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A Garment of Illumination

The Zohar reveals that that there are two types of spiritual light that affect every creation. One level of light goes within. This is called ohr penimi, a penetrating inner light.

At times, the light is so spiritually powerful that the object it affects is unable to contain its illumination. In such circumstances, the light actually envelops the entire entity. This is called ohr makif, a light that surrounds.

The Arizal reveals that a tallis draws this second type of light. “When a person wears a tallis he has a Divine light surrounding him (ohr makif). For this reason the tallis is meant to cover the majority of one’s body” (cited in Kaf Hachaim 16, 2).

Elsewhere, the Arizal reveals that this light gradually increases in intensity during prayer. At the start of Pesukei D’zimra, while saying Baruch She’amar, a man grasps the front two strings of his tzitzis, for only the light of the front two strings envelops him. By the time he gets to the blessings of Shema, the light of all four strings of the tzitzis has enveloped his body, and therefore the custom is to grasp all of the tzitzis (as cited in Piskei Teshuvos 51,3).

While wearing a tallis, a person’s body is literally surrounded by the light of Hashem. This ohr makif aids his prayers to illuminate the highest reaches of the heavens and protects a person from harm. Although these profound concepts are far beyond our limited intellectual capacity, they can help us appreciate that there is no more potent preparation for a man's prayer than putting on a tallis.

Donning a tallis for prayer, Envelops one with the light of Hashem.

Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



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