Six months ago Rabbi Mitchell Kornspan officiated at the funeral and internment of my friend Ralph Tourkow. Before the funeral begins, Rabbi Kornspan cuts the mourning ribbons worn by Ralph’s closest relatives in a symbolic gesture of rending their garments, which reflects the tear in the fabric of their lives. The ribbon attached to a badge is worn on the left side over the heart to grieve a parent and on the right side to grieve a spouse, child or sibling.
The custom of rending garments can be found in the Old Testament where individuals rendered their garments in grief and despair: Jacob at the sight of presumed dead Joseph’s blood-splattered multi-colored coat, David at the news of King Saul’s death and Job who certainly had enough tragedy hit him to warrant rending his mantle. Today in Orthodox Judaism a garment is still rendered.
The book of Ecclesiastes 3:7 speaks of a time to rend and a time to sew. Which brings up the other half of the equation: can rendered garments be mended and made whole again? One would surmise garments in Biblical times took a lot of time to make: shearing sheep, spinning the yarn, weaving of the cloth and sewing the simple seams. With the number of deaths a person might experience, certainly they needed to repair the garment.
I posed my question to Rabbi Kornspan who explains the torn garment would be mended, not by sewing it with close stitches but basting stitches. The large loose stitches would be a sign to an observer that the wearer has suffered a loss and to the bereaved a constant reminder of the loss of their loved one close to their heart.
Recently I watched Ralph’s only child Lauren passionately play her violin with her father’s Scratch n’ Sniff band mates over at the Deer Park Pub, I was reminded how time passes: From the bright sunny days of May to the transitional month of November where once fertile fields now lay bare in the anticipation of coming snow.
May wasn’t the right time to write; my heart ached too much for Lauren, her family and friends. Now it is November, the month of All Saints and All Souls, a time to remember the dead, the impact they have on our lives, to celebrate their lives and believe in life eternal. Watching a smiling Lauren fiddle I knew this was the time. To everything there is a season…
Ralph and Lauren share a special moment as they perform to raise money for production costs for the Spark Circus in Thailand at Deer Park Pub. Ralph-May your memory be for a blessing!
Lois Eubank is the owner of Born Again Quilts restoration studio and vintage quilt gallery located at 4005 South Wayne Ave. www.bornagainquilts.com