When I look at it with a clear and analytical eye, it is astounding to me how much of my day is taken up by Judaism. My day does not feel right unless it is punctuated with the fulfillment of mitzvot (commandments) at the proper times.
I start my day with ritual hand washing immediately after I get out of bed, using a beautiful cup and towel that I spent real money (eight dollars for the towel and 37 for the cup, plus shipping from Israel) on, specially for this purpose. Even as I get dressed, I am doing Jewish things, donning a tallit katan (undergarment with holy fringes) over my bra and skirt and a kippah atop my ponytail.
My day would not feel right if it were not punctuated by prayer--hopefully, usually all three times, but certainly at least once. When I pray in the mornings, which is the time I am most likely to make, I wear a tallit gadol (prayer shawl, with the same holy fringes as the tallit katan) and, during normal weekdays, tefillin (phylacteries: square boxes of black leather, with scripture inside, on long black leather straps).
Now that we have entered the Penitential Season, which runs from Rosh Hodesh Elul (start of the month of Elul) through Hoshanah Rabah (last day of the week-long festival of Sukkot), there are extra Jewish things to do, as well. There is a special psalm (Psalm 27) to be recited at the end of morning and evening prayers, and I have my precious U'N'Taneh Tokef Youtube recording by the Israeli group Gevatron, which I allow myself to listen to from Rosh Hodesh Elul through Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).
And here are my own photographs of the objects that focus in my daily ritual life, in the order in which they were mentioned here:
This is my hand washing cup. It is made of brushed metal that shines in the light, and it is purple.
And here is the towel, draped over the cup. The Hebrew reads "...on the lifting of the hands;" these words end the blessing that goes with hand washing.
Tallitot k'tanot come in two different styles now. This first one is the same kind that men and boys wear. I wear this kind, in size extra small, under my t-shirts and polos and such.
This second kind was designed and made by women, for women. The company that makes them, Netzitzot, is very new. The women who make these start with an H & M undershirt, slit it to make corners (a tallit must have corners, that is the whole point) and then tie the fringes. I wear this kind when I am dressing up for the Sabbath, holidays, or other fancy occasions; it looks prettier under a dress or blouse, and allows me to feel graceful while still fulfilling this important commandment.
I couldn't photograph the kippah atop my head, obviously, so I did the next best thing: photographed the one I plan to wear tomorrow. Kippot come in all different sizes, materials, and styles; earlier this summer I did a post showing off my whole collection (I have 27) one by one. This one here is hand embroidered silk, by designer Yair Emanuel. It is one of my favorites in my whole collection.
This is my tallit gadol, in its bag. This is the one I have had since my Bat Mitzvah, ten and a half years ago.
Here it is out of the bag...
...and here it is partially unfolded. I didn't want to unfold it all the way when I wasn't going to use it, but I did want to show you some of the important details. In the upper left, you can see a portion of the atarah, or neckband. The stripes running vertically actually run horizontally across the sides when the tallit is unfolded. In the upper right, you can see a corner square (the corners of my tallit have the names of the Four Matriarchs--Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah--embroidered in Hebrew; not sure which corner that is) and the all-important fringes.
Here is my tefillin bag. I wanted a pink one, but not enough girls and women wear tefillin for there to be pink bags on the market. This was the closest my parents could get. The bag is velvet; the embroidery is of a crown, some branches, and the word "tefillin" in Hebrew.
And here are the tefillin themselves, in their cases. Again, getting them out just didn't seem right, somehow. On the left is the headpiece; the Hebrew lettering says "tefillin for the head." On the right is the armpiece; the Hebrew lettering says "tefillin for the hand/arm."