Shawl Ministry. Inspired by the tallit, many churches have created such ministries of people who knit together weekly to make prayer shawls for those in need of healing. They begin their work with asking for blessing upon their work and bring the finished shawls to Sunday services to be blessed by the priest and congregation.


June 2006
Rabbi Malka Drucker of HaMakom shared her knowledge of prayer shawls with members of the Prayer Shawl Ministry at its meeting, June 13th. Her visit was anticipated with great interest.

A remarkable speaker, she gave the members new perspectives on the work they are accomplishing. “What you are doing,” she said, “is far different from everyday needlework. As in all life, intention is everything. Your shawls are created with the intention to be healing objects. This is wonderful!”

Using her own prayer shawl, Drucker explained its construction, its
significance to people of her faith, how it is designed and how it worn.
Her shawl is woven of natural-colored wool, so fine it is translucent. She has embroidered its collar (centered on one edge of its length) in brilliant colored threads and beads. “Appropriate,” she noted, “for all seasons except the High Holy Days when I wear white.”

She put her shawl on by raising it above her head so it surrounded her like a tent. She let it slide down to her shoulders and then settled it around her arms and body. “This is a spiritual process,” she explained, “and a prayerful one. The shawl is connected to light, to the Light of God because the Light of the World is God’s Prayer Shawl. When worn, it is a reminder of our relationship to God and of the major aspects of our constant faith.”

The prayer shawl is a rectangular garment with a tassel at each corner, typical of similar garments worn throughout history. Drucker said that 4-sided garments were considered more elegant than other shapes, the number 4 having special qualities observed since earliest times. In addition, there is a tradition of fringe decorating the shorter sides. Fringe is always acceptible, she added – another sign of elegance. At one of the four corners, a combination of strings is worked in a macrame-type pattern using 613 stitches.

“This is the most holy part of the shawl.” Drucker explained. “It represents the Law.” A pocket is added at the corner. It will hold the strings when the owner is buried wearing the shawl.

Until recently, Drucker said, a blue stripe was woven into every shawl- a tradition that is no longer considered necessary by many because the Mediteranean shellfish-producer of the color has become extinct and no substitute can achieve its brilliance.

Instructions for wearing the Prayer Shawl can be found in the book of Numbers. Shawls are worn by men and women. They are presented at the “bar” or “bat mitzvah” by the mother of the honoree. Because the ceremony is a symbol of maturity, the mother hands the shawl to her son or daughter with some formality indicating the beginning of the young person’s independence and responsibility. Most often, the shawl is a gift for a lifetime. “And,” Rabbi Drucker added, “whoever wears a shawl feels the presence of love, of healing, of hope, of faith and of God.”

Heartfelt thanks are offered to her from all the members of the Prayer Shawl Ministry. Fortunately, video and audio tapes of Rabbi Drucker’s presentation are available.

Shirley McNally