The Tallit and the Gospel

“And the High Priests and High Priestesses, these shall wear a tallit, which is to say a prayer shawl with tzitzit, or fringe.” -Doctrines of the Saints 114:30

When seeking the will of the Lord in regards to head coverings for the Saints when wearing the Robes of the Priesthood, I received a revelation that mentioned the tallit. This revelation spoke of the High Priests and High Priestesses wearing this prayer shawl, but what is the tallit?

What and Why

A טַלִּית tallit is a fringed prayer shawl traditionally worn by religious Israelites. The purpose of the tallit is the special twined and knotted fringes, the tzitzit, attached to the four corners of the garment. The cloth of the tallit, called the beged (Hebrew for garment), is usually made from natural fibers, such as wool, cotton, or silk. According to the commandment in the Torah, a thread called a “tekhelet” (Hebrew תְּכֵלֶת meaning blue, blue violet, or turquoise) is to be included in the tzitzit. Because of this, we recommend at least one of the threads be blue, indigo, purple, violet, or turquoise. A tallit may also have an עֲטֶרת atara (Hebrew for “crown”) at the top.

The Bible does not command us to wear any special type of prayer shawl. It instructs the Children of Israel to attach “fringes” (ציצית tzitzit) to the corners of their garments to remind them of their covenants with God (see Numbers 15:38-39, Deuteronomy 22:12). This is very reminiscent of the reason Latter-day Saints wear their temple garments under their clothing at all times; as a symbol of their ministry, and to remind them of their temple covenants.

These passages from the Torah do not specify tying particular types or numbers of knots in the fringes. The exact customs of tying of the tzitzit and wearing the tallit are of post-biblical, rabbinic traditions. In the Church of Jesus Christ in Christian Fellowship, one may use a traditional tallit or make one as moved by the Spirit.

How to Wear the Tallit

“And my father dwelt in a tent.” -1 Nephi 1:46 RAV, 2:15 OPV

Tallits may be any size, as long as the tzitzit are worn on the corners. They should surround us, creating a portable safe space or temple for us to be in at any time or place. Some Mormon Kabbalists believe this is the secret meaning of 1 Nephi 1:46 RAV, 2:15 OPV quoted above. Because of this, one should ensure their tallit is sized accordingly.

To put the tallit on, the following steps are traditionally taken:

  • Always check the strings, the tzitzit fringe, ensuring they are undamaged and untangled, and that the knots are firmly in place.
  • If the tallit has an  embroidered atara, be sure this faces upwards and outwards, holding the tallit over the head for the blessing.
  • Say the traditional blessing:
    • Hebrew: Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam Asher Kideshanu B’mitzvotav V’tzivanu L’hit’atef BaTzitzit.
    • English: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to enwrap ourselves in fringe.
  • Wrap the tallit around the body by putting all four tzitzit over the left shoulder for a few moments to wrap one’s in tzitzit.
  • The tallit is then draped over the shoulders so that there is a tzitzit in the front left, front right, back left and back right; the tallit may now be worn on the head like a hood, or around the neck, as preferred—but not over the face (see Revelations of David 17:31).

It should be kept in mind that all of this is merely tradition. If one prefers to skip any of these steps, this is acceptable. What is important is that one have the tzitzit in their proper places.

The High Priest and High Priestess

In Revelations of David 17:30-32 the High Priests and High Priestesses are told to wear the tallit. Does this mean they alone may do so? No. In ancient Israel, before there was a king, all wore the tzitzit. It was a sign or token that every citizen was a king or queen, priest or priestess of YHVH. This is why Jesus Christ is the great High Priest, and the King of kings—all of His covenant people are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). By dawning the tallit, this does not put the High Priests or High Priestess above anyone else, it reminds them that they are common—servants of those the Lord has called them to minister to.

When one looks at the other head garb we have been asked to wear; the miznefet for the Priests and Priestesses, and the miter for the Elder, these serve the function of keeping hair out of the way for various rituals. These seem just as practical in nature as a hair net for those working in the food industry. This may be why the Lord said that the High Priests and High Priestesses “may wear a hat covering their heads as do the Priests and Elders in addition to this as they desire” but that it is not mandatory (Doctrines of the Saints 114:32).

A Reminder

The tallit, it should be remembered, is not to be worn out of pride, but in grace and humility. It is not worn to place one above another, but as an equalizer; a reminder that we are all God’s creation. We are a royal generation, a royal priesthood. We have been ordained and set apart as kings and queens, priests and priestesses. The tallit is our reminder not to act like it, that we stand in personal temples, on holy ground. Because we love God and serve we are to love and serve our fellow man and woman.

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