The Tallit: A Messianic Perspective
"You shall make for yourselves twisted threads on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself." (Deuteronomy 22;12)
As a new couple on the path my husband and I first stepped into the synagogue on Saturday morning service and we noticed the men and the boys were draped in white fringed shawls bordered with black or blue stripes. My husband was new to Judaic tradition, I however, had grown up in a Jewish household, was a little familiar with these cloths.
Even though I was raised to be Jewish my family was not very observant and Judaism never spoke to me, it always felt as if something was missing. My husband had a Methodist Christian background and while he accepted Jesus as his saviour, for him there was something missing from his religious traditions.
When we met we realized that we were meant for one another. Together we explored one another’s faiths. Therefore, it was on this day that we entered the synagogue that all began to make sense. This synagogue was Orthodox and we knew it was not to be part of our spiritual path. However, these cloths spoke to us both. We decided to learn more about them.
When we discovered the Messianic movement we realized this is where we belong… we were Believers in Jesus as the Messiah, but we also believed in the power of the Torah. It was through this journey that we learnt more about what we came to know as the Tallit.
We wondered, what power does one piece of cloth, a humble shawl have. What is the Tallit exactly? What is its root from and how do we, as Messianic Jews can use it?
This is what we learnt…
In short the tallit is a prayer shawl worn by men (and sometimes women) during morning prayer services, on the Sabbath and on holidays. They are used to prepare the mind and heart for prayer and inspire elation and reverence for God.
The origin of the Tallit comes from the Old Testament but the word itself is not mentioned. The actual commandment from God is to wear fringes on the corners of your garments, "And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them…and be holy for your God" Numbers 15:37-40
Therefore, the Tallit itself is there to hold the the tassels, or in Hebrew called the Tzitziot.
The Tzitziot are white, however some wear them with one blue strand called the Techelet. In modern Hebrew the word Techelet is now used to mean “light blue” in everyday things. But don’t be fooled by this nonchalant usage. The Techelet is important today. After the destruction of the Second Temple information about the source of the blue dye was lost. Only recently have people begun using the Techelet again. It has been a slow process re-including the Techelet back to the Tzizit, but for many Messianics it is an essential part of wearing the tallit.
Another interesting fact about the Tzizit are the 5 knots on each Tzizit representing the 5 books of Moses. The wrappings represent the 613 Mitzvot found inside the Torah.
When and by whom is a Tallit worn?
In Judaic tradition young men start wearing Tallit after their Bar-Mitzvah at the age of 13. It is used during the morning services and may also be worn by the men leading the evening services, or on “Thisha be-av” and “Yom Kippur” during services that begin before sundown.
Now for the biggest question we had: if women and Messianics not born Jewish are permitted to wear a Tallit and Tzizit?
We quickly learned that the real question to ask was: Does wearing the Tallit give glory to Yeshua or not.
The answers in our hearts... it can be used by anyone for prayer and praise of the Almighty.
At the end of the day as followers the Messianic movement we can choose to wear the Tallit and Tzizit or we can choose to refrain from it. The role of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Messiah (John 16:14) and anything that detracts from this end is decidedly not given from Heaven. (John 5:23)
Understanding that whatever helps us praise and sanctify the Lord in Yeshua in our hearts is something blessed. With that said wearing a Tzizit and Tallit, are aids to our prayer and praise. They alone do not increase our spirituality, only our earnest worship can do that.
Wearing the Tallit
First take the Tallit out of its bag as it is folded and you unfold it from the center first to the right having the Tziziot facing up.
Next you take the folded Tallit and place it on your right hand shoulder with the Tziziot facing down and forward.
Gently we separate the Tziziot from each other making sure they are not twined together as we recite:
Bar-chi Naf-shi Et Ado-nai, Ado-nai E-lo-hai Ga-dal-ta M’od, Hod V’ha-dar La-vash-ta. O-teh Ohr Ka-sal-mah, No-teh Sha-ma-yim Ka-ye-ri-ah.
Translated version: My soul, bless the Lord! Lord my G-d, You are greatly exalted; You have garbed Yourself with majesty and splendor. You enwrap [Yourself] with light as with a garment; You spread the heaven as a curtain.
Now open the Tallit completely hold the upper ends and kiss the top rims 3 times.
We wrap the backs of our body placing the inner lining on top of our heads (covering us completely)
Making sure the top part covers our eyes,
Then we begin to pray,
Baruch atta Ado-noy Elo-hai-nu Melech ha'olam asher kid-sha-nu b'mitz-vo-tav v'tzi-vanu al mitzvat tzitzit.
Translated version: Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the mitzvah of tzitzit.]
As we pray we place the right part of the Tallit over our left shoulder so that the Tziziot fall over our left shoulder on our backs.
After we recite the Tallit prayer:
Ma Ya-kar Chas-de-cha E-lo-him, U-v’nei A-dam B’tzeil K’na-fe-cha Yir-v’yun M’de-shen Bei-te-cha, V’na-chal A-da-ne-cha Tash-keim. M’kor Cha-yim, B’ohr-cha Nir-eh Ohr. M’shoch Chas-d’cha V’tzid-kat-cha L’yish-rei Leiv.
Translated version: How precious is Your kindness, O G-d! The children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They shall be satiated with the delight of Your House, and You will give them to drink from the river of Your bliss. For with You is the source of life; in Your light we see light. Bestow Your kindness upon those who know You, and Your righteousness on the upright in heart.
Set the Tallit right, the top part of the tallit covering our heads,
Two Tziziot draping in the back, and we place the sides of the Tallit on each shoulder.
That is the proper way to wear a Tallit.