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Tzitzit - Chapter One

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Tzitzit - Chapter One

Introduction to Hilchos Tzitzit

They contain one mitzvah, to make tzitzit on the corners of a garment.

This mitzvah is explained in the following chapters.

הלכות ציצית - הקדמה הלכות ציצית מצות עשה אחת והיא לעשות ציצית על כנפי הכסות וביאור מצוה זו בפרקים אלו:

1

The tassel that is made on the fringes of a garment from the same fabric as the garment is called tzitzit, because it resembles the locks of the head, as [Ezekiel 8:3] relates, "And he took me by the locks of my head."

This tassel is called the white [strands], because we are not commanded to dye it. The Torah did not establish a fixed number of strands for this tassel.

א

עָנָף שֶׁעוֹשִׂין עַל כְּנַף הַבֶּגֶד מִמִּין הַבֶּגֶד הוּא הַנִּקְרָא צִיצִית מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא דּוֹמֶה לְצִיצִית שֶׁל רֹאשׁ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יחזקאל ח ג) ״וַיִּקָּחֵנִי בְּצִיצִת רָאשִׁי״. וְזֶה הֶעָנָף הוּא הַנִּקְרָא לָבָן מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ מְצֻוִּין לְצָבְעוֹ. וְאֵין לְחוּטֵי הֶעָנָף מִנְיָן מִן הַתּוֹרָה:

The tassel that is made on the fringes of a garment - The word anaf, translated as "tassel," literally means "branch." Just as a branch is an extension of the tree, the tzitzit are extensions of the fringes.

from the same fabric as the garment - See Chapter 3, Halachah 5.

is called tzitzit - in Numbers 15:38-39. Deuteronomy 22:12 refers to these tassels as g'dilim (braids).

because it resembles the locks of the head, as [Ezekiel 8:3] relates, "And he took me by the locks of my head." - Note Halachah 8, which derives a halachic ruling from this comparison of terms.

This tassel is called the white [strands], because we are not commanded to dye it. - According to the Torah alone (מדאורייתא), we are obligated to place tzitzit only on fabrics of linen and wool (Chapter 3, Halachah 1). Both fabrics are white and need not be dyed.

The Torah did not establish a fixed number of strands for this tassel. - Though the Rabbis established a fixed practice, as explained in Halachah 6, according to the Torah alone (מדאורייתא) there is no fixed number of strands. Though there are some sources that appear to indicate that the Torah also fixed the number of strands required, Sanhedrin 88b concludes that the essence of the mitzvah of tzitzit is a Torah obligation; its explanation, however, is Rabbinic in origin.

Significantly, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 11:12) rules that if one includes more than eight strands in tzitzit, they are unacceptable. Shulchan Aruch HaRav 11:1 goes further and states that by doing so, one violates the prohibition forbidding adding to a Torah commandment. Note the Mishnah Berurah 11:60, which quotes other opinions that differ.

2

Then we take a strand of wool that is dyed a sky-like color and wind it around this tassel. This strand is called techelet. The Torah did not establish a fixed requirement for the number of times that this strand should be wound [around the tassel].

ב

וְלוֹקְחִין חוּט צֶמֶר שֶׁנִּצְבַּע כְּעֵין הָרָקִיעַ וְכוֹרְכִין אוֹתוֹ עַל הֶעָנָף וְחוּט זֶה הוּא הַנִּקְרָא תְּכֵלֶת. וְאֵין לְמִנְיַן הַכְּרִיכוֹת שֶׁכּוֹרֵךְ חוּט זֶה שִׁעוּר מִן הַתּוֹרָה:

Then we take a strand of wool that is dyed a sky-like color - i.e., sky-blue. Menachot 43b relates that this color is also reminiscent of God's throne.

and wind it around this tassel. This strand is called techelet. - The Rambam discusses the nature of this dye and its preparation in Chapter 2.

The Torah did not establish a fixed requirement for the number of times that this strand should be wound [around the tassel]. - Menachot 39a requires that the strand of techelet be wound at least seven times around the tassel, as explained in Halachah 8. This is a Rabbinic ordinance.

3

Thus, this mitzvah contains two commandments: to make a tassel on the fringe [of a garment], and to wind a strand of techelet around the tassel. [Both these dimensions are indicated by Numbers 15:38, which] states: "And you shall make tassels... and you shall place on the tassels of the corner a strand of techelet."

ג

נִמְצְאוּ בְּמִצְוָה זוֹ שְׁנֵי צַוִּים. שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה עַל הַכָּנָף עָנָף יוֹצֵא מִמֶּנָּה. וְשֶׁיִּכְרֹךְ עַל הֶעָנָף חוּט תְּכֵלֶת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר טו לח) ״וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת״ (במדבר טו לח) ״וְנָתְנוּ עַל צִיצִת הַכָּנָף פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת״:

4

The [absence of] techelet does not prevent [the mitzvah from being fulfilled with] the white strands, nor does the [absence of] the white strands prevent [the mitzvah from being fulfilled with] techelet.

What is implied? A person who does not have techelet should make [tzitzit] from white strands alone. Similarly, if [tzitzit] were made from both white strands and techelet, and afterwards, the white strands snapped and were reduced until [they did not extend beyond] the corner [of the garment], and thus only the techelet remained, it is acceptable.

ד

וְהַתְּכֵלֶת אֵינוֹ מְעַכֵּב אֶת הַלָּבָן וְהַלָּבָן אֵינוֹ מְעַכֵּב אֶת הַתְּכֵלֶת. כֵּיצַד. הֲרֵי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ תְּכֵלֶת עוֹשֶׂה לָבָן לְבַדּוֹ. וְכֵן אִם עָשָׂה לָבָן וּתְכֵלֶת וְנִפְסַק הַלָּבָן וְנִתְמַעֵט עַד הַכָּנָף וְנִשְׁאַר הַתְּכֵלֶת לְבַדּוֹ כָּשֵׁר:

The [absence of] techelet does not prevent [the mitzvah from being fulfilled with] the white strands, nor does the [absence of] the white strands prevent [the mitzvah from being fulfilled with] techelet. - In this aspect, they resemble the arm tefillin and the head tefillin. (See Hilchot Tefillin 4:4.) As explained in the following halachah, however, unlike tefillin, they are counted as one mitzvah and not two.

What is implied? A person who does not have techelet should make [tzitzit] from white strands alone. - This is the practice in the present age, when we do not know how to obtain techelet. Even in Talmudic times, when techelet was available, it was very expensive, and many of the common people made their tzitzit without it.

Similarly, if [tzitzit] were made from both white strands and techelet, and afterwards, the white strands snapped and were reduced until [they did not extend beyond] the corner [of the garment] - The explanation of the Rambam's statements has been debated by the commentaries. Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Menachot 4:1.

and thus only the techelet remained, it is acceptable. - The Kessef Mishneh emphasizes that the Rambam does not accept tzitzit that were made from techelet without any white strands. Since the verse states, "and you shall place on the tassels of the corner a strand of techelet," there must be tassels of white strands around which to wind the techelet. Once this has been done, however, if the white strands are severed, one can still fulfill the mitzvah with the techelet alone.

5

Although the [absence of] one does not prevent [the mitzvah from being fulfilled with] the other, they are not considered as two mitzvot. Instead, they are a single mitzvah. Whether [the tzitzit] a person wears on his garment are white, techelet, or a combination of the two colors, he fulfills a single mitzvah.

The Sages of the early generations related: [Numbers 15:39 states:] "And they shall be tzitzit for you." This teaches that they are both one mitzvah.

The [presence of each of the] four tzitzit is necessary [for the mitzvah to be fulfilled], because all four are [elements] of a single mitzvah.

ה

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין אֶחָד מֵהֶן מְעַכֵּב אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ אֵינָן שְׁתֵּי מִצְוֹת אֶלָּא מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה אַחַת. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים (במדבר טו לט) ״וְהָיָה לָכֶם לְצִיצִית״ מְלַמֵּד שֶׁשְּׁנֵיהֶם מִצְוָה אַחַת. וְאַרְבַּע צִיצִיּוֹת מְעַכְּבוֹת זוֹ אֶת זוֹ שֶׁאַרְבַּעְתָּן מִצְוָה אַחַת. וְהַלּוֹבֵשׁ טַלִּית שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ לָבָן אוֹ תְּכֵלֶת אוֹ שְׁנֵיהֶם כְּאֶחָד הֲרֵי קִיֵּם מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה אַחַת:

Although the [absence of] one does not prevent [the mitzvah from being fulfilled with] the other, they are not considered as two mitzvot. - In General Principle 11 of Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam writes:

One might think that since neither is dependent on the other, they would be counted as two mitzvot.... [Nevertheless,] they are a single mitzvah... because they have a single objective, "that you remember all the mitzvot...." All the elements that bring about this remembrance are counted as a single mitzvah.

Instead, they are a single mitzvah. - See Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 14) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 386).

Whether [the tzitzit] a person wears on his garment are white, techelet, or a combination of the two colors, he fulfills a single mitzvah.

The Sages of the early generations - Sifre Zuta, Mechilta D'Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

related: [Numbers 15:39 states:] "And they shall be tzitzit for you." This - the use of the singular form of the verb והיה

teaches that they are both one mitzvah.

The [presence of each of the] four tzitzit is necessary [for the mitzvah to be fulfilled] - i.e., although a garment has several tzitzit, the mitzvah is not fulfilled unless it has all four.

because all four are [elements] of a single mitzvah.

6

How are the tzitzit made? One begins from the corner of a garment - i.e., the end of its woven portion. One ascends upward no more than three fingerbreadths from the edge, but no less than the distance from the knuckle of the thumb to its end.

[A hole is made] and four strands inserted, [causing them] to be folded in half. Thus, there will be eight strands hanging down from the corner. These eight strands must be at least four fingerbreadths long. If they are longer - even if they are a cubit or two long - it is acceptable. The term "fingerbreadth" refers to a thumbbreadth.

One of the eight strands should be techelet; the other seven should be white.

ו

כֵּיצַד עוֹשִׂין אֶת הַצִּיצִית. מַתְחִיל מִזָּוִית שֶׁל טַלִּית שֶׁהִיא סוֹף הָאָרוּג וּמַרְחִיק מִמֶּנָּה לֹא יוֹתֵר עַל שָׁלֹשׁ אֶצְבָּעוֹת לְמַעְלָה וְלֹא פָּחוֹת מִקֶּשֶׁר גּוּדָל וּמַכְנִיס שָׁם אַרְבָּעָה חוּטִין וְכוֹפְלָן בָּאֶמְצַע. נִמְצְאוּ שְׁמוֹנָה חוּטִים מְשֻׁלָּשִׁין תְּלוּיִין מִן הַקֶּרֶן. וְאֹרֶךְ הַחוּטִים הַשְּׁמוֹנָה אֵין פָּחוֹת מֵאַרְבַּע אֶצְבָּעוֹת. וְאִם הָיוּ יוֹתֵר עַל כֵּן אֲפִלּוּ אַמָּה אוֹ שְׁתַּיִם כְּשֵׁרִין. וְכָל הָאֶצְבָּעוֹת בְּגוּדָל. וְיִהְיֶה אֶחָד מִשְּׁמוֹנָה הַחוּטִים חוּט תְּכֵלֶת וְהַשִּׁבְעָה לְבָנִים:

How are the tzitzit made? One begins from the corner of a garment - i.e., the end of its woven portion. - The tzitzit must be placed at the "corners" or the "fringes" of the garment.

One ascends upward no more than three fingerbreadths from the edge - Any further distance upward would be considered part of the garment itself and not its "corner" or "fringe" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 11:9).

but no less than the distance from the knuckle of the thumb to its end. - This is approximately two fingerbreadths. Any lower would be considered as "below the fringe" and not "on the fringe" (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 11:16).

Other opinions mention that these distances should also be applied in regard to the space between the hole and the side of the garment. It is customary to follow this view (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 11:10).

[A hole is made] and four strands inserted, [causing them] to be folded in half. Thus, there will be eight strands hanging down from the corner. - As mentioned in Halachah 1, the Torah does not explicitly mention the number of strands in the tzitzit. Although Menachot 39b derives this concept from the exegesis of Deuteronomy 22:12, the Rambam considers this process of derivation to be Rabbinic in origin (מדברי סופרים).

These eight strands must be at least four fingerbreadths long. - This decision is based on the Rambam's interpretation ofMenachot 39a and 41b. Based on the same sources, Rabbenu Tam requires that the strands be at least twelve fingerbreadths long. His opinion is accepted as halachah by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 11:4) and the later authorities.

If they are longer - even if they are a cubit or two long - it is acceptable. - It is common to make the strands slightly longer than twelve fingerbreadths, so that, even if they tear, they will still retain the desired length (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 11:9; Mishnah Berurah 11:21).

The term "fingerbreadth" refers to a thumbbreadth. - See Hilchot Sefer Torah 9:9. In contemporary measure, a thumbbreadth is approximately 2 centimeters according to Shiurei Torah, and 2.4 centimeters according to Chazon Ish.

One of the eight strands should be techelet - Though the eight strands come from folding four larger strands, only half of one of these strands should be dyed. The other half should retain its natural color, white.

The Ra'avad disagrees with this point and maintains that one of the larger strands should be dyed in its entirety, thus producing two smaller strands that are dyed techelet. The Tur (Orach Chayim 10) and other Ashkenazic authorities maintain that two of the four strands were techelet and two were white.

The Kessef Mishneh supports the Rambam's position, noting that Numbers 15:39 states, "And you shall place on the tassels of the corner a strand (singular) of techelet." Note also the commentary of the Or Sameach.

Significantly, archaeological excavations have uncovered tzitzit belonging to bar Kochba's soldiers. Only one of the eight strands was dyed techelet.

the other seven should be white. - The dyed strand should be slightly longer than the others, so that, even after it has been wound around them, it will be the same length as the others.

7

Afterwards, one should take one of the white strands and wind it once around the other strands close to the edge of the garment and let it go. Then one takes the strand that was dyed techelet and winds it twice [around the other strands], next to the coil made by the white strand, and then ties the strands in a knot. These three coils are called a segment.

Afterwards, one should leave a slight space, and then make a second segment using only the strand that was dyed techelet. Again, one should leave a slight space, and then make a third segment [using only the strand that was dyed techelet for this segment as well]. One should continue in this manner until the final segment, which is made of two coils of techelet and a final coil using a white strand.1 Since one began with a white strand, one concludes with it, because one should always ascend to a higher level of holiness, but never descend.2

Why should one begin using a white strand? So that [the coil that is] next to the corner of the garment should be similar to [the garment itself].

The same pattern is followed regarding all four corners.

ז

וְלוֹקֵחַ חוּט אֶחָד מִן הַלָּבָן וְכוֹרֵךְ בּוֹ כְּרִיכָה אַחַת עַל שְׁאָר הַחוּטִין בְּצַד הַבֶּגֶד וּמַנִּיחוֹ. וְלוֹקֵחַ חוּט הַתְּכֵלֶת וְכוֹרֵךְ בּוֹ שְׁתֵּי כְּרִיכוֹת בְּצַד כְּרִיכָה שֶׁל לָבָן וְקוֹשֵׁר. וְאֵלּוּ הַשָּׁלֹשׁ כְּרִיכוֹת הֵם הַנִּקְרָאִין חֻלְיָא. וּמַרְחִיק מְעַט וְעוֹשֶׂה חֻלְיָא שְׁנִיָּה בְּחוּט שֶׁל תְּכֵלֶת לְבַדּוֹ. וּמַרְחִיק מְעַט וְעוֹשֶׂה חֻלְיָא שְׁלִישִׁית וְכֵן עַד חֻלְיָא אַחֲרוֹנָה שֶׁהוּא כּוֹרֵךְ בָּהּ שְׁתֵּי כְּרִיכוֹת שֶׁל תְּכֵלֶת. וּכְרִיכָה אַחֲרוֹנָה שֶׁל לָבָן. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהִתְחִיל בְּלָבָן מְסַיֵּם בּוֹ שֶׁמַּעֲלִין בַּקֹּדֶשׁ וְלֹא מוֹרִידִין. וְלָמָּה יַתְחִיל בְּלָבָן כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא סָמוּךְ לִכְנַף מִינָהּ. וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זֶה הוּא עוֹשֶׂה בְּאַרְבַּע הַכְּנָפוֹת:

8

How many segments should be made at every corner? No fewer than seven and no more than thirteen.3

[The above] represents the most preferable way of performing the mitzvah. If, however, one wound only one segment around the strands, it is acceptable.4 Should one wind the techelet around the majority of the [length of the] tzitzit, it is acceptable. For the techelet to be attractive, [however,] all the segments should be in the upper third of the strands, and the [remaining] two thirds should hang loose.5

One must separate the strands like the locks of one's hair.6

ח

כַּמָּה חֻלְיוֹת הוּא עוֹשֶׂה בְּכָל כָּנָף. לֹא פָּחוֹת מִשֶּׁבַע וְלֹא יוֹתֵר מִשְּׁלֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה. וְזוֹ הִיא מִצְוָה מִן הַמֻּבְחָר. וְאִם לֹא כָּרַךְ עָלֶיהָ אֶלָּא חֻלְיָא אַחַת כְּשֵׁרָה. וְאִם כָּרַךְ הַתְּכֵלֶת עַל רֹב הַצִּיצִית כְּשֵׁרָה. וְנוֹי הַתְּכֵלֶת שֶׁיִּהְיוּ כָּל הַחֻלְיוֹת בִּשְׁלִישׁ הַחוּטִין הַמְשֻׁלְשָׁלִין וּשְׁנֵי שְׁלִישֵׁיהֶן עָנָף. וְצָרִיךְ לְפָרְדוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה כְּצִיצִית שְׂעַר הָרֹאשׁ:

9

A person who makes [tzitzit using only] white threads without using techelet7 should take one of the eight strands and wind it around the others, covering one third of [the length of] the strands and leaving two thirds hanging loose.

When winding [this strand around the others], one may create segments as one does when winding the techelet, if one desires. This is our custom. If, however, one desires to wind [the strand around the others] without creating segments, one may.8

The general principle is that one should intend that one third of the tzitzit be bound, and two thirds hang loose.9 There are those, however, who are not precise about this matter when [making tzitzit] with white threads [alone].

Should one wind a white thread around the majority [of the length] of the strands or should one make only a single segment,10 [the tzitzit] are acceptable.

ט

הָעוֹשֶׂה לָבָן בְּלֹא תְּכֵלֶת לוֹקֵחַ אֶחָד מִשְּׁמוֹנָה הַחוּטִין וְכוֹרֵךְ אוֹתוֹ עַל שְׁאָר הַחוּטִין עַד שְׁלִישָׁן וּמַנִּיחַ שְׁנֵי שְׁלִישִׁיתָן עָנָף. וּכְרִיכָה זוֹ אִם רָצָה לִכְרֹךְ אוֹתָהּ חֻלְיוֹת חֻלְיוֹת כְּעֵין שֶׁכּוֹרֵךְ בַּתְּכֵלֶת הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ וְזֶה הוּא מִנְהָגֵנוּ. וְאִם רָצָה לִכְרֹךְ בְּלֹא מִנְיַן חֻלְיוֹת עוֹשֶׂה. כְּלָלוֹ שֶׁל דָּבָר יִתְכַּוֵּן לִהְיוֹת הַכָּרוּךְ שְׁלִישׁ וְהֶעָנָף שְׁנֵי שְׁלִישִׁים. וְיֵשׁ מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְדַקְדֵּק בְּדָבָר זֶה בְּלָבָן. וְאִם כָּרַךְ הַלָּבָן עַל רֹב הַחוּטִין אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא כָּרַךְ אֶלָּא חֻלְיָא אַחַת כְּשֵׁרָה:

10

Both the white strands and those dyed techelet may be made out of entwined strands.11 Even a strand that is made from eight threads entwined into a single strand is considered as only a single strand in this context.

י

אֶחָד חוּטֵי לָבָן וְאֶחָד חוּטֵי תְּכֵלֶת אִם רָצָה לַעֲשׂוֹת שְׁזוּרִין עוֹשֶׂה. אֲפִלּוּ הָיָה הַחוּט כָּפוּל מִשְּׁמוֹנָה חוּטִין וְשָׁזוּר עַד שֶׁנַּעֲשֶׂה פְּתִיל אֶחָד אֵינוֹ נֶחְשָׁב אֶלָּא חוּט אֶחָד:

11

Both the white strands of the tzitzit and those dyedtechelet must be spun for the sake of being used for [the mitzvah of] tzitzit.

[Tzitzit] may not be made from wool which becomes attached to thorns when sheep graze among them, nor from hairs which are pulled off the animal, and not from the leftover strands of the woof which the weaver leaves over when he completes a garment. Rather, they must be made from shorn wool or from flax.

[Tzitzit] may not be made from wool which was stolen, which came from an ir hanidachat, or which came from a consecrated animal. If such wool was used, it is unacceptable. If a person bows down to an animal, its wool is not acceptable for use for tzitzit. If, however, one bows down to flax which is planted, it is acceptable, because it has been changed.

יא

חוּטֵי הַצִּיצִית בֵּין לָבָן בֵּין תְּכֵלֶת צְרִיכִין טְוִיָּה לְשֵׁם צִיצִית. וְאֵין עוֹשִׂין אוֹתָן לֹא מִן הַצֶּמֶר הַנֶּאֱחָז בַּקּוֹצִים כְּשֶׁהַצֹּאן רוֹבְצִין בֵּינֵיהֶם. וְלֹא מִן הַנִּימִין הַנִּתְלָשִׁין מִן הַבְּהֵמָה. וְלֹא מִשִּׁיּוּרֵי שְׁתִי שֶׁהָאוֹרֵג מְשַׁיֵּר בְּסוֹף הַבֶּגֶד. אֶלָּא מִן הַגִּזָּה שֶׁל צֶמֶר אוֹ מִן הַפִּשְׁתָּן. וְאֵין עוֹשִׂין אוֹתָן מִצֶּמֶר הַגָּזוּל וְלֹא מִשֶּׁל עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת וְלֹא מִשֶּׁל קָדָשִׁים. וְאִם עָשָׂה פָּסוּל. הַמִּשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לִבְהֵמָה צַמְרָהּ פָּסוּל לְצִיצִית. אֲבָל הַמִּשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לְפִשְׁתָּן הַנָּטוּעַ הֲרֵי זֶה כָּשֵׁר שֶׁהֲרֵי נִשְׁתַּנָּה:

Both the white strands of the tzitzit and those dyed techelet must be spun for the sake of being used for [the mitzvah of] tzitzit. - i.e., before one begins spinning the strands, one must state that he is doing so for the sake of use for tzitzit.

As explained in Hilchot Tefillin 1:11, any time when an activity must be carried out lishmah, it cannot be performed by a gentile. Therefore, the strands may not be spun by a gentile alone (Ramah, Orach Chayim 11:1).

[Tzitzit] may not be made from wool which becomes attached to thorns when sheep graze among them, nor from hairs which are pulled off the animal, and not from the leftover strands of the woof which the weaver leaves over when he completes a garment. - Tzitzit must be made from the same fabric as that which was used for the garment to which they are attached. Since these three sorts of wool are of an inferior quality and are not suitable for use in a garment itself, they may not be used for tzitzit either (Sefer HaMaor, Sukkah).

Rather, they must be made from shorn wool or from flax.

[Tzitzit] may not be made from wool which was stolen - Numbers 15:38 states: "And you shall make tzitzit for yourselves." The latter term implies that the tzitzit must belong to their owner and may not be stolen.

One of the principles of Jewish law is that if the form of a stolen article is altered and its original owner gives up hope of its return, it is acquired by the thief, and he is required merely to return its worth, but not the article itself. Note Shulchan Aruch HaRav 11:12 and the Mishnah Berurah 11:30, which discuss the implications of this principle on the use of stolen wool for tzitzit.

which came from an ir hanidachat - An ir hanidachat is a city condemned to be destroyed because the majority of its inhabitants worshiped idols. All property contained within the city is condemned to be burned and is considered as if it does not exist. (See Hilchot Avodat Kochavim, Chapter 4.)

or which came from a consecrated animal - an animal designated to be offered as a sacrifice. Tzitzit can be made only from wool that belongs "to you." Once an animal is designated for sacrificial purposes, it is no longer considered as belonging to a private individual (Sefer HaKovetz).

If such wool was used, it is unacceptable.

If a person bows down to an animal, its wool is not acceptable for use for tzitzit. - In contrast to other objects worshiped as false deities, an animal does not become condemned and may be used for other purposes (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 8:1). Nevertheless, wool of this nature is unfit to use for a ritual purpose. (See Hilchot Issurei HaMizbe'ach 3:6.)

If, however, one bows down to flax which is planted, it is acceptable - for use as tzitzit

because it has been changed - and no longer resembles the object which was worshiped. (See Hilchot Issurei Hamizbe'ach 3:14.)

12

Tzitzit that were made by a gentile are not acceptable, as [implied by Numbers 15:38, which] states: "Speak to the children of Israel... and you shall make tzitzit for yourselves." If, however, a Jew made tzitzit without the intention [that they be used for the mitzvah], they are acceptable.

Tzitzit that are made from those already existing are not acceptable.

יב

צִיצִית שֶׁעָשָׂה אוֹתוֹ כּוּתִי פָּסוּל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר טו לח) ״דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל״ (במדבר טו לח) ״וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת״. אֲבָל אִם עָשָׂה אוֹתָהּ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּלֹא כַּוָּנָה כְּשֵׁרָה. וְצִיצִית שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה מִן הֶעָשׂוּי מִקֹּדֶם פָּסוּל:

Tzitzit that were made - i.e., attached to the garment and tied

by a gentile are not acceptable, as [implied by Numbers 15:38, which] states: "Speak to the children of Israel... and you shall make tzitzit for yourselves." - Menachot 42a relates that this verse serves as the source for the ruling that only a Jew may tie tzitzit.

The Hagahot Maimoniot state that since the phrase ישראל בני literally means "sons of Israel," tzitzit should not be made by women. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 14:1) does not accept this opinion. The Ramah, however, states that it is preferable for women not to tie tzitzit.

If, however, a Jew made tzitzit without the intention [that they be used for the mitzvah], they are acceptable. - This principle can be derived from the above concept. Were it necessary for the tzitzit to be tied with the intent that they be used for the mitzvah, there would be no need for a special verse from the Torah to teach that those made by a gentile are unacceptable. The concept would be self-explanatory. Whenever a deed must be performed with a specific intention, a gentile's acts are not acceptable (Kessef Mishneh).

The Ashkenazic authorities do not accept this premise and maintain that, at the very least, the strands must be attached to the garment with the intent that they be used for the mitzvah. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 14:2.)

Tzitzit that are made from those already existing are not acceptable. - This principle is explained and illustrated in detail in the following four halachot.

13

What is implied? Should a person bring the corner of a garment which has tzitzit attached to it and sew it onto another garment, it is not acceptable. [This applies] even if that corner of the garment is a square cubit in size.

[This concept is derived from Numbers 15:38, which] states: "And you shall make tzitzit for yourselves" - i.e., [you should make them] and not [use those] which were made previously,since this would be as if [the mitzvah] came about on its own accord.

It is permissible to remove strands [of tzitzit] - whether white or techelet - from one garment and tie them on another.

יג

כֵּיצַד. הֵבִיא כָּנָף שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ צִיצִית וּתְפָרָהּ עַל הַבֶּגֶד אֲפִלּוּ יֵשׁ בְּאוֹתָהּ הַכָּנָף אַמָּה עַל אַמָּה פָּסוּל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר טו לח) ״וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת״, לֹא מִן הֶעָשׂוּי, שֶׁהֲרֵי זֶה דּוֹמֶה לְמִי שֶׁנַּעֲשֵׂית מֵאֵלֶיהָ. וּמֻתָּר לְהַתִּיר צִיצִית מִבֶּגֶד זֶה וְלִתְלוֹתָם בְּבֶגֶד אַחֵר בֵּין לָבָן בֵּין תְּכֵלֶת:

14

Should one suspend the strands between two corners of the garment and tie [tzitzit on] each of the corners in the proper manner, and then separate them from each other,12 it is unacceptable.

[The rationale is] that, at the time they were tied, they were unacceptable, since the two corners were connected with each other through the strands. When the strands were cut, two tzitzit were made. This is considered as making tzitzit from those which already exist.13

יד

תָּלָה הַחוּטִין בֵּין שְׁתֵּי כְּנָפַיִם מִזּוֹ לְזוֹ וְקָשַׁר כָּנָף זוֹ כְּהִלְכָתָהּ וְכָנָף זוֹ כְּהִלְכָתָהּ וְאַחַר כָּךְ חֲתָכָן בָּאֶמְצַע וְנִפְרְדוּ זֶה מִזֶּה פָּסוּל שֶׁהֲרֵי בְּעֵת שֶׁקְּשָׁרָן הָיוּ פְּסוּלִין לְפִי שֶׁשְּׁתֵּי הַכְּנָפַיִם מְעֹרוֹת זוֹ בָּזוֹ בַּחוּטִין שֶׁבֵּינֵיהֶן וּבְשָׁעָה שֶׁפְּסָקָן נַעֲשׂוּ שְׁתֵּי צִיצִיּוֹת נִמְצָא עוֹשֶׂה מִן הֶעָשׂוּי:

15

[The following rules apply when] a person ties tzitzit over existing tzitzit: Should [he tie the second set] with the intention of nullifying the first set, if he unties or cuts off the first set,14 the tzitzit are acceptable.15

Should, however, [he have tied the second set] with the intention of adding [a second tzitzit, the tzitzit] are not acceptable even though he cuts one of them off.16 When he added the second tzitzit, he disqualified both sets17, and when he unties or cuts off the additional one, the remaining one is [disqualified because it involves] making [tzitzit] from those which are already existing, since the manner in which it existed previously was not acceptable.

טו

הִטִּיל צִיצִית עַל הַצִּיצִית אִם נִתְכַּוֵּן לְבַטֵּל אֶת הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת מַתִּיר הָרִאשׁוֹנָה אוֹ חוֹתְכָהּ וּכְשֵׁרָה. וְאִם נִתְכַּוֵּן לְהוֹסִיף אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁחָתַךְ אַחַת מִשְּׁתֵּיהֶן הֲרֵי זוֹ פְּסוּלָה. שֶׁהֲרֵי כְּשֶׁהוֹסִיף פָּסַל אֶת הַכּל וּכְשֶׁהִתִּיר אוֹ חָתַךְ הַתּוֹסֶפֶת נִמְצָא הַשְּׁאָר נַעֲשָׂה מִן הֶעָשׂוּי שֶׁעֲשִׂיָּתוֹ הָרִאשׁוֹנָה פְּסוּלָה הָיְתָה:

16

Similarly, all the tzitzit of a garment are unacceptable18

[in the following instance]: A person placed tzitzit on a garment that had three corners.19 afterwards, he made the garment a fourth corner and placed tzitzit on it. [This is also excluded by the commandment, Deuteronomy 22:12:]20 "Make braids," [which implies that one may not use those] which were made previously.

טז

וְכֵן הַמַּטִּיל לְבַעֲלַת שָׁלֹשׁ וְאַחַר כָּךְ הִשְׁלִימָהּ לְאַרְבַּע וְהִטִּיל לָרְבִיעִית כֻּלָּהּ פְּסוּלָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כב יב) ״תַּעֲשֶׂה״ וְלֹא מִן הֶעָשׂוּי:

17

A garment should not be folded in half, and then tzitzit hung on the four corners of the folded garment,21 unless one sews it along [one] side entirely. [It is sufficient, however, to sew it] on one side alone.22

יז

אֵין כּוֹפְלִין אֶת הַטַּלִּית לִשְׁנַיִם וּמַטִּילִין צִיצִית עַל אַרְבָּע כְּנָפֶיהָ כְּשֶׁהִיא כְּפוּלָה אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן תְּפָרָהּ כֻּלָּהּ וַאֲפִלּוּ מֵרוּחַ אַחַת:

18

[The following rules apply] if the corner [of the garment] to which the tzitzit were attached is torn off the garment: If more than three fingerbreadths were torn, it may be sewed back in its place.23

If less than three fingerbreadths were torn off, it should not be sewn back.24

If the portion of the garment is between [the hole through which] the tzitzit [are attached] and the end of the garment, it is acceptable, even though only the smallest portion of the fabric remains.25

Similarly, if the [length of the] strands of the tzitzit was reduced,26 it is acceptable, as long as enough of the strand remains to tie a loop. Should, however, even a single strand be torn off [from the place to which it is attached to the garment], it is no longer acceptable.27

יח

נִפְסַק הַכָּנָף שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ צִיצִית חוּץ לְשָׁלֹשׁ אֶצְבָּעוֹת תּוֹפְרָהּ בִּמְקוֹמָהּ. בְּתוֹךְ שָׁלֹשׁ לֹא יִתְפֹּר. נִתְמַעֲטָה זָוִית שֶׁל בֶּגֶד שֶׁבֵּין חוּטֵי הַצִּיצִית וּבֵין סוֹף הָאָרוּג אֲפִלּוּ לֹא נִשְׁאַר מִן הָאָרוּג אֶלָּא כָּל שֶׁהוּא כָּשֵׁר. וְכֵן אִם נִתְמַעֲטוּ חוּטֵי הַצִּיצִית אֲפִלּוּ לֹא נִשְׁתַּיֵּר מֵהֶם אֶלָּא כְּדֵי עֲנִיבָה כָּשֵׁר. וְאִם נִפְסַק הַחוּט מֵעִקָּרוֹ אֲפִלּוּ חוּט אֶחָד פְּסוּלָה:

Footnotes
1.

The pattern of winding the techelet mentioned by the Rambam is based on his interpretation of Menachot 39a. As the Rambam mentions in Halachah 9, it must be followed only when the tzitzit include a strand of techelet. If they do not, as in the case of our tzitzit, different principles apply.

The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam's approach and suggests a different manner of winding the coils of the tzitzit, which resembles the pattern we use today. The Rambam was aware of this approach and, in one of his responsa, explains that the method he mentioned has its source in the Talmud (Menachot, ibid.), while the other approach is of later origin.

2.

Rashi, Menachot, ibid., states that since the white strand was used first, not ending with it would appear to detract from its importance.

The principle, "one should always ascend to a higher level of holiness, but never descend," is applied in many other contexts within Torah law - e.g., Hilchot Tefillin 3:17.

3.

Menachot 39a explains that the techelet reminds one of the heavens. There are seven heavens and six spaces between them, thus resulting in a total of thirteen.

4.

This law also applies at present, as mentioned in the following halachah.

5.

Note the Zohar, Vol. III, p. 228b, which explains the mystical significance of the division of the tzitzit into three portions.

6.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 8:7) obligates one to separate the strands of the tzitzit before putting on one's garment. Note the Mishnah Berurah 8:18, which quotes the Ari zal as stating that the word ציצת is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, "A righteous person constantly separates his tzitzit."

7.

As mentioned in Halachot 4-5, the absence of techelet does not prevent one from fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzit. Indeed, this is the manner in which most people fulfill the mitzvah at present.

8.

Significantly, besides the knot with which the tzitzit are attached to the garment (Halachah 7), the Rambam does not mention tying knots in the tzitzit at all. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 11:14) mentions the common practice in which five knots are tied on the strands, leaving four spaces, which are filled with coils in between them. There are certain authorities who combine the two opinions, tying the knots as mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, but dividing the coils into segments as the Rambam mentions (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 11:27-28,31).

9.

If the tzitzit lack entirely strands which hang loose, they are unacceptable (Kessef Mishneh).

10.

This principle is also accepted by the opinions that do not require that the coils be divided into segments of three. Even so, for tzitzit to be acceptable, they must possess at least three coils (Mishnah Berurah 11:63,66).

11.

The Rambam leaves the use of entwined strands up to a person's choice. The Ra'avad objects, quoting a passage from the Sifre that requires that the strands of the tzitzit be made by entwining different threads together. Numbers 15:38 uses the expression, p'til techelet. The word p'til implies "twisted threads." See the Targum Yonaton to this verse. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 11:2) follows the Ra'avad's view and obligates the use of entwined strands. From Chapter 2, Halachah 7, it appears that the Rambam also considered this as the common practice.

11. The Rambam leaves the use of entwined strands up to a person's choice. The Ra'avad objects, quoting a passage from the Sifre that requires that the strands of the tzitzit be made by entwining different threads together. Numbers 15:38 uses the expression, p'til techelet. The word p'til implies "twisted threads." See the Targum Yonaton to this verse.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 11:2) follows the Ra'avad's view and obligates the use of entwined strands. From Chapter 2, Halachah 7, it appears that the Rambam also considered this as the common practice.

12.

The Rambam is speaking about the following instance: The person used long strands and placed one end of them through each of the two holes. Afterwards, using the strands from each corner that was not passed through the hole, he tied both tzitzit, and then separated them from each other.

13.

This law is based on the Rambam's interpretation of Sukkah 11a-b. Others (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 11:13) interpret that passage as speaking about the tzitzit of a single corner. If one inserts a single long strand in the hole several times, thus producing eight strands, ties the tzitzit, and then separates the strands from each other, the tzitzit are not acceptable. This is also considered as making tzitzit from those which are already existing.

14.

See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 11:24, which describes the manner in which tzitzit should be removed from a garment.

15.

Since he intended to remove the initial tzitzit, there is nothing wrong with attaching the second one (Menachot 40b).

16.

According to the Rambam, it does not matter which tzitzit he removes. For the tzitzit to be acceptable, both sets have to be removed, and then a single set retied.

17.

By adding the second set, he transgresses the prohibition against adding to the mitzvot of the Torah. Therefore, both sets of tzitzit are disqualified. The Ra'avad and the Ashkenazic authorities do not accept the Rambam's decision. They maintain that while both sets of tzitzit are hanging from the garment, their existence is not considered at all significant. It is as if they do not exist at all. Therefore, by removing the extra set, one is not making tzitzit from ones which previously exist. On the contrary, one is bringing an acceptable set of tzitzit into existence.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 10:6) accepts the Rambam's view. The Ramah, however, follows the other opinions.

18.

The Rambam's statements have raised questions. Though all commentaries agree that the three tzitzit made when the garment had only three corners are unacceptable, the question revolves around the fourth corner. Why is the tzitzit made upon it disqualified? When it was made, the garment already had four corners. On this basis, the Magen Avraham (10:6) rules that, indeed, the fourth tzitzit is not disqualified and may remain.

19.

Tzitzit are required only on a garment with four corners, as stated in the proof-text quoted from Deuteronomy and mentioned in Chapter 3, Halachah 1.

20.

There is a slight difficulty with the Rambam's statements: In this halachah he cites the verse from Deuteronomy as a proof-text, while in Halachah 13 he cited a verse from Numbers.

21.

Although in its present state, the garment has four corners, unless it is sewn it is possible that the folds will open and the position of the corners will change (Menachot 41a). Note the Ramah (Orach Chayim 10:6), who quotes a difference of opinion where the tzitzit should be placed during the time the garment is folded. Because of this difference of opinion, Shulchan Aruch HaRav 10:13 suggests not wearing such a garment unless it is sewn closed.

22.

Our translation follows the explanation of the Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 10). Note, however, the explanation of the Be'ur Halachah 10.

23.

When the torn portion is three fingerbreadths long, it is considered as the "corner" of the garment. Therefore, the tzitzit are considered to be attached to a significant portion of the garment and need not be untied before the corner can be sewn back on the garment (Nimukei Yosef, Menachot 40b). The commentaries note the apparent contradiction between this law and Halachah 13, which forbids one to sew a piece of a garment to which tzitzit are attached to another garment. The commentaries differentiate between these two laws, explaining that there is a difference between a piece of fabric from another garment (Halachah 13) and a portion of the original garment which was detached (the present halachah). The Turei Zahav 15:3 does not accept this distinction, and maintains that even attaching a piece of the original garment is unacceptable. The later authorities suggest following this stringency.

24.

A portion of a garment less than three fingerbreadths long is not considered significant. Therefore, the tzitzit are no longer considered to be attached to part of the garment. Accordingly, when this fragment is sewn back to the garment, the tzitzit attached to it will be disqualified, based on the principle that one must make tzitzit and not use those existing previously. If, however, one untied the tzitzit, one may sew the detached corner back onto the garment, and then attach new tzitzit to it (Rav David Arameah).

The Kessef Mishneh quotes Rav Amram Gaon as stating that, if such a small portion was detached from the garment, tzitzit may never be attached to the garment again. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 15:4) suggests following this more stringent view if possible.

25.

Although initially the tzitzit had to be positioned a certain distance above the end of the garment, as mentioned in Halachah 6, after they were attached to the garment in the proper manner, there is greater leniency (Menachot 42a). The Ramah (Orach Chayim 11:10) suggests sewing a border around the hole through which the strands are placed so that it will not tear.

26.

For example, they became torn. Based on Menachot 38b, the Rabbis have offered two interpretations of "enough to tie a loop":

a) enough to tie a loop around all the strands of the tzitzit;
b) enough to tie a loop around the strand itself.
The grammatical construction of the Rambam's statements indicates - albeit not definitely - that he favors the latter view.

(Note the Be'ur Halachah 12, which states that the measure "to tie a loop" surely does not exceed four centimeters.)

The Rambam maintains that even if the majority of all the strands of the tzitzit were cut off, as long as "enough to tie a loop remains," the tzitzit are acceptable. If, however, both ends of one long strand are cut off entirely, the tzitzit are not acceptable. Rabbenu Tam does not accept this decision and requires that at least two entire strands remain their full length. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 12:1.) The later authorities, particularly in the Ashkenazi community, suggest following Rabbenu Tam's view.

27.

See Turei Zahav 12:3.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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