Judaism

 
 

In Judaism, prayer beads have been considered a form of paganism. However, because the Jewish prayer shawl known as the tallit includes a specified number of knots, we can perhaps intuit that numbers are as spiritually significant to the tallit in Judaism as they are to prayer beads in other traditions.

Jewish tallit
Enlarge Specially knotted ritual fringes called tzitsi are attached to the four corners of the prayer shawl (tallit) worn by observant Jews.

Made of blue and white silk featuring fringe, five knots, and four tassels, the tallit indicates obedience to a passage in Numbers 15:37-41. In it, Moses asks that the tallit be made and looked at, specifically noting the number of tassels to include "so you will remember all the commands of the Lord."

Judaism » Religious Use of Beads » History of Prayer Beads » A String & A Prayer: How to Make & Use Prayer Beads
Eleanor Wiley and Maggie Oman Shannon (2007) Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

A String & A Prayer: How to Make & Use Prayer Beads

A String & A Prayer: How to Make & Use Prayer Beads

Eleanor Wiley and Maggie Oman Shannon (2007) Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Eleanor Wiley and Maggie Oman Shannon have taken an ancient practice and made it new. A String and a Prayer recounts the history and symbolism of prayer beads, teaches basic techniques for stringing beads and a host of other objects into prayer beads, and offers a variety of prayers and rituals to use those beads on a daily basis. Beads have appeared throughout history. Prayer beads are used in the spiritual practices of cultures as diverse as the African Masai, Native Americans, Greek and Russian Orthodoxy, as well as the religious rituals of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism. But prayer is highly personal. By infusing prayer beads with personal associations, we can keep our spirituality fresh. The beads are a device to help build and rebuild meaningful ritual in our lives. With myriad ideas about what makes objects sacred and where to find sacred objects—from the personal, perhaps beads from a grandmother's broken rosary, to the unusual, maybe seashells from far away found in a thrift store—A String and a Prayer offers many suggestions for different ways that beads can be made and used, exploring the creative roles they can play in our relationships, ceremonies, and rituals. "You are the expert, trust yourself. Let the instructions be a guide to your own creativity," write the authors.