This is a topic that few within christianity have heard of, fewer have any real knowledge of, and almost all would view as not being required for a believer today. It concerns the wearing of tassels/fringes/tzitzit on the corners of our clothing.
Let’s begin with the main passage concerning this: Numbers 15:37-40
“And YHWH spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of YHWH, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.”
We see in this passage that the children of Israel were commanded to wear “fringes” on their garments. “Fringe” comes from the Hebrew word ציצת which we transliterate as “tzitzit” (pronounced “tseet-seet”). The purpose of the tzitzit was to remind the people of YHWH’s commandments – and then to do them. It was a reminder to leave their own ways and follow the instructions of their Creator. Verse 40 tells us that doing the commandments is part of being holy, or set apart.
Deuteronomy 22:12 says, “Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.” So we see that there was to be four of these fringes on their clothing, and these fringes were to contain a thread of blue (Num 15:38).
Our family began to wear tzitzit on our tenth Passover observance in March, 2016. We wear them for the reasons that I’ve stated above – to remember and to keep YHWH’s commandments. It is our reminder to not go after our own desires. We also wear them because Yeshua, our Saviour and redeemer, wore them. We are to walk as He walked, and if He wore them, we believe we should also.
Wait a minute though – Yeshua (Jesus) never wore them, did he? There’s no paintings of him wearing them. There’s no pictures of any of His disciples wearing them either! No preachers even hint at the idea that they were worn in New Testament times. Then again, have you ever seen a Bible picture book with anyone wearing tzitzit? Even in pictures of Moses himself? No – christianity ignores the commandment completely!
Let’s go back to the words “corners” or “quarters” in the Deuteronomy passage and the word “borders” in the Numbers passage. All these words are translated from the Hebrew word “kanap” (כנף). This word is most commonly translated as “wing”, and it follows that it usually refers to birds (and YHWH’s protection under His “wings”). This word, “kanap” is used in a couple of other situations though, and that’s where we start to discover some interesting things.
Most particularly, we read in Malachi 4:2, “… unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings …”. This is universally believed to be a Messianic prophecy, and in it we are told that the Messiah will have healing in His wings (“kanap”, corners)! In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT), the Hebrew word, “kanap”, is translated into the Greek word “kraspedon”. It is this word that brings us into the New Testament.
In Luke 8:43-48 we read the well known story of a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years. No doctors could heal her, but she reached out and touched the Messiah’s garment and was instantly healed. What she touched was Yeshua’s “kraspedon” – his tzitzit! Yeshua told her that her faith had made her well – and it’s very likely that it was her faith in the words of Malachi 4:2 that brought about this event.
We read of a greater number of people being healed in the same way in Matthew 14:34-36. Clearly, Messiah Yeshua wore tzitzit just as the Torah stated.
I confidently believe that Yeshua wore tzitzit, and so as I endeavour to walk just as He walked, I have decided to do the same. However, I’m clearly in the minority of those that profess to follow the Messiah. Verses like John 14:26 and Hebrews 8:8-11 (quoted from Jeremiah) are used to say that there is no need for tassels anymore because we have the Holy Spirit who writes the law upon our hearts. It’s an argument that seems to hold merit and fits with the general anti Torah sentiments of christianity.
I will close with some reasons that have persuaded me, and my family, that this law is still valid for us today:
This is one of the laws of YHWH – and if it’s written on our heart, we’ll do it!
Yeshua had the Holy Spirit within Him. He was perfect, yet He still wore tzitzit. We’re not exempt!
Numbers 15:38 says that tzitzit were to be worn “throughout the generations”!
The word “remember” (Num 15:39) had the possibly meaning of “to mark/to be recognized”. If correct, then this point remains valid today! The “Lord’s supper”, as it’s known, is considered a NT remembrance. If we don’t need to be physically reminded anymore, then why have this?
Perhaps it’s only me, but I still need a reminder! My flesh still rises up at times – and this is precisely what this “law of the fringes” is all about!
My understanding of the Spirit writing the law (Torah) upon our hearts is that we are given a desire to live by the law out of a true love for YHWH.
A number of years ago, many christians started wearing bracelets displaying WWJD?, meaning “What Would Jesus Do?”. One answer to this question is:
He would wear tassels … fringes … tzitzit!!