Before answering that question, we should ask ‘What is a Tallit?’ A tallit is a prayer shawl, used for centuries by Jewish people, placed over the head and shoulders during private prayer, prayer in the synagogue, and other significant times of prayer. In the book of Numbers in the bible, chapter 15:37-40 we read that the LORD designed the tallit and gave the directions to Moses:
“The Lord said to Moses ’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 chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.’’”
And in Deuteronomy 22:12 we read: “Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear.” And “.. when you see them, you shall remember all of God’s commandments so as to keep them” Numbers 16:39.
God was so concerned that His people would obey his commandments and not be subject to the punishment of death, that He told Moses to have the people put fringes (tzitzit) on the hems or borders of all their garments, and these should include the color blue, which is a reminder that the origin of the Law is heavenly. These were to constantly REMIND the people not to sin against the Holy One of Israel, Yahweh, God the Father.
The tallit is a rectangular garment with parallel stripes across the shorter ends. Most tallitot (plural) are white with navy or black stripes. It is important to note that it was originally woven without seams.
At each corner are the fringes – tzitzit, each having a cord of blue. The original blue thread had a purple hue of blue which was gotten from extracting the gland of a specific snail, the Murex trunculus. It took 12,000 snails to fill up a thimble of blue dye. Although blue is easy to obtain today, it’s hard to imagine that during the entire biblical period, blue was the most expensive color to produce. It was reserved only for royalty. In 200 B.C. one pound of blue dyed cloth cost the equivalent of $36,000, and by 300 A.D. it cost $96,000.
Tying the knots of the fringes is a Jewish art. The tzitzit has a pattern of 7-8-11-13 winds between the five double knots. There is significance in these numbers, as everything in God’s word has a deeper meaning, but I won’t go into the details in this post, but suffice it to say that the four numbers can be interpreted to say “God is one”. Add these 13 to the 600 which is the *number of the word tzitzit and it equals 613, the total number of God’s commandments in the Torah. To view the complete list of 613 Mitzvot (Commandments), click here: http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm
*In Gematria, Jewish numerology, each Hebrew letter has a numerical equivalent.