30 July 2010

TALLIT (Prayer Shawl) and the tzitzit

Daddy is explaining to Little Man the tzitzit on the tallit (prayer shawl)

This article is from Ruach Fellowhip and written by Dominick Zangla. To view the full article go to the webpage.

The history of the tallit is best understood in its biblical context.

Numbers 15: 37-41
 Again YHVH spoke to Moshe, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels (tzitziot) on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners.  And you shall have the tassel (tzitziot), that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of YHVH 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 Elohim.

I am YHVH your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your Elohim: I am YHVH your Elohim." 

 Deut 22:12
"You shall make tassels (gadilim) on the four corners of the clothing with which you cover yourself".

In Numbers 15:37-41 and Duet. 22:12, the Israelites were commanded to wear fringes (tassels, or twisted coils) on the corner of their garments to remind them of the commandments of the Lord and to do them.

     The commandment was not to wear the Tallit.  By itself, the tallit has no value other than a cloak in biblical times.  Its purpose today was simply to carry the tzitzits.  Today it has other symbolism as you will see.  Outside of being a sign of the commandments, the tzitzits actually say something!

    In Hebrew there are no numbers but each letter has a numerical value.  This is called  gematria (Jewish numerology).  Therefore each word has a numerical value.  For example, on each tzitzit (tassel) there were 39 windings (7+8+11+13 separated by double knots).  26 is the numerical value of YHWH.  13 is the numerical value of Echad (one).  Therefore these windings on each tzitzit equals the numerical value of the Hebrew words "YHWH Echad" YHVH is One .

    This is the fundamental axiom of the Jewish faith known as the "Shema". Deut. 6:4

    In addition we also realize that Jesus suffered the same number of stripes for our healing.

    (Isaiah 53:5 and I Pet. 2:24)

 They were also commanded to "give to them" (the fringes) a blue strand called the "Shamash" or servant.  This is the same word as the center candle in the Menorah.

Each tzitzit have seven white strands, the number of perfection, surrounded by the blue "servant" depicting royalty.  It now adds up to eight, the number of new beginnings

In addition, if you add 600 which is the value of tzitzit and the 5 knots and 8 strands, they equal 613 that are the number of mitzvahs (commandments or instructions) in the Tanakh (Old Testament).  All 613 do not apply to everyone but to the nation, Israel, as a whole.  This represents theTorah.

    Today when we see a tallit we rarely see the blue "shamash" in the tzitzit.  Most modern talliot have eight white strands.  This has to do with tradition and the ancient source of the blue dye.

    In ancient times the only permanent blue dye was available from the glands of a snail called the hillazon (spelled a variety of ways.)  Vegetable dyes would eventually fade.  The dye was extracted from the snail through a process that was known by only one family from the time of the Exodus to the destruction of the Second Temple.  The cost of obtaining enough dye to create four strands would today cost thousands of dollars.  It may be one of the reasons that the tzitzit with the "techelet" (blue dye) were removed from the tallit before it was used to wrap the head of the dead.

    At the death of Y'shua, we are told that the snail disappeared and was thought to be extinct.  In addition, the Romans, in order to stamp out the knowledge of Temple service, separated father and sons so that the knowledge of the blue dye would be lost.  Later the Muslims killed all who had this knowledge in order to eradicate its use.

    Many men have sought to restore the use of the techelet and have used many items from the ocean, including the ink from a squid, to recreate the dye.

    About twelve years ago the chillazon snail reappeared and the process to obtain the blue dye has been re-established. It’s use has not been widespread since the cost of a set of tzitziot cost as much as the tallit itself.

    Think of the implications!  The snail disappears at the death of Y'shua and reappears today with the rest of the signs of His imminent return.

In Luke 8: 43-48

Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border (hem)of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.

And Y'shua said, "Who touched Me?" When all denied it, Kefa (Peter) and those with him said, "Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?'" But Y'shua said, "Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me."

Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, "Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace."

It is the Hebrew word tzitzit meaning fringe or tassel. (Remember the commandment of the Lord from Deut. 22:12 to wear fringes?). The word "garment" is himation or cloak.

When she came forward and touched His tzitzit she actually took the name of YHVH in her hand.

(YHWH Echad). She was instantly healed.

Y'shua immediately asked, "Who touched ME?" (YHWH Echad)

Later we read in the Gospels of both Matthew and Mark that Y'shua was asked to simply walk through the crowds so that the sick might have the opportunity to touch the tzitziot of His tallit.

Matt 14:35-36

And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent out into all that surrounding region, brought to Him all who were sick, and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.

Mark 6:56

Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.

When we come to the scene of Y'shua’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem we also notice that the same word for clothing (himation) used. The disciples put their talliot on the back of the colt for Y'shua to ride and others put fronds and talliot on the ground as a grand gesture of welcoming a king.

Mark 11:7-8

Then they brought the colt to Y'shua and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

Y'shua referred to the tzitziot of the talliot of certain Pharisees when He spoke of their hypocrisy in

Matt 23:5:

"But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.

In Mark 5: 41

Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, "Talitha, cumi," which is translated, "Little girl, I say to you, arise."

Some scholars believe that word comes from the word "Talith" and that the literal translation of this is, "Little girl who is now in my tallit, arise!" and the power of YHVH caused her to rise.

In John 19: 23-24

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Y'shua, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be," that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: "They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots." Therefore the soldiers did these things.

A tallit is made of one piece woven without seams and is usually made of the finest material.

In Acts 12 we have the story of Herod’s persecution of the saints. After having Yachov (James) killed he had Kefa (Peter) seized and thrown into prison. The night before Kefa was to be slain an angel appears in the prison cell.

Then the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and tie on your sandals"; and so he did. And he said to him, "Put on your garment (himation or tallit) and follow me."

Finally in Revelation 19: 13-16

He was clothed with a robe (himation) dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of the Almighty. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:


What kind of robe would the returning Y'shua wear?

When sitting upon His throne with His tallit upon Him, where would the tzitzit land?

Across His thigh would drape the tzitzit which proclaims "YHWH Echad" who is King of Kings!

I think this is pretty amazing stuff. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


  1. The tallit used while praying in Jewish community.The tallit is most common for a Jewish male or female to begin wearing the tallit after the age of 13.

  2. Thank you Samual for adding about the 13 yrs of age. Many Messianic Believers in Yeshua also follow the same practice of wearing Tallit at the age of 13.


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