Talit/Tefillin

The Mitzvah of Atifat Tzitzit (the donning of Tzitzit - the strings which are attached to the Talit shawl) is of such paramount importance that we recite the passage containing the commandment to wear a Talit as part of the daily Shema prayer - literally the most important prayer in the entire Jewish religion. This is in part due to the intensely personal nature of figuratively wrapping oneself up in the "shadow of [God's] wings" (Psalms 36:8). In the words of the prophet: "I will be overjoyed in the Lord; my soul will rejoice in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness as a groom decks himself in priestly grandeur, and as a bride adorns himself with her jewels." (Isaiah 61:10). It is no small coincidence that as such, a Talit's second and perhaps most sacred implementation is in its place at the crest of the bridal canopy. Wearing the Talit (and indeed, wearing Tzitzit at all times) is a reminder of the covenant that we sealed with God - "You will be a people unto Me, and I will be a God unto you." (Jeremiah 30:22) In making this covenant, we agreed to observe the 613 commandments, which are symbolized by the strings and knots of the Tzitzit that hang off the corners of the Talit. However, this is only a surface level meaning of the ritual. On a deeper level, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, may his memory be for a blessing, taught that the Talit is an expression of our relationship with our own spiritual development. In donning it, we ask that our character traits (as represented by the Talit itself) be a proper "garment" for our Soul, because the Soul itself is a pure energetic force, beyond any description or character traits attributed to it. We then take it one step further and ask that our actions "descend" from our good character traits, just as the Tzitzit strings "descend" from the Talit shawl.

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