Messiah's Wings

The story of Yeshua’s healing of the woman with an issue of blood contains a hidden detail about His Jewish observance.

Artwork from the Torah Club Jesus, My Rabbi study, lesson "Healing in His Wings". (Image and art © First Fruits of Zion)

The woman had already given up on doctors, healers, cures, and medicines. Everyone was urging her, “Go to Capernaum.” Finally persuaded, she came to seek out the healer. The crowd pressed in around Him. As He hurried off with the important head of the Capernaum synagogue, she must have sighed with disappointment, “He has no time for me.” Then a thought occurred to her: “If I just touch His garments, I will get well” (Mark 5:27-28).

She pushed her way into the midst of the jostling crowd, following Him until she was right behind Him. Stooping low, as if to pick something up, she unobtrusively took hold of one of the tassels that hung from the four corners of His garment, and immediately she felt her body healed. In the days of the Master, all Jewish men wore tassels on their garments.

God commanded the Israelites to affix tassels (tzitzit) on the four corners of their garments and to thread a single cord of blue into each tassel:

Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. (Numbers 15:38)

Today, observant Jews continue the practice of wearing tassels, and most Jewish men wear a ritual prayer shawl in the synagogue affixed with tassels on the four corners. In the first century, Jewish men wore a four-cornered outer garment called a tallit, a rectangular, poncho-like robe or cloak. The tallit was not a prayer shawl. In the days of the Master, Jews did not wear ritual garments such as prayer shawls because their common garments already had four corners. When four-cornered garments ceased to be the norm, Judaism developed four-cornered ritual garments to continue observing the commandment of wearing ritual tassels. Thus, picturing Yeshua draped in a prayer shawl such as one would see in a synagogue today is anachronistic.

Did Yeshua wear tassels on the four corners of His garment? Of course. If He did not, He would have violated the commandment to do so. On one occasion He criticized certain Pharisees for making their tassels long as a means of looking more pious:

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. (Matthew 23:5)

He criticized the Pharisees for lengthening them, not for wearing them. The New American Standard Bible translation of Matthew 23:5 translates the Greek word kraspedon as tassels. The Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, uses the same word to translate tassels in Numbers 15:38. The same Greek word appears in Luke’s version of the story of the woman who touched the Master’s garment. The woman “came up behind Yeshua and touched the fringe (kraspedon) of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped” (Luke 8:44). In other words, she crept up behind Him and took hold of the tassels (tzitzit) of His garment that trailed behind Him.

A prophecy in the book of Malachi says that, when the Day of the LORD comes, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). The Hebrew word for “wings” (kenafim) can also mean “corners,” as in the passage “they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners (kenafim) of their garments” (Numbers 15:38). Perhaps the woman identified Yeshua of Nazareth as the prophesied “sun of righteousness.” She felt certain she would find healing in the corners of his garment, as the prophecy seemed to indicate. The LORD rewarded her confidence, and Yeshua told her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

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This year Torah Clubs are studying the Gospels from a Messianic Jewish perspective. Every week Club members encounter Yeshua of Nazareth in his Jewish context. Discover the historical and cultural backdrops of the gospels and be amazed as the teachings of Yeshua snap into focus and clarity. Unravel his difficult words and parables; study Jewish parallels to his teachings; and ultimately know Jesus better.

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