(גּדַיל, gedil', twisted thread, i.e., a tassel, De 22:12; a "wreath" or festoon for a column, 1Ki 7:17; צַיצַת, tsitsith', a flower-like projection, i.e., a tassel, Numbers 15:38, 39; the "fore- lock," Ezekiel 8:3), an ornament worn by the Israelites upon the edges, and especially at the corners of their robes, as an affectation of piety (comp. Mt 23:5). These terms must have denoted pedicles in the shape of bobs or flowing threads. Fringed garments, elaborately wrought, were very common among both the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. SEE EMBROIDERY. Such fringes, however, as appear upon the tunics and outer robes of figuress delineated on the Assyrian and Egyptian monuments probably did not entirely correspond with those in use among the Jews, although it may be presumed that there was a general resemblance between those worn for general purposes, i.e., as ornamental appendages. Moreover, it may be doubted whether fringes of that description were intended by the Jewish legislator, since they were in such common use that they could form no proper mark of distinction between an Israelite and a Gentile; and, besides, they seem appropriate to state- dresses rather than to ordinary attire, while it is plainly the latter which is contemplated in the prenscription of Moses, and this anpecially with a religious reference. SEE PHYLACTERY.
The Mosaic law respecting these ornaments is contained in Nu 15:38-41; De 22:12, where the children of Israel are enjoined to append fringes or tassels (צַיצַת, גּרַיֹלַים), consisting of several threads, to the four corners (אִרבִע כּנָפות) of their outer garment (בֶּגֶד, בּסוּת), to put-one distinguishing thread (פּתַיל, not "ribbon," as the A.V.) of deep blue in each. of these fringes,. and constantly to look at them, in order to be put in mind thereby of God's commandments to keep them. What number of threads each of these symbolical fringes is to have besides the said blue one, of what material, or how theys are to be made, the injunction does not say. Like most of the Mosaic laws, it leaves, the particulars to be determined by the executive powers according to the peculiar circumstances of the time. The followiing account of thiem relates chiefly to Rabbinical usages.
Guided by the fact that they are symbolical, tradition, in determining the manner in which these fringes are to be made, endeavored to act in harmony ewith their sipiritual import. and hence fixed that each of these four fringes, or tassels for the four corners of the garment should consist of eight threads of white wool the emblem of purity and holiness (Isa 1:18); that one of these threads is to be wound round the others, first seven times, and then a double knot to be made; then eight times, and a double knot (15 =יה); then eleven times (=וה), and a double knot; and finally thirteen times (=אחד), and a double knot, so as to obtain, from the collective number of times which, this thread is wound round, the words יהוה אחד (Jehovah is one), constituting the creed which was the distinguishing mark of the Hebrew nation, and which was inscribed on their bansners, Whilst the five knots represent the five books of the law. As the law, however, is said to contain 613 commandments, SEE SCHOOL, and as the design of these fringes is to remind the Jews of all these commandments, tradition has so arranged it that the word ציצית, which is numerically 600, with the 8 threads and 5 knots, should exactly comprise this number, and thus constitute a perfect symbol of the law.
Originally, as we have seen, this fringed or tasseled garment was the outer one. It was more like a large oblong piece of cloth, with a hole in the center through which the head was put, thus dividing it into two halves, one covering the front, and the other the back of the body, like a tunic.
But when the Hebrews began to mix with other natiolns, asnd especially when they were dispersed and became a by-word and a hissing, this ancient badge of distinction which God conferred upon them became the signal of persecution, inasmuch as it indicated that the wearer of it was a Jew, on whom Christians thought they ought to avenge the blood of Christ. Hence the Israelites found it necessary to, discard the fringed garment as an outer dress, and to wear it in a smaller size, and a somewhat altered form, as an under garment, in order to conceal it from their persecutors. This under fringed garment is called אִרבִּע כּנָפוֹת, the four-cornered dress, or simply צַיצַית fringes or tassels, and is waorn by every orthodox Jew to the present day.
Yet, though the Jews have been compelled to relinquish the large outer fringed garment as a permanent article of apparel, they still continue to wear it in a somewhat codified form at their morning prayers, and call it טָלַית, talith', i.e., cover or wrapper. This talith', or fringed wrapper, is generally made of a white woollen material; the wool must be spun by Jews for this express purpose. It has three or more blue stripes running in parallel lines across the whole garment, at the right and left side. In some cases, however, the talith is also made of silk. Every married Jew must wear it at morning prayer; a single man can do what he likes. When putting it on, the following prayer is offered: "I Blessed art thou, O Lord, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us with thy commandments, and enjoined us to array ourselves with fringes." The Jews attach the utmost importance to the fringed garsent. Thus it is related in the Talmud that "R. Joseph asked R. Joseph b. Rabba, which commandment has your father admonished you to observe more than any other? He replied, The law about the fringes. Once when my father, on descending a ladder, stepped on one of the threads and tore it, off, he would not move from the place till it was repaired" (Sabbath, 118b). Some of the Rabbins go so far as to say that the law respecting the fringes in as important as all the other laws put together (see Rashi on Nu 15:41). It was for this reason that. the woman with the issue of blood (Mt 9:20), and the inhabitants of Gennessaret (Mt 14:36, were so anxious to touch a fringe of our Savior's garment (κράστεδον τοῦ ἱματίου). This superstitious reverence for the external symbol, with little care for the things it symbolized, led the Pharisees to enlarge their fringes, believing that the larger they made the tassels, the better they did God service (comp. the Rabbinical sayings, Whoso diiigently keeps this law of fringes is made worthy, and shall see the face of the majesty of God" — Baal Haturim on Numbers 15; "When a man is clothed with the fringe, and goes out therewith to the door of his habitation, he is safe and God rejoiceth, and the angel [of death] departeth from thence, and the man sball be delivered from all hurt," etc. — R. Menachem on do.); and this it was that our Savior rebuked (Mt 23:5). See Maimonides, 1:100, etc.; Orach Chayim, § 7; the Hebrew Prayer-book, called דֶּרֶך חִיַּים (Vienn. 1859), page 21, a, etc., SEE HEM.