All About the Tallit

  • The Tallit is a large, white prayer shawl worn by Jewish men during morning prayers.
  • The name Tallit is actually the shortened form of Tallit Gadol (meaning the large cloak) and is named in such a way so as to differentiate from the Tallit Katan (meaning the small cloak) which is a white rectangular garment with a hole in the middle for the head that is worn by Jewish males from the age of three and up on a daily basis from the minute they wake up until they go to sleep.
  • The Tallit Gadol and Tallit Katan are worn so as to fulfill the commandment of putting fringes on four-cornered garments as is mentioned in Numbers 15:37. The Sages fixed that the wearing of specific fringes called Tzitzit would serve as a reminder of G-d’s commandments.
  • There were times when Jewish people would wear four-cornered garments on a daily basis. Nowadays this is no longer the fashion so these garments were incorporated in to the Jewish world so as to ensure that the commandment of Tzitzit would be fulfilled.
  • An interesting point is that the Jewish alphabet is known for having a corresponding numerical value. The numerical value of the word Tzitzit is 600. When one adds the eight strings and five knots that make up each of the four corners of a Tallit Katan or Tallit Gadol, one reaches 613 which is the number of commandments in the Torah.
  • There is a special blessing recited each time one puts on a Tallit Katan (in the case of people who don’t wear a Tallit Gadol which will be explained later).
  • The Tallit Gadol is worn during the morning prayers and this is done due to the mentioning of the Torah commandment to wear fringes which is mentioned n the morning prayers and serves as a focal point.
  • The Tallit Gadol will, more often than not, have black, white or blue stripes. Others may even have multicolored stripes. It is unclear what the source of these stripes is but this is a practice that has been passed down for many a generation.
  • Ideally the Tallit Gadol should be made from wool.
  • The Tallit Gadol is worn draped over the shoulders with two corners in the front and two in the back.
  • The average size of a Tallit Gadol is 4×6 feet.
  • On most days, Tefillin are worn during morning prayers and on such days the Tallit is put on first.

Uriel Sela.
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