Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The History of the Talis (Tallit) -- Its Meaning, Purpose and History
In Deuteronomy 22:12 we read: "Thou shalt make thee twisted cords upon the four corners of thy covering, wherewith thou coverest thyself."
Also, in Numbers 15:37-41 --
"And the LORD said unto Moses, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them, that they make them fringes in the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and that they shall put with the fringe of every corner a thread of blue. And it shall be unto you a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray; that ye may remember, and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God."
YEHOVAH God commanded Israelite men to wear a "tallit" (the Jewish prayer shawl) with "tzitzit" ("fringes") on the borders. These "tzitzit" (fringes) were viewed as acting as receptors of spiritual energy and inspiration. For instance, in Mark 5:25-34 where it is recorded that a woman with an issue of blood touched Yeshua's garment and was instantly healed without first asking the Messiah, it is understood that this woman had actually touched the energy-filled "tzitzit" on the border of Yeshua's "tallit" (prayer shawl). The prayer shawl was considered as a common everyday item of clothing for devout Jewish men according to the commandment given to Moses for the men of Israel. Therefore, Yeshua's question in verse 30, "Who touched my clothes?," is historically appropriate in its wording.
The Talis is...a religious symbol...a garment... a shroud...a canopy...a cloak which envelopes the Jew physically and spiritually.
In prayer and in celebration -- joy and sorrow -- the Talis has followed the Jew through the centuries.
In the Talmud we read: "The Holy One, Blessed be He, wrapped Himself in a talis...showing Moses how to pray" (Rosh Hashana 17b).
Also -- "The Atarah (crown) is usually embroidered in gold or silver. It is placed at the top of the talis so that its outside can be distinguished from its inner. The tent walls of the Mishkan (Holy Tabernacle) were marked thusly so they always hung in the very same manner" (Taamin 45a).
In the Nehar Mitzraim, Hilchot Tzitzit, chapter 2, we find: "The priests cover their heads with the talis to contain the light of the Divine Presence [Shekinah glory] which descends on them when they recite the priestly benediction."
Since the Israelite men were given tallits with tzitzit to assist with receiving spiritual energy and inspiration, they were, by implication, to pray with their heads uncovered in order to not obstruct the direct flow of spiritual energies. However, it was permitted to wear a round-shaped cap (masculine) while studying the Torah, or to wrap the tallit (prayer shawl) around their head (symbolizing being enwrapped with the Holy Spirit) while studying the Torah.
According to the Zohar (Exodus 141a), wearing a talis "inspires awe and reverence for God at prayer."
The Talis and its wearer never part -- even in death. The pious wrap their deceased in a Talis over his shrouds.
Holy writings and religious articles -- wrapped in the Talis -- are always buried when unusable; they are never just discarded.
The Torah commands that tzitzis (fringes) contain a thread of Tichales (blue). The reason for this is contained in Sotah 17b.
Blue is like sea,
Sea is like sky
Sky is like the Throne of the Lord.
The dye used for this color came from a species of the snail family called Chilazone -- often identified as the Sepia Officinalis or Helix Jointhina. The Talmud recounts that the Chilazone appears only once in seventy years (Menachot 44a).
Rabbinic literature indicates several locations for Chilazone:
A -- The mountains (Sanhedrin 91a).
B -- The land of Zevulan (Megilah 6a).
C -- Lake Kinneret (Zohar-Exodus 48a -- Lev 150a).
D -- The City of Luz (Sotah 46b).
E -- The Phoenician border (Shabat 26a).
According to Exodus 39:2, 8, and 22 we find that the priestly garments were blue and white, like the blue thread among the white tzitzis.
The Talis itself should be white and blue (Berachot 9b); and the blue or black stripes in the present-day Talis remind us of the commandments or tichales (Peri Migdanim chap. 9).
The Radziner Rebbi, Rabbi Gershon Chanoch Leiner, reintroduced the use of Techales in tzitzit. Although opposed and questioned by many scholars of his time -- it is still practiced today by many of his followers and others.
The striking similarity between the striped prayer shawl of the Jew -- the Talis -- and the striped banner of the Jewish people -- the flag of Israel -- is not accidental. Three people, in separate locations and without contact, designed similar flags: each said the Talis inspired him.
Rabbi Jacob Askowith, of Boston, Mass., displayed a banner almost exactly like the Israeli flag on July 24, 1891. In his letters, he wrote that the Talis serves as the basis for his design.
According to Jacob de Haas' book, Theodore Herzl, Isadore S. Donn, a Russian Jewish artist living in London, made a Jewish banner in 1893. Donn said "...the colors were based on biblical authority, and the stripes from the talis."
David Wolfson, Herzl's aide, is usually given credit for the Jewish flag's design. In an article penned in 1911, pertaining to the Second Zionist Congress, he said: "Suddenly I got a brainstorm! We already had a flag -- the blue and white of the talis! We had only to unfurl it before the eyes of the Jewish people and the world at large. Accordingly, I ordered a blue and white flag, with the Shield of David in its center. And when it finally waved over the hall...no one raised a question or expressed surprise. It seemed perfectly natural!"
The Talis is present at all of the major occasions of a Jew's life: circumcision, bar mitzvah, wedding and burial. Talasim are worn by all of the bris milah participants.
The canopy of the Talis unites all who stand under it. On Simchas Torah, the children of the congregation are called to the Torah together. The Talis is spread over them, uniting all in religious experience.
For most males, a Talis is worn initially when he celebrates his bar mitzvah. The Talmud says, however, that a child of less than thirteen should wear a Talis if he knows how to wrap himself in one (Succah 42a).
When moving the Torah scroll, the Talis acts as a protector.
Customs using the Talis as a chupa vary. In certain communities, it is canopied over the heads of the bride and groom. Other communities wrap the bride and groom in one Talis. Some communities spread the Talis over the heads of the entire wedding party.
In some congregations, only married men wear Talasim. The object is that bachelors be recognized, become embarrassed, and will hasten to marry (Divrai Koheles 47).
Another explanation for this is the proximity of the law of tzitzis to that of marriage (Maharil).
Throughout the ages various styles of Talasim arose. The Yemenite Jews have an all black Talis which is worn during a period of mourning -- the German Jews have an all white Talis worn on Yom Kippur.
Old Talasim are scarce because of a beautiful tradition: burial in the Talis a man had prayed in.
Today's Talis issues from an ancient garb. It has its origin in the biblical commandments to wear fringes (tzitzit). In the desert, the ancient Jews donned woven cloaks not unlike the four-cornered Abaya worn at present by the Bedouins. Putting fringes on their garments was one of the first commandments fulfilled by the Israelites after Moses descended from Sinai with the Torah.
As styles changed, pious Jews quickly designed special four-cornered garments to preserve this symbol of commandments. The Talmud compares the Talis of the scholar to the Roman Pallium -- a toga worn by distinguished personages.
Beautifying the object used in performing a mitzvah (cheftzoh shel mitzvah) has been a Jewish tradition for centuries. Jewish craftsmen, often housewives, believed that aesthetic beauty added to religious experience.
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