The Shmatte Game

There was a time when three generations of my family were involved with the clothing business, or as my Dad calls it, ‘the shmatte game’ (shmatte = Yiddish for rag or fabric). My late Grandma Sadie was in her 80’s, sitting by her classic Singer sewing machine, patiently making dresses, doing alterations and fixing hems. My father was flying to and from fashion warehouses in Milan and Bologna to source new women’s clothing lines for London buyers, and my sister was weaving fine silks on the loom she’d bought after graduating from the famed Central St Martin’s College of Art & Design.

Our Kosher Sutra centres around clothing production. We read about how “all the wise-hearted people whom I have invested with a spirit of wisdom shall make the garments of Aaron, to sanctify him” (Exodus 21:3). The designers, garment-makers, weavers, haberdashers, milliners and their colleagues all have full employment in the preparations for the Mishkan, the predecessor to the Temple.

One thing I’ve learned from watching family members at the sewing machine is that it takes patience. This isn’t mentioned in our Kosher Sutra, but it is certainly implied. If you’ve ever tried to sew something, you’ll know that it takes time and concentration. When my father works on the sewing machine, he is in a zen-like state of focus. The hems have to be lined up, the needles have to be thread carefully, the seams are ironed dutifully and all of the preparation goes towards creating a perfect result.

Spiritual growth takes patience, focus and concentration. The Yoga Sutras teaches Dhyana (inwards-focused meditation) and Dharana (outwards-focused meditation), which are considered the fifth and sixth ‘limbs’ of yoga. Whether our meditations are on a specific point or on the entire universe, it is through concentration that we can become one with the object of our focus. This oneness can be called ‘yoga’, ‘spirituality’, ‘enlightenment’ or many other names. In every form, though, it is characterised by patience and focus.

There are a million routes to stillness but if we want the ‘spirit of wisdom’, the ruach chochma of the Kosher Sutra, then we need to be open to receive it. The idea of vinyasa yoga is that we are achieving a sense of stillness-in-motion, keeping a fluidity to our body and a fluidity to our mind. If you want to check whether you’re achieving this, pull out a needle, and thread and start sewing.