Tassels worn by the Israelites on the four corners of their garments as reminders of "all the commandments of Yahweh," in accordance with the law set out in Numbers 15:37-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12. These tassels originally contained a thread of tekheleth, "violet." Jewish tradition, however, has failed to retain the tekheleth, because of doubt as to the exact meaning of the term, and instead dark blue lines were dyed on the borders of the Tallith or garment in which the fringes were placed. According to tradition any garment having four corners required the mnemonic fringes, the importance of which was weighed against "all the commandments of the Lord." In New Testament times such garments were still worn (compare Matthew 9:20; 14:36; 23:5). The later Jews, after adopting the garments of the Diaspora, in order to observe the tsitsith commandment began to use two extra four-cornered fringed garments: the large Tallith while at prayer, and the small Tallith, or 'arba` kanephoth, as an undergarment during the day. Their tradition prescribes the exact manner in which each tassel shall be made, and gives a symbolic meaning to the numbers of windings and knots, somewhat after the manner of the string-writing of several early civilizations (compare the Peruvian quipus). Thus in the tsitsith a long cord is wrapped around seven shorter cords first seven times, then eight, then eleven, and finally thirteen, each series being separated from the others by two knots. The numbers seven and eight constituting fifteen together suggest YH, and the number eleven, WH. Together they make up the holy name YaHWeH. The number thirteen stands for echadh, the letters of which taken as numerals equal thirteen. The sentence Yahweh 'echadh means "Yahweh is one." Many other suggestions, more or less fanciful, have been worked out, all tending to associate the fringes with the Law in the mind of the wearer.
Ella Davis Isaacs
These files are public domain.