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Fringe Judaism


Most people don’t think of Judaism as a fringe religion. Yet that’s our uniform. Under their shirts, Jewish men and boys wear a poncho called a tallit katan (literally: small cloak), with fringes hanging from each corner, just as the Torah prescribes (Numbers 15:37–40), “They shall make fringes on the corners of their garments . . .”

These fringes, called tzitzit, are coiled and knotted to remind us of all the mitzvot. The numerical values of the letters that comprise the Hebrew word tzitzit add up to 600. Add the eight strings and five knots of each tzitzit, and the total is 613. Now you understand why it’s customary to let the tzitzit hang out at the waist, in plain eyesight. Having a tangible reminder of the 613 mitzvot, in turn, strengthens our mastery over the temptations of the heart.

These fringes are coiled and knotted to remind us of all the mitzvotOnly garments with four (or more) corners require tzitzit, and few garments today (other than ponchos) are four-cornered, so we wear a special four-cornered tallit just so we can perform this mitzvah. During the morning prayers, men don a tallit gadol—a larger version of the tallit katan.

Traditionally, young boys begin wearing a tallit katan at the age of three.

Technically, tzitzit is a daytime mitzvah. According to the Kabbalah, however, tzitzit should be worn even while sleeping at night.

Donning a Tallit Katan:

Inspect the tzitzit every day and disentangle them. If they become shortened or torn, show them to a rabbi to ascertain whether they are still kosher.

Before donning the tallit katan, say:

Blessed are you, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the mitzvah of tzitzit.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Discussion (24)
June 29, 2016
Women are not obligated to wear a tallit. This is because they are exempt from fulfilling almost all time-bound positive commandments (such as donning Tefilin which is done during the day or reciting the Shema at a specific time in the morning) Nonetheless, women do fulfill many of these mitzvot if they so desire.

Yet the prevailing custom is that women do not wear tallitot. A number of reasons for this reticence are found in Halachic works. Here is an informative article that explains many of them:
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
January 21, 2013
These must be set aside (in "shaimos" or "geniza") and are subsequently buried.

More information can be found here
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
January 17, 2013
Please give more explaintions about the tzitzit. Thank you.
costas papac/nou
January 16, 2013
If a pair of tzitzis is determined to be no longer kosher, how should it be disposed of?
February 27, 2012
To Anonymous in Newark
There are some very good articles that Rabbi Tzvi Freeman linked to a few comments back. I suggest that you have a look at them. In addition, I recommend that you read Is it Appropriate for a woman to Wear a Tallit?

Best of luck!
Rabbi Menachem Posner
January 24, 2012
The Tzitzit and the kippah
I hope the writer of this topic is still in touch with reading comments on this subject, and I would greatly appreciate to have a response to my following statement.
I will start to wear a kippah and a tallit when I pray as well very soon. I can't understand why would and females should be discouraged form wearing garments G-d commanded for us all to wear (not including the kippah, but it is a headcovering) especially if the garments are designed for women. It's like saying women should wear shirts or pants because men wear them.
Newark, NJ
December 20, 2011
Rabbi, I do thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment "Exemptions?", with your interesting perspective.

Concerning the sages, am I correct in saying that the Mishnah, in particular,itself does not in any way ban women from wearing tzitzit?
It does say,
:"Women, slaves and minors are exempt from the recitation of Shema and from tefillin, but are obligated for the Amida Prayer, mezuza, and Grace after meals"
(Berakhot 3:3)"

...which didn't indicate there was a ban any of these activities. To further the logic that women are banned from tzitzit & tefillin, women would also be equally banned from saying the Shema twice daily.,

Where else might I find more about women and tzitzit in the Mishnah in particular?
Thank you for your time thus far. Chanukah sameach!
December 19, 2011
Why would a woman desire to be exempt from a reminder given to all Yisrael, to keep her connections with HaShem in tact?

I watched the video via the link provided, which didn't offer logical reasoning as to why a woman is or should be exempt from this reminder not to stray, while on the other hand being held fully accountable for any straying.

While I do understand the sources referenced by Freida, I must disagree that women don't need reminders to keep the mitzvot throughout her day....that reminder being tzitzit. Being a woman myself, I'm fully aware of the tendency to stray from mitzvot on any given day.

She is certainly held accountable for failing to keep those mitzvot yet she is denied,by the sages, the privilege of that most important reminder, while at the same time being required to cover her head every day of her life, a mitzvot absent in Torah Shebiktav & one which doesn't aid in reminding the woman of her commitment to keep HaShem's not break them.
October 24, 2011
Re: Anonymous of October 9th
Even where the Torah does not specify that only men are obliged in that particular law, women are still exempt from that obligation if it is a time-bound Positive commandment. The sources for this are discussed in the video class available here
Baruch Davidson
October 9, 2011
Tzitizt (part 2 of 2)
It seems to me that when a miztvot is specific to one gender or that of the priests the phrase it is rather plain who the miztvot applies too e.g.

"Speak unto the children of Israel and say to them if a woman have conceived seed.." etc etc. V'yakra 12:2

"Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose...." etc Devarim 16:16

I am just confused as to how we can assume in one place that it was all of Israel(male and female) HaShem was instructing a positive miztvot to, and where He was only addressing the males...when there is not that plain distinction.

I apologize for stumbling over my words. I hope that you are able to hear my heart through this and answer accordingly.

I truly wish to please HaShem in all that I do