The Tallit

“and the Tallit shall spread its wings over them and save them”

The Tallit is a “religious article” utilized for the observance of the “Fringe Mitzvah”, a daily reminder for every Jewish person to observe the Mitzvahs of the LORD:

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the corner a thread of blue. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes”
(Book of Numbers, chapter 15).

The reason for the Mitzvah is to remind the person and to help him remember the instructions of the Lord. The wrapping in the prayer shawl isolates the person from the sights and sounds of the outside world and allows him to focus on his prayer. Even the blue fringe thread, which used to be a rare and precious color especially designed by our elders to inspire pure thoughts: “Rabbi Meir says, what is the difference between blue and other colors, that blue is the color of the sea, and the color of the sea resembles the color of the sky, and the sky resembles the throne” (Minchot, the Book of Offerings 4).

The Tallit as a national symbol

The sources of the Israeli flag are derived from two historically significant elements, which put an emphasis on the inextricably linked symbols: The Tallit as the traditional symbol of the Jewish people and the symbol of the David Star, which accompanies the Jewish tradition from the dawn of its existence.

In preparation for the first Zionist Congress in Basel (1897), the all - important question of the flag selection for the Zionist movement has come up. Hertzel suggested a white flag with seven gold stars; however, the Zionist leader David Wolfson had a different idea: “It seems that we already have a flag. The Tallit with which we wrap ourselves as we pray – this Tallit is our symbol. Let us take it out of its casing and unroll it in front of Israel and in front of other nations. I ordered then a blue and white flag and a Star of David drawn on it, and in this way our national flag came to exist”.

It is however important to note that the idea of a blue and white flag based on the Tallit has come up before Wolfson. Israel Belkind, of the first BILU pioneers, has raised a flag of blue and white in 1885, celebrating the three years anniversary of Rishon Lezion. A similar flag ("a cloth of white: two and two strips of blue on both ends, such as our prayer shawl and a blue star of David in the middle"), and another similar flag was raised in Nes Ziona in 1891.