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Why Wear Tzitzit If We Are Not Obligated?

Why Wear Tzitzit If We Are Not Obligated?



To my amazement, I just found out that the commandment to wear ritual fringes, tzitzit, only applies if you are wearing a four-cornered garment. I hope you don't mind my asking a very simple question: Being that most clothing is not four-cornered these days, why do we purposely walk around in four-cornered garments, thus obligating ourselves to wear tzitzit?


It is that time of year again. Tax Season. The time of sifting through and scrutinizing all the receipts we have accumulated over the year, looking for something that might help us lower our taxes. After all, if an exemption is available, why not use it?

The thing is, doing mitzvahs, keeping the Divine commandments, is not like paying taxes.

If a mitzvah were nothing more than an order from On High, a matter of fulfilling an obligation, we might be eager to take advantage of “exemptions.” Why keep more rules than necessary?

But a mitzvah is not just an obligation. The word “mitzvah” is related to the Hebrew word for “connection” (tzavtah). That’s because each mitzvah is another opportunity to connect to G‑d. It is another chance to bring holiness into our lives and the world around us.

And who doesn’t want a better, holier world?

More specifically, the rabbis said that the commandment of tzitzit should be performed daily (or at least during prayers), since it serves as a reminder for us to choose to do what is right in any situation we encounter.1 In fact, our sages write that this commandment, “is the equivalent of all of the commandments combined.”2 How could we miss out?

Please see The Obligation and In The Words of Our Sages on our Tallit and Tzitzit site.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar


Code of Jewish Law, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 24:1. This is based on the verse, “This shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of G‑d, and perform them." (Numbers 15:39)


The Talmud Tractate Menachot 43b.

Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar is a Chabad rabbi in Cary, North Carolina. He is also a member of the Ask the Rabbi team.
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Simcha Bart for June 11, 2017

One needs to actually wear a floor cornered garment to fulfill this Mitzvah. The Mitzvahs are multi-layered in their meanings and messages. There are even reasons which defy human comprehension. The reason this is so is because Mitzvahs come from G-d Who is Infinite and Who's mind is Infinite. So too concerning Tzitzit - reminding us of all the Mitzvot is only one layer of understanding what this Mitzvah is about. For more layers about Tzitzit please see here. Reply

AL Johansen Denver, Colorado June 10, 2017

So here is a question.
Since then the purpose and intent of the mitzvah is to be reminded of the commandments and live a holier life in all that we do; must a the garment have corners at all?
Meaning, can't four Tzitzit-ot be fashioned or attached to any garment; say a pair of pants using the belt-loops?
I have seen this practiced lately, so I'm wondering. Reply

PAUL SCHWARTZ West Islip March 5, 2017

can you wear Tzizit if you were not a Bar Mitzvah Reply

Michael May 8, 2017
in response to PAUL SCHWARTZ:

Yes. And so is the custom. Reply

Menachem Posner Chicago February 29, 2016

To Ezekiel Assuming the garment was white, the non-blue threads should be white as well. Was that the case? Reply

Ezekiel the woodlands February 28, 2016

titzit I have a question about tzitzit. I have seen tzitzit with the blue cord but the part that should be white was dyed black. Is this kosher? Reply

Banny Hillel December 16, 2015

This is a great website. Reply

Dina Preuss Greenwood April 28, 2015

Interesting This is an interesting article, but it is my understanding that the wearing of a four-cornered garment is not actually an option, but rather a mitzvah. We are to wear a four-cornered garment and put tzitzit on its corners. Not "if" we chose to wear one, as asked in the original question about. Reply

David GA January 15, 2015

What is a corner? Brian, I don't think you understand the difference between a quarter and a corner. A corner is a right angle, such as an L; dividing a round garment by four does not create a corner. The Torah says to put tzitzit on a four-cornered garment, not just any garment. This is found in Numbers 15:38. Reply

messydue March 17, 2014

Where is the scripture that says we only need to wear tzittzit if we wear 4 cornered clothes? Exactly... Reply

Brian Foust Raleigh, NC April 21, 2013

tzitzit I feel that even an individual wearing a western style "t-shirt" can assume four corners or a garment since technically every angle from a center point represents a corner and thus any western style t-shirt can have 360 degrees/angles and the number 360 is divisible by 4. so if you have a t-shirt you can take the length of it's hem, divide by 360 and attach each one to the corresponding 90th degree. ill give an example. the hem on the shirt I'm wearing is 42" so if i divide that number by four (the degrees of 360 are inferred at this point) I get 10.25" therefore, starting at the hip i can measure every ten + 1/4 inches and place a tzittzit either by breaking the fabric or installing a button. I hope this clears up your assumption that the clothe's style/build are a prerequisite to the tzitzit as where it's obvious that the wearing of a garment at all is the prerequisite. Reply

Celeste Philadelphia October 23, 2012

Thank you for the answer given. Yes I do want to connect with G-d at every opportunity. I want to express my love to Him in all that I do Reply

miriam brooklyn June 13, 2012

answer for bryan Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg ob"m wore all those tzitzis because each one was made according to a different halachic perspective. there are many, many laws and opinions on the shape of the tzitzis, the stripes, the material it is made from, the knots, etc., etc. and this rabbi wanted to make sure he was wearing tzitzis according to all opinions Reply

Michael May 8, 2017
in response to miriam:

No, Rav Scheinberg's tzitzis were actually all the same. The reason he wore so many is because each begged is a mitzvah and to make up for the people who don't fulfill this mitzvah. Reply

Bryan NY, NY March 21, 2012

Wearing more than one tallis katan? I read of a rabbi who recently died who was famous for wearing anywhere between 36 and 100 tzizis. I don't understand why that would be considered meritorious. Could someone explain. Reply

Comfort Raleigh February 10, 2011

nice good answer!
your friend,
johnny :P Reply

Ariel Jerusalem February 8, 2011

In the Words of our Sages "Even though a person is not required to buy himself a talit or to cover himself with it, to fulfill the command of tzitzit, it is not proper for a pious man to exempt himself from this command. Rather, eternally a person should try to be wrapped in a garment that requires tzitzit in order to fulfill this command. And the time of prayer requires even more effort. It is very shameful for a student of the sages to pray when he is not wrapped." M"T Hil. Tzitzit 3, 12 [11]. Reply

This is no fringe mitzvah! The tallit and tzitzit serves as constant reminders of our obligations to G-d and our fellows.
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