Monday, January 26, 2009

A Fashion Statement

In Numbers 15:38, God commands the Jewish people to “make themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations.” Additionally, it is written in Deuteronomy 22:12, “make twisted cords on the four corners of your covering, with which you cover yourself.”

These vague instructions leave us with a lot of questions:

Where does one put the strings? The answer is: on four-cornered garments. Since these are not generally worn anymore, special garments with four corners are used to fulfill this mitzvah. The tallit is a large four-cornered garment draped over one’s shoulders during prayer. The tallit katan (little tallit which is often incorrectly referred to as tzitzit) is a smaller, four-cornered garment with a hole cut-out for the head so that one may wear it comfortably like a shirt.

What are the tzitzit? The word tzitzit specifically refers to the fringes, each of which is composed of four strands of string. These strands are inserted through a hole near the corners of the garment, folded over and then tied according to specific halachic regulations. Pre-tied tzitzit can be purchased at any Judaica store.

Who wears a tallit/tallit katan?: According to the Torah (Numbers 15:39), the obligation to wear tzitzit is only during the day when they may be seen. Thus, it is a positive, time-bound mitzvah, which, according to the traditional understanding, exempts women from the obligation.

The purpose of the tzitzit is stated in Numbers 15:39: “That you may see it and remember all the commandments of God and perform them, and not wander after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray.”

For more on the mitzvah of tzitzit please visit this tzitzit webpage.

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