Jewish traditions in Catholicism

A prayer shawl is a means by which one can enter into one’s prayer closet without a closet. Many were healed by touching the fringes of the tallit of Jesus Christ.

God’s peace


The Jewish prayer shawls are quite interesting. You can buy them online. My father recieved one as a gift from a man he met in Isreal, who also gave him a very ornate yamika prior to praying at the wall in Jerusalem.

The tallit is typically given as a Bar Mitzvah or wedding gift or to commemorate other important events and are often passed from father to son or teacher to student. Men are buried in a tallit.

If you go to synagogue you will see the ancient custom of praying with a shawl still in use. At a certain point the congregation is exhorted to pray and all the men will place shawls over themselves, and sometimes cover their children and wives with them as well and all pray together. To think that Joseph may have placed a prayer shawl over Jesus and Mary and prayed in the Synagogue that same way gave me goosbumps when I saw it done. Every Catholic should visit the Synagogue once.

Tallits are mentioned in the Bible in many places. Jesus even mentions them.

***All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. *(Matthew 23:5)

The tassels to which Jesus was referring in Matthew 23 are what Jews call the tzitzit (pronounced see-see) which are attached to the four corners of the prayer shawl. The tassels have 613 knots to remind the faithful Jew of the 613 commandments of the law of Moses. The tassels were commanded by God in Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, fastening a violet cord to each corner. When you use these tassels, the sight of the cord will remind you of all the commandments of the LORD and you will do them, without prostituting yourself going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes. Thus you will remember to do all my commandments and you will be holy to your God. (Numbers 15:38:40)

The sight of the tassels helped the Jews resist “The desires of your hearts and eyes”.

Some of the Pharisees however, had three or four foot long tzitzit on their prayer shawls - lengthening their tassels - and dragging them along behind them so that everyone could see how pious they were. It would be like carrying a twenty foot long rosary with beads the size of tennis balls so that everyone would notice you.

*A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. (Matthew 9:20 NAB)

She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” (Mark 5:27-28)*

Belief at the time of Jesus was that the tassels of the Messiah’s cloak/shawl/tallit would have healing power, and the woman healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment would have been immediately recognizable to the Jews who were present and who heard and read of the event as a clear sign that Jesus was the Messiah. .

You can see the tzitziyot (plural for tzitzit, pronounced see-see-oht) on the four corners of the garment in the picture above. You can buy them all over the internet. Some are very ornate silk and other’s are very plain wool.

So does anyone know if the priest’s and deacon’s stole is based on the prayer shawl?


I didn’t know this about the closet. Very good information. Thank you!


Tim, greatly appreciate this information. At this link you will find some historical perspective of the prayer shawl and the liturgical stole, as well as many other interesting facts.

I too, had a very moving experience at the wailing wall in Israel. An orthodox man wrapped the tefillim around my arms and hand, and around my forehead and said a prayer over me.
When he realized that I was not Jewish, there was some consternation, but then he said to me that ‘you have a Jewish heart’. (I can still remember the young Jewish boy who led me up to this man, eventhough I told the Jewish boy that I was not Jewish.)

God’s peace


Great info and good question. We have inherited much from Temple Judaism: the Eucharistic/paschal sacrifice has parallels in Judaism; the Liturgy of the Hours has its roots in the Jewish prayer of the psalms throughout the day. It wouldn’t surprise me that the stole has some link to the tallit.

I think I read somewhere that use of tallits by non-Jews was seen as somehow offensive to Jews. I’d have to research around on that. Perhaps for Catholics it mimics too closely the stole and thus for the laity would be seen as a gesture reserved to the priesthood.

My parish (Jesuit) is starting a Prayer Shawl group in September. We will get together twice a week to knit and pray. I can’t wait! I’ve been busy knitting up winter hats for a homeless shelter that local Sister’s run. I’m 59 and the youngest in our group. Hopefully we will find women and men who would like to learn to knit!:slight_smile:

The more I learn about Judaism, Jewish culture, politics, military customs and even things like diet, farming and herding techniques, the more I am elightened about the roots of my own faith. Even knowing a little about the geography of Israel helps in understanding Scripture tremendously.

The vast majority of the errors taught by non-Catholic Churches are resolved when one understands the Jewish/Hebrew background behind the Scriptures.

I encourage all Catholics to not shy away from opportunities to learn about Judaism or Jewish culture. It is very rich culture, thousands of years old, and the people are very warm. Again, every Catholic should visit the Synagogue at least once.

It’s not about establishing Jewish modes of worship in Catholic Churches, but about understanding the basis for some of the beliefs we have and what our Lord Jesus Christ was actually talking about when he said some of the things which he said. There is a richness to our faith and much of it is rooted in Old Tesament Judaisim. We should learn as much as we can about it, and perhaps even Christianize it.


thanks Tim. I had the privilege once to attend a Passover Seder. It made me appreciate the meaning and symbolism and roots of the mass more. In reference to the Prayer shawl,
I had heard that the woman who has healed by touching the corner or hem of Jesus was touching the tassels of His prayer shawl. It was believed at the time that the messiah would come with healing in his wings (or tassels). By her actions, she was proclaiming Jesus as Messiah and that is why she was healed and He stopped to to ask who touched him. While there were many who were trying to touch Jesus, she was the one healed.

Reconciliation used to be in Jewish Tradition. A man would go to the Rabbi offer an animal sacrifice then confess his sins to the rabbi. Now, Jesus being the ultimate sacrifice, one just confesses to a Priest.

Perhaps you could tell us more about this?


We would all benefit in our understanding of the NT by learning of the OT Judaism that was in existence at the time of Jesus Christ, and in which Jesus Christ lived.

As Jesus himself said:

And he said unto them, Therefore every scribe who hath been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old (Matt. 13:52)

God’s peace


lol Not now. But when they had the temple of Solomon of course :smiley:

Leviticus 5:5-6

5 “When you become aware of your guilt in any of these ways, you must confess your sin. 6 Then you must bring to the Lord as the penalty for your sin a female from the flock, either a sheep or a goat. This is a sin offering with which the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the Lord

Leviticus 19:21:22

21 And he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, a ram as a trespass offering. 22 ***The priest shall make atonement for him ***with the ram of the trespass offering before the Lord for his sin which he has committed. And the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.

Leviticus 5:5-6

Leviticus 19:21:22

Where does it say that we (since I’m Jewish) were supposed to confess our sin to the Temple Priest?

Christian Scripture does talk about the ritual mikveh bath, in connection with some sort of oral confession or other acknowledgement of sin.

Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:5-6)

My understanding that what Christian’s describe John as doing - baptizing - has its roots in the mikveh. I don’t know if confession was connected to the purification bath, but those present were confessing in preparation for what they believed was the coming of the Messiah.

As a member of the Jewish faith, I would be very grateful if you would give us your insight on, for example, Leviticus 5 which was cited

When a man is guilty in any of these, he shall confess the sin he has committed, and he shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD for the sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin. (Leviticus 5:5-6)

I am asking out of ignorance, as one who truly wants to learn. Was not an oral confession of sin part of this ritual? Or was atonement made for the sin which the sinner did not have to disclose? To whom did he confess? Again, I am not trying to challenge and would welcome references to further reading.

Also, if you don’t mind, is there an oral confession of sin associated with Yom Kippur?

Please forgive my ignorance of any terms. I mean no disrespect.


Perhaps this, from ‘My Jewish Learning’ might help.

Sorry, I realize my link might not cover an aspect of this part:

Note the form here - the confession and then the taking of the guilt/sin offering to the priest for sacrifice as ‘atonement’. It doesn’t say that the confession is to the priest, the priest is part of the ‘mechanics’ of the process, not an intercessor.

Reform? Conservative? Orthodox? Which Jewish?

if the rabbi makes an anointment for the sin I would imagine he would have to know the sin

Perhaps you should read the link I gave to ‘My Jewish Learning’.

Rabbi means ‘teacher’, they are not Priests, there have not been Priests since the Temple was destroyed. You did not go to the Priest to confess your sins, you went to the Priest who did the ritual bit for you at the Temple.

It is important to distinguish Rabbinic Judaism from the priestly Judaism of the Temple era.

What the Catholic church has received from priestly Judaism are holy oil (the oil of anointing), holy water (the water of purification), incense, (the altar of incense), the baptismal font (the brazen laver), the various priestly garments, holy days, and more.

From Rabbinic Judaism, the Catholic church has three scripture readings during their Sunday Mass with chanted Psalms. They also have weekly or daily scripture readings.

One might consider the ark which contains the Torah Scroll in Rabbinic Judaism, and compare it with the Tabernacle which contains the consecrated host of the incarnate Word of God. The ceremony of bringing the Torah Scroll to the bema, or podium reminds me of the Catholic priest bringing the gospel to the podium.

For those who are interested, there is a book by Marshall Taylor:The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity

God’s peace


Thank you for pointing that out. I think that was the root of your consternation, no, that confession was not to the priest but to God?

In Christianity, Christ works vicariously through the priest, who has been given authority to forgive sins on behalf of Christ. It is kind of like the police, if you will, who are granted authority by the civil government and through whom the government acts. Anything they do is not by virtue of who they are, but by virtue of the authority they have been granted. That authority can be taken away.

But to the point being made, is it your understanding that the confession was oral, that sins were actually stated?


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