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I recently did a tahara and I was curious about where a lot of the practices came from and what the meaning behind them is.

One thing we did was that when we tied any knots, we twist-wrapped the two ends four times, and then tied slipknots. All knots were tied this way.

Why the four twists, and why the slipknots?

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    What is "twist-wrapped"? – msh210 Mar 27 '15 at 5:55
  • @msh210 they wrap the two ends around each other. – Y     e     z Mar 29 '15 at 2:42
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One does not tie a "permanent" knot on the tachrichim (burial clothes) in order to show that the death is not permanent. That is, the person will get up at techiyas hameisim (resurrection of the dead) after the mashiach comes. Additionally, the knots are this way so as not to hinder the dissolution of the tachrichim with the body. The chevra kadisha that I did taharas for explained the twists as making sure that they will not come apart immediately. We just twisted the strings together tightly and then used the tension of the twists to curl them down. We did not use any knots (even bows or slip knots).

For example

Shrouds

Permanent, double knots are not used at all, even to tie the thread when stitching the shrouds. Everything is either twisted together or tied with a bow tie / slip knot, which is a temporary knot, to show that the burial is "temporary" until the resurrection of the dead.

tachrichim

The tachrichim, or shrouds are fashioned after the garments that the high priest wore in the temple on Yom Kippur. They are white, made of linen, and hand-sewn with no knots so that they will disintegrate easily. They are made without hems, to signify their impermanence, and with no pockets, because you can take no worldly goods with you into the afterlife. Everyone: rich or poor, young or old, are buried in the same garments. The caskets are also uniform, made out of wood, with no nails.

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