The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
Wearing Tzitzis: Is It Mandatory?
According to the Midrash quoted by Rashi (Bereishis 9:23) the
Jewish people were awarded with the Mitzvah of Tzitzis because
our forebear, Shem, took pain to preserve the modesty of his
drunken father Noach by covering him with a garment.
The Talmud (1) states further that one who is scrupulous in his
observance of the Mitzvah of Tzitzis will merit "seeing the
Shechinah." But, the question is often asked, is one required to
wear a garment with Tzitzis fringes attached to it, or is it
According to the basic law, one is required to put Tzitzis on
his garment only if the garment that he is wearing has four
square corners, which most garments nowadays do not have. One is
not required to put on a four-cornered garment in order to incur
the obligation of Mitzvas Tzitzis. Nevertheless, it is fitting
and proper for every male to wear a Tallis Koton all day. By
doing so, he fulfills an important Mitzvah, one that serves as a
constant reminder of all of the other Mitzvos of the Torah (2).
Accordingly, it has become customary for all G-d fearing people
to wear a Tallis Koton (a small four-cornered garment) all
day (3). Since this has become the prevalent custom, one may no
longer deviate from the accepted practice. Nowadays, therefore,
one is obligated to wear a Tallis Koton all day long (4). Those
who are meticulous in their Mitzvah observance do not walk four
Amos without Tzitzis (5).
Married men who wear a Tallis during Davening need not recite a
separate blessing over their Tallis Koton. Rather, when they
recite the blessing over the Tallis Gadol, they should have the
Tallis Koton in mind (6). Unmarried men who do not wear a Tallis
Gadol recite the Bracha on a Tallis Koton which must be of the
proper size and material. Preferably, they should wrap the
Tallis Koton around their head before putting it on (7).
Although one must definitely wear a Tallis Gadol during
Davening, he should not pass up Davening with a Minyan if a
Tallis is unavailable in Shul (8). In regard to Tefillin,
however, it is better to Daven without a Minyan than to Daven
without Tefillin (9).
Before the Bracha on a Tallis Gadol or Koton can be recited,
the Tzitzis fringes must be separated from one another (10). Some
Poskim (11) imply that if the strings are intertwined, then one
has not fulfilled the Mitzvah of Tzitzis at all, while other
Poskim hold that B'dieved one is Yotzei (12). [If taking time out
to separate the Tzitzis will cause one to miss Tefilla B'tzibur,
he may rely on the lenient view (13).] All Poskim agree that if
the strings are tied [or glued] together, then the Mitzvah has
not been fulfilled and the Bracha said over them is a Bracha
Often, the Chulyos (the wrapped portion of the Tzitzis fringes)
become unraveled or loosened. If this happens, the strings
should be rewrapped and knotted. On Shabbos, however, this is
strictly forbidden. Tightening or knotting the Tzitzis strings
on Shabbos, may be biblically prohibited (15).
L'chatchilla, can one wear a Tallis Koton made out of
There is a dispute among the Rishonim at to whether it is a biblical requirement to attach Tzitzis to a four-cornered garment made of cotton. Some Rishonim (16) hold that only woolen garments are obligated in Tzitzis M'deoraissa, while others (17) include cotton as well. Both views are quoted in Shulchan Aruch (18), and the Rama rules that cotton garments do require Tzitzis M'deoraissa. Nevertheless, many Poskim advise a G-d fearing person to wear only a Tallis Koton made out of wool and thereby fulfill the Mitzvah according to all views (19). Other Poskim, however, do not insist on wool (20) and there were eminent Gedolim (21) who wore cotton garments to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzis.
1 Menachos 43b, quoted in OC 24:6.
2 Shelach 15:39 quoted in OC 24:1: "That you may see it and
remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them." In
addition., the Talmud (Menachos 41:1) says that wearing a Tallis
Koton protects a person from Hashem's anger.
4 Igros Moshe OC 4:4. See also Igros Moshe OC 5:20-25.
5 Mishna Berura 8:1. See also Tzitz Eliezer 14:49, who says that
the Tallis Koton should be left on even if one is suffering from
6 Mishna Berura 8:24. This is especailly recommended since often the Tallis Koton may not be the right size according to all views. In order to avoid reciting a Bracha in a questionable situation, it is best to recite the Bracha over the Tallis.
7 Mishna Berura 8:7
8 Imrei Yosher 2:201-2. Shu"t Be'er Moshe 5:5.
9 Mishna Berura 66:40
10 OC 8:7.
11 Artzos Hachayim OC 8; Biur Halacha 8:7 according to the view of the Gr"a and Olas Tomid.
12 Aruch Hashulchan 8:13; Chazon Ish OC 3:9.
13 Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 9:7; Mishna Berura 8:18; Aruch Hashulchan, 8:13. According to the Artzos Hachayim, quoted above, one must separate his Tzitzis even at the expense of Tefilla B'tzibur.
19 Chayi Adam 11:5; Shulchan Aruch Harav 9:4; Mishna Berurah 9:5; Igros Moshe OC 1:2; OC 2:1; OC 3:1; OC 3:52. In Igros Moshe OC 5:20-25 he adds that one who suffers from the heat is not required to wear woolen garments although he himself was particular to do so.
20 Kitzur Shulchan Aruch and Aruch Hashulchan do not mention this stringency.
21 Chazon Ish (quoted in Shone Halachos 9:1) and the Steipler (quoted in Archos Rabeinu 3:188) based on the ruling of the Gr"a (Maase Rav 17). There are several reasons given why the Gr"a
ruled so, see Tzitzis - Halacha Pesukah pg. 77.