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The Kabbalah of the Tallit

The Kabbalah of the Tallit

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Question:

What is the deeper significance of the Tallit?

Answer:

The main idea of Jewish prayer is to connect to G‑d. But how can a finite, limited human being connect to an infinite, unlimited G‑d? Really, it should be impossible. But G‑d wants a relationship with us, so He “limited” Himself.

He did this by expressing Himself in creation. The world we live in is actually an expression of G‑d. Just like a piece of music is an expression of the musician who wrote it, and a painting is an expression of the painter, so too this world and everything in it is G‑d’s work of art. We can’t see G‑d, but we can see His creation. So, just as by looking at a painting or hearing a song we can get a feeling of who the artist is, by observing the beauty of this world, its complexity and its rhythms, we can begin to appreciate G‑d.

But (and this is a big but), even though creation expresses G‑d, it could never express His real self. As beautiful as the world is, it is only an insignificant fraction of G‑d’s true wisdom. And this is where G‑d is very different from an artist. To truly express himself, the artist has to put all his concentration, effort and creativity into his work. But for G‑d to express Himself, it’s exactly the opposite—He limited Himself, lowered Himself to make a physical world. It would be like the brilliant musician having to write a corny jingle about yogurt for a radio ad. Does that express his genius? No! It expresses his patience! Similarly, G‑d didn’t need to invest “effort” in creating such an amazing world. The only effort was in His limiting Himself to create such a finite existence.

The tallit has two parts: the garment itself, and the tzitzit (fringes). The garment surrounds our body, and the fringes hang off it. They represent the two aspects of G‑d’s being. His true self is totally beyond our capacity to grasp, represented by the garment that envelops us. It is only a tiny fraction of His being, the little fringes dangling off the corners, that we can experience.

No matter how holy we feel, G‑d is infinitely holier. He is the tallit that surrounds us. But no matter how unholy we feel, G‑d comes down to us and asks us to talk to Him. He is the tzitzit reaching down for us to grab on to and kiss.

We need to have this in mind when we pray, so we wear a tallit.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Yitzchak Hughes Monticello, Minnesota August 5, 2016

Blue String Does the blue string add anything to this conversation? Reply

Eliezer June 24, 2016

Unmarried In German Jewish and in Sephardic communities unmarried men do wear talleisim. The real question is why don't they do so in Eastern European communities. Reply

Clem Douglas Brisbane June 22, 2016

One is never too old to learn something new.
Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn June 22, 2016

Women tallis and men married How come women don't have this commandment? Is it because women being the mekabel-reiver, it is natural for women to feel this and don't need the tallis as a reminder?
And how come men only wear it when they are married? What is it about the marriage and tallis that connects them? Reply

Avi USA November 20, 2012

@Anonymous Tallit question I think unmarried men don't wear them so the Women on the other side of the mechitza can look down and see who's still single :D Reply

Anonymous Nyc, Usa October 18, 2012

Tallit question How come most Men who are unmarried do not wear Tallis while praying ? Reply

Anonymous NY July 6, 2009

? There was "no effort" in the Tzimtzum ? The Limitation ? There was probably a ton of efforts there! Reply

S. Lewin San Jose, Ca March 8, 2009

Kabballa of Tallit Being a writer of fiction I know the connection between the artist creation an the whole of creation by G-d. No matter what kind of art we use we literally imitate G-d by creating a universe. That universe has surprises. Yet, we still put all of our being into the work. WE imitate G-d, but we can't duplicate G-d's creation. Reply

Israel bar Abraham Fortaleza, Brazil October 1, 2008

The talit symbolises God arround us who are like babies inside his belly. Man have to wear talit to atain a grisp of this aspect of G´d, but women already knows somehow what it is. Reply

Family of Fans chicago, IL November 7, 2007

Thank you Since the main idea of Jewish prayer is to connect with G-d (though this should be impossible), G-d gives us worldly expressions of Himself to help us achieve this connection. Whether through the beauty of a landscape or a song, these tiny reflections of G-dliness help us hold on to the fringes of G-d’s robes, so to speak. Not to spoil the pure joy of your show, and the hilarity that always ensues, but your show is yet another reminder of this connection. Our family loved how the fringe guy was compelled (hilariously) to try to remember what his reminder was supposed to remind him of and the ultimate triumph (also hilarious) of Itche and Jono helping him to remember the mitzvo of remembering with the fringes of a tallis. GO IKS!!! Reply

Anonymous Texas February 19, 2007

Tallit I don't know why regarding restrictions for Tallit and women but I do know a woman does not really miss out on anything because she experiences the love, joy and oneness of God when her husband takes her back into himself. Reply

Anonymous via chabadvi.org June 22, 2005

Thank you!! I enjoyed the article, but am wondering why is this a time-bound commandment that women are exempt from? Reply

This is no fringe mitzvah! The tallit and tzitzit serves as constant reminders of our obligations to G-d and our fellows.
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