Home Media Sermons by other preachers Sermons by Pastor Johan Hulshof . The prayer shawl (Tallit) Part 1

. The prayer shawl (Tallit) Part 1


(Part 1)


I don’t have the luxury of a series of 5-8 weeks, as Pastor Nicki has, so I will probably be leaving out more information and explanation than I should, so bear with me as: TODAY AND NEXT WEEK WE LOOK AT : Bible Manners and Customs… and in particular  :

The Prayer Shawl, (aka. tallis, tallit )
By way of introduction I want us to note the following:
The Prayer Shawl is a religious symbol, and in Scripture it is called by different names or denoted by many descriptions: a garment, ….shroud, ….canopy, ….cloak It envelops the Jew both physically and spiritually, in prayer and celebration, in joy and in sorrow.
I’ve brought a modern one along … but the principle lesson will apply to both ancient and modern. 
While some other Jewish garments or objects might be treated more casually, the tallit is a special personal effect,  …generally used for many years or a lifetime and never discarded.     (Engagement ring)   The difference being that you get buried with your tallit, I don’t know of anyone being buried with their engagement ring. Most Jewish men (and some women) own very few tallitot in their lifetimes. Even a threadbare tallit is treated with great respect, as if it had a mantle of holiness, acquired from years of use. Although there is no mandatory tradition, in Conservative, reform, and otherwise non- religious families a tallit, is likely to be given as a special gift, from father to son, from father-in-law to son-in-law, or from teacher to student. It might also be purchased to mark a special occasion, such as a wedding, a bar/bat mitzvah, or a trip to Israel. When a man dies, it is traditional that he be buried dressed only in his kittel, with his tallit draped over him.

Anyone attending an orthodox synagogue today will see that the men are all wearing prayer shawls. To say that it’s a very important part of Jewish life is an understatement.….because it of course also protects the scrolls of the Torah when they are moved. I believe that learning about this sacred garment will clarify and enrich our understanding of various Biblical events and stories, in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament! Our observations will be five-fold:


Firstly we look at:


NUMBERS 15: 37-41


v37 The LORD said to Moses, v. 38Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. v. 39  And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. v. 40 so you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. v. 41 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD your God."

Here we find out that the Hebrews were commanded to attach fringes/tassels to the four corners of their garment. These were known as the Tzitzit, (Pronounced: SEET SEET) long fringes knotted in a particular way.

What I find interesting is that the Word says:

v 39  And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and in v. 40 so you shall remember and do all my commandments,

The Biblical version says there needs to be at least one blue cord. Or one blue string inside of it that identifies it. All of this was a visual reminder of setting them apart, sanctifying them. A visual announcement or reminder to them and to those around them that these are particular people, these are a peculiar people.

These are people that God is using for a special mission.

Folks….Because they lived in a world where there were all kinds of ways to dress.

  • All kinds of ways to eat.
  • All kinds of ways to worship.
  • All kinds of ways to speak.
  • God Himself singled them out from all the people [making them distinctive]


But now to the important matter referred to in verse 39… it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them,

The Hebrew word is: צִיצִת -Tzitzis i.e., fringes/tassels, but alternatively, the word refers not to the fringes themselves, but to what they call upon their wearers to do.

The translated word "צִיצִת " " Tzitzis" actually, calls the wearer to peer at something intently and as stated in verse 39, one should look at the tzitzis in order to remember all the commandments.If we had time to delve into the verses fully, then we would have started by looking at vv 32-36

Because they tell us that preceding Gods instructions to put tassels on their garments, a grave sin had been committed. A man had been caught gathering wood on the Sabbath. And he was stoned to death for this sin….What sin ?

(Exo 20:8)  Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

It seems quite clear that God was aware that His people were prone to forgetting His commandments, and therefore, His instruction, to make tassels…It was a reminder.

What I found interesting, is that while it seems that God’s original intention was for His chosen Nation to focus on and remember His Commandments…Somewhere in the past… and I haven’t in my studies been able to determine exactly when,….His people just wanted to “help God along” and so they thought… why don’t we include all the 613 laws as well…

Isn’t it strange that God calls people to be saved by His grace and to live by His grace, but then they mess things up by making the relationship with God, a relationship governed by laws?.

There is unfortunately not enough time to go into detail, except to say that the prescribed way of tying the knots and the division of the strands, coupled with Gematria; results in the number 613. Which significantly is the number of Commands, and Laws found in the Torah.

Let’s just pull this all together:

The Tzitzit or tassels or fringes were there primarily to remind the Israelites that they were a people chosen by JHVH (Jehovah) to be a Holy (separted) people and as such, a people obedient to the commandments of their G-D.

Folks…for the Jew to be walking about with his Tallit is the equivalent of the Christian walking around with his Bible hanging from a chord around his/her neck. Telling others whose you are and being reminded how you should be conducting your life. But the original idea of having the prayer shawl or Talit, also had a very practical application….


The Talith was their …Prayer Closet.

TALITH contains two Hebrew words; TAL meaning tent and the suffix ITH meaning little.

Thus, you have LITTLE TENT. Each man had his own little tent.

Remember how in Exodus 25+27+36 and 40 in particular we read of the Tabernacle (also called the “tent of meeting”, the forerunner to the Temple in Jerusalem. Now the reality was that there in the wilderness….millions of Jews could not fit into the tent of meeting that was set up according to the Old Testament dimensions. Therefore, what was given to them was their own private sanctuary where they could meet with God.

Each man had one! His Prayer Shawl or Talith. They would pull it up over their head, forming a tent, where they would begin to chant and sing their Hebrew songs, and call upon God. It was intimate, private, and set apart from anyone else -- enabling them to totally focus upon God. This was their wilderness prayer closet!

It would seem that this posture, covered by your Tallit, was considered so sacred, that no one, for whatever reason, would disturb you while you were covered.

Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount says:

Matt 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. NIV.

The word for “room”  is:”TAMEION”

Which is a Greek word meaning “an inner chamber, or a secret room.”

IOW… WHEN YOU PRAY…WITHDRAW FROM THE THINGS OF THE WORLD THAT CAN HINDER YOUR PRAYER. The closeting of oneself in the covering of the Tallit (prayer shawl) was a symbolic separation from the world.



There is a claim made that the Prophet Elijah passed his “mantle” on to Elisha in (II Kings 2)Folks, we must be very careful not to spiritualize all things, to the point where we declare something is from Scripture, when, in reality it is man’s word about Scripture.

In  2 KINGS we read

2Ki 2:11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

2Ki 2:12 Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

2Ki 2:13 Elisha then picked up Elijah's cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

2Ki 2:14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

Many believe that this “garment” or “mantle” was actually his “Talis” and was symbolic of the power of prayer that Elijah had saturated that “mantle” with. This “mantle” that Elijah left behind as he was taken up by a whirlwind into Heaven was what Elisha struck and parted the waters of the River of Jordan with!

It’s a lovely thought, and sounds so spiritual, but friends……it’s without Biblical backing. What 2 Kings 2 does speak about is the Spirit of Lord being at work… I wish I had time to unpack it all, but sadly I don't. What I do know is we need a praying Church community, more today than ever before.

Folks… I know that many of us claim that we pray to the Lord all day long… we continually speak with Him, even while we are driving…And I don’t believe we should cease doing that.

But scripture suggests to us, and the lessons of the Tallit suggests to us that there is a need for drawing aside from everything… …a time to withdraw to that place where it’s only God and you…

Jesus needed that time…

Mat 14:23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,

In Mark 14, In the Garden of Gethsemane, we find Jesus going one side, alone, to pray.

Luk 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.

And if Jesus needed it, we need it even more!!!!!


I will bring todays teaching to a close now:

We have looked at the historical foundation for this garment and we have touched on the Prayer aspect of a TALIT (Little Tent).

Next week I want to look at three further aspects:

  1. The authority the tsitsit represent, and here we will look at David and Saul….and also at the Pharisees.
  2. We will look at also at the healing of the woman who was healed when she touched the hem of Jesus garment.


My encouragement to the Church today is simply this:


Remember the Commandments of God and Pray without ceasing.


God bless you.