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Why Sleep With Tzitzit?

Why Sleep With Tzitzit?

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Question:

I was under the impression that the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit only applies to the daytime. But then I heard that many have the custom to wear tzitzit during the night as well. Can you explain the reason behind this?

Answer:

Before getting into the reasons behind this custom, let’s clarify the basic halachah regarding tzitzit at night.

The verse states regarding tzitzit, “This shall be fringes for you, and you will see them . . .”1 The Talmud infers that a “nighttime garment”—worn at a time when things aren’t normally “seen”—is exempt from tzitzit.2

Now, what is a “nighttime garment”?

Exemption Applies to Timeframe

Some authorities, most notably Maimonides,3 maintain that the Torah’s exemption focuses on the time the garment is worn. Therefore, any garment worn at night, even if it is a garment designated to be worn by day, is not required to have tzitzit attached to it.

Conversely, any garment worn by day, even if it is a garment designated for the night, is required to have tzitzit attached to it before it is worn, because the tzitzit can be seen at the time the garment is worn.4

Exemption Applies to Type of Garment

Others, most notably Rabbeinu Asher,5 maintain that the Torah exempts only a garment designated for the night. According to this view, there is no obligation to attach tzitzit to such a garment, even if it is worn during the day, since it was made to be worn only at a time when it is not meant to be seen.

The opposite is also true: a garment which is designated for the day, or which is designated for both day and night, requires tzitzit even if it is worn at night.6

The Halachah

Since it has not been clarified which opinion the halachah follows, we follow both opinions. Hence, one should attach tzitzit to a garment that is designated for the day (or for both day and night) even if worn at night, and conversely, one should attach tzitzit to a garment designated to be worn at night, if it is also worn during the day.

However, with regard to making a blessing, we follow the rule that “whenever there is a doubt regarding the recitation of blessings [of Rabbinic origin], the more lenient view should be followed.” Therefore, we only recite a blessing on tzitzit during the daytime, and only on a garment designated for the day, or one designated for both day and night.7

We can now return to the original question: Why wear tzitzit at night?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in his Siddur, lists three reasons why one should wear tzitzit to bed:

Sleeping In

Although the Talmud and Code of Jewish Law encourage us to wake at midnight, or at the very least before daybreak, to learn Torah, nowadays most people wake up after dawn (since the alarm clock no longer consists of a rooster crowing . . .). Thus, as soon as the day begins, the tzitzit you are wearing provide you with a mitzvah even while you sleep.8

Hands-Free

Additionally, although strictly speaking, one is allowed to touch and put on his clothes before washing his hands in the morning,9 the Zohar10 cautions against doing anything, including touching one’s clothes, before washing hands, due to the impure spirits that come to rest upon them during the night (for more on this, see here).11 Thus, if you want to wear tzitzit right when you wake up, but at the same time wish to follow the Zohar and not touch any clothes before washing your hands, the solution is to already be wearing tzitzit when you wake up.12

Spiritual Protection

The mystics, most notably Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal), cautioned that for mystical reasons, although a tallit should only be worn during the daytime, one should always wear tzitzit (tallit katan) even when he goes to sleep at night (only taking it off to bathe) since it helps to protect from negative spiritual forces.13

Fulfilling the Mitzvah at Night

In our earlier discussion about which nighttime garments are exempt from tzitzit, we concluded that it wasn’t clear whether the halachah follows the opinion that nighttime garments are defined by the actual time they are worn (regardless of the type of garment) or whether they are defined by the type of garment (regardless of the current time of day). Nevertheless, the Tzemach Tzedek writes that it seems the halachah leans toward the second opinion (quoted earlier in the name of Rabbeinu Asher), that “nighttime garments” depend on the type of garment.

Based on this, any garment designated for both night and day would be obligated to have tzitzit attached, and one would fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit by wearing it at night. Thus, by sleeping with tzitzit on a garment designated for both night and day, one would actually be fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzit even while he slept at night (not just when he oversleeps into the daytime).14

Our sages teach us that the mitzvah of tzitzit is equivalent to all the mitzvahs15 and that one who is careful with this mitzvah merits to greet the Shechinah, the Divine Presence.16 Additionally, the tzitzit together with its four corners represent the ingathering of the exiles at the time of the final redemption.17 May our careful observance of this mitzvah bring about the final redemption speedily in our days!

Footnotes
2.
Talmud, Menachot 43a.
3.
Maimonides, Hilchot Tzitzit 3:7-8.
4.
See Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim 18:1.
5.
Rosh, Hilchot Tzitzit 1.
6.
See Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim 18:1.
7.
See Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orech Chaim 18:3.
8.
Siddur Admur Hazaken, Hilchot Tzitzit.
9.
See Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orech Chaim 8:20.
10.
Zohar, vol. 1, 10b, 184b.
11.
See Shulchan Aruch Harav, Mahadura Batra, Orech Chaim 1:7.
12.
Siddur Admur Hazaken, Hilchot Tzitzit.
13.
Shaar Hakavonot, Derushei Leilah 1;Pri Eitz Chaim, Shaar Tzitzit 1. Cited in Siddur Admur Hazaken, Hilchot Tzitzit; Mishnah Berurah 21:8. See also Magen Avraham, Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim 21:2.
14.
Tzemach Tzedek, Piskei Dinim, Hilchot Tzitzit.
15.
Indeed, the numerical value of the word tzitzit (ציצית) is 600. Six hundred plus the five knots and the eight strands equals 613, which is the number of the mitzvot.
16.
See Talmud, Menachot 43b.
17.
Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 14. For more on this see Why Must a Tallit Have Four Fringed Corners?
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
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Shoshana GA July 7, 2017

On the background of this discussion is the premise that women should not wear men's garments and vice versa. Right there we run into a snag. Historically the first ones to wear skirts were men. Both sexes wore very similar garments. Israelites were identified from a distance. Was it due to garment design, color, or maybe tzitziot? Obviously theres was a difference in male and female garments but beyond that there must have been a difference that identified an Israelite ftom a distance. This leads to the underlying reason why Israelites would wear tzitziot. Quite simply Torah says we should. Torah does not say men, it says Israel. Israel includes women, and women of great importance at that such as Myriam, Sarah, Deborah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachael. Did these women wear men clothing? I seriously doubt it. Did they, due to their religious convictions, wear tallit and tzit tziot? Did they also say the shema day and night? Didn't Deborah judging Israel do so? Reply

Anonymous July 4, 2017

I have the same question as the comment below, why don't women wear them? Especially when it says all Israel should? I have grown up to see tzitziot as a very male garment, but out of curiousity, why don't women wear them?
Thank you for a great article and for being so detailed yet clear to understand, I appreciate it! Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org July 7, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

With regards to the question about why women don't wear Tzitzit, please see Is it appropriate for a woman to wear a tallit? Reply

Jul K Jerusalem June 21, 2017

If there is a possibility that the Mitzvah applies both day and night but is dependent on the type of garment, then why are women exempt from the Mitzvah. And please don't assume thyat iot is a male garment, it's that only as a consequence of the daytime basis of the Mitzvah. Reply

Anonymous June 15, 2017

Amen! Excellent article and very well written! Thanks for posting! Reply

Anonymous Hillside, NJ June 15, 2017

I remember being taught not to wear my tallit katan to bed because, "You don't know what you will touch while sleeping." The possibility of seminal emissions might have also been mentioned but the conversation was 35-40 years ago. Reply

Zalman west orange June 15, 2017

What about wearing a kippa to bed? Reply

mendel r Nashville, TN June 13, 2017

awesome Reply

Shlomo Amor Paris June 12, 2017

Spiritual Protection Could you please deepen the "Spiritual protection" section about what the Ari Zal is exactly saying about this topic ? Reply

Rabbi Israel New York City June 12, 2017

Parsha Shelach right before talks abouit Miriam, then talks about spies and proper speech. Parsha ends with Tzitzis mitzvah, The mitzvah of Tzitzis can atone for speech... Reply

Shoshana GA June 15, 2017
in response to Rabbi Israel:

So that is what I mean by all Israel wearing tzit tziot. Had Miriam been wearing them maybe she would not have spoken against her brother... 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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