From Fringe to Knots and Windings

I wondered if you could tell me about the origins of the tzitzit’s knots and windings? When did “fringe” as stated in the bible translate into “knots and windings”?

In answer to your question as to the origins of the various tying methods as different from the Bible, let me be start by saying that the Bible is like a “Cliff Notes” pamphlet of the Divine transmission to Moses and the Jewish People. The Bible is known as the “written Torah” which is of necessity accompanied by an “oral Torah”. Attempting to implement the Bible’s written word at face value is an impossible task because there are so many details left unwritten. Some more obvious examples of commandments for which there are little if no details are: tefillin, mezuzah, tzitzit; but list goes on. Those who have tried to maintain only the written Torah in the past ended up inventing their own “oral Torah” to fill in the blanks. Such attempts have been doomed to failure, as exemplified by the Sadducees and Karaites.

All the details of the Bible’s commandments are explained in the “oral Torah” of the Talmud and later commentaries. Now, in the case of tekhelet tzitzit, due to its falling into disuse because of the loss of the snail dye source, much of the oral tradition for this mitzvah has been lost. From the various statements in the Talmud (see:, later commentators have grappled with the proper implementation. That being said, the Talmud states clearly that the Biblical requirement to fulfill the commandment of tzitzit is one knot and three winds. The rest of the wraps and knots are Rabbinic in nature, added to enhance the symbolism. The primary symbol that tzitzit serve is to be a reminder for us that there is a Creator and that we are to perform His commandments, as stated in the Bible itself (Num 15:39). Toward this aim, the Talmud adds for example, that we should have between 7 to 13 groupings of winds to remind us of the 7 heavens (or 7 heavens and the 6 spaces between them). This just one of the many symbolic elements built into the mitzvah. And so this is how the many methods of tying came to be today.

– Mois Navon.

Mois Navon