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Healing in His Wings (The tallit and tzitzit in Messianic Concepts)

By Robert Wurtz II


      The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, 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 holy to your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.'" (Num. 15:37-41)

      Jesus, no doubt, as an observant and law abiding Jew, would have worn a garment that contained 4 tzitzit. Tzitzit is a chord that has been tied with a series of knots as a reminder of the law of God. They were placed so that when the garment was put on the tzitzit would be at each corner of the body. Hence, whatever direction they turned they were reminded of the laws of God. Some have said that the tzitzit are tied into a knot sequence that makes up the number 613 corresponding to the 613 laws. For many centuries the chords were not made from the prescribed blue die that the law required. This was due to the formulation and snails required to get the blue color being lost. The snails have been recently rediscovered and the tzitzit made with the prescribed blue dye can be purchased again.

      Many orthodox Jewish men even today observe this commandment by wearing tassels (tzitzit, pronounced ZEET-zeet) affixed to a garment under their shirts, with the tassels deliberately showing so that they are obvious both to himself and those around him. Others don't wear them all the time, but in worship they wear a prayer shawl (tallit) to which tzitzit are attached. In ancient times, women may have worn them as well.

      The tallit (prayer shawl) would be draped over the head to form a personal 'prayer closet.' And from here a person could pray in secret and the Lord would reward openly. This must be done as not to make a show- or the reward is the praise of the people. For this cause it is good to get alone to pray as did Jesus-away from the crowds and people, etc. A prayer shawl is NOT needed to pray; but this is a practice that is still performed by practicing Jewish men (and some women) today.

      HEALING IN HIS WINGS

      In Jesus' day, Jewish men wore a simple tunic both at home and at work. The tunic (tallit) served as protection from cold and rain. Hanging from the end of each of its four corners (wings) was a tzitzit in obedience to the biblical command. Through the centuries, during times of persecution, Jews were often forbidden to wear the tzitzit on the outside of their garments. This forced them to wear a small four-cornered tallit under their shirts. This is a thin garment rectangular shaped with a large hole in the center. When the 'mini-tallit' was under the clothes it served the same purpose as was originally prescribed-as a reminder of the laws of God.

      During the first century there were a few Messianic concepts and scriptures associated with the tzitzit concerning the Messiah. One was that these knotted fringes possessed healing powers. The tunic was worn and when in prayer it would be draped over the head as if under the 'Lord's Wings.' This made for the thought that the corners of the tallit (tunic) were 'wings.' This tradition has its roots in the prophecy of Malachi 4:2 where the Messiah is said to be coming with healing in His wings.

      Certainly the woman with the issue of blood knew of these traditions, which would explain why she sought to touch the corner (the wings) of Jesus' prayer garment. The same word used in Numbers 15:38 for corner is used in Malachi 4:2 for wings. With this understanding in mind, an ancient Jew under the prayer shawl could be said to be dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and under His wings (Psalm 91:1-4). When one realized the significance of this concept to the first-century Hebraic mind, it becomes clear why this woman was instantly healed. She was expressing her faith in Jesus as the Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings and declaring her faith in God's prophetic Word.

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