Subscribe to a Weekly Series

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt | Series: | Level:

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 katan?

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 in vain.(16)

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 Biblically prohibited.(17)

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 night?

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 Hashem’s wrath.

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 gadol, too.

10 Mor u’Ketizah 25; Imrei Yosher 2:201-2; Be’er Moshe 5:5. See Halichos Shlomo 1:3-3.

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.

Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Weekly sponsorships are available–please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross [email protected].

Rabbi Neustadt is Rav of Young Israel in Cleveland Heights. He may be reached at 216-321-4635 or at [email protected]