NW Corner: Tzitzit at Neah Bay in the State of Washington
We created Four Wings of America conceptually linking the biblical expressions “four corners of the earth” and “four corners of a garment.” The biblical Hebrew word used for the four “corners” of one’s garment and metaphorically as the four “corners” of the earth is the same word that is used for “wings,” kanfot. “Make yourself fringes (tzitzit) on the four corners (kanfot) of the garment with which you cover yourself” (Deuteronomy 22:12). When I cover myself with a prayer shawl (talit) with four fringes each morning as Jews have been doing for millennia, I say, “May the talit spread its wings like an eagle rousing his nest, fluttering over its eaglets.” The biblical prophesy, “He will ingather the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners (kanfot) of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12), is being realized in our day. We decided that the four corners of America needed biblical fringes.
We drove from Seattle to Neah Bay, an Indian reservation at the end of the Olympia Peninsula in Washington State, attached the tzitzit to a tree at the shoreline. The tzitzit flowing outward into the Pacific Ocean transformed the northwest corner of continental United States by their presence. At the southwest corner, the tzitzit shuddered in the wind hanging from to the steel wall that separates San Diego from Tijuana at the Pacific Ocean. Tzitzit flowed into the Atlantic Ocean from huge barnacle-encrusted boulders on the Maine coast and from swaying palms shading the beach of a balmy Florida bay.
In synagogue in each of the four corner cities – Miami, San Diego, Seattle, and Portland (Maine) – I participated in the weekday morning services wearing tzitzit flowing out of the four corners of my talit, a white woolen rectangular shawl with a series of stripes on both ends like giant bar codes. The stripes are parallel to call attention to the multiple paths of the twelve Israelite tribes, each representing different personality traits and alternative viewpoints. Photographing groups of men in their striped shawls in the synagogues brought mind zebras and bar codes. I photographed zebras in the zoos of each of the four corner cities and juxtaposed them with the photographs of the men in striped shawls.