Friday, January 25, 2013

Tallit, the 4,000 year old Prayer Shawl

$36 Tallit from Israel
Tallit is an Aramaic word from the root tll טלל meaning cover. Tallit literally means cloak or sheet but in Talmudic times already referred to the Jewish prayer shawl. The tallit is similar to the Roman pallium worn today by senior Roman Catholic priests, the Roman toga and the Arab keffiyeh.

On the fast day of Tisha B'Av, different customs prevail. Some Ashkenazim do not wear a tallit during the morning (Shacharit) service and those who do omit the blessing regarding donning a fringed garment (Tzitzit); at the afternoon service (Mincha), those who wear a tallit gadol make the blessing on fringes then. Some Sephardim (according to Kabbalah and the local custom (Minhag) for Jerusalem) wear the tallit at Shacharit as usual.

The Kabbalists considered the tallit as a special garment for the service of God, intended, in connection with the tefillin, to inspire awe and reverence for God at prayer.The tallit is worn by worshipers at the morning prayer on weekdays, Shabbat, and holy days; by the hazzan (cantor) at every prayer while before the ark; and by the reader of Torah, as well as by all other functionaries during the Torah service.

The use of the tallit begins in the Biblical period around 1800 BCE. (almost 4,000 years ago) The ancient Jewish tallit design was different than that known today. Originally it was a large white rectangular garment with tzitzyot in each corner and was used as a garment, bed sheet, and burial shroud.

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