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arba' kanfot

("small shawl"), Jewish religious garment that apparently came into use during times of persecution as a substitute for the larger and more conspicuous prayer shawl (tallit). Both garments have fringes (tzitzit) on the four corners, increasing the likelihood that one was a conscious imitation of the other. The tallit, however, generally falls across the head, neck, and shoulders, while the arba' kanfot has an opening for the head (like a poncho), so that it can be worn beneath the upper garments. Orthodox male Jews, including children, wear the arba' kanfot during the day to fulfill the requirement of wearing fringes (Numbers 15:37-41) as reminders of God's commandments.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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