Among the many communities that are categorized as Ashkenazim (Jews originally from central and eastern Europe), the descendants of German Jewry have maintained a distinct culture of their own. One of the most beautiful customs of the Yekkish community (as the German-Jewish community is called) is that of the “wimple,” a simple cloth that helps bind a child to the community and to Torah.
The wimple, a term which is often translated as sash, is created by reconstructing the blanket used to swaddle a baby boy at his brit milah (circumcision). The blanket is cut into strips that are then sewn together to create one long sash. Several feet long, it is generally embroidered (often by the baby’s mother or grandmother) or painted with the child’s name, birth date and traditional blessings and biblical verses.
In some Yekkish communities, the wimple is brought to the synagogue shortly after the brit milah. In other communities, it is brought there when the boy turns three - the age when a child traditionally begins to learn the aleph-bet. When the wimple is brought to the synagogue, the father and child receive the honor of g’leela, the rolling of the Torah scroll. When the scroll is closed, it is then wrapped in the wimple and returned to the aron (ark). The next week, when the Torah is brought out again, the wimple is removed and added to the synagogue’s wimple collection.
When the boy celebrates his bar mitzvah, his wimple is once again wrapped around the Torah as part of the celebration. Many families also incorporate the wimple into the aufruf ceremony the Shabbat before the young man is married.