The Tallit in the New Testament

The Tallit in the New Testament

The Tallit in the NT

Introduction

            Since I’ve come to believe and invest my life in Yahshua the Messiah, the promised One of Israel, I have progressively been concerned with the Gentile Churches lack of understanding, missed opportunities, and poverty of knowledge because of their reluctance to examine Jewish concepts extant at the time of Yahshua’s visitation.

            It is the duty of all believer’s to seek competent, full, and as complete knowledge of G-d as each is individually capable of acquiring, however we cannot obtain such a lofty goal unless we study and rightly divide the Word of G-d. To do this we must go to the source, G-d’s Torah, in order to fully comprehend Yahshua, His work, the early assemblies agenda, and all through a Jewish perspective.   

            For that reason it is my desire to encourage each believer to invest time and energy in an in depth investigation of Scripture. Excitement about the Scriptures and the study of foundational Jewish concepts needs to be encouraged if every believer’s life is to become enriched through expanded knowledge. But more than that, each believer needs to be fully aware of our Lord Yahshua’s Jewish roots.

            Think of the impact a thoroughly armed army in G-d’s Word would make if we but thirsted after the knowledge of G-d as exhibited by the early Believer’s with its Jewish constituency. Instead of detective or romance novels we would read the Bible constantly applying it teachings to our lives.

            Judaism and the Jewish roots of Christianity have been neglected until this time. More and more we observe that as more Jews become converted new facets of the Holy Writ is opening up other avenues of inquiry for Christians, and as a by-product to unbelieving Jews as well. The Christian Church has become complacent, predictable, and believers need a challenge to inspire, to become excited about their faith again. I see Jewish concepts underlying the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) as part of that excitement, and as a way to a better understanding of our Lord Yahshua HaMashiach. Furthermore, I don’t believe we can have a complete understanding of the Old or New Testament without understanding the subtleties of Judaism. Knowledge of Judaism also demonstrates the continuity of the testaments as well. Having sincerely declared this I prayerfully undertake to present one concept found in both the Old and New Testament to illustrate my point. Open your mind and accompany me on a wonderful journey into fuller knowledge of the Scriptures and a better understanding of Yahshua’s daily life as a practicing observant Jew. You be the judge as to whether enrichment and a fuller understanding and love of our Messiah don’t result.

Heenay Ayl Yshuatee evtach velo efchad,

(Behold, G-d is my Salvation)

To build a foundation let me start with what the Bible teaches about Israel: Israel is the wife of God and "Christians" who are true Believers better defined as the Ecclesia (Called Out Ones-Jew, Ephraim or Gentiles) are the Bride of Christ. Logically, we know that you can’t be a wife and bride at the same time. The moment you become a wife you are no longer a bride. We also know a wife is subject to more responsibilities, duties, and discipline than a bride. The bride enjoys a period of grace before entering into and accepting the responsibilities of marriage. The Christian "Church" regards themselves as the bride of Christ who according to this description are betrothed, but not yet married, the marriage supper has not taken place and want take place until the tribulation period, which we know is (7) years. A Jewish wedding takes (7) days see the correlation. To my way of thinking it would be advantageous for Christians to understand and learn from the mother/wife, their Jewish roots. The same way we all learn from our natural mother who is mature and experienced. After all, isn’t it customary for the bride to learn from the mother regarding her duties and responsibilities in marriage? Her counsel for the bride is invaluable, and if Christians are too truly understand G-d, they must examine earnestly what He has decreed for His wife Israel as to her responsibilities and duties toward Him through the Torah the Ketubah, the wedding contract.

            All scripture is given for correction and reproof, and G-d’s instruction to His wife Israel transcends time. Given for all eternity and we would do well to listen. Being fully cognizance of that fact my goal is simply to instill in the listener the importance of the Hebrew bible and Judaism to the New Testament. If it’s in the new, and is to be valid, it has to be in the old. In many cases a clear understanding of the new cannot be had without a complete understanding of the old, and the heritage connected with it through Judaism.  

            I’m constantly amazed at how many Christians do not even think of Yahshua as Jewish or for that matter the Apostles, the early "Church" or the writers of the New Testament. Jewish roots have been obscured over time by neglect or intention. The Old Testament is ignored and understanding is sacrificed because of it. There is evidence today that even Luke, the so-called token Gentile may have been Jewish. In fact, he had to be for the Oracles of God were given to the Jews. Some how Yahshua has lost His Jewish identity, when in fact he was and is the “ Super-Jew.” The Old Testament is ignored and understanding and loss of opportunity is sacrificed because of it. This is not some sort of cultural pride or identity, for without knowing the basis of a belief no one can come to a full knowledge or defend that belief.  

Yahshua and The Tallit

            Our journey has brought us into the time of Yahshua or as he would more commonly have been called Yehu. (I prefer the name of our Lord as Yahshua because the name Jesus is translated from “Iesous” and “Iesus” which come from the Greek healing goddess “Ieso.” “IHS” is the abbreviated form and is the mystery surname of Bacchus: also known as Tammuz and Ichtus the Fish. All these variants of the same name are “son of Zeus.”) [1] True believers and those professing belief already know that Yahshua responded to, and fulfilled all of G-d’s commandments found in the Old Testament. In the New He even expanded on them by making spiritual applications that would be even harder to observe if possible. Except for the help of the Ruach (HS). So, we ask, what relevance does that have to us today? Why is important to understand the Jewishness behind the scripture?”

            To answer this question we are going to examine only one Judaic concept: the TALLIT, or TALLIS of which the TZITZIT is an integral part, and is what is known to English speaking persons as the prayer shawl.

            To proceed with our study a brief description of the tzitzit and tallit is in order. The tzitzit are ritual fringes that are attached to any four-cornered garment worn by a male and scripturally is not denied to females. During prayer services, the tzitzit are affixed to a large prayer shawl and is known as a tallit. The fringes themselves are attached to two different kinds of garments. During the day, OT Jews wore them as an outer garment called a Tallit katan and modern Jews wear under their shirt a garment called arba kanfot (four corners). This garment is placed over the head like a poncho. At religious services the tallit is used.[2]  The law concerning the ritual fringes known as tzitzit is one of relatively few biblical laws for which the Torah offers a reason: “ And you shall see (the fringes at the corner of the garment) and remember all the commandments of the Lord and observe them” (Numbers 15.39) [3] Yahshua wore one of these every day of His life. And every day of His life he donned Telfillin, [4] and prayed toward the direction of Jerusalem three times, morning, noon, and dusk. I believe even the early believer’s assemblies wore the Tallit because it would certainly have been the custom since the early assemblies were predominantly Jewish, which prevailed until after 100 AD.

            How can we be sure that Yahshua wore the Tallit daily? Because He was an observant Jew, perfect in the law. No other proof is necessary. Since the Law was given on Sinai observant Jews have worn Tallit every waking moment, for at least 3000 years. I cannot but believe Yahshua wore and used a Tallit to pray in the synagogue, as was the custom then and now. Furthermore, I believe He will be wearing a Tallit when He comes at His second appearing and we will examine scripture to support this later on. 

             Some scholars have also suggested that when the scriptures identify Paul as a “tent-maker,” they were actually referring to his being a Tallit maker. A tallit being likened to a tent. I am also inclined to believe this because Paul had been an observant Jew, dedicated, highly educated, and the scriptures infers he continued being observant when it did not pose a stumbling block to his gentile converts. However, I have been unable to conclusively prove this by any concrete evidence. The Greek texts do not seem to have a proper word for Tallit and the Greek word denoting tentmaker[5] when addressed to believers may have been something understood in that day as representing the Tallit, but is lost to us now. We also have to think who were his customers, the early believers. Primarily urbane and to my thinking without the need of a tent, but very much in need of a Tallit for the Hebrew congregations.

Why is this Garment Special?

            Why is this garment special? The purpose, beauty and holiness surrounding this garment have been lost to most followers of Yahshua and many wonderful truths have been lost in the process. To rediscover these truths we first need to explore the scriptural basis for the Tallit and the spiritual significance found in it.

            We must start with God’s commandments to begin discovering the origin of the Tallit, to wear Tsitsiot, (fringes or tassels) which literally means “great things.” First, there are two passages that command us to wear fringes or tassels. In  Numbers 15:37-40. we read:

37  The LORD said to Moses,

38  "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.

39  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 going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.

40  Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.[6]

Secondly we also read in Deut. 22:11-12

11  Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.

12  Make tassels ( g’dilium)  on the four corners of the cloak you wear. (New Int’l Version)

These two commandments together command G-d’s people to remind themselves of His commandments and keep holy by placing a fringe or tassel on each corner of their garments, especially to place a blue thread with each fringe, an especially to place them on a four-cornered cloak or covering. Apparently, G-d did not feel compelled to reveal the complete truth to the Hebrews regarding the tzizitot as we shall see. That’s why it’s so important to have a complete understanding of the OT and the NT.

            We also understand by the text that when the tzitziot is combined with the blue thread as commanded in Numbers 15:38 and joined to the four cornered cloak they become “tassels of greatness” or G’dilim (Deut. 22:12). This four-corned cloak, which bears the special tassels, is the garment that has come to be called the Tallit. Note however, a garment is not a Tallit without the special tassels connected to the corners.

            We’ve already discussed that wearing of the tallit with tiztzitot was the usual practice in Yahshua’s time and with this in mind it is easily seen how Yahshua an observant Jew daily put on telfilin and prayed as he placed the Tallit on His head (going into His closet). He was careful not to cover the telfelin, which had seven wrappings up the left arm on the side of the heart and two wrappings on the fingers to signify the (7) days of creation and the individual’s marriage to G-d. This is a picture of the Messiah that few Christians contemplate, but nonetheless one that is extremely relevant if we are to clearly see a pure portrait of our Lord. And without examining their Jewish roots they may never see this portrait until the millennium. 

            We also should be aware that in the command for Tallit found in Deuteronomy 22:11, is that it is to be a “cloak (k’sut) that covers (k’sut) you. A picture of the Holy Spirit, it also identifies the mantels referred to in the prophets as Tallit.    

            Now let’s look at some of the scriptures in the New Testament[7] that relate to the Tallit. In Matthew 23: 5 Yahshua mentions the Tzitzit concerning a moral matter.

Mat. 23:5  "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;

Yahshua was speaking about the wrong reasons hypocrites wore Tefillin (which is translated Phylacteries here) and Tzitzit or as translated tassels on the four corners of the Tallit which men wore.

            The very mention of the Tzitzit by Yahshua confirms the common use in His day. As I said, Yahshua Himself wore the Tallit simply because he was obedient to every commandment of the Torah or Law and without sin. And we read in 1 John 3:4-5 that sin is the transgression of the Law.

 

 

And …Is There Biblical Evidence Confirming the Tallit for New Testament Believers?

            Last week after one of the songs we sung employing the words arise to my wings it prompted me to bring this message about the Tallit and how it is considered a Holy Garment in Judaism.

            In Matthew 23:5 we see Yahshua warned about wearing the Tallit as a source of pride. He says:

But all their works they do to be seen of men: they enlarge the borders (Kaspedon) of their garments (Himation).” Kraspedon is the Greek word for Tzitzit and himation is the Greek for a cloak or covering, in other words a Tallit. Contrary to criticizing the use of Tzitzit or Tallit, Yahshua spoke out to guard the holy use of these things. He was speaking against people trying to look holy while their motives were unholy. They had no moral integrity with their outward obedience. It must not be a thing of selfish pride.

            In Matthew 9:20 we read where the woman with the issue of blood touched the “hem of His garment” and was healed. Hem here is the Greek word Kraspedon and garment is himation. The woman literally touched the Tzitzit of his Tallit. Yahshua asked, “Who touched me?” (Luke 8:44) She touched no part of his body which would have been against Jewish custom, no Rabbi may be touched by a woman, so Yahshua must have been considering the Tzitzit as Himself.

            This episode of healing by touching the Tzitzit of the Tallit is the only one recorded in detail, but it is not the only occurrence. In Mark 6:56 we read: “And whenever He entered into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought Him that they might touch only the Tzitzit of His Tallit: and as many as touched Him were made whole.” Once again they touched Him when they touched the Tzitzit. Yahshua never rebuked anyone for touching His Tzitzit.            

            In Mark 5:35-43 we read: Then Yahshua “took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Tallita kumi.” The text says this Hebrew phrase is to be interpreted, “Damsel, I say to you arise.” It seems this interpreting phrase may have been added to the gospel at a later time in an attempt to interpret “Tallita kumi.” The reason for believing this is that Tallita is not Hebrew for damsel or young girl. A more accurate translation of Tallita kumi is “ Arise to my Tallit or Arise even as my Tallit. A dramatic picture of Yahshua lifting her up with one hand and raising his Tallit heavenward with the other which is a customary way of prayer.

            What about the seamless garment Yahshua wore that the Romans cast lots for. Could this have been the Tallit? The tali kata? [8]

            A rather obscure commandment given in two places is important in making the Tallit. “You shall keep my statutes…a garment of mingled linen and wool shall not come upon you” (Lev. 19:19) and you shall not wear a garment of different kinds, as both wool and linen.”(Deu. 22:11) A TALLIT being a holy garment had to be made of one kind of cloth. This made the Tallit a seamless garment because no two different kinds of materials are sewn together. By making a Tallit of one cloth without seams, no accidental mixing of materials can be made. This symbolizes the unity of G-d. Yahshua’s Tallit was seamless. A priestly garment, as HE is our High priest.  The Tallit also points to Yahshua as the Lamb of G-d. One word for lamb is Hebrew is Taleh, from which Tallit derives. Yahshua as the Lamb is like the perfect unmingled woolen Tallit. The Spotless Lamb through His death covered and does cover our sins.

            In Malichi 4:2 we read: 2  But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun (meaning brilliance) of righteousness arise with healing in his wings;….“The Righteous Morning Star” (Yahshua) will cause you who fear My Name to arise through healing found in the corners of His Tallit.” Hebrew for wings is kanfort, which means corners. Corners of the Tallit

            There are many more illustrations in the Tanakh and Messianic Scriptures. In Rev. 19:11-16 in the King James we read and as I have said before it is why I believe Yahshua will be wearing a Tallit when he comes at His second coming:

11  I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.

12  His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.

13  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of G-d.

14  The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.

15  Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of G-d Almighty.

16  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

            Himation (vesture), used two times in this passage, is the Greek word, which refers to the Hebrew Tallit. He is clothed with this vesture. Clothed here is the Greek word periballo, meaning cast or thrown about, like a shawl is worn which is how a Tallit is put on. A Tallit also rests upon the thighs and there is writing upon it.

            Today it is traditional for Tallit to have stripes on each end. The stripes are usually blue and this is associated with the blue strand of the Tzitzit. Black is for mourning for the temple. The number and meaning of the stripes may vary but to believers the stripes symbolize that we are healed by the Messiah’s stripes.

            One last application we see in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) is the spirit of G-d descending on Yahshua as a Dove. Doves have wings or kanfort as does a TALLIT. The dove descended upon him as a Tallit on His shoulders. This began Yahshua’s ministry.  

 

Shalom v’ Brachas

 


[1] A Study in Ancient Religion, Odedipus Aegypticus, et al.)

[2] Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1988, Pg. 659

[3] “How does the mere act of looking upon tzitzit serve to remind one of God’s commandments? I suggest that it’s like a uniform worn by soldiers in the army. When wearing a uniform, one is especially mindful to whom one owes one’s allegiance” ( To Pray as a Jew, pg. 155, Rabbi hayim Donin)

[4] Tefillin are two small black boxes with black straps attached to them: Jewish men are required to place one box on their head and tie the other one on their arm three times a day. Tefillin are biblical in origin, and are commanded within the context of several laws outlining Jew”s relationship to God. “ And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let serve as a frontlet between your eyes” (Deu. 6:5-8)

[5] Strong’s Concordance: 4635. skenopoios, skay-nop-oy-os’; from G4633 and G4160; a manufacturer of tents:–tentmaker.

[6] New International Version

[7]Interestingly enought the B’rit Chadashah or New Testament isues no prohibitions or any instructions against the use of the Tzitzit, G’dilim, or Tallit.

 

[8] Little prayershawl , made much lighter and smaller to be worn with the Tzitzit exposed

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