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What Is a Kosher Tallit?

What Is a Kosher Tallit?


A Kosher Tallit Garment

  • Only a garment which covers most of the body requires tzitzit. A scarf, for example, is therefore exempt.
  • Any garment which has four or more corners is obligated in tzitzit. If the garment has more than four corners, tzitzit fringes are only attached to the four corners furthest from each other.
  • Only a garment which has two corners in the front of its wearer and two in the back must have tzitzit.
  • A rounded edge is not considered as a corner.
  • A garment only requires tzitzit if and when it is actually worn.
  • Only a four-cornered garment which is of a woven material is obligated in tzitzit. A four-cornered plastic or leather garment does not require tzitzit.
  • The noted 13th century halachic authority Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg contended that one does not satisfy the biblical obligation of tzitzit unless the garment and fringes are of the same material. Since all manufactured tzitzit fringes are made of wool, according to Rabbi Meir, one would not fulfill any mitzvah when wearing a cotton or silk tallit or tzitzit garment. Though Rabbi Meir's is a minority ruling and not binding, ideally one should strive to recite the blessing on a woolen tallit or tzitzit.
  • The tallit or tzitzit garment must be at least 19x19 inches. A child's tzitzit can be smaller.

The Tzitzit Strings

  • Looking at the tzitzit, one should take note of the two front tassles. They have ten knots, an allusion to the ten Divine Sefirot which are bonded and unified with each other. Also, the two tzitzit have sixteen fringes and ten knots, totaling 26, which is the numerical value of G‑d’s holy name.
  • The strings of the tzitzit must be spun and twisted by a Jewish person who performs these tasks with the express intention that these strings be used for the mitzvah of tzitzit. Since it is impossible to detect visually whether strings were spun with a given intention, a tallit and tzitzit should always be purchased from a G‑d-fearing and trustworthy individual.
  • There are different customs regarding the holes in the garment through which the tzitzit fringes are inserted. Some have one hole in each corner (between 4-6 cm. from the edge) through which the strings are drawn. Others have two holes: in the tallit kattan, the two holes are right next to each other, and the strings are drawn through both holes; in the tallit gadol, the second hole is near the edge of each corner (11/16th of an inch above the edge of the garment), through which one of the threads is drawn after tying the first double knot, just before proceeding with the coils. This fastens the tzitzit to the side and prevents them from slipping down.
  • The tzitzit fringes contain a measure of holiness. They should not be allowed to dangle on the floor.

When the fringes are originally placed on the corners of the garment, each corner has eight complete strings. If at some point later on some fringes are shortened or torn off, the tallit or tzitzit may be invalid. If indeed the fringes are invalid, it is forbidden to wear this garment until new fringes are attached. As long as each corner contains at least seven complete strings, the tzitzit are still kosher, but the laws become quite complex if any one corner has more than one string which is detached or shortened. In such a situation, the tzitzit should be shown to a rabbi.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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Menachem Posner Skokie October 2, 2014

To Anon Who Washed the Tallit The fringes need to be retied by a Jewish (if possible, adult male) person, who knows how to tie fringes. Is there a Chabad rabbi in your area whom you can speak to? He should be able to help you out. Reply

Anonymous September 23, 2014

I washed my husbands talit. The fringes came undone, what are the laws of tying the fringes? Reply

Daniel California March 4, 2014

Metal Eyelets Can metal eyelets be used in the four corners? Reply

Eliezer Posner, September 10, 2008

RE: tzitzit knots & windings Check out What is the significance of the number of coils on the tzitzit? Reply

Paul Stein Norwich, United Kingdom September 8, 2008

tzitzit knots & windings Please tell me what do each of the windings represent? EG., 8 the eigth day when a boy is circumsised, etc,. I can fnd some explainations but can never find one which explains the eleven winging. 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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