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 From King Tut To The Jewish Tallit

From King Tut To The Jewish Tallit

There is perhaps no greater symbol of Judaism than the white prayer shawl, the tallit. Likewise, there is probably no greater symbol of ancient Egypt’s majesty than the golden funerary mask of the boy king Tutankhamun, found in his sealed sarcophagus in early 1923 by Howard Carter. Together, they are icons of their respective fields of Judaism and Egyptology, but could they be connected in any deeper way? Could a young Pharaoh of Egypt’s Golden Age, who lived 3,000 years ago, have had anything to do with the modern Jewish prayer shawl? The answer is certainly surprising, and has everything to do with Tutankhamun’s famous uncle, Akhenaten. This heretic king launched a campaign of monotheism and aniconism across Egypt in the decades before his nephew came to the throne, ushering in an unparalleled time of religious revolution, revivalism, and rebellion.

The Torah refers to the tzitzit, the four tassels (MiniMoon Photo / Adobe Stock)

A Tale of Tallitot

The tallit stands for prayer, obedience to God, and commitment to worshipping him. However, its origins remain mysterious. It is mentioned in the earliest Hebrew Scripture, the Torah, as are the special knotted tassels that hang from its four corners: the tzitzit. Kerry Olitzky and Ron Issacs discuss the tallit in their tome The Complete How To Handbook for Jewish Living, suggesting how pivotal the garment is to Jewish identity and life.


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