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Information about tallit

General information about tallit:

A Tallit is a prayer shawl worn during the Morning Prayer (Shacharit) and on festive prayers, such as Shabbat and holidays

 

Although traditionally only married men are obliged to don a tallit, today many young men and women aged Bar/Bat Mitzvah and up are accustomed to doing so as well.

 

Before donning the tallit it is customary to say the blessing ""ברוך אתה ה 'אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציוונו להתעטף בציצית"" (Blessed be Thee, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us in his commands and has commanded us to wrap ourselves with tzitzit (fringe)). The tallit is usually worn over the shoulder blades, but the very religious will tend to cover their heads with it.

 

The tallit is made of a densely knit fabric, usually either cotton or silk, and is decorated with patterns that can be of many shapes and kinds. The four tzitziot (fringes) at its corners express the Biblical commandment of wearing fringes, and form an inseparable part of the tallit.

 

A tallit is customarily worn for the morning prayer (Shacharit) of every day of the year, weekdays, Shabbat and holidays included. A tallit is also worn for the Musaf Prayer on Shabbat and holidays, and throughout the Yom Kippur prayers. The Public's Delegate (shliach tzibur) commonly wraps himself in a tallit throughout the daily prayers (though not all communities are strict on this point regarding Mincha and Arvit prayers). The tallit plays a role on special events as well: The father of a newborn dons a tallit during his son's Brit Milah (circumcision) ceremony, and in some communities a bridegroom wears a tallit under the chupah (wedding canopy), during the wedding ceremony. Finally, it is a common custom in Judaism to wrap the deceased in a tallit, for his burial.

 

The color of the threads (ptilim) on the sides of the tallit is traditionally a pure sky-color light blue (tekhelet), and white. In the past the light blue color was produced from the fluid of a particular species of shellfish (khilazon). After the color's precise source was lost, the use of a light blue thread was stopped, and all tzitzit threads were hence white. In recent generations renewed attempts to produce the color tekhelet have taken place, and some believers have gone back to wearing a tallit featuring a light blue thread on each of its four sides.

 

There is no uniform age among all Jewish communities, after which it is accustomed to use a tallit: While Jews of Middle Eastern communities begin wearing a tallit at the age of religious majority (gil mitzvoth, 13 for boys), in Ashkenazi communities it is customary that a man must wear a tallit only after his wedding. It is quite possible that the more lenient Ashkenazi approach stems from the harsh economic situation experienced by the Jews of pre-modern Europe, which made purchasing a tallit for a family's youth more difficult.

 

The blessing made over the tallit is "ברוך אתה ה 'אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציוונו להתעטף בציצית" (Blessed be Thee, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us in his commands and has commanded us to wrap ourselves with tzitzit). A Jew will begin saying the blessing prior to donning the tallit, and complete it while in the process of wrapping him or herself in it. While being put on, the tallit is used to cover the head and most of the body prior to being placed on the shoulders. Donning the tallit is done before putting on tefillin, in accordance with the Halachic principle of "frequent and infrequent,  frequent first" (תדיר ושאינו תדירים - תדיר קודם): As the command to put on teffilin is not performed on Shabbat and holidays, as opposed to the command to put on tzitzit, which applies every day of the year, it has been deduced that the tallit precedes teffilin.

 

A tallit is usually produced of wool or silk. The top of the tallit commonly features an additional neckband (atara), in order to prevent the user from confusing the tallit's upper and lower sides and placing the front tzitziot at his or her rear. Some have developed the custom of adding an atara made of embroidered silver threads, in order to glorify the mitzvah of donning the tallit.

 

Unlike the tallit used for prayers, a small tallit (tallit katan / ketana) is worn under a person's upper garment, accompanying him throughout the day. This tallit, which also possesses four sides with tzitziot at their ends, is usually referred to simply as tzitzit. Among the Ashkenazi communities it is common that the act of donning the tallit katan is preceded by the blessing "and who has commanded us with the commandment of tzitzit" ("... ומי שציווה עלינו את מצוות הציצית"). Some are strict about keeping the fringes of the tallit katan outside their upper garment, in order to uphold the instruction of 'seeing', appearing in the Biblical verse: "And you will see it and remember all the commandments of God"-
("
"וראה אותו וזכר את כל מצוות ה '", במדבר 15:39, Numbers 15:39). In this verse, according to traditional interpretation, the Torah places the tzitzit as a daily reminder of the existence of Divinity, for the Jewish believer. According to tradition, whoever upholds the three commandments of tallit, placing teffilin and setting a mezuzah, will stay clear of all sin, since these commandments will be wrapped around him like a chord, keeping evil out.

Additional Information on Tallitot

What is a Tallit?

A Tallit is the traditional prayer shawl that has accompanied the Jewish people from their founding day. It is shaped as a woven or embroidered square of fabric and can be made of wool, cotton, silk or other materials. The tallit is commonly decorated with embroidery or illustrations. Fringes (tzitziot) are attached to its four corners, and in fact, the entire purpose of the tallit is to hold the tzitziot.

 

Most tallitot posses an atara (neckband) an embroidered or painted decoration, placed to go around the nape of the neck and aimed to mark the tallit's correct orientation when wearing it.

Why wear a Tallit?

The order to wrap oneself in a tallit is originated in the Book of Numbers. God commands Moses: "Speak unto the children of Israel, and tell them that they make them fringes (tzitziot) in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe (tzitzit) of the borders a chord of light blue" (Numbers 15:38), and in Deuteronomy: "Thou shall make thee tassels (gdilim) upon the four borders of thy vesture, with which thou coverest thyself" (Deuteronomy, 22:12). Hence, the purpose of the tallit is to hold the tzitziot, and the purpose of the tzitziot is to remind those who wear them of the eternal covenant with God.

A tallit is customarily worn for the morning prayer (Shacharit) of every day of the year, weekdays, Shabbat and holidays included. A tallit is also worn for the Musaf Prayer on Shabbat and holidays, and throughout the Yom Kippur prayers. The Public's Delegate (shliach tzibur) commonly wraps himself in a tallit throughout the daily prayers (though not all communities are strict on this point regarding Mincha and Arvit prayers). The tallit plays a role on special events as well: The father of a newborn dons a tallit during his son's Brit Milah (circumcision) ceremony, and in some communities a bridegroom wears a tallit under the chupah (wedding canopy), during the wedding ceremony. Finally, it is a common custom in Judaism to wrap the deceased in a tallit, for his burial.

Who wears a Tallit?

In the past the command to wear the tallit was customarily understood as applying only to married men, from their wedding day. Today the custom of wearing a tallit has greatly expanded, so that many boys reaching the age of religious majority (gil mitzvot, the age of 13) wear a tallit at prayer time. In many progressive communities the custom has further expanded, and today many women and girls reaching the age of religious majority (age 12) wear a tallit at prayer as well. Today, when visiting synagogues at prayer time, one can find a wide variety of tallitot adorning both men and women.

 

The Tzitzit (fringe)

The commandment of tzitzit is one of the 613 mitzvahs in the Torah. According to this mitzvah, he who has a garment with four corners (knafot) must have four groups of fringes attached to the garment, one to each of the corners.

 

The Origin of the Mitzvah

The commandment to wear tzitzit appears in the book of Numbers, 15:38-39:

"Speak unto the children of Israel, and tell them that they make them fringes (tzitziot) in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe (tzitzit) of the borders a chord of light blue. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring."

How is the Tzitzit tied, and What are the 7-8-11-13 Knots?

The obligation to make a knot using four threads (ptilim, the word tzitzit signifying a group of dangling strings, as in a braid, which can be seen as a tzitzit on one's head), that are interwoven into the four corners of a garment possessing four angular corners or more appears in Talmudic traditions. A garment possessing rounded ends, or less than four corners, is exempt from the commandment of tzitzit. It has been decided in Halacha that the threads of the tzitzit must be threaded through a hole at each end of the cloth and then multiplied by two, so that eight threads will be produced (one of which is longer than the others and is referred to as shamash). The threads should then be tied in a double, well fastened knot. The shamash is then wound around the other threads and additional knots are tied. There are various customs regarding winding and tying knots, but the two most common call of four groups of 7, 8, 11 and 13 or 5, 6, 5 and 10 windings, with knots tied in between them and at their end. All in all there are five knots in the tzitzit.

What is a Tallit Katan

These days, four-cornered garments are not very common. Therefore people have developed the custom of wearing a unique garment called "tallit katan", in order for them to be able to perform the commandment of tzitzit. For them, the large tallit worn at prayer times comes in addition to the tallit katan.

While when wearing the large tallit one blesses "and commanded us to wrap ourselves with tzitzit", when wearing the small tzitzit between garments, this blessing is not said, as according to some scholars, the manner in which it is worn isn't considered proper 'wrapping'. Instead, one will say "and commanded the command of tzitzit upon us".

 

There are various customs in regards to wearing the tallit katan. Sephardic Jews and Jews of Middle Eastern communities go by the custom of HeAri and wear it under their shirt, keeping the tzitzit concealed in their clothes. Most Ashkenazi Jews keep to a different custom and while wearing the talit katan under the shirt, leave the tzitzit outside their garments. Many Hassidic Ashkenazi Jews are accustomed to wearing the tallit katan over their garments.

What is the Commandment of Tkhelet?

It has been explained that as part of the Biblical order to make fringes, one of the threads must be of a light blue (tkhelet) color.

According to tradition, the light blue color must be produced from a specific shellfish (chilazon). The tekhelet dying came to a complete stop in the early Muslim period. It has been determined in the Halacha that "tekhelet does not hold the white back", and so it became customary to wear tzitziot without threads of tekhelet.

Over generations, knowledge of the shellfish's identity was lost. Recently, some attempts to rediscover it have been made, and today researchers are of the opinion that the tekhelet was produces from a shellfish by the name of Argamon Kh Kotzim (lit, Purple One with Dull Thorns). Most Halacha scholars refrain from expressing their opinion, due to the lack of a clear tradition on the subject. In practice, tekhelet is not produced from this snail today.

 

 

Argamon Khad Kotzim (Purple One with Sharp Thorns)Â one of the shellfish species from which the Canaanites produced the colors of tekhelet and purple (argaman).

Visit Out Tallit Collection: http://www.arbel-judaica.com/tallit

 

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