What’s Up With Those Stringy Things?
You’ve seen them on the “scarves” (actually tallits) that some Jewish people wear when they pray. They’re also seen hanging from different parts of people’s everyday clothes to include everything from beltloops to necklaces to backpacks and even keychains.
Traditionally, these fringes or tassels or strings are white and blue, but people make them in all colors. The only real “common thread” (pun intended) is that there is always one string of blue.
So what are they? Where did they originate? Why do people wear them? Are they magic charms? Do they ward off evil? Let’s dig into the Bible some and get to the bottom of these little guys…
Like pretty much ANYTHING I do in a “religious” context, the practice of wearing tzitziot (tassels) originates in the Bible, and is a commandment YHWH gave his people to observe forever.
Num. 15:37 YHWH also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. 39 “It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of YHWH, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your god.
So what can we take from this passage exactly?
- Moses didn’t make this up. Like all of the “Law of Moses,” this came directly from YHWH. So this isn’t just a tradition some people made up once upon a time that caught on and stuck around.
- This is for all of the “sons of Israel.” Are you a Jew? What about a “born-again” Gentile? Either way, guess what: you’re Israel! But what if you are a DAUGHTER of Israel? Do you need to wear tzitziot? That is a matter of constant debate, and the bottom line is – it is subject to interpretation. Some feel that it is implied. Others feel that it is only for men. This is something you’ll have to determine for your own house.
- We are to “make tassels for ourselves.” Does this mean everybody makes his / her own? Or does this mean that the people of Israel make them for themselves as a nation. Again, this is a matter of interpretation. But if you DO decide to make your own, it is actually VERY easy to make the traditional tzitzit (tassel).
- And the traditional isn’t even the ONLY way to do it! The fact of the matter is, there really isn’t a prescribed method of making them.
- The tassels are for the “corners of the garment.” Actually, Deuteronomy 22:12 says that we are to put tassels on the FOUR corners of our garment. This leads to even MORE cause for interpretation! Do I have to wear four? What if my garment doesn’t have corners? Isn’t “four corners” just an expression that means “all over?”
- Each tassel shall have one cord / thread / string of blue. That’s simple enough, right? Finally, something concrete that doesn’t require much interpretation. (Although, naturally, there are people that argue over what shade of blue the single strand should be, and even what dye should be used to produce it!)
- The purpose of the tzitziot is to REMIND US of YHWH’s commandments (Law / Torah) so that we will remember to obey it. Simple enough!
- This commandment is to be obeyed “throughout our generations,” which is a way of saying forever. So are we still supposed to be wearing tzitziot? You bet we are!
What about the New Testament of the Bible? Were they still wearing tzitziot then? Let’s take a look at Yahshua (the Messiah), our perfect example and see what he had on his robes:
Matt. 9:20 And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind him (Yahshua) and touched the fringe of his cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will get well.” 22 But Yahshua turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well.
What did she grab? You guessed it. What is translated as “hem of his garment” in the old-timey translations of the Bible is ACTUALLY fringe (in the Greek). “Hem” is a rather inaccurate translation, because the word actually used doesn’t have that meaning whatsoever.
How Do I Make Tzitziot?
Check out any of these videos (which are NOT mine). They all do an excellent job of teaching how the TRADITIONAL tzitziot are made. And remember: while this style of tzitziot CERTAINLY meets the Scriptural requirement, that is NOT to say that this is the ONLY way it can be done – just the oldest known method and the most common today!