More Tassel, Less Hassle Part 2
I realize that I have already presented the case for the wearing of tzitziyot. If you have not read the first part of More Tassel, Less Hassle, this writing will not make much sense. This writing will serve to point out just a couple of minor flaws in the current line of thinking within the Messianic / Hebrew Roots "movements" regarding some “rules” for wearing tzitziyot.
First, I’ll start with tradition. I would estimate (based solely on those I have spoken with personally) that 95% of people who wear tzitziyot wear those that are patterned after the typical, traditional way that Judaism ties them. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. But most people tend to wear simply white and blue strings, with the knots numbering 10-5-6-5 or 7-8-11-13. To briefly explain what this means, I would suggest doing a google search of “tzitzit 10-5-6-5” and “tzitzit 7-8-11-13.” There are many helpful illustrations, diagrams, photos and even videos that demonstrate what that means. But to explain it quickly, it is the number of times the blue cord is wrapped around the white cords. For example, in the first case (10-5-6-5), two square knots are tied, then the blue cord is wrapped around the white cords 10 times, followed by two square knots. Then the blue is wrapped five times, followed again by the knots. Then six wraps, then the knots. Finally five more wraps and the final two square knots. These numbers represent the numerical values of yod-(10)-hey-(5)-vav-(6)-hey-(5), respectively. Thus, in order, they are YHWH, or the Name of YHWH.
Now the pattern 10-5-6-5 is predominantly Sephardic (Spanish Jews), while 7-8-11-13 is Ashkenazi (European). There are multiple other ways of tying them, along with a myriad of number sequences. The point is, most people wear these two styles, tied the same way the Jews have been tying them for centuries. There is nothing wrong with that. It is merely a traditional way to fulfill the command to “wear tzitziyot;” and as long as it includes a blue cord, it is sufficient. Now within Judaism itself, there are many disagreements regarding tzitziyot. Many believe that the blue dye used MUST come from a certain animal. These same people (mostly Orthodox) will even wear plain white tzitziyot (they omit the blue cord entirely) if they cannot access the specific source of the dye they THINK has to be used.
Personally, I believe this is quite a shame. The commandment is to place a blue cord in the tzitzit of the corner (Numbers 15). Obviously, the big part of the command is not where the dye comes from, but that blue is used. Now this is where a number of people will diverge. Particularly those that follow a more traditional approach to Rabbinic Judaism. These individuals teach that the blue dye (tekhelet in Hebrew) refers not to any color blue, but rather specifically the SOURCE of the dye, in particular the chillazon (a Hebrew word of disputed origin). The Chillazon is believed to be a sea creature, most likely either the Murex Trunculus sea snail, or the cuttlefish. Rabbinic Judaism teaches that only blue dye from this source is a fulfillment of the command of the blue cord. However, there are a number of issues with this.
First of all, there is no mention anywhere in the Tanakh of a sea creature generating a blue dye. In fact, there is no mention at all of any dye collection process at all. Further, and perhaps the most compelling evidence to me, is how the early translations handled this word tekhelet ("blue"). In the Greek Septuagint, which was translated by and for Jews, the word used is hyakinthos, or "hyacinth." This refers to a shade of blue. Note that this term is generic: blue. It does not refer to a specific creature or source. When Jerome was translating the ancient Hebrew text into Latin, he, too, chose to use the Latin word for hyacinth. While the Rabbis debated about the Chillazon, there was also a discussion about the color. Tractate Menahot of the Babylonian Talmud reports Rabbi Meir asking “Why is blue different from all other colors?” and then answering, “Because blue resembles the sea, and the sea resembles sky, and the sky resembles God’s Throne of Glory…as it is written: ‘Above the sky over their heads was the semblance of a throne, like sapphire in appearance…'”
Though even if you still maintain the idea that the tekhelet referenced must come from the Chillazon to fulfill the command in Numbers 15, perhaps you could still agree that wearing blue in them is still better than none at all. After all, is it not better to get as close as we can - without violating the command - to actually keeping it?
On the heels of this argument comes a similar one involving color. That is, what colors can be used in tzitziyot? Now the only color mentioned in Scripture regarding the color of the tzitziyot is the blue cord. Obviously, white cord would have been most prominent for them as it was easiest to make. The various threads (be it linen, wool, or another natural source) were almost always white or off-white (like linen). Dyes could be expensive, so the white was, most likely, the most common. The white with the added blue cord, that is. However, is there anywhere in Scripture that says other colors cannot be used? Is there anywhere in Scripture that says other colors WERE NOT used? The simple answer is “no.” If YHWH did not want the Israelites to use other colors, He would have told them so. It is akin to Him telling them that there were clothes of certain colors they couldn’t wear. But He chose not to specify.
Now I have heard it said that it is wrong to have tzitziyot with colors other than just blue and white. I find that notion absurd. I was once told that the Israelites didn’t have other colored threads to use, so they never used anything aside from blue and white. But consider the story from Exodus 36. The whole section is about the building of the Tabernacle. In Exodus 36:5 Moses tells the people to STOP bringing contributions as they had already contributed MORE THAN ENOUGH. The items that they provided included the material (dyed cloth) for the curtains. The dyes for these were blue, purple and scarlet, according to verse 8. It says they were “twisted linen” of blue, purple and scarlet. It is interesting that the word for blue is, again, tekhelet. So from this we gather that they actually had an abundance of dyed fabrics, besides just the blue.
Elohim created man to be creative. He gave man artistic ability. As such, it only makes sense that He allow man to express his creativity within the bounds of The Torah. That is what I believe. But again, to state it simply, there is nowhere in Scripture that states tzitziyot MUST contain only white and blue. The colors do not matter, aside from containing blue. They could be solid blue, red with blue, white with blue, or even camouflage with blue (I have seen this and it’s pretty neat!).
The other issue I see is the prohibition placed on women by Jewish leaders. In Judaism, a woman is not allowed to wear tzitziyot. They cite Deuteronomy 22:5 which prohibits a man from wearing that which pertains to a woman, and vice versa. They say that since men are commanded to wear tzitziyot, women must NOT wear them. The reason they believe only men are commanded is from the language used in Numbers 15, which says, “YHWH spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and…’” The terminology used is strictly masculine, they say. The words used are, “b’nei Yisrael” which literally means “sons of Israel.” They say it does not include “daughters of Israel,” and therefore applies to men only.
The problem with that is that, if they are correct in this exegesis, then women are then excluded from MANY Torah instructions. For instance, Exodus 31:13 says “speak to the sons of Israel and tell them, ‘verily My Sabbaths you shall keep…’” So since it only says “sons,” then women are exempted from the Sabbath, right? Or Leviticus 1:2, which says that when any “man” brings an offering, to bring it from the herd or the flock. It says “man,” yet what about a woman that brings her (commanded) offering after giving birth? (Leviticus 12:6). The command is issued to the “sons” yet it includes commandments for women. Even though the words used in Hebrew are totally “masculine,” they can indicate women as well. The rule here is that if women are the subject, the feminine word is used. If men are the subject, the masculine word is used. If BOTH are the subject, then the masculine form takes precedence over the feminine form. Thus if men AND women are mentioned, the words used will be masculine. This is simply a grammatical rule, as Hebrew has no neutral gender. Also notice Deuteronomy 15:12-13. It talks about how if a fellow Hebrew (kinsman, “ach” lit. brother) goes in to serve you, a Hebrew MALE OR FEMALE, then after their service is complete they are not sent away empty-handed. The point here, though, is that this refers to men AND women by the term “ach” which is masculine, meaning brother.
As far as women wearing that which pertains to a man, this too is out of context. Men and women back then wore similar garments (tunics/robes). A woman’s garment would have been fitted to a woman and most likely included sleeves. A man’s garment would have been bigger and usually were sleeveless (at least during the summer). A shepherd, such as David, actually would have worn a shorter style (think kilt) or even shorts. Being a shepherd, they needed the ability to run. The point of this command is not to prohibit a woman from wearing her husband’s T-shirt. It is to prohibit a man from dressing as a woman, and to prohibit a woman from dressing as a man. Such behavior (today we call it cross-dressing) was exhibited by pagans. Men would dress as women (which was an indicator of a homosexual). This was especially common of the “male cult prostitutes” as spoken of in Deuteronomy 23 or 1 Kings 15. Cross-dressing causes confusion and goes against the nature of man/woman that YHWH created.
If the Sabbath applies to women, and the food laws apply to women, then the command to don tzitziyot should also equally apply to women.
All this to say that it is our duty to follow the commands of YHWH. Remember that Paul said in Galatians 3 that “there is neither male nor female.” He is not saying that the family hierarchy that YHWH created is being torn down, but rather that all are children of Elohim. There are some commands for women that do not apply to men (monthly purification, childbirth, etc.). There are some commands that apply only to men (laws of jealousy if he believes his wife has gone astray, requirement to appear for the pilgrimage Feasts, etc.). There are commands that apply only to kings (cannot multiply chariots for himself, MUST write a copy of Torah for himself, etc.). There is a structure here, and when it’s really broken down we see that it is just as YHWH said in Deuteronomy 30:11: “These commands which I command you today are not too difficult for you…”
The last point I want to make is actually in response to a certain teaching that Judaism (and, subsequently, some Messianics) hold to. That is, tzitziyot are required ONLY if one wears a garment with four corners. You’ll notice that by the simple definition of a “corner,” it means it’s a right angle. Judaism teaches that unless one is wearing a garment with four (or more) distinguishable corners, one is not required to don tzitziyot. This is a very sad explanation. Simply put, I could go with this and, since I primarily wear T-shirts and polo shirts (none of which have four distinguishable “corners” by the Jewish definition) I would never have to wear tzitziyot. However, this is not the case. We know that Scripture defines corner a little bit differently.
Isaiah 11:12, “12And He will lift up a standard for the nations And assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.”
Revelation 7:1, “1After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.”
Ezekiel 7:2, “2And you, son of man, thus says Adonai Yahweh to the land of Israel, ‘An end! The end is coming on the four corners of the earth.”
I think we can pretty safely say the earth is round, right? Yet according to its Creator, it has four corners. The point of all this, is that tzitziyot should be worn on “four corners” but those corners may not be the typical “corner” we think of in a square. The underlying issue here, of course, is simply that tzitziyot should be warn REGARDLESS of what they are warn ON.
I pray this study has blessed you.
Be Berean. Shalom.
9/11/2017 02:03:14 pm
In the last paragraph, the word should be worn (twice) instead of warn. You don't need to post this comment. Just correct the words. :-)
6/20/2020 02:33:14 pm
To add to the claim of binary gender application of (contextually appropriate) commands such as for wearing tzitziyot, it is helpful to mention that the phrase "the Sons of ______" is a common Hebraic idiom (cultural saying) serving as a roundabout way of describing or defining the characteristics of, an individual and/or groups of people, by whatever the word AFTER the first part of the phrase is (eg. sons of God=angels/the gods, son of man=human being, sons of Belial/Beliar=worthless, etc.)
3/29/2021 06:49:16 pm
Lovely bblog you have here
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J. A. Brown