A wimpel is a cloth binder that is wrapped around the Torah scrolls to hold it together. It includes a child’s name, date of birth and usually a verse that expresses hopes for a rich and fulfilling life, surrounded by meaningful images.
Derived from the German word “mappas,” some synagogues use it as the “holy” garment used to touch the Torah before and after an aliyah (blessing) if the person reciting the blessing is not wearing a tallit. In many families, dating back a few hundred years, it was customary for a new baby to be swaddled in a wimpel, often constructed from a piece of clothing from a deceased family member. Often, additional panels were added over the years and then presented to the child on his or her bar/bat mitzvah. In more religious traditions, a boy was given the wimpel at his upshernish (cutting of the hair at the age of 3.) The wimpel has made a comeback in recent years and is a wonderful gift to be treasured and passed down as an heirloom garment.
These are examples of very old wimpels from a Jewish museum:
The binders below were custom made for a Rabbi’s sons. Each is embroidered on Thai silk with the child’s name and the names of both of parents. They are lined and backed with silk and each has an embroidered design (dove, sun and rainbow.) They are photographed so as to protect the Rabbi’s privacy.
This was custom made for a baby girl at her naming. There is a delicate image of a deer drinking at the water’s edge which corresponds to the words of the Psalm. It is personalized with the name of the child, her birthdate and her parents’ names. The child’s name is embroidered again in large letters at the ends.
Wimpel below: made for a 4 year old boy, customized with child’s and parents’ names along with blessings. It will be used to tie the Torah scrolls in synagogue.
This very simple wimpel was made for a girl’s baby naming. The family will add designs with silk and fabric paints over the years.
This latest wimpel was custom made for the High Holy Days at a synagogue. The pomegranate tree matches the design on the Torah mantles. Hebrew says “Ufros aleinu …” Spread over us the shelter of your peace. There are two rows of velcro sewn at the ends so that the wimpel fits tightly around the scroll.