I was under the impression that the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit only applies to the daytime. But then I heard that many have the custom to wear tzitzit during the night as well. Can you explain the reason behind this?


Before getting into the reasons behind this custom, let’s clarify the basic halachah regarding tzitzit at night.

The verse states regarding tzitzit, “This shall be fringes for you, and you will see them . . .”1 The Talmud infers that a “nighttime garment”—worn at a time when things aren’t normally “seen”—is exempt from tzitzit.2

Now, what is a “nighttime garment”?

Exemption Applies to Timeframe

Some authorities, most notably Maimonides,3 maintain that the Torah’s exemption focuses on the time the garment is worn. Therefore, any garment worn at night, even if it is a garment designated to be worn by day, is not required to have tzitzit attached to it.

Conversely, any garment worn by day, even if it is a garment designated for the night, is required to have tzitzit attached to it before it is worn, because the tzitzit can be seen at the time the garment is worn.4

Exemption Applies to Type of Garment

Others, most notably Rabbeinu Asher,5 maintain that the Torah exempts only a garment designated for the night. According to this view, there is no obligation to attach tzitzit to such a garment, even if it is worn during the day, since it was made to be worn only at a time when it is not meant to be seen.

The opposite is also true: a garment which is designated for the day, or which is designated for both day and night, requires tzitzit even if it is worn at night.6

The Halachah

Since it has not been clarified which opinion the halachah follows, we follow both opinions. Hence, one should attach tzitzit to a garment that is designated for the day (or for both day and night) even if worn at night, and conversely, one should attach tzitzit to a garment designated to be worn at night, if it is also worn during the day.

However, with regard to making a blessing, we follow the rule that “whenever there is a doubt regarding the recitation of blessings [of Rabbinic origin], the more lenient view should be followed.” Therefore, we only recite a blessing on tzitzit during the daytime, and only on a garment designated for the day, or one designated for both day and night.7

We can now return to the original question: Why wear tzitzit at night?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in his Siddur, lists three reasons why one should wear tzitzit to bed:

Sleeping In

Although the Talmud and Code of Jewish Law encourage us to wake at midnight, or at the very least before daybreak, to learn Torah, nowadays most people wake up after dawn (since the alarm clock no longer consists of a rooster crowing . . .). Thus, as soon as the day begins, the tzitzit you are wearing provide you with a mitzvah even while you sleep.8


Additionally, although strictly speaking, one is allowed to touch and put on his clothes before washing his hands in the morning,9 the Zohar10 cautions against doing anything, including touching one’s clothes, before washing hands, due to the impure spirits that come to rest upon them during the night (for more on this, see here).11 Thus, if you want to wear tzitzit right when you wake up, but at the same time wish to follow the Zohar and not touch any clothes before washing your hands, the solution is to already be wearing tzitzit when you wake up.12

Spiritual Protection

The mystics, most notably Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal), cautioned that for mystical reasons, although a tallit should only be worn during the daytime, one should always wear tzitzit (tallit katan) even when he goes to sleep at night (only taking it off to bathe) since it helps to protect from negative spiritual forces.13

Fulfilling the Mitzvah at Night

In our earlier discussion about which nighttime garments are exempt from tzitzit, we concluded that it wasn’t clear whether the halachah follows the opinion that nighttime garments are defined by the actual time they are worn (regardless of the type of garment) or whether they are defined by the type of garment (regardless of the current time of day). Nevertheless, the Tzemach Tzedek writes that it seems the halachah leans toward the second opinion (quoted earlier in the name of Rabbeinu Asher), that “nighttime garments” depend on the type of garment.

Based on this, any garment designated for both night and day would be obligated to have tzitzit attached, and one would fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit by wearing it at night. Thus, by sleeping with tzitzit on a garment designated for both night and day, one would actually be fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzit even while he slept at night (not just when he oversleeps into the daytime).14

Our sages teach us that the mitzvah of tzitzit is equivalent to all the mitzvahs15 and that one who is careful with this mitzvah merits to greet the Shechinah, the Divine Presence.16 Additionally, the tzitzit together with its four corners represent the ingathering of the exiles at the time of the final redemption.17 May our careful observance of this mitzvah bring about the final redemption speedily in our days!