Halacha Club

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried

Chapter 9 : The Laws of Tzitzis


Great is the commandment of (wearing the fringed garment) tzitzis; for it's written that dependent on it are all the commandments, as it is said: 1 "That you may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord." The numerical value of (the letters of the word) tzitzis is six hundred, 2 with the eight threads and the five knots, 3 we get six hundred and thirteen. 4 Therefore, every Jew must take care that he has (a small fringed garment) a tallis katan that he wears all day. This must be made of white lamb's wool, measuring about 3/4 of a cubit (13 1/2 in) in length and half a cubit (9 in) in width; other (authorities) hold (that the size is 18 by 18 in) one cubit square. Those who make the tallis katan by sewing together from the sides, should take care that there is from each side, the greater part open, of the visible part, and even by means of hooks, (the open parts) should not be joined. Every man must also take care that he has a large fringed tallis, with which to enfold himself while praying, and he should take care that the tallis be fine looking. For every religious commandment must be performed as scrupulously as possible, as it is written: 5 "This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him," and it is explained to mean: Show yourself glorious before Him when performing His Commandments. One should be careful to buy the fringes from a trustworthy person, so as to be certain that they were spun and twined with the purpose of being used for the commandment, and that they are of the required length.

  1. Numbers 15:39
  2. tsade=90, yud=10, tav=400.
  3. As explained below, the four threads are doubled, making 8 fringes, and one thread, which is twice as long as the other three, is wound round the three with five double knots.
  4. The number of the Divine Commandments contained in the Torah.
  5. Exodus 15:2


One who can not (afford) only a linen tallis, which can not have (attached) woollen fringes because of the ban on (a mixture of wool and linen) shatnez, then one (authority) says, one should make the corners (of the tallis) out of leather and attach woollen fringes to them; but other (authorities) disagree with him, and do not allow this.


The hole into which the fringes are inserted should not be away from the edge of the cloth, both in the length and the breadth, more than three thumb-breadths, (Some (authorities) maintain that this thumb-breadth is measured from the short joint of the thumb, which is at its top, and it is proper to follow this stricter opinion, see further in the Shaarey Tshuva), because above three thumb-breadths is no longer called the corner of the garment rather it is the garment. If one has made the hole more than three thumb-breadths, even though, when tying on the fringes, one (tightly) pulls the knot making a crease in the tallis until the hole comes down, it is still invalid. If after one inserted the fringes in the hole, which (hole) was further than allowed, one cut the hole (downwards) to make the fringes hang down within the three (thumb-breadths), it is invalid; for, it reads: 1 "You shall make the fringes," and not be made. 2 The hole must not be nearer to the edges of the cloth, whether in the length or the breadth, than the size of the first joint of the thumb, up to the end of the nail, because if it is less than that it can no longer be called the corner, but below the corner. If the hole was (from the edge) the correct distance, but by pulling the (fringe's) knot, the edge of the tallis became creased, and there is (between the hole and the edge) less than the correct distance, it is nevertheless valid. The threads, which are at the edge of a tallis, and are unwoven, there is a question whether they are included in this measurement (mentioned before) or not; they must therefore be cut off from there before the fringes are tied on. In the small tallis some people are accustomed to make two holes, next to each other like (the Hebrew vowel .. ) tsere, and insert in these two the fringes, and they hang down on the outside of the tallis.

  1. Deut. 22:12
  2. Which means, they must be valid while putting them in, and not made so by a subsequent act.


If, when the fringes are tied on, the hole was (from the edge) at the correct distance, but in time the hole was torn a little or the edges (became frayed) of the tallis to the extent that the fringes are closer than the correct distance from the edge, they are not made invalid by this, because the Torah does not insist that the fringes should not be below the corner, except at the time they are made, as it is said: 1 "And they shall make for themselves fringes at the corner of their garments..." Nevertheless, from the start, it is best to make a seam around the hole and similarly on the edge of the tallis, so as not to later become reduced from the required thumb-breadth's size.

  1. Numbers 15:38


It is the custom to make in the fringes 5 double knots, between which there are four spaces. Namely, one puts the four threads through the hole and ties with two knots; and wraps (around the other threads) the longest thread, that is called the (servant) shamesh, seven times, and again ties two knots; and again wraps it around eight times, and ties two knots; then wraps it around again eleven times, and ties two knots; and (finally) wraps it around thirteen times, and ties two knots. Since the beauty of the fringes lies in that all the spaces be of equal size, and so in the first space where the (number of) turns is the smallest we make (the threads) far apart; in the second, we make them somewhat closer, and also (still closer) in the third and in the fourth. The required length of the whole fringe, namely, from the first knot to the ends of the thread, must be at least twelve thumb-breadths. For a beautiful appearance, all the spaces should be together (over the required length) one-third, and the (loose) hanging threads two-thirds; we should, therefore, take care that every space shall be the width of a thumb-breadth; then all the spaces together are four thumb-breadths, and the (loose) hanging threads, eight thumb-breadths. If they (the threads) are longer we should make the spaces also a little wider. It is preferable to be careful to make all the knots by (tying together) the four threads on the one side with the four threads on the other side, so that each of the (four inserted) threads is divided, half on one side and half on the other side.


If one does not take four separate threads, but takes one very long thread, and folds it into four, and so inserts them through the hole, makes a knot, and afterwards cuts (apart the threads), it is invalid, because it is written: 1 "You shall make yourself fringes," which was explained "to make and not to have made" which means, concerning the fringes they are made on the garment, according to the law and not put them in first unlawfully and afterwards legalize them by some act, so that they become made properly. This (method) is forbidden. Likewise, if the fringes were made in the manner prescribed by law on one garment, and the garment becomes torn, and one wants to put the fringes as they are, on a different garment, or even in the same garment, as for instance, if the tallis becomes torn from the hole to the edge and the fringe fell off, and one wants to return them to their place and we sew up (the rent) in the tallis up to the hole this is also invalid, because (the Divine Command is): "You shall make," and not use what has already been made. Likewise, if one puts in the fringes into a tallis which is at this moment legally unfit to put fringes in it, as for instance, when most of it is (closed by being) sown, and after that one opens up the sewing until it is mostly open, and valid for tzitzis, if the tzitzis are kept as they were it is also invalid, because (the tzitzis) must be made, and not (use what has) already been made. Rather, one must first untie the tzitzis, and put them on again as prescribed by law. And so in all similar instances to them.

  1. Deut. 22:12


Before wrapping oneself with the tallis one examines the tzitzis, to see if they are in order, and one needs to also check the threads that are in the holes and the turns, and separate (between) the threads, so that they are not tangled together. However, if one comes late to the synagogue, and while separating the threads and examining them, one will lose the opportunity to pray together with the congregation, one does not need to examine them or separate them.


One says the (appropriate) blessing on all the commandments, for doing them, meaning, before the actual performance and immediately afterward the blessing the commandment must be performed without pausing. Therefore, one takes the tallis with both hands, and bear in mind that one is commanded by the Holy One, blessed be He, to wrap oneself with the tzitzis in order that one may remember all His commandments and perform them, as it is said: 1 "That you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord." Then while still standing, one says the blessing: "to wrap ourselves with the tzitzis", (the letter bet has the vowel patach _ ) 2 and immediately cover one's head down to one's mouth. After that one raises the (tallis) corners, around one's neck, and wraps them as the Arabs wrap, and remains standing like this as long as it takes one to walk (six feet) four cubits, and say the verses: "how precious", etc. After this one may remove it from one's head. It is proper to take care not to let the tzitzis drag on the floor, as this is contempt of the commandment; therefore, one raises them. One can (to avoid this problem) tuck them under the belt.

  1. Numbers 15:39
  2. In other words, one says "ba-tzitzis" rather than "be-tzitzis".


One does not bless over the tzitzis except in the day and not in the night. Care should be taken not to bless over them until it (the light) is sufficient to distinguish between blue and white. 1 If one puts on the small tallis while it is still night, and did not bless over it, or put it on while one's hands are still unwashed, and so did not bless over it, then when one blesses on the large tallis, one should have in mind to include in this blessing the small tallis as well. If one has no large tallis, then upon putting on the small tallis in the daytime, with hands already washed, one should say over it the blessing, "concerning the commandment of the tzitzis". (the letter vav has the vowel patach _ ) If one put (the small tallis) on while being unable to bless over it, then later on when it is daytime and one's hands are washed one should take the fringes in one's hands and say the blessing, "concerning the commandment of the tzitzis". If one slept with the small tallis on, one should not bless over it at all, but upon saying the blessing over the large tallis, one should have in mind to include the small one as well.

  1. The blue referred to is the thread of techeilet, which used to be one of the four threads, then the source of the dye was lost. Some authorities today claim to have rediscovered it and we see more people wearing these now.


If one takes off the tallis, intending to put it on again immediately, even if one went to the lavatory, when one returns and puts it on again, one need not bless over it (because according to the halacha it is allowed to go to the lavatory with it on, and so this is not considered as an interruption). But if one does not intend to put it on again soon, but then one changes one's mind and puts it on again, one must bless over it. If one's tallis slips off, accidently, but a part of it still remains on one's body, even though most of it fell off, since there remains on one part of the commandment, there is no need to return and bless (again) upon adjusting it, but if no part of it was left on one's body, even though one is holding it with one's hands, because there doesn't remain of the commandment (any part) on one's body, for, the (intent of the) commandment is not to hold the tallis in one's hands, but to wrap one's body with it. According one needs to bless when one puts it on again; If this happened to one during one's prayers, at a part which may not be interrupted, one should not (upon adjusting it) bless then, but wait until one is able to bless, then (after finishing the prayer) one takes the tzitzis in the hands and blesses.


It is permissible to borrow a tallis of another, occasionally, even without his knowledge, to pray in it and bless over it, because it is presumed that a person is glad if a commandment is performed with his property when no monetary loss is involved. But not to take it (the tallis) out from the place where it was, because the owner might be strict about this. If the tallis was folded, one should return it folded. On Shabbat, one does not fold it; and because, there is no folding this being one of the Shabbat prohibitions, the owner will forgive him. If he borrows somebody's tallis just to go up to (the reading of) the Torah, it is doubtful whether one should bless over it. One should, therefore, have it in mind that one does not want to acquire it, and in such event all authorities agree that there is no need to bless. But for a communal tallis, even if one just took it only to go up to (the reading of) the Torah, one must bless over it, because it's like his own.


"Wool" (the word), without qualification, as mentioned in the Torah or by the legal authorities means either lamb's or ram's wool. A tallis where the warp 1 is of wool, and the woof 2 is of cotton or silk or something else similar; or vice versa, that the woof is of wool and the warp is of another kind, a G-d-fearing (man) should not bless over such a tallis. Some (authorities) hold that also tzitzis of wool do not release (from the obligation to bless) one, only a tallis which is of this (mixture) type. Similarly, if the tallis is of silk and the fringes of wool, one does not bless over it, but first blesses over a woolen tallis and puts this on, then removes it and puts on this (silk) one. However, if also the tzitzis are of silk, one may bless over it (but it is not customary in our countries to have silk tzitzis, that is tzitzis made for the commandment). If some of the tzitzis are of silk and some of wool, it is still worse; this should never be done.

  1. The lengthwise threads in a woven cloth.
  2. Also weft - the breadthwise threads in a woven cloth.


A tzitz (single fringe) where there is torn from it one thread of the four threads (which are folded to form eight), and there is enough left of it to make a loop, that is, (the length of) four thumb-breadths, or even if parts of two threads have been torn off and four thumb-breadths are left of each, but the other two threads are the full size, is still valid. But if three threads have been damaged, even though there is left of each four thumb-breadths and the fourth thread is perfect; or if only one thread has been damaged so that less than four thumb-breadths are left of it, even though the (remaining) three threads are perfect, in any event, (the tzitzis) are unfit, (except in an emergency). It follows that if one thread is torn out of the eight fringes that hang down even if it is completely missing, the tzitzis are valid beyond any doubt, since (actually), this is only one-half of the thread, and of the other half there is still enough to make a loop with it, and more. If two of the fringes have been torn off and there does not remain from them four thumb-breadths of each, if it is probable that these two (torn) fringes belong to one thread, the tzitzis are rendered unfit. However, if one is certai that they belong to two (different) threads, as for instance at the time one tied them, one had always been careful to tie four ends of one side and four ends of the other side, 1 and now the two fringes that have been torn off are both on one side of the knot, if so then these surely are from (just) two threads; and since there is still left of each thread no less than the length of four thumb-breadths on the other side of the knot, and the (remaining) two threads are perfect, the tzitzis are considered valid. If one of the threads is torn where it is inserted in the hole, the (tzitzis) are rendered unfit. The law that stated that if one thread is torn off and there is enough left of it with which to make a loop, they (the tzitzis) are still valid, is true only if, when originally put in, all the threads were of the prescribed length and afterwards became torn, but if at the time of making them, there was even one short thread, no matter to what extent from the prescribed length, they (the tzitzis) are unfit.

  1. In other words one is sure one never mixed them up.


The threads of the tzitzis must be twisted, and if any thread has become untwisted, the untwisted part is considered as entirely cut off and non-existent.


A tallis which has fringes and consists of two parts, as is the case with many of our fringed garments, which are made of two pieces joined together. Occasionally (such a tallis) is taken apart for washing or for mending it, and after that it is sewed back together. Because we rely that each part is large enough to wrap oneself with it, then it suffices to remove two tzitzis from either of the parts, and after joining (back) the tallis put them (the tzitzis) back in again and tie them. But if each part is not by itself large enough to wrap oneself with it, then all the tzitzis (from both parts) must be removed. (because the parts were separated, each part lost (the commandment) of fringes, and after they are joined together again, they require fringes, and if we left on the originals they are invalid because of "You shalt make," and not use what has already been made. (As explained above in Law 6.) If one part is large enough to wrap and the other part does not have (enough) to wrap in, then the tzitzis should be removed from this part which did not have enough to wrap in.


If a corner was severed or torn and completely separated from the tallis and the (severed) piece is not three thumb-breadths square, some (authorities) are of the opinion that this piece even after it is properly sewed on to the tallis, is unfit to put the tzitzis in it, because there is not (in the detached piece at least) three (square) thumb breadths, it is not termed a "garment," and even when attached to the tallis it is still considered (in the eyes of the law) as severed. And one should be strict about this. But if it (the piece) is not entirely severed from the tallis, because it is still a little connected then the sewing is effective to make it considered as part of the tallis itself, and the tzitzis put in after the sewing are valid. It is customary to sew on a piece of (extra) cloth at the corners of the tallis, because there are many garments, even new ones, that have pieces joined together, measuring less than three (thumb-breadths) square; therefore we put in the place where the tzitzis are put in a piece (of cloth measuring) three (thumb-breadths) square.


Some (authorities) are of the opinion that in the entire area of the corner where the tzitz may be inserted, that is, from the width of the first joint of the thumb, from the edge of the tallis up to three thumb-breadths, there should not be there any seam, even a thread, that should be suitable to make of thread which is for the tzitzis of this particular tallis. For instance, if the tallis is of flax, one does not sew there with flax threads, only with silk threads or similar, or if the tallis is of silk, one does not sew with silk threads; and if the tallis is of wool, one does not sew with woollen threads, only silk threads, or the like. It is proper to be strict about this also as regards (the seam) made round the hole to strengthen it. All these (laws) are only concerning (the use of) white thread, but (with regard to) colored thread, it does not matter.


If one wants to remove the tzitzis from the tallis in order to put there other tzitzis which are better, or if one of the threads has been torn off and one wants to put in perfect ones, although the first ones are still fit. In any event, this is permissible because one does not intend to free the tallis from (the requirement of) tzitzis; on the contrary, one intends to put in better tzitzis. But one must take care not to throw out the original (tzitzis) into an unseemly place.


Even tzitzis that fall off and are removed from the tallis should not be thrown into the garbage, because we slight thereby a commandment. Some people are strict and place them in a book to serve as a bookmark, because, since they have once been used for the performance of a commandment, let another commandment be performed with them. Similarly, a tallis which has become old, and is no longer put on for the commandment, one should not make of it any unworthy use.


If one came on Shabbat to the synagogue and found that one of the tzitzis in the tallis has become unfit, and he is unable to borrow another tallis, and he is embarrassed to (remain) sitting without a tallis, since it is impossible for him on this day to replace it by another tzitzis, and so, as a matter of decorum, one may put on the tallis as it is, and not bless over it. What cases are we talking about, when it was not known to him, before Shabbat, that it had become unfit, but if one has been aware before Shabbat that it had become unfit, one is not allowed (now) to put it on because he should have already repaired it yesterday.


One who puts on a garment that requires tzitzis, but has no tzitzis, then this is omission of a positive commandment. One needs to watch out for those garments which are made having four square corners; one of these corners must be cut off and made round; 1 but if one folded up one of the corners and sewed it up so that it looks round, this is of no avail, for as long as it has not been cut off, it is still considered a part of the garment. Severe is the punishment of the one who neglects the commandment of tzitzis. He who is scrupulous in the commandment of tzitzis, will be worthy of beholding the Divine Presence.

  1. In order not to require tzitzis.