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What is the Tzitzit and Tallit?

What is the Tzitzit and Tallit?


"Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: They shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments… And this shall be tzitzit for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of G‑d, and perform them" (Numbers 15:38-39).

Most people don't think of Judaism as a fringe religion. Yet that's our uniform and badge of honor, our everyday reminder of who we are and what we're here for—four tassels hanging from the fringes of our clothes.

In ancient times, we would hang the tassels from the fringes of the four-cornered cloaks that were part of people's everyday wardrobe. Today, Jewish men and boys have two ways to do this mitzvah every day:

a) During prayer, wrap yourself in a tallit gadol (literally: big cloak). This is the large sheet-like fringed prayer shawl worn during the morning prayers.

b) Wear a little poncho called a tallit katan (literally: small cloak). For most of us, it fits neatly under the shirt.

The fringe tassels themselves are called tzitzit. Their strings and knots are a physical representation of the Torah's 613 do's and don'ts. It works like this: Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a corresponding numerical value. The numerical values of the five letters that comprise the Hebrew word tzitzit add up to 600. Add the eight strings and five knots of each tassel, and the total is 613.

Wearing tzitzit is a sign of Jewish pride. Jews have always had a way of dress to distinguish them from the people of the lands in which they lived—even when that meant exposing themselves to danger and bigotry. By the grace of G‑d, today most of us live in lands where we are free to practice our religion without such fears. Today we wear our Jewish uniform with pride and with our head's held high.

Kabbalah teaches that the tallit garment is a metaphor for G‑d's infinite transcendent light. The fringes allude to the immanent divine light which permeates every element of creation. By wearing a tallit gadol or a tallit katan, a Jew synthesizes these two elements and makes them real in his life.

Photo by Menachem Serraf, Montreal, Canada
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Discussion (14)
November 8, 2015
I have an old tallit which I want to give away. Any suggestions?
Boston, ma
February 13, 2014
To Karen
Please see this link for information on the blue thread and why you don't see it around much nowadays. Staff
February 8, 2014
I believe Scripture indicates that a blue (Hebrew תכלת, tekhelet, tək·ā'·leth) thread (Hebrew פתיל "pəthiyl") known as "tekhelet" itself, is included in the tzitzit. I don't see the blue thread anywhere. In fact, I received a tallit as a gift from Israel and there are no blue threads included on the tzitzit at all.

Numbers 15:37 – “Adonai said to Moshe, "Speak to the people of Isra'el, instructing them to make, through all their generations, tzitziyot on the corners of their garments, and to put with the tzitzit on each corner a blue thread....
January 28, 2014
"Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: They shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments… And this shall be tzitzit for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of G-d, and perform them" (Numbers 15:38-39). that really does apply to all Jews (not just men) since Jewish men and women are both children of Israel. If it were just for men it would say men. Is it the Chabad belief to interpret Children of Israel as just relating to men?
January 22, 2014
Tzitzit - Rosary?
I wonder if the Catholic rosary is a take off on the tallit and tzitzit.
Meira Shana
San Diego
December 29, 2013
neck scarf?
Hi everyone,

I recently received a neck scarf as a gift from a holiday party in my office (secular office in finance industry). I have never been one to wear scarves before, but I realized before putting it on that it seems to meet the requirements for a four cornered garment, which would require tzitzit to be attached to the corners. While I realize a simple narrow scarf would not suffice as a form of donning my tzitzit, is the scarf on its own unkosher to wear?
new york, ny
October 23, 2013
RE: Covering your head with the tallis
Ideally you should cover your head with the tallis for the entire duration of the prayer (see Mishnah Brurah 8:4).
Menachem Posner
October 20, 2013
Covering your head with the tallis
During prayer, when is it appropriate to cover your head with the tallis.

I have been covering my head when I say a brokah, and when I want to intensify my concentration.
April 26, 2011
Graham's comment
I find that your answer to the comment does not make much sense to me. Deuteronomy 22, sentence 1 is quite clear, you must "not wear a mixture of wool and linen together" full stop. Sentence 2 does not change this. Of whatever material the garment consists then the threads must consist of the same material, i.e. woolen garment, woolen threads; linen (cotton) garment, cotton threads. Surely, it's that simple? Or is it me that's simple???
Shoalhaven, NSW, Australia
April 5, 2011
Deuteronomy 22:
"You shall not wear a mixture of wool and linen together. You shall make yourself twisted threads, on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself."

You see the poetry here? You shall not wear the two together unless doing so will allow you to wear tzitzit. How does that sit with you?
Shmuel Shraga
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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