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The Obligations of the Student Part 9

Spiritual Wardrobe

Introduction

Since the fall in Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) clothing, the application of a foreign object to provide man with warmth, dignity and protection, has been a staple part of human existence. 

The first fashioner of clothing was the Creator Himself. “Yahweh Elohim made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)” 

 

Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who’s slogan is “Animals are not ours,” an animal rights movement who protest and lobbies against the use of animals for just about every purpose, appose the use of animals for producing clothing made with fur, leather, wool, or silk. It also opposes the use of down from birds and the use of silk from silkworms or spiders. The group notes on its website: “Every year, millions of animals are killed for the clothing industry—all in the name of fashion. Whether the clothes come from Chinese fur farms, Indian slaughterhouses, or the Australian outback, an immeasurable amount of suffering goes into every fur-trimmed jacket, leather belt, and wool sweater.”

This organisation’s stance on the use of animals for clothing and food is a direct affront to the natural order and the will of the Almighty Himself who sanctioned these practices for human kind.  “Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. (Genesis 9:3)” 

If Peta and many similar organisations had their way, it would be against the law to manufacture and own kosher Torah scrolls, mezuzot, and Tefillin (prayer phylacteries), three objects made from the hide of sheep, goats, oxen, cows or donkeys. 

Wearing clothing is the fulfillment of a command and is seen in our faith and Orthodox Judaism as a vehicle for religious observance. 

 

We are also commanded in the Torah not to wear clothing that is a mixture of different material. “Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together. (Deuteronomy 22:11)” The wearing of non-kosher clothing is called Shatnez (mixture).

Many fabrics today have mixed fibers and are not 100% any particular one material, and this is usually permitted, unless wool and linen (or wool products and linen products) are mixed.

“Wool and linen attached to each other by any means is forbidden. It does not matter whether they are sewn together, spun, twisted, glued, or any method of attaching whatsoever. Any method of combining wool and linen is forbidden. Wool that has linen thread through it, linen that has woolen thread through it, wool and linen fabric sewn together by silk (or any type of thread), wool or linen held together by a needle or pin - all these are forbidden. However, it is permitted to wear a linen garment over a woolen garment, or vice versa, since they are not attached to each other.” Source - www.beingjewish.com

 

The first and most striking feature of clothing of the male Netzri or Yehudi (Nazarene or Jew) is the tallit, a prayer shawl, which is designed to support four tassels or cords made of wool. The first and most impactful thing a Christian notices about a gathering of true Netzarim (Nazarenes) is the wearing of these garments. At the point of donning these vestments a newcomer is either in or out. They’re either intrigued or they’re looking for the door as the room fills with ghost like images. 

 

The tallit is a garment one can wear to create a sense of personal space during prayer - the name comes from two root words: TAL meaning tent and ITH meaning little. Thus, you have a ‘little tent” or a mini mishkan (tabernacle) By wrapping yourself in it, you create a buffer zone between you and the outside world. In doing this your prayers, conversations and reflections are given privacy.

King Messiah Yahshua said “when you pray, enter into your chamber, and shut the door…”  (Matthew 6:6) This passage refers to the Jewish practice of using one’s tallit (prayer shawl) to create a private chamber over one’s head in which to pray with some privacy even in a public location. According to the Book of Jasher Enoch often concealed himself in his “chamber” (same word in the Hebrew) and his soul was “wrapped up” in the instruction of Yahweh (Jasher 3:2, 5)

 

Interestingly the tallit is not mentioned specifically as a command to wear it, however, the tzitzit (fringes) are commanded, which rely upon the staging of a four cornered garment.

“Yahweh said to Moshe, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them: Throughout the generations to come,  you are to make tassels on the corners of one's garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so will remember all the commands of Yahweh, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all My commands, and will be consecrated to your Elohim. I am Yahweh your Elohim. (Numbers 15:37-41a)”

We’ve talked about the symbolism of the tallit in the past, mentioning its relationship to the tabernacle and its symbolism of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) and even its Kabbalistic link to the Cloud of Glory that adorned the first humans before the fall, but there is yet another significance to its design. 

In Judaism it is taught that wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) combats depression, protecting an occupant from tormenting spirits. But in what way? In Isaiah 53:5 there is mention of Moshiach’s afflictions and the final form addressed is an interesting word. It’s usual English rendering is “stripes.”

 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)” This is interesting, because we can see symbolism not only on the tallit with its customary stripes, but across several religious icons, such as the mishkan (tabernacle), Israeli flag and the matzah bread (unleavened bread).

But I still haven’t answered the question. In what way does it combat evil. Well, the blue stripes represent the wounds, the blue bruises and the blood of Messiah rising to the surface.  What does the word say?  “…when I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)” 

The notion of a powerful mantle, robe or cloak is imbedded in the psyche of every human being. A special garment or ‘mantel’ that enwraps is a feature of nearly every wise and powerful figure throughout ancient history. So ingrained is this feature that it has risen up through the ages as a chief article of adornment of specially empowered individuals, even fictitious superheroes.

 

Next up is the tzitzit (fringes or tassels).

Tzizit also called gadilim, which means ‘twisted tassel with a knot,’ is a lock, a fringe, a tassel, or a forelock of hair.

As we’ve said, wearing of a tallit is a commandment by proxy, because though it is not officially directed, the tzitzyot, which are commanded, are supported by it. Note Numbers 15:38; “…they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments…affix a thread of tekhelet on the fringe of each corner.” And in Deuteronomy 22:12; “You shall make tassels on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself.”

Observing the mitzvah of tzitzit is equivalent to all the mitzvot in the Torah, because it reminds us of all of them based on Numbers 15:40; “So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments, and you shall be holy to your Elohim.”

 

The colour of the tzitzit are also mandated in Scripture. “…and that they shall affix a thread of tekhelet sky-blue [wool] on the fringe of each corner. (Numbers 15:38)”

The observant eye will notice that the commandment to wear tzitzit is accompanied by mention of a colour, תכלתtekhelet, usually translated as ‘blue wool’ and yet most Orthodox Jews refrain from wearing a blue colour in their tzitzit. Why is this?

There are a myriad of reasons. The most common is that the sea animal that provided the unique royal blue coloured dye is in dispute. The Murex trunculus, a type of sea snail is said to not match various descriptions given by certain Rishonim (leading rabbis of the past). Some rabbis around the 19th century believed the Sepia Officinalis (the common cuttlefish) fulfills the requirement of tekhelet. There are other species of sea animals as well and the debate is very complex.

According to the Talmud, the dye of tekhelet was produced from a marine creature known as the kḥillazon (also spelledchilazon). And according to the Tosefta (Men. 9:6), the khillazon is the exclusive source of the dye. Which animal is the khillazon is an ongoing debate.  

The means of obtaining the techelet dye is from the cuttlefish call  Chilazon: “The Chilazon is this: its body is like the sea, its creation is like fish, it comes up once in seventy years and with its blood one dyes techelet - consequently it is expensive”.(Menacchhot 44a) 

 

The main argument Jews have against wearing tekhelet is over false sources, but there are other excuses. Here are some:

* Haredi rabbis: We don't deviate from the previous generation's mesorah, even if they call left "right" and right "left".

* Haredi layfolk: Because my rav doesn't wear it.

* Modern rabbis: We probably should, but it's not my mission.

* Modern layfolk: Eh, not interested. Plus, the people who wear it tend to be, er... "eccentric" types.

Encouragingly, many Orthodox Jews are beginning to reincorporate the wearing of tekhelet in their tzitzit, but as we can see the debate over the source of the dye and the other reasons given should not discourage the observance of a clearly exhibited commandment. 

 

Photo at Kotel (discuss)

 

Tzitzit teach us to make spirituality a part of our daily reality. In seeing the tzitzit, we have a tangible reminder of an incorporeal Elohim, in this way we catch a glimpse of the Divine in all things. This idea is evident from Song of Songs 2:9, where it says “Behold, says the maiden, he stands behind our wall, looking in through the windows, and peering through the lattice work.”

The Hebrew words May’tzeetz min ha’chah’rah’keem,  are translated as ‘peers’ or ‘peaks’ through the lattice work. The implication of this interpretation is that through the mitzvah of Tzitzit, Elohim peeks at His people, constantly keeping an eye on them, watching out for their benefit and well-being, reminding them to be faithful and good.

 

(Slide) Worshippers kiss the Tzitzit when they are mentioned in prayers. Since the Tzitzit points to Messiah, kissing it reminds us of Psalm 2:12, ‘‘Kiss the Son lest He be angry.’’ With this rightly understood, kissing the Tzitzit is in obedience to this commandment. This is proper because we see the Messiah in the fringes.

 

(Slide) Each Tzitzit consists of 7 white strands representing the number of perfection and the tekhelet (blue thread) makes 8, the number of new beginnings. The numerical value of tzitzit is 600. This combined with the 8 strands and 5 knots makes a total of 613, the total number of commandments in the Torah. 

 

Did you Know?   When people wear tzitzit they are literally donning the 613 commandments of the Torah. This in effect places spiritual armour over all the 248 organs of the body and its 365 sinews, which add up to 613.

 

(Slide) The tzitzit that hang from the four corners of the tallit contain numerical values that teach and re-enforce Torah principles. This is what’s called gematria (Hebrew) a form of ‘Biblical numerology.’ Every thread, twist and tie of the thread that make tzitzit is pregnant with meaning. 

Each tassel (tzitzit) should have 39 windings (7+8+11+13), which are separated by 5 lots of 2 double knots (7+8 =15 + 11 = 26) 26 is the total numerical value of the name of Yahweh. 13 is the value of Echad (one). Therefore the windings of each Tzitzit say “Yahweh is one.”

 

Each tassel (Tzitzis) should have 39 windings (7+8+11+13), which are separated by 5 lots of 2 double knots (7+8 =15 + 11 = 26) 26 is the total numerical value of the name of Yahweh. 13 is the value of Echad (one). Therefore the windings of each Tzitzit say “Yahweh is one.”

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