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Why the Tallit Barcode?

Why the Tallit Barcode?

What's the reason for the black stripes on the tallit and tzitzit?

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Firstly, it should be clear that the black stripes on the tallit and/or tzitzit are not mandatory. Many have other colors on their tallits, and many have completely white ones. Nevertheless, it is traditional in many communities to wear a tallit and tzitzit which sport black stripes.

Some suggest that the stripes are to remind us of the blue techelet.1 Indeed, some communities have the custom of using (dark) blue stripes, not black. For those whose custom it is to use black stripes, perhaps this is so that one should not erroneously believe that real techelet was used. (Because if we would have techailet we would use it to dye the tzitzit strings with it, not the garment).

Also, the Zohar2 explains that white represents chesed (Divine Benevolence) and the blue (black, dark) stripe represents gevurah (G‑d's severity).

Furthermore, the mitzvah of reciting the morning Shema begins when it is light enough for one to distinguish between white and techelet.3 Since we no longer have the techelet, the black stripe in the cloth of the tallit can be used to ascertain whether the time for reading the Shema has yet arrived.

Footnotes
1.

Pri Megadim, Orach Chaim siman 9, s.k. 6.

2.

Vol. 3 p. 227a.

3.

Mishnah, Berachot 9b.

Rabbi Moshe Miller was born in South Africa and received his yeshivah education in Israel and America. He is a prolific author and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide variety of topics, including an authoritative, annotated translation of the Zohar. He has developed a coaching-type approach to dealing with life's issues based on Chassidism and Kabbalah—a tool for dealing with normal issues that everyone faces as well as issues psychologists usually address, often ineffectively. He also gives free live classes over the Internet.
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Yehoshua Dani'el Kizer Euless, Texas February 1, 2017

I can tell the difference between Techelot, and and white at all hours of the night. Wonder if this is an evolutionary change from the time of the Mishnah, a galactic change in ambient light, etc.. Others here can see at night too right? Or, at least tell the difference from white, and black shtofn. Reply

David Kaufman Highland park,il May 12, 2014

I heard that a chabad tallit has certain stripes, can you describe it? Reply

Gil Great Neck August 16, 2013

Hashem's Attire [reply to Ben] If you read many of the posts, quite a few of the writers describe what they consider a literal description of Hashem's appearance. We should educate our brethren and not play into their errors. I look upon this forum as an exercise in learning. Not to resort to repeating "narishkeit." If we are reading fables and mythology so be it. But time is of the essence, and rather than spin one's wheels "describing figuratively what Hashem wore, and whether there are black stripes on white, or rather white stripes on black on the Tallit, how is this measured on the scale of what one's performance as a Jew? "By your deeds shall ye be known." Reply

Ben August 16, 2013

Hashem's attire (reply to Gil) Gil, I can understand that a corporeal description of Hashem and His tallis rubs you wrong. But the Rambam clearly explains that the various places in the Torah that seem to refer to Hashem's form (the finger of G-d, the hand of G-d etc) are merely a means of enabling humans to achieve some sort of minimal understanding of Hashem's essence. Apparently during his time, when many Jews were drawn to various philosophers, there was a lot of confusion surrounding this issue.

If you read Onkelos, you'll notice that although his translation normally sticks very closely to the literal meaning of the text, whenever there is any possibility of concluding that Hashem has some sort of corporeality, he takes pains to add a few words to clarify what the Torah means. According to my own speculation, this stems in part from the fact that Onkelos was a ger, and may have been particularly sensitive to this point because of his youth among non-Jews in Rome. Reply

Gil Great Neck August 15, 2013

Tallit Barcode, To Danny Bergson Since I have been advised by the editorial staff to preface all my statements by a qualifying rejoinder of: "In my opinion." So here goes - IMO. To talk about Hashem wearing a white anything goes vs. the idea that Hashem being incorporeal. What it all boils down to that most of the opinions posted is supposition and "spin." "Vu vaist?" Unless there is Torah reference or historical basis to back up what is posted. In fact to talk about Hashem is futile. Discuss Torah, law, Talmud, history, what the sages wrote,and please not Hashem's attire. Reply

Kalman G New York August 15, 2013

Why Chabad Barcode? I believe that Rabbi Shmuel Posner of Boston told me that that is a kabbalistic meaning to Chabad style of stripes as told by one of the earlier Rebbes (I believe, perhaps, the Mittler Rebbe). Does anyone know what the kabbalistic meaning to it is? (I do not). Reply

Anonymous france August 15, 2013

What about Gold and Silver stripes? so what about tallits with black and gold or silver stripes? Reply

Anonymous france August 15, 2013

What about Gold and Silver stripes? Wo what about Black with gold or silver stripes? Reply

Yohanon August 14, 2013

Why hide the stripes? I note that Chabadnikim roll their tallits so the black stripes are hidden. And the reason for that is? Reply

Hymie Solomon August 14, 2013

Real reason i was told that the reason is in order to remember the holy temple. The sephardim who lived closer didnt feel the need while the ashkenazim who moved further away wanted to remember and therefore decided to stripe their talitot. Reply

Ben Modiin Illit August 12, 2013

No longer have techelet? Saying "we no longer have techelet" may be oversimplifying the issue a bit. Just take a look at the picture accompanying the article. Reply

Danny Bergson London May 7, 2013

Sefadi Custom Shulchan Aruch says that the Tzitzit should be the same color as the garment, since the strings are white, the Talit should also be white.

Gemara Rosh Hashanah 17B says that G-d wore a Tallit when telling Moshe the 13 Attributes of Mercy. G-d then told Moshe if the Jews do as I have done they will be forgiven. In Daniel 7:9 it says "I was looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days sat; His raiment was as white as snow...", so we see G-d has a white Tallit. So in order to do as G-d had done, wear a completely white Tallit. Reply

Joel Fullerton, CA September 10, 2012

Black stripes It was my understanding as Sephardi that the black stripes were to show grief over the destruction of the Temple and having to pray without it. Reply

Rivka Maryland, USA September 6, 2012

separate top and bottom halves of the body? could it be that the lines serve a similar purpose as the gartel, to separate the top and bottom halves of one's body, so as to focus the mind during prayer? Reply

Rabbi Menachem Posner August 24, 2012

To Llandon Ross It appears that the distinctive "Chabad barcode" only emerged in the last few decades. Apparently that tallit was favored by Chabad rebbes and chassidim because it was very wide. Eventually, it became standard in Chabad circles. Reply

Llandon Ross August 22, 2012

Tallit stripe patterns How come Chabad tallit stripes differ from other hasidic stripe patterns. Reply

Daniel van Praag February 4, 2009

zecher lechurban I heard in the shiur of rav Mendel Kaplan on the history of the ten tribes that the black stripes were put on after the destruction of the Beis Hamidosj, as a sign of mourning. Reply

Menachem Posner for Chabad.org June 5, 2008

RE: yes, but To the best of my knowledge, they are purely stylistic.

They also help people from confusing their Talitot with those of their fellow worshippers... :) Reply

Anonymous Har Noph, Israel June 5, 2008

yes, but yes, but what about the distinctive patterns of the black stripes on the tallit? Whazzat all about? 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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