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The Tallit (or Tallith, Talis, plural:Tallitot or in Yiddish  Talleisim)  ) is a Jewish prayer shawl. It is rectangular, with special fringes in each corner, called Tzitziot. Traditionally it is decorated in blue stripes. That color blue was used for the Zionist flag. The Tallit may be made of silk, linen, wool or even polyester. From the ritual point of view, the purpose of the Tallit is to bear the Tzitziot.

Most Tallitot  have a prayer written along the edge to be put on the neck, called an Atarah (decoration), which often is embroidered with the blessing to be said when putting on the Tallit.

The commandment to wear the Tzitziot is given in  Numbers 15:

NUMBERS 15:38 Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:

NUMBERS 15:39 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:

It is also given in Deuteronomy 22:

DEUTERONOMY 22:12 Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.

The Tallit  is worn for daily morning prayer, by Orthodox Jewish males over the age of 13. Some authorities allow women to wear Tallitot, but in no case is it obligatory for women. 

Judaica: Tallit

Tallit: Silk Tallit

Tallit: A man wearing a Tallit

Tallit .   

The Tzitzit is tied in a very special way  A hole is made and reinforced in each corner of the Tallit. Four strands, three short and one long, are inserted through each hole.  The longer strand is called the Shammash ("deacon"). It is used for winding around the others. These are then carefully wound according to a set pattern, so that  the Tzitzit will have 7-8-11-13 winds between the double knots.

To put on a Tallit - Open the tallit and hold it in both hands, stretched out, so you can see Atarah (the decorative collar band with the blessing), and say this blessing:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Haolam, Asher kidshanu BeMitzvotav Vetzivanu Lehitatef Behtzitzit.

Ami Isseroff

Some photos courtesy of ajudaica

Copyright 2007 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism-Israel Center


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