Prayer Shawl (Tallit)
Seek the Truth with all your heart.
A Jewish artisan who weaves tallitot ties the tzitzit to the four corners of the garment. (Israel photo gallery by Noam Chen)
Why would a Christian wear a Prayer Shawl?
It is not essential to do so, it is entirely personal choice. Some choose to do so to memorize Jesus’ Jewishness, and to add richness to their relationship with GOD (YAH – ADON.)
Those who decide to have one, might use it in private prayer or Bible reading; and they might even wear it at a church meeting, if they feel comfortable in doing so. They may feel that it enhances their identification with, respect for, and closeness to GOD.
Anyone wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) should not be criticised – it is probably their expression of having or seeking a richer relationship with ABBA FATHER; or wanting to identify with Yeshua, Who wore one, as did Paul and the disciples for about 300 years after Christ’s ascension. People with a Jewish background who see someone wearing one are usually very touched by it.
We have the privilege and honour of restoring the ancient blessings, and following our Lord Yeshua in the wearing of the Tallit and tzit-tzit; that we might walk today with the power of His healing and provision in our wings.
(The tzitzit are the tassels on each of the four corners of the tallit. Fringes are along the ends.)
The Prayer Shawl, or Tallit in Hebrew, is a blessing given by GOD.
Pronunciation. In Modern Hebrew the word is pronounced (ta’lit = tarleet,) with the stress on the final syllable. In Yiddish it is (taləs,) with the stress on the first syllable. The plural of tallitin Hebrew is tallitot, pronounced (tali’tot.)
The Prayer Shawl is a symbol, which can be described as a garment, shroud, canopy, or cloak. It envelopes the wearer both physically and spiritually, in prayer, celebration, joy, and sorrow.
In the Old Testament six million Jews could not fit into the tent of meeting that was set up. Therefore, GOD gave each his own private sanctuary where they met with Him, within their personal Prayer Shawl. It was an intimate, private space and time, set apart from anyone else, totally focused upon GOD. This was their PRAYER CLOSET.
Matthew 6:6-8 ‘But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your FATHER, WHO is unseen. Then your FATHER, WHO sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your FATHER knows what you need before you ask HIM.’
Numbers 15:37-40 ‘Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels (tzit-tzitot) on the corners (kanafim = wings) of their garments throughout their generations [in perpetuity], and to put a blue thread in the tassels (tzit-tzitot) of the corners (kanafim = wings). And you shall have the tassel (tzit-tzit). that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember, and do, all My commandments, and be holy for your GOD. I am the LORD your GOD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your GOD: I am the LORD your GOD."
Deuteronomy 22:12 "You shall make tassels (tzit-tzitot) on the four corners (kanafim = wings) of the clothing with which you cover (kacah) yourself."
This garment is used at all major Jewish occasions: circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, holidays, weddings, and burials. It originally was a poncho-type wrap that extended below the knees. Later, the talit-katan (tah-leet’ kah-tahn’,) a shorter poncho-type garment, was worn. The Biblical requirement does not specify the length, but it does have three distinct requirements:
The garment is to be an outer covering (kacha).
The garment is to have four corners (kanafim).
On each of the four corners there is to be a tzit-tzit (a specially knotted tassel) with a shamash (a blue thread) running through.
In Biblical times Jewish men wore their prayer shawl all the time, not just at prayer. The apostle Paul was a Pharisee, but also a ‘tentmaker,’ and because the Hebrew term for tent and tallit is the same, many believe that he made Prayer Shawls, not tents as we know them to be.
The Tzitzit are the corner tassels of the Tallit:
Numbers 15:37-41 ‘The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all MY commands and will be consecrated to your GOD. I am the LORD your GOD, WHO brought you out of Egypt to be your GOD. I am the LORD your GOD.’
Jeremiah 48:1-46 The Hebrew word ‘tzitz’ is translated wings - give wings (tzitz) to Moab, that it may flee and get away: for its cities will be desolate. The tzit-tzit might thus be a "wing-wing" as mentioned elsewhere, to be attached to the "wing" of a garment.
The final verse:
Verse 47 “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come,” declares the LORD.
Here ends the judgment on Moab.’
(Greek: kraspedon = tassel. Hebrew equivalent = tzit-tzit of his garment - cloak.)
The threads of the tzit-tzit are significant. The colours of the six threads are generally white, or colours that coordinate with the garment, with a blue thread running through. The six threads represent the threads of our life, that we are set apart - holy to GOD. The blue thread is called the "Shamash" or helper. This helper is the thread that is blue for heaven and royalty, and is the one that binds the rest together and gives it its meaning. We recognize this helper as Jesus Himself, and the Holy Spirit of GOD that Jesus sent to be our helper, counsellor and power.
The tzit-tzit are wrapped and knotted in a special way that is designed to be a representation of The Name of GOD – YHVH - "I AM that I AM."
The Hebrew alphabet represents both letters and numbers; each letter stands for a sound, and also a number. This means that we can write in Hebrew by using numbers interchangeably for the letters. The tzit-tzit are made in this way. The threads of the tzit-tzit are double knotted five times; five for grace, and ten single knots to remind us of the commands of Love that GOD has given us to remember and keep. The shamash is wound between these double knots with 10 wraps, 5 wraps, 6 wraps and 5 again. The numbers of wraps correspond to the Hebrew letters 10=Y, 5=H, 6=V, and 5=H. This is a physical representation of The Name of Our GOD: I AM Your Healer, I AM your provision, I AM because I AM. The tzitzit on your tallit will be a constant reminder of your covenant relationship with GOD and Yeshua (Jesus) your righteousness, His Commandments, and His Promises. A very good method to help you explain what GOD has done for you and can also do for others.
Jesus and the Tallit.
What the scripture says about Yeshua and the talit-katan and the tzit-tzit:
Matthew 9:20-22 ‘Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind Him (Jesus) and touched the edge of His cloak (prayer shawl). She said to herself, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her, “Take heart, daughter,” He said, “Your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.’
Matthew 14:35-36 “And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto Him all that were diseased; And besought Him that they might only touch the hem (kraspedon = tassels) of His garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.”
These two texts show us that Yeshua (Jesus) wore the tzit-tzit as commanded in the Torah.
It was believed at that time that the Messiah would come with healing in his tzit-tzit because of what was written in:
Malachi 4:2 “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings (Hebrew: kanaf); and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.”
In our day we have the privilege and honour of restoring the ancient blessings, and following our Lord Yeshua in the wearing of the Tallit and tzit-tzit. May we walk in this day with the power of His healing and provision in our wings.
It is a comfort, a thrill, and a holy thing to wrap yourself in your tallit. This is a physical manifestation of your tent of meeting, your prayer closet, and your marriage canopy. Thank Yahweh (GOD) when you put it on, maybe with the traditional blessing: ‘Blessed are You, O Lord my GOD, King of the universe, who has given me the tallit and tzit-tzit in which to meet you.’
Christians are free to wear the tallit, showing their respect for Jewish devotion to YAH (GOD) and prayer. When Orthodox Jews accept Yeshua (Jesus) as The Messiah, they are perfectly free and welcome to continue their tradition of wearing the tallit, just as Yeshua did throughout His ministry. Born again (born of the Spirit) 'Followers of the Way' (Christians) are adopted Jews – grafted into the Olive tree - Ref. Romans 11:17-24.
The tallit adds richness to our relationship with, and a deeper expression of, love and respect for, Yeshua and YAH, when we pray, meditate on GOD-ly things, and read The Word.
People who choose to wear the prayer shawl in their own private prayer time - and sometimes during a church meeting - say that it helps to impart a very special closeness to GOD.
Deuteronomy 11 - covers the following: ‘The Hebrew word Shema does not only imply hearing, but also listening and acting upon what is heard. Shema is an affirmation of the basic tenets of Jewish faith. It is also a declaration of faith in one GOD. The verses that follow the initial words of the Shema express Israel’s duty to love GOD with all her heart, soul, and might. It reflects the first instance in human history that the love of GOD was demanded in any religion. Loving GOD is the distinctive mark of a true worshiper.
Loving GOD also involves what we think, say, and do. We are to teach HIS commandments to our children, and speak about the Word of GOD throughout the day.
Jewish people observe this part of the Shema (a few words from the writings of Moses,) by affixing a ‘mezuzah’ to the right-hand side of the doorpost of the outer entrance to every dwelling room in the house. This little box contains a parchment on which the Shema is carefully handwritten, as well as the Hebrew word Shaddai, meaning Almighty, which is written on the back of the parchment. The mezuzah is a symbol of GOD’s watchful care over the house and its occupants. It is a reminder to everyone who goes in and goes out, that this house is devoted to GOD and the keeping of His commandments.
Therefore the mezuzah in itself is a declaration.
It is customary for worshipers wearing a tallit (a prayer shawl, pronounced ‘tarleet’) to hold the four ‘tzitzits’ in the left hand while reciting the Shema. In the third paragraph of the Shema, when the word ‘tzitzit’ is said three times, and when the word ‘emet’ is said at the end, it is customary to kiss the fringes as a sign of affection for the commandments.
When a person is praying alone, they begin the Shema with the phrase “GOD (YAH,) Faithful King” (El melekh ne’eman) to bring the number of words in the Shema up to 248, the number of parts in the human body. This indicates that the worshiper dedicates his or her whole body to serving GOD.
The first line of the Shema in Hebrew: ‘Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Chad.’
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 ‘Hear O Israel, the LORD our GOD, the LORD is One.’
Love the LORD your GOD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.’
It was said that when each man was "at the doorway of his tent" (rendered as "entrance") actually meaning "wearing his tallit." It is said that as Jews claim the tallit is a tent or doorway, it means every man stood nearby, with his tallit on. Some sites, such as ngabo.org, claim that the word Tallit in Hebrew means a small tent, a Tabernacle or a dwelling place in the presence of GOD, which also was given a name as a prayer shawl in English. Ref. Exodus 33:7-10
Acts 18:3 talks about Apostle Paul being a tent maker, which simply meant that he was making tallits (prayer shawls).
The purpose of a tallit is merely to be a "four-cornered garment" that holds tsitsiyot (tassels/fringes). That is all. There is no Biblical command to wear a tallit, only to wear tsitsiyot. The tallit, however, was a way to hold the tsitsiyot and thus fulfill the command of wearing the fringes.
A very thorough explanation of the Tallit and Tzitzit by Rich Robinson in ‘Jews For Jesus.’
Under the Prayer Shawl - Secrets of the Priestly Blessing.
The main paragraph of the Shema: