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Do I need to let my tzitzit hang out?

Do I need to let my tzitzit hang out?

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Well that depends on who you ask. So let's have a look:

We read in the Torah, "This shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord to perform them. And you will not turn after your heart and after your eyes, after which you tend to stray …"1

Accordingly, Rabbi Yosef Caro (1488-1575) writes in his Shulchan Aruch that one should wear the tzitzit over his other garments so that he can constantly see them and be reminded of the mitzvot.2

In this same tradition, Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan (1838-1933), known as the Chafetz Chaim, strongly objected to those who tucked the actual fringes of their tzitzit into their pants. He wrote that doing so is a denigration of the mitzvot. He compared the tzitzit to an autographed gift from a king which the recipient would surely want to wear in the most visible manner.3

On the other hand, the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal, 1534-1572), would wear his tallit kattan, tzitzit and all, under his other garments. His protégé, Rabbi Chaim Vital explained that this was because the tallit kattan and the tallit gadol relate to two kinds of reality: the internal reality (pnimiut) and the external reality (chitzuniut). The tallit kattan represents the internal level and is therefore worn within other garments, while the tallit gadol represents the external and is therefore worn over the other garments.4

In a published talk, the Rebbe elucidated this concept, explaining that in the "external reality" of the talit gadol, when the Torah says to see the tzitzit, it means actual, external visibility, because this will affect your external behavior, keeping you from sin and reminding you to fulfill all the mitzvahs. In the "internal reality" of the tallit kattan, however, seeing the tzitzit means looking internally towards your own inner self, carrying yourself to a higher level of spirituality and fulfillment of the mitzvahs.5

Many Sephardim base their practice on this precedent of Rabbi Isaac Luria and tuck their tzitzit into their pants. They fulfill the obligation of actually "seeing" the tzitzit through wearing their tallit gadol over the other garments.

On the other hand, Rabbi Schneur of Liadi (1745-1812) writes in his authoritative Shulchan Aruch Harav that even if one does wear the garment under his shirt, he should leave the actual fringes hanging out so that they serve as a constant reminder.6 This is the common Chabad practice today.

In that same above-mentioned talk, the Rebbe points out that Rabbi Isaac Luria's custom is not an instruction to others, but his own personal conduct. This is because on the Arizal's level, a look inward was sufficient. For the rest of us, especially today, we need to actually see those tzitzit fringes to remember all the mitzvot and not stray after our hearts and after our eyes, after which we are quite inclined to stray. Therefore, even though the Arizal kept his tzitzit in, today we need to keep them out and visible.

Some practical advice: If you wish to fulfill the mitzvah this way, but are worried about soiling the tzitzit at work, or just looking sloppy, try tucking them under your belt and then into your pants pockets. This way, they are still visible, but stay neat and tidy.

Please let me know if this helps,

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

FOOTNOTES
1.

Numbers 15:39.

2.

Code of Jewish Law O.C. 8:11.

3.

Mishnah Brurah 8:26.

4.

Pri Etz Chaim, Shaar Tzitzit I.

5.

Likutei Sichot, 33, Shlach III.

6.

Shulchan Aruch 8:18.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org. He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
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Discussion (14)
October 21, 2013
How to wear out
I always used to tuck them in my pants, but now I want them to be out, but neatly tucked away (appearance is very important). I have tried putting them in my pockets, but every time I take my phone or wallet out it also messes up the tzitizis? Please help!
Anonymous
April 3, 2013
Just the Fringes Hanging out?
So you just let the actual fringes ( threads) hanging out, or the main tzitzis i.e. coils and knots ?

Llandon Ross
December 15, 2010
For the newly tassled
I think the real question is for those who want to start wearing tzitzit, but are not ready to wear them showing, and want to know if it's OK to go ahead an tuck them in. There's a good article on the subject called "Tzitzit: Tucked in or showing?", including an interesting anecdote by Rabbi Berel Wein.
Garet Benson
Modiin, Israel
March 16, 2010
Tzittzit
Shalom,
thank you for the info relating to tzitzit, as it was a great concern of mine that i get them dirty, etc. keeping it in pocket works great and at the same time i am constantly reminded by them.
Yosef
Cape town, South africa
November 11, 2008
Lucky Us
Nitpicker, thanks for the info. It makes it easier for women to become Gers!

Grins...
Beverly Kurtin
Hurst, tx
November 11, 2008
safety first
I will reiterate a point made in the article. If you are working near machinery please put your tzitzit inside your clothes, or wrap them (tiny rubberbands or hair elastics work well.) so they do not go into the machines. Miztvot are for us to live by, they are not to drag us into danger. If they stay in your pockets, that is fine, but please make sure they are secure.
Sarah
WB, MI/USA
November 10, 2008
The ware of tzitzit
Thanks Rabbi for your insight about wearing tzitzit
Yehuda
Bowie, Maryland
November 5, 2008
I dont think minhag (custom) was the deciding fact
You've missed it. There is machloket regarding the verse that commands tzit tzit and what the part that says to SEE them means in halacha. Rav Moshe was on the side of the argument that understands this to categorize tzit tzit as a mitsva to be fulfilled only during the day, when they could be seen.
david
November 5, 2008
By the way
The Talmud (Avoda Zara 27a) tells us that women are considered to be circumcised already.
A Nitpicker
Banjaluka, Bosnia
November 4, 2008
Thank you!
That was the most cogent explanation I've ever read and it makes sense. and I'll pass it along to some of my friends who have also wondered about this.

I've never felt that I wanted to wear one; I've enough to do, so thanks again for this marvelous answer.
Beverly Kurtin
Hurst, TX
Show all comments
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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