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The Tallit

The Tallit

By Eric Carlson on April 28, 2022

Phrases and Purpose

Atara – The crown or neckpiece of the Tallit.

Shamash – The blue strand in a tzitzit.

Tzitzit – Specially made fringes worn on the four corners of a Tallit.

Tzitziyot – Plural form of tzitzit.

The blessing embroidered upon the atarah or CROWN is usually:

Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the Universe, who sanctifies us with His commandments and commanded us to wrap ourselves in tzitzit.
Barukh attah Adonai, eloheinu melekh ha-olam, asher kiddeshanu bemitzvotav, vetzivanu lehitatef b’tzitzit.

The Blessing that is recited when putting on the Tallit:

“Blessed art Thou Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to wrap ourselves in the tzitzit.”
Barukh attah Adonai, eloheinu melekh ha-olam, asher kiddeshanu bemitzvotav, al mitzvat tzitzit.

Custom of the Tallit:

In ancient times the Tallit was more like a poncho, worn daily as clothing to protect against sand and wind. Today the Tallit is used as a religious garment for prayer (Prayer Shawl). At the four corners of the Tallit, Tzizit (tassels) are attached in fulfillment of the biblical commandment. For prayer, the Tallit is pulled over the top of the head blocking all distractions. This is a personal prayer closet, a private, holy place where one seeks the face of God. Yet, the function of the Tallit is a vehicle to attach and carry the Tzizit! The Tzizit consists of one long and three short white threads which are passed through holes in the four corners of the Tallit! The biblical commandment prescribing the entwining of a blue (Tekhelet in Hebrew) cord in the fringes is essential because blue, the color of the sky, was also the color of the “Throne of Glory”.

Exodus 24:10. and they saw the God of Isra’el. Under his feet was something like a sapphire stone pavement as clear as the sky itself.

And Ezekiel saw the Throne of God:

Ezekiel 1:26. Above the dome that was over their heads was something like a throne that looked like a sapphire. On it, above it, was what appeared to be a person.

Again, Tzizit’s are commanded by God:

Numbers 15:38-40. “Speak to the people of Isra’el, instructing them to make, through all their generations, tzitziyot on the corners of their garments, and to put with the tzitzit on each corner a blue thread. 39 It is to be a tzitzit for you to look at and thereby remember all of ADONAI’s mitzvot and obey them, so that you won’t go around wherever your own heart and eyes lead you to prostitute yourselves; 40 but it will help you remember and obey all my mitzvot and be holy for your God.

Let’s pause and talk about command versus precedent regarding both the Kippot and Tallit.  The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The 5th Amendment is law. When you get arrested as we all know from Movies and T.V. you are read your Miranda rights. Miranda rights” came about following the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision, which found that the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of Ernesto Arturo Miranda had been violated during his arrest and trial for armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape of a mentally handicapped young woman. (Miranda was subsequently retried and convicted.). Miranda was unaware of his rights and answered police questions that incriminated himself. Because of this Supreme Court Case, every arrest is preceded by the reciting of the Miranda Rights.

That is not required by law. In fact, reading them is not a law, it’s a precedent which is a convention or custom arising from long practice. An overwhelming proportion of both Jewish customs and Christian customs are precedent. Its required because it’s been done over a long time, in fact millennia. That doesn’t make it law. You don’t have to be read your Miranda rights when your arrested, it’s not a law, but if you’re not read them the odds are high a judge will throw out of court anything you said because you were unaware of your constitutional rights.

Tzizit are commanded by God, the scripture is clear. But when they are to be worn, who wears them, and how often?  All precedent. The word doesn’t distinguish between men or woman wearing them or how often it’s to be done! Sha’ul spoke of precedent point blank several times, but this is often overlooked:

I Corinthians 7:25. Now the question about the unmarried: I do not have a command from the Lord, but I offer an opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is worthy to be trusted.

The construction of the Tzizit is also precedent. Typically one long thread is wound around the other threads 7, 8, 11, and 13 times and the four joints are separated from one another by a double knot. The total of all the wraps equals 39, the number of stripes that Yeshua bore on His back for our healing. The Tzitzit thus consists of five double knots and eight threads (13 total). This number together with the numerical value of Tzitzit (600) amounts to 613, the total number of Gods commands in the Torah.  There are several methods regarding how to tie the Tzizit, again, precedent not law.  However, be aware that though we are not constrained by orthodoxy precedent following some other practice may cause that community to ostracize you. 

A cord of Tekhelet (תְּכֵלֶת), a royal blue that is the official color of Israel, is supposed to be added to the fringe at each corner, however since the dye had been derived from an extinct snail found near Tyre, the color requirement for the tzitzit had been waived until about 15 years ago with the miraculous reappearance of the extinct snail and a supernatural rediscovery of how to process it (sun light). At some point following the Roman destruction of the Second Temple, the actual identity of the source of the dye was lost! These Tekhelet stripes became part of the emblem of the Israeli flag. Yeshua wore a Tallit and Tzitzit.

Matthew 9:20-22.  A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years approached him from behind and touched the tzitzit on his robe. 21 For she said to herself, “If I can only touch his robe, I will be healed.” 22 Yeshua turned, saw her and said, “Courage, daughter! Your trust has healed you.” And she was instantly healed.

The Tallit or prayer shawl is for everyone who is a believer (Jew and Gentile) that understands it’s meaning. It is a powerful worship and prayer tool to seek the face and glory of God. Used as a prayer closet, it allows one to concentrate and seek our heavenly Father without distraction. The Tallit is a garment one can wear to create a sense of personal space during prayer. By wrapping yourself in it, or by covering your head with it, the intention and direction of your prayers can be enhanced. The Torah does not state that the Tallit is for men only. All at Congregation Zion’s Sake are welcome to wear the Tallit contrary to some theologies!  In fact, the Tzizit are prophetic:

Zechariah 8:23.  ADONAI-Tzva’ot says, ‘When that time comes, ten men will take hold – speaking all the languages of the nations – will grab hold of the cloak (Kh’naf: edge, corner, wing, extremity of the garment, Tzizit) of a Jew and say, “We want to go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.”‘”

I pray the Tzizit will remind you to not go around wherever your own heart and eyes lead you to prostitute yourselves; but it will help you remember and obey all my mitzvot and be holy for your God.