Tallis Katan: Questions and Answers
QUESTION: Do men have an halachic obligation to wear a tallis katan?
DISCUSSION: According to the Midrash quoted by Rashi, the Jewish
People were rewarded with the mitzvah of tzitzis, which are attached to a
garment, because our forebear, Shem, took pains to preserve the modesty of
his drunken father Noach by covering him with a garment. The Talmud(1)
states that one who is scrupulous in his observance of the mitzvah of
tzitzis will merit "to see the Shechinah."
But is one halachically required to wear a garment with tzitzis fringes
attached to it, or is it merely optional?
Although Biblical law does not require one to put tzitzis on a garment
unless the garment that he is wearing has four square corners, which most
garments nowadays do not have, it is fitting and proper for every male to
wear a tallis katan (a small four-cornered garment) all day and thereby
incur the obligation to wear tzitzis. In so doing, 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 men to wear a tallis katan all day.(3) Since this has
become the prevalent custom, one may not deviate from it, and nowadays,
one is obligated to wear a tallis katan all day long.(4) Indeed, those who
are meticulous in their mitzvah observance do not walk four cubits
(approximately eight feet) without tzitzis.(5)
QUESTION: Which blessing, if any, does one recite over a tallis
DISCUSSION: Married men and those who wear a large tallis during
davening need not recite a separate blessing over their tallis katan.
Rather, when they recite the proper blessing over the tallis gadol, they
should have the tallis katan in mind.(6) Unmarried men who do not wear a
tallis gadol recite the blessing of Al mitzvas tzitzis on a tallis katan
(.7) If the tallis katan is of questionable size or material, a blessing
should not be said.(8)
Although all married(9) men should wear a tallis gadol during davening,
they should not forgo davening with a minyan if a tallis gadol is
unavailable.(10) [In regard to tefillin, however, it is preferable to
daven without a minyan than to daven without tefillin.(11)]
Before the blessing on a tallis gadol or katan may be recited, the tzitzis
fringes should be separated from one another.(12) Some poskim(13) imply
that if the fringes are intertwined, then one has not fulfilled the
mitzvah of tzitzis at all, while other poskim hold that b'diavad one has
fulfilled the mitzvah.(14) [If taking time to separate the tzitzis will
cause one to miss tefillah b'tzibur, he may rely on the lenient view.(15)]
All poskim agree that if the fringes are tied [or glued] together, then
the mitzvah has not been fulfilled and the blessing said over them is said
Often, the chulyos (the top segment of the fringes which is wound and
knotted) become unraveled or loosened. If this happens, the fringes should
be rewound and knotted. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, however, this is strictly
forbidden. Tightening or knotting tzitzis fringes on Shabbos may even be
QUESTION: May one wear a tallis katan made out of cotton?
DISCUSSION: There is a dispute among the Rishonim as to whether it
is a Biblical requirement to attach tzitzis to a four-cornered garment
made of cotton, or only to a garment made out of wool or linen. While some
Rishonim hold that only woolen and linen garments are Biblically obligated
in tzitzis, others include cotton as well. Both views are quoted in the
Shulchan Aruch,(18) and the Rama rules according to the view that
maintains that cotton garments do incur the Biblical obligation of
tzitzis. Nevertheless, many poskim advise a G-d-fearing person to wear
only a tallis katan made from wool and thereby fulfill the mitzvah
according to all views.(19) Other poskim, however, do not insist on a wool
garment, and there were eminent Torah scholars(20) who wore a tallis katan
made out of cotton.
QUESTION: May a woman "make tzitzis" - i.e., attach tzitzis strings
to a garment (tallis katan or tallis gadol)?
DISCUSSION: The Talmud(21) excludes women from the writing of
tefillin since they are not commanded to wear tefillin. Following this
line of reasoning, Rabbeinu Tam ruled that since women are not commanded
to wear tzitzis, they are also not permitted to attach the tzitzis to the
garment. (22) The majority of Rishonim, however, do not agree with this
ruling. They allow women to be involved in all phases of tzitzis
production. The Shulchan Aruch(23) rules with the majority. Nevertheless,
in deference to the minority opinion (and for other reasons as well), the
Rama advises that l'chatchilah, women should not be allowed to put tzitzis
on a garment.
(24) Although one should follow the Rama's directive,(25) all poskim
agree that after the fact, if these procedures were done by women, the
tzitzis are kosher and need not be restrung.(26)
QUESTION: May a minor attach tzitzis fringes to a garment?
DISCUSSION: Based on the previously mentioned Rama, some poskim
rule that a minor below the age of bar mitzvah should not attach tzitzis
to a garment. Other poskim feel that minors are not excluded and may
attach tzitzis to a garment. The Mishnah Berurah rules that l'chatchilah,
it is not proper to allow a minor to do so.(27)
A minor, however, may prepare tzitzis for himself or for another minor.
Even when he becomes bar mitzvah, he does not have to unknot the tzitzis
and restring them.(28)
There is, however, another issue concerning minors attaching tzitzis to a
garment. When tzitzis are placed on a garment, they must be attached with
the intention of "l'shem mitzvas tzitzis," for the sake of the mitzvah of
tzitzis. Since a minor may not be mature enough to concentrate properly,
he may not attach tzitzis to a garment unless he is under the supervision
of an adult. If a minor was not properly supervised, then the tzitzis must
be removed and reattached properly.(29)
QUESTION: Is it permitted to attach tzitzis fringes to a garment at
DISCUSSION: There are some poskim who recommend that one should not
do so. (30) Their reasoning is based on the halachic principle of ta'aseh
(you should make) v'lo min ha-asui (it should not be automatically done):
Since one is not obligated to wear tzitzis at night,(31) it follows that
one cannot produce kosher tzitzis at night, either. The vast majority of
poskim,(32) however, reject this argument. The Mishnah Berurah does not
discuss this issue, but the Chafetz Chayim is quoted(33) as permitting
tzitzis to be attached at night. The Chazon Ish is reported(34) as having
asked that tzitzis be prepared for him at night.
1 Menachos 43b, quoted in O.C. 24:6.
2 Bamidbar 15:39 (quoted in O.C. 24:1): "That you may see it and remember
all the commandments of Hashem and perform them." In addition, the Talmud
(Menachos 41a) says that wearing a tallis katan protects a person from
3 Aruch ha-Shulchan 8:2; Rav Y.E. Henkin (Eidus l'Yisrael, pg. 114); Tzitz
Eliezer 8:4; Yechaveh Da'as 4:2.
4 Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:4. See also Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:20-25.
5 Mishnah Berurah 8:1. See Halichos Shlomo 1:3 (Devar Halachah 25) and
Tzitz Eliezer 14:49, who say that the tallis katan should be left on even
if one is suffering from the heat. See The Daily Halachah Discussion, pgs.
58-60, for other opinions.
6 Mishnah Berurah 8:24, 30; Aruch ha-Shulchan 8:16. Some poskim rule that
if there will be a "long break" until the tallis gadol is put on, a
blessing should be said on the tallis katan; see The Daily Halachah
Discussion, pgs. 307-311, for an elaboration
7 Rama, O.C. 8:6.
8 Mishnah Berurah 8:17. See The Daily Halachah Discussion, pgs. 306-307,
for the proper dimensions for the tallis.
9 The Sepharadic and German custom is that unmarried men wear a tallis
10 Mor u'Ketizah 25; Imrei Yosher 2:201-2; Be'er Moshe 5:5. See Halichos
11 Mishnah Berurah 66:40. See, however, Minchas Yitzchak 2:107.
12 O.C. 8:7. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, however, the tzitzis should not be
separated from one another; Halichos Shlomo 1:3-5.
13 Artzos ha-Chayim, O.C. 8; Beiur Halachah 8:7, s.v. tzarich, according
to the view of the Goan of Vilna and Olas Tamid.
14 Aruch ha-Shulchan 8:13; Chazon Ish, O.C. 3:9.
15 Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 9:7; Mishnah Berurah 8:18; Aruch ha-Shulchan,
8:13. The Artzos ha-Chayim (quoted above) holds that one must separate his
tzitzis even at the expense of tefillah b'tzibur.
16 Chazon Ish, O.C. 3:9.
17 Ketzos ha-Shulchan (Badei ha-Shulchan 123:4); Az Nidberu 3:22; Shemiras
Shabbos K'hilchasah 15:50.
18 O.C. 9:1.
19 Chayei Adam 11:5; Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 9:4; Mishnah Berurah 9:5; Igros
Moshe, O.C. 1:2; 2:1; 3:1; 3:52. In Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:20-25, Rav
Feinstein adds that one who suffers from the heat is not required to wear
woolen garments, although he himself was particular to do so.
20 Chazon Ish (quoted in Shoneh Halachos 9:1) and Rav Y.Y. Kanievsky
(quoted in Orchos Rabbeinu 3:188) based on the ruling of the Gra (Ma'asei
Rav 17). There are several reasons given why the Gra ruled so; See
Tzitzis - Halachah Pesukah, pg. 77.
21 Gittin 45b.
22 Many poskim rule that other mitzvos (such as putting sechach on a
succah) are included in this prohibition as well. See, however, Igros
Moshe, O.C. 5:40-3.
23 O.C. 14:1.
24 The Rama's restriction, however, applies specifically to inserting the
strings through the hole and knotting the first set of chulyos and the
double knot immediately following; all the rest may be done by women
l'chatchilah; Mishnah Berurah 14:1.
25 See Beiur Halachah 14:1. Aruch ha-Shulchan 14:7 refers to this
stringency as a chumra b'alma.
26 Mishnah Berurah 14:5.
27 In 14:4 he quotes both views without a decision. In Beiur Halachah he
rules that it is appropriate to be stringent.
28 Beiur Halachah 14:1, since we view that situation as a b'diavad, and
b'diavad the tzitzis are valid according to all views. See Chanoch l'Na'ar
9, note 16, who questions this leniency.
29 Mishnah Berurah 14:4.
30 Peri Megadim 18:1; Tosefos Chayim on Chayei Adam 11:1.
31 The Talmud (Menachos 43a) derives from the verse "and you should see
them" that there is no mitzvah of tzitzis at night.
32 Tehillah l'David 18:4; Aruch ha-Shulchan 14:7; Kaf ha-Chayim 18:2;
Minchas Yitzchak 9:8; Halichos Shlomo 1:3-23.
33 Rivevos Efrayim, O.C. 3:27; Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 2:13.
34 Dinim v'Hanhagos (Chazon Ish) 2:11; Orchos Rabbeinu 3:188.
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