Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Go 'Tallit' on the Mountain!

I mentioned earlier that I am sort of struggling with the tzitzit issue. For those of you who are not familiar with tzitzits, here is what I have been able to pick up along the way...

"What are tzizits?"

Tzitzits are tassels that are worn on the four "corners" of a believer's garments, as referred to in Deuteronomy 22:12 “You shall make tassels on the four corners of the clothing with which you cover yourself."

(Disclaimer: I have gone into great detail in the past regarding why I believe that we, as God's people, and believers in Yeshua (Jesus) are obligated today to observe the Torah commands, so I will not go over that again. From here on, I will address these issues from that standpoint.)

Back to the tassels.
When we first started to observe Torah, I wasn't sure if we were to be wearing tzitzit at all. I hadn't ever seen anybody wear them, including other Messianic believers. At any rate, after a while, I began to feel conviction for not wearing these things. A friend of mine had started wearing a set that he had made himself, attached to his belt loops, which seemed like a good place to start (I guess I hadn't given as much thought to how they should be worn).
The tassels that my friend had made were blue and white. Evidently, there was a reference to a blue string going through the tassel (Numbers 15:37-40), so he had put a blue thread through his - I did the same. The ones that I was wearing looked similar to these:

I wore these for about two years. Somewhere along the line, I asked a friend who had been observing Torah for quite a long time why he didn't wear Tzitzit, and his answer threw a wrench into my way of thinking. He explained to me that he did wear tassels, only they were tucked into his pants under his shirt. He told me that he wears a garment called a tallit katan. He went on to say that a tallit katan means "small" tallit; it looks like this:Notice the tzitzits - they are literally attached to four "corners" sewn into the garment, taking a very literal interpretation of the passage listed above in Numbers. I am writing these things in an attempt to journal the conflicts, struggles and joys of transitioning into Torah observance, and this "four corner" issue is somewhat of a struggle for me. The term shows up a few times in scripture (Isaiah 11:12, Revelation 7:1), and for the life of me I have a hard time seeing it anything less than metiphorical. With a little study, I found that the Hebrew word that translates into 'four corners' is kanaph which typically means "extremities."
...I continued to wear my belt loop tassels.

If tallit katan meant small tallit, then surely there was a big tallit right?
It turns out that a tallit is the traditional white shawl, usually having blue stripes. I had seen many Jewish people in photographs wearing it, I always knew it to be a "prayer shawl."
It looks like this: (No, that is not me in the photo.)
Again, notice the blue cord. The one above has the blue in them. These don't:
There is much debate concerning the blue cord, which only compiles my struggles with this issue. (There is a specific blue that is required according to some - more on that at a later time)
The tallit has its own set of conflicting opinions that go with it as well. Typically, it is worn during morning prayers, thus fulfilling the command to wear the tassels. A tallit katan is worn through out the day, and it is a matter of opinion as to weather the tassels should be tucked in or not.
As for belt loop tassels... they aren't really acceptable in most Messianic or Orthodox circles; just my luck.
I find myself thinking, should it be this hard? Blue or no blue, this blue or that blue, big tallit or small tallit, tucked in or on the belt loops? I have to tell you, I still don't know.
I will tell you what I do know. I do know that the God of Israel; the Everlasting Father; the Prince of Peace; Omnipotent One; Aleph and Tav... He knows exactly what I know, and He knows exactly what I am trying to do. He knows my heart! He knows that I was born and raised in small town Indiana, light years from the nearest Orthodox Jew - in fact, He knows that I am not Jewish by blood at all - He is aware of my being grafted into Israel and what that means; and I have a feeling that He knows that it will take time for me to learn how to walk out the instruction given in His Torah. It reminds me of Paul's letter to the Phillipians (ch 1:6), where he says, "being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Talk about scripture having a whole new meaning...

So, where do I stand on the tzitzit issue today? Good question. If you can figure it out, drop me an email, and we'll both be on the same page! My feelings on tassels are in the process of being overhauled. I still wear the belt loop version, but I don't put them on until I have gotten out of the shower after work. This is partly due to the fact that I don't own any tallit katan, or a prayer shawl (tallit) at the moment.
I think that I will get both. I also think that when I get the tallit katan, I will use tassels with the blue cord (even if it isn't that specific blue... for now) and will probably wear them on the outside of my clothing. Yep, that's it. I will wear the tallit katan under my shirt with the blue corded tassels hanging out. When I get them that is.
In the meantime, I will rest in the fact that this walk is a transitional thing, and my salvation does not rest on my meathod; it rests in the finished work of Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMashiac.

Though this topic is by no means finished, I have brought you up to speed with where I am. I'll keep you posted as I grow in this issue.
Stay with me as we explore the ever confusing relm of eating kosher next!

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