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The Biblical Origins of Tallit and its Spiritual Significance

The Biblical Origins of Tallit and its Spiritual Significance

“Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corner of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot.”

Numbers 15:38 – 39  NASB

            The Tallit is one of the symbolisms of the Jewish faith that were used by the Jewish people throughout many generations. However, it is worth noting that the Bible did not expressively command the wearing of a prayer shawl or Tallit. There is no recorded use of Tallit by the Patriarchs, by Moses and even the prophets. Still, a careful examination of Scriptures will reveal that the Bible presumes that the Israelites will wear some form of covering for themselves as implied in several verses in Numbers, Deuteronomy and even in the New Testament.

            The most important aspect of wearing a Tallit is the command of God to put tassels on it or traditionally called Tzitzit. The Tzitzit are twisted and knotted fringes that are being attached to the four corners of the Tallit. With its ancient origins and traditional connection to the Jewish faith, it is essential to know the Biblical origins of wearing the Tallit and its spiritual significance for the people of God.

1. Tallit as a symbol of devotion to God

            Visit a Jewish synagogue, and you will find individuals who are wearing white garments as covering in their heads. Observant Jews do this as a symbol of being surrounded by God's Holy Presence and their absolute submission to His will. As the Tallit covers the head and shoulders of the user, it emphasizes that God’s Presence covers that person’s life much like when God’s Presence covers the Tabernacle. 

            When someone is wearing a Tallit over his head, especially during prayer, it speaks of the outward declaration of his devotion and faith to the Almighty God.

2. Tzitzit as a visual reminder of the mitzvah

“Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear.”                                – Deuteronomy 22:12 NIV

The true essence of wearing the Tallit is not on the garment itself, but rather on the tassels or the Tzitzit that are being attached to it. The LORD clearly expressed in the Bible the purpose of the Tzitzit. It is to remind His people of the mitzvah or the entire commandments of God as outlined in the Torah.

When you read the Bible, you can clearly see how easy it was for the Israelites to forget the goodness and faithfulness of God to them. They fell prey easily to the temptations of the pagan nations around them and prostituted themselves to false gods for so many times. Thus, the importance of God’s command to add Tzitzit in their garments as a physical reminder of God’s Laws for His people.

An individual who wears the Tallit does not only subject himself to God’s will, but also acknowledges to uphold the Law of God as outlined in the Bible. Therefore, the Tallit is an important part of traditional Jewish garments because it helps the people of God to draw closer to Him.

More than the physical garment

            Wearing the Tallit can help a person to boost his awareness of God’s presence and his obligation to obey the Law of God. However, more than the physical garments that we wear, what God is looking is not the outward appearance, but the heart. As the LORD said to Samuel, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)

            The Biblical origins of the Tallit signify God's sovereign will over our lives and the Tzitzit emphasizes the need to have a constant reminder of what God requires of us. The original purpose of the Tallit must not be lost on us and must not replace the actual need to obey God and to surrender in His will. In order to do this, let the Tallit be a reminder of the following truths:

1. God is above all

            He is always above us. And covering our heads and shoulders with the Tallit is a visual representation of this attitude of humility. When we put the Tallit over our heads, we need to acknowledge and live according to this truth.

2. God is Most Holy

            Covering ourselves must also remind us of God’s Holiness. We cover ourselves with the Tallit because we recognize that we are not worthy to face Him in His Holiness. As we pray with the Tallit that covers us, we remind ourselves that we are sinners in need of a Savior and forgiveness.

3. God requires obedience

            The Tzitzit in the Tallit must remind us that God requires obedience from His people. In fact, let me say this: Using Tallit is worthless if you will still live in disobedience to God. The primary purpose of the Tzitzit is to help God’s people to remember His command and therefore obey them. Let us not depart from the principles of God’s Words.

            In the end, the Tallit is indeed one of the most incredible relics of the ancient Jewish traditional garments that were passed down to many generations. However, we must not lose the original essence of wearing a Tallit, and we must not stop at the physical representation of its spiritual significance. Let the purpose of the Tallit penetrates our soul and let us actually live according to what God wants from us. 

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