When I started weaving, I had no idea how fundamental it was to the study of Talmud. Again and again, the rabbis discuss the significance of weaving one thread, two threads, thick threads, thin threads…all of this focus on the significance of threads. We’ll get back to that in a minute…
Looms were not made in factories. Each woman or small cottage industry would have had a different loom, handmade by a carpenter or a family member. Looms vary across time and cultures, but weaving requires a few basic elements. I am attaching a picture from a scholarly article by Grace Crowfoot that shows more pictures of looms in ancient times. The basic idea is the same. There is a top bar and bottom bar (or weights) on the loom, and some movable pieces that move the threads up and down. Check out my weaving demonstration post and earlier post on the melachot of spinning, dyeing and weaving.
But on to more serious matters. Do we really think a woman would sit down on Shabbat to weave two threads? It’s not practical. You need clothes for your family, coverings for your floors and bedding for your household. I think mentioning these seemingly insignificant thread measures is meant to do two things: First, we must be careful about activities that resemble weaving, such as attaching things that break, braiding, or some of the other derivative actions we might not think about because they are not being done on a loom.
But since this section appears just before a very serious discussion about rending garments, and the gravity of the death of any individual, maybe we are meant to consider the significance of a single thread or two in a fabric as a metaphor. One torn thread can impact the integrity of the whole fabric. You know that wonderful Israeli song that makes you cry every Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron “ריקמה אנושית” ….in English it means we are all part of one human fabric. And when anyone of us passes away, the fabric has a hole in it, and we are not complete. So every single thread in the human fabric is significant. Please watch the video if you have never seen it. You can find the English roughly translated if you scroll down in the original youtube video.
It’s great learning with everyone. Shabbat shalom!
Of the Warp-Weighted Loom
Author(s): Grace M. Crowfoot
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.com/stable/30096659