Purchasing a tallit (especially online) can be bewildering. Which tallit to purchase? Which size, which pattern, and which material is right for me? To help navigate the tallit-buying experience, our Ask-the-Rabbi Team has compiled this FAQ just for you!

Q: Which material tallit is ideal?

A: The best material is wool. Why? As far as mitzvah observance is concerned, only garments made of wool and linen are considered bona fide garments according to some halachic authorities. Thus, the mitzvah of tallit would apply only to garments made of those two materials. All other fabrics—silk, polyester, etc.—would only be obligated on a rabbinic level. Wearing woolen fringes on a linen garment could at times be a transgression of the prohibition not to wear shatnez (wool and linen together).1

This leaves wool as the only material with which one can practically fulfill this mitzvah in the best possible manner according to all.2

Of course, if you are allergic to wool, you may consider another option.

Read: What Is Wrong With a Silk Tallit?

Q: Which color tallit is most traditional, and why?

Technically a tallit can be any color, and in the late Middle Ages and early modern era it was not unusual in Ashkenazi communities for people to wear tallits of other colors. Nevertheless, it is most common (and ideal) for the tallit to be (mostly) white. This is because some teach that the fringes (which are white) should be the same color as the garment.

In addition, white signifies the Kabbalistic attribute of mercy, as does the tallit, which we are told G‑d Himself wore while teaching Moses how to appeal for mercy.3

Read:Why Is the Tallit So Often White?

Q: Does the pattern on a tallit matter?

It is traditional for the white tallit to be adorned with black or blue vertical stripes to remind us of the techelet threads once worn.4 The exact pattern of the stripes is purely aesthetic and has little religious significance.

See: Why the Tallit Barcode?

Q: Is there a Chabad-style tallit?

There is a pattern that is almost always favored in the Chabad community. Worn by the Rebbe, it appears that it became popular in the mid 20th century to the exclusion of all other patterns. It seems that this particular style was originally chosen because it is significantly wider than most other tallit styles on the market. In addition, it has the following features preferred by Chabad:

  1. It does not have an atarah (“crown”), a decorative strip along the upper hem of the tallit.
  2. It has a lining on much of its upper half, which serves to demarcate the top from the bottom and absorb some sweat.
  3. This lining, and the lining on each of the four corners, is often (but not always) made of silk, which is seen as a finer and thus preferred material.
  4. Each corner has an additional hole, which positions the fringe in a way that it is more likely to hang over the corner.

The knots on the Chabad tallit follow the Chassidic custom of chulyot, in which each segment of coils is further divided into bunches of 1, 2 or 3 coils.

Q. What is the Sephardic tradition for tallit design?

Many Sephardic Jews wear a tallit that is all white—even the stripes. They may also employ a unique style of coiling the strings, in which each coil is hooked into its neighbors, forming a sort of ridge.

Q. Do I need the silver atarah on my tallit?

Most tallits come with a simple, modestly decorated atarah. The ornamental silver atarah is purely an extra (most often just for Shabbat). In fact, the standard Chabad style tallit has no atarah at all.

Read: Why (and Why Not) Have a Crown on the Tallit?

Q. What size tallit is right for me? How about a scarf?

Remember that the tallit is a garment. The Sages said that the minimum size for something to be considered a garment is if a teen could wear it outside and not feel unclothed.5 While this size is somewhat debatable, it is clear that a scarf style tallit does not make the cut. How large of a tallit do you want? It depends on your personal style. Some want a smaller tallit that just covers the torso, while others prefer one that reaches almost to the floor. Also factor in that if you will be covering your head with the tallit, you may want an extra few inches.

Read: Why Do Some Cover Their Heads With the Tallit?

Q: Should I get the blue thread (techelet) on my tallit?

The Torah tells us to place “a thread of blue on the fringe of each corner.”6 In time, the dying method was lost. The Sages assert that even in the absence of blue, the white threads still constitute a valid mitzvah which we are enjoined to perform.7

In recent years, there have been various people who claim to have rediscovered techelet, but most Jews (including mainstream Chabad) prefer to stick to the tried and true, and therefore do not wear the blue threads.

Read: The Mystery of the Long-Lost Blue Thread

Q: Do I need a tallit bag or clips?

There is no obligation to keep your tallit in a special bag. However, it is nice to beautify the mitzvah with a decorative pouch, which is also useful in keeping the tallit together with your tefillin for easy access every (weekday) morning. So while it is not necessary, it’s a nice extra.

Tallit clips are useful for keeping a silk scarf tallit (which we do not recommend) in place. However, they have little function when wearing a full-size tallit. So think twice before plunking down the cash for that accessory.

Q: When is the right time to get a tallit?

Sephardim and Western Ashkenazim (Yekkes) begin wearing a tallit from childhood. Among Jews of Eastern-European descent, however, the common custom is to start wearing it from marriage, when the groom receives his tallit as a gift from the bride and her family.

Read: When Do Boys Begin Wearing a Tallit?

Q: How do I know if a tallit is kosher?

Sometimes it is easy to spot an invalid tallit, such as those with strings that are clearly not wool or are tied all wrong. But some nuances—like the fact that the fringes must be twined and affixed with intent—are impossible to spot. As such, it is imperative to purchase your tallit from a reputable dealer, or one that is clearly labeled as being certified kosher by a respected rabbinic organization.

Purchase a Kosher Tallit From Our Online Store