I am part of an online Bible Study this summer called, “Meet Jesus.” We are studying the book of John line by line. In my Bible reading this morning—John 8:31-47, I re-read verses 31-32, and the teaching God gave me about Psalm 91 flooded back into memory.
John 8:31-32 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." NKJV
Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. NKJV
As I paused to meditate on both of these references, I saw in my spirit a huge white tallit descend and settle over me with a breath of wind. I was inside this luminescent white tent of tallit.
Then God said, “This is where you live Beloved. This is where you live…Even though the world pulls and tugs at your soul, you’ve learned that this is where you truly LIVE.
This is our tent of meeting, the place where you and I share time together. All the world and it’s distraction are set aside and put out of sight. I am your focus here and you are fully alert to hear My voice. All it takes a glance in My direction and you are here with Me.”
Beginning in 2000 God gave me understanding about what significance the tallit or prayer shawl holds:
THE TALLIT—PRAYER SHAWL
The prayer shawl is worn over the head in times of prayer to show God is above us in power and authority.
To pray with the shawl pulled around one is to shut oneself off from the world and into the presence of God—enveloped in His presence.
Women traditionally have not used prayer shawls. It is not law because their hair is considered their covering. Today more non-orthodox women are choosing to wear them.
The tallit has four corners and four fringes. Men wear a different type of tallit. It is T-shirt type and worn like an undershirt. The fringes are left showing outside their outer garments. The tallit corner fringes or tassels are always made of wool denoting the fact that God is Our Shepherd and we are His sheep. The tassels help the wearer remember who he is and Who he represents.
Here is a copy of the information Moshe Kempinski, a Jewish store owner, taught us on the Tallit:
The prayer shawl or Tallit, is a fulfillment of the commandment described in Numbers 15. In that section of the Bible, G-d commands the Jewish people to attach fringes –Tzizit-- to the corners of their garments. We hereupon put on a four cornered garment in order to fullfill the expressed Divine Desire. The strings symbolize our being bound up with G-d and serve as a reminder of the commandments in general. When one takes the numerical equivalent of the word Tzitzit [pronounced Zeet-zeet] or Fringes and add the number five (--the number of grace and the equivalent to the number of knots on each fringe ) plus the eight strings, one arrives at the number 613, which corresponds to the number of commandments mentioned in the Bible (positive and negative precepts). This actually explains the continuation of the verse which states that when one sees the fringes one is reminded of the commandments.
It is also important to understand the Jewish view of G-d's commandments. Jews do not view the commandments as a mechanical ritualistic formula that ensures the "world to come", but rather as an exposition of G-d's Divine Will. Just as with any loved one that clearly expresses his or her desire,, one attempts to fulfill that will in the most complete of ways, we view the fullfillment of G-d's will as our way of showing our love of Him. Rather than the Law hindering spiritual closeness , it actually prepares the groundwork for it.
The wrapping of ourselves in the prayer shawl is actually the act of wrapping ourselves in the will of G-d. As well, if one counts the number of times the fringe is wrapped around, one comes up with the number 26 , which is the numerical equivalent of one of the names of G-d, specificaly the one related to the Divine attribute of mercy. As one wraps oneself in the prayer shawl one is enveloping oneself in G-d's mercy. In the Ashkenazic tradition the fringes are wrapped around 26 plus 13 times. The number 13 is equivalent to the word Echad or One. The tzitzit becomes the declarative statement, " Hashem Echod"( G-d is one)!
The verses also relate the need for a blue of "Tchelet" string to be used as part of the fringes. The blue dye came from a mollusk and was also used in the priestly garments. After the destruction of the Temple, the Romans forbade the use of the dye as it was also a color of Royalty . Over the years the secret of the dye was lost and people took to placing blue stripes on the shawl itself, or black ones symbolizing the lack of clarity as to which shade of blue the tzitzit was.
Being covered in the shawl is akin to being enveloped in the Shechina, (the Divine Presence) and affords one that special place in which to be alone with G-d.
The Blessing:(said while wrapping oneself in the Tallit (prayer shawl) Blessed Art Thou L-rd, G-d King of the Universe, Who has made us Holy with His commandments and Who Has Commanded us to wrap ourselves in the fringes".
Clarence Wagner, Jr., the former International Director of Bridges for Peace, shared more about the 613 knots in the prayer shawl equaling the number of commandments. There were 248 affirmative laws and 365 prohibitions. The wearing of the prayer shawl is like wearing the Word of God. If as Christians we carried the Bible around our necks, we would most likely make different choices in our daily lives.
He also explained that the blue thread used in the borders of the Tallit was created by blue dye only used for royalty because it was very expensive in Bible times. It took twelve thousand shells to produce one ounce of dye. Therefore, as Jews then and now look down at the borders of their Tallits they sense the worth God places in them. “I am of worth. I am a member of royal priesthood.”
In 2005, God planted me in Psalm 91 for 6 months. He taught me word for word the depth of this psalm. The first four verses hold wonderful truths:
1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.
3 Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. KJV
Intimacy—we all need intimacy yet few of us make it a priority. When I consider intimacy, my first thought is intimacy with the Lord. And of all places, the first scripture I turn to is Psalm 91. He who dwells in the “secret place of the Most High”—now that sounds intimate—“shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” I, for one, have always pondered this “secret place” and asked the Lord on numerous occasions for directions to this sanctuary with Him.
It wasn’t until I started studying Hebrew roots that I began to grasp where this secret place is found. The key is in the 4th verse. “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust…”
When I was in Israel, a couple of Jewish brothers shared with a group of us the meaning of the tallit—Jewish prayer shawl. In that teaching the metaphor of “wings” and “feathers” is found. The fringes or tassels on the ends of the prayer shawl are also considered feathers. The woman with an issue of blood that touched the “hem” of Jesus’ garment, actually crawled through the crowd and grabbed hold of the fringes of Jesus’ prayer shawl.
In Malachi 4:2 it says: But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
As she took hold of the fringes, in faith, she was totally healed.
The wings mentioned in Malachi can be seen in the tallit. The wings of Psalm 91 also can also be found in the tallit.
The Hebrew meaning of the word tallit is “little tent”. In the days of Moses the tabernacle layout contained a “tent” of meeting—the holy place and the holy of holies. It was a place of prayer and intercession. It was a place of ministry to the Lord and ministry from the Lord to His priests. It was in the “tent of meeting” that Moses met face to face with the Lord.
I believe the secret place that we all long to find, where we can grow in intimacy with the Lord, is our times of prayer and waiting in His presence. As I consider the tallit and remember how the men at the Western Wall pray, almost completely hidden under it’s gentle folds, my heart reaches out to my Bridegroom who wants to draw me close enough to hear His heart. Only when my focus is totally on Him, can I have these times of treasured intimacy.
The tallit has 613 knots tied in its fringes representing all of the laws or commandments. The blue stripes and blue thread woven into the corner fringes of the shawl represent God’s covenant of grace. So, as mentioned before, when the tallit is placed over or around a person, he is being wrapped in the very Word of God and His grace and covenant. For we as Christians, it would be equal to wearing the Bible.
Is not Jesus the Word made flesh? When we as believers, enter into our prayer closets, we are making a conscious choice to immerse ourselves in His presence. It is there that we experience the Word made flesh, the grace of God and His everlasting covenant of relationship with us.
We don’t have to have a special room. We don’t have to have a tallit. Susan Wesley used to throw her apron over her head while her children noisily gathered around her. That was her prayer closet and they learned to not bother mama when she was talking to God. All it takes is making the choice to pursue Him.
The Jews are still looking for their tabernacle or temple to be restored. We as believers are already experiencing temple life. I Corinthians 3:16 “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Jesus, by the power and presence of His Holy Spirit is already making a home in us. When we pause even for a minute, a second, and turn our eyes to Him, we are entering into that “secret place” of intimacy where the One, who loves us more than His own life dwells and longs to share His heart with us.
“Come, Beloved. I am waiting in the secret place. Come. Close out the world and come to Me and let Me wrap you in My wings of love. Lay your head on My chest and listen how My heart beats wildly for you. Come, you will find rest for your souls and the intimacy you long for that cannot be found in any other. Come.”
May we all be found ABIDING in His Word—actually putting on Christ and living His life in our world.