Prayer Shawl History
In Numbers 15:37-41 and Duet. 22.12, the Israelite’s were commanded to wear fringe, tassels, or twisted coils on the corner of their garments to remind them of the commandments of the Lord and to do them. There were 39 windings in each, which equals the numerical value of the Hebrew words “ the Lord is One “ How awesome to realize that Jesus suffered the same number of stripes for our healing. (Isaiah 53:5; I Peter 2:24)
Even today the Jewish people say that the Talis (Prayer Shawl) is a religious symbol, a garment, shroud, canopy, cloak which envelops the Jew both physically and spiritually, in prayer and celebration, in joy and sorrow. It is used at all major Jewish occasions: circumcisions, barmitsvahs, weddings and burials. It protects the scrolls of the Torah when they are moved. The dead are wrapped in it when they are buried. The bride and bridegroom are covered with the canopy of the prayer shawl. (Some wrap them in it, while others have the whole wedding party stand under it.) It inspired the Jewish flag. Three separate people had the same idea. They just unfurled the prayer shawl and added the Shield of David.
In biblical times the Jewish men wore this garment called a TALITH, TALIS, TALIT or PRAYER SHAWL all the time, not just at prayer. TALITH contains two Hebrew words; TAL meaning tent and ITH meaning little. Thus, you have LITTLE TENT. Each man had his own little tent. (The apostle Paul was a Jewish Pharisee, but also a tentmaker. Many believe that he made Prayer Shawls, not tents to live in.) Six million Jews could not fit into the tent of meeting that was set up in the Old Testament. 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 Talis. 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 Elohim, Yaweh, Adonai. It was an intimate, private, set apart from anyone else time, totally focused upon God. This was their prayer closet!
The Hebrew writing on the ATARAH or CROWN, BLESSING: “Blessed art thou Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to wrap ourselves in the tzit tzit. “The Blessing is placed over the head, on the outside, just like the tent walls of the HOLY Tabernacle so that they would always hang the same way. As the Atorah was placed over the head, it formed his own tent. WINGS of the garment were formed when the arms were held out.
In Ruth 3:9, Ruth found herself at the feet of Boaz, and as he awakened, he was moved with her vulnerability. Women were not to do things of this nature in those days, but in complete honesty and openness she said to him, “spread the corner of your garment over me for thou art my kinsman redeemer” In NKJ it says, “Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative. “ Ruth said, “Take me under your WING.”
Cover me, is a term of intimacy. Boaz was an honorable man and did the honorable thing. They were married, and she became his bride. Here she was a Moabite woman from a foreign country, grated into the nation of Israel, like us. She had the right to be covered by her Jewish spouse’s Tailis. This is a symbolic expression of marriage. (In Mid East culture they cast a garment over one being claimed for marriage.) In Ezk. 16:8 the Lord speaks to Jerusalem and likewise says, “so I spread my wing over you and covered your nakedness,” and in psalm 91 we are able to “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” and under His wings.”
As you study the Hebrew and Greek, this covering with the garment is expressed as “the HOVERING or BROODING of the Spirit of God over the face of the waters” in Genesis 1:2 and the “hovering over and spreading out of the wings of the eagle” in Deut. 32:11, and “the overshadowing of the Most High” when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Luke 1:35, and the overshadowing that came upon Peter, John and James as they went with Jesus to the Mt. of Transfiguration to pray in Luke 9:28, and also when Peter’s shadow became the overshadowing as people were healed when his shadow (filled with the overshadowing presence of Lord) fell upon them in Acts 5:14.
The Prophet Elijah passed his mantle on to Elisha in II Kings 2. Many believe that this 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 with.
In Luke 8:43 the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years, came and touched THE BORDER OF HIS GARMENT and was healed. That work BORDER come from the Hebrew word tzit tzit meaning twisted coils, fringe, or tassel. (Remember the commandment of the Lord from Deut. 22:12 to wear the twisted coils?) What did she touch? The twisted coils on the border of the garment (His Prayer Shawl) that Jesus being Jewish, would have been wearing!!
Mark 5:41 “Then He took the child by the hand and said to her, Talitha cumi, which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you arise.” I say to you arise. “Some scholars believe that her name comes from the old work “Talith” and that the literal translation of this is, “Little girl who is now in my tabernacle (tent), arise!
The Prayer Shawl is symbolic of something that God is doing on the earth. We have a Jewish heritage through Jesus Christ. God does not always do away with a lot of things that we do away with. He is not offended by the Jewish culture. Allow the Holy Spirit to further teach and guide you regarding the Jewish Prayer shawl.