The Tallit – Prayer Shawl and Mantle of Annointing


In my post called “A Woman’s Place Is”, I mentioned the in the picture depicting Rachel that if you look closely, that looks like Jacob’s Tallit or perhaps it was her own.

What is a Tallit you may ask?  I was going to post about this over the weekend and never got around to it…so it hit me when our Pastor’s message at church had a brief mentioning of the Tallit by name.  OK, Lord, I should have posted my article about the Tallit rather than playing on my computer….I hear You.

Let me go from memory first and then I will reference sources on the information in my head.  There are instructions in the bible on how to make one of these, given directly by G-d.  This can be found in Numbers 15:37-40 and Deuteronomy 22:12.

Again the LORD spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels 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, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them…and be holy for your God”

First, the Tallit has tzit tzit on it.  What in the world am I talking about?  OK, let me say it in English….the prayer shawl has fringes or tassels on the bottom edge and sides of the garment.  Basically, white thread that forms tassels like on a high school graduation hat but are tied into several knots down the tassel, leaving the bottom of the tassel fringed.  Each knot is representative of one of G-d’s commandments.   Every observant Jew wore one, including Jesus, which is what the woman with the issue of blood touched when it says she touched the hem of his garment.  If you notice, modern Tallits are missing something….the blue thread mixed in with the white threads in the tzit tzit.  This is because the blue dye used to do this came from a snail near the Dead Sea that is no longer found anywhere.

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Next, the Tallit has a blessing written in Hebrew along the top edge.  Hebrew is read from right to left, by the way.

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.

My soul, bless the Lord! Lord my G‑d, You are greatly exalted; You have garbed Yourself with majesty and splendor. You wrap [Yourself] with light as with a garment; You spread the heaven as a curtain.

The Tallit is our tabernacle outside of our permanent dwelling place.  It is worn both around the neck and, at times, covering the head with the top edge tucked under so that the Hebrew blessing is facing inward against the head.  This is symbolic of going into our prayer closet…because once the head is covered, no one can identify the person underneath unless looking directly at them from the front.

Anywhere that you see in the bible where it says an anointing or mantle was passed off from one person to another, it is a direct reference to the Tallit.

Oh yes, and in Jewish weddings, it is customary for bride and groom to stand underneath a Tallit during the wedding ceremony as it makes a tent high above them being held up by poles.


I sometimes use mine in prayer when I have alone time.  I have only had it outside of my house a few times.  Traditionally you do not buy a Tallit.  One is bought and given to you.  Mine was given to me by a Rabbi/teacher here in Crossville.  Traditionally this is done for children when they reach the age of accountability or Bar/Bat Mitzvah….sometimes one is given by a father to his son before he gets married.

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So should you go get one of these and start wearing it at your church?  No.  Why not?  It would draw undue attention…not to mention I said you don’t just buy one…one is given to you.  If it is not customary at a given center of worship to wear and people are completely unfamiliar with it, why would you want to distract them from what the Lord is doing right there in the midst of them?!?!?!  Be mindful of your actions.  It is merely a symbol, like anointing oil and like a mezuzah.  If you don’t know what a mezuzah is, search my site, there is an article that discusses these.  I have one of those too on my front  door post.

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Fred Dickey

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