How Long Must the Tzitzis Strings Be?
Question: How long should the tzitzis strings (on a tallis gadol or katan)
be? Is a tallis kosher if one or more strings tears either partially or
Discussion: Once the tzitzis strings are looped through the hole on the
corner of the garment and knotted, the length of the strings — from the top
of the first knot to the end of the string — should be no less than 11.4
inches. The first third, approximately, is the gedil, the top segment
which is composed of wound and knotted strings, and the lower two thirds,
where the strings hang loose, is the anaf.
But the strings need to be no less than 11.4 inches in length only when they
are attached initially to the garment. Attaching strings that are shorter
than the prescribed length onto the garment renders the tallis pasul. If,
however, the strings were the proper length when attached to the garment but
only later were cut or shrunk, the tallis is still kosher as long as the
anaf is at least 1.9 inches long. See tomorrow’s Discussion for the details.
The following rules apply to tzitzis strings that fall short of the original
- If one — but not more — of the eight strings snaps off completely and
loses its anaf entirely, the tallis remains kosher l’chatchilah and the
proper berachah is recited when it is donned.
- If more than one of the eight strings snaps off completely, or even if
more than one string is less than 1.9 inches long, the tallis should no
longer be worn.
- If one or two of the eight strings shrank but is still at least 1.9
inches long, the tallis remains kosher l’chatchilah and the proper berachah
is recited over it.
- If three or more (or even all eight) strings shrank but are still at
least 1.9 inches long, the tallis remains kosher, but it should be replaced
or repaired. If, however, this is the only tallis available, it may be worn
and a berachah may be recited over it.
Note: Our discussion pertains to strings that were cut, got torn or shrank
in the anaf portion of the string. However, if even one string was severed
at the point where the tzitzis are attached to the garment (until after the
first knot), the tallis is pasul.
Question: What are the correct dimensions for a tallis katan?
Discussion: There is a wide range of views among the poskim regarding the
proper length and width of a tallis katan: Some hold that there is no
minimum at all and a tallis katan of any length or width is acceptable,
while others require an extremely long tallis katan that will reach below
The view of most poskim, however, falls somewhere in between these two
extremes. The general consensus is that it is appropriate for a
God-fearing individual to wear a tallis katan which is two amos long and one
amah wide. Using the middle-of-the-road view as to the exact length of an
amah, it follows that the preferred tallis katan is at least 42.5 inches
long [front edge to back edge, ] and 21.3 inches wide.
While this is the preferred size, Mishnah Berurah rules that one may
wear a tallis katan which is only one and half amos long by three-quarters
of an amah wide — 32 inches long by 16 inches wide.
Note: Chazon Ish rules that each side (shoulder) of the tallis katan by
itself must be wider than the opening for the neck. If, for instance, the
opening is 15 inches wide, then each side of the tallis must be at least 15
inches wide, for a total of 30 inches. Most other poskim do not mention this
1. The section of string between the hole and the first knot does not
count towards the minimum length of the tzitzis strings.
2. O.C. 11:4, based on the measurements of the Chazon Ish. According to the
calculations of Harav A.C. Naeh, the length may be no less than 9.5 inches.
3. O.C. 11:14. See Shiurin shel Torah 6, who writes that the third-to-two-
thirds ratio need not be exact.
4. According to the measurements of the Chazon Ish. According to Harav A.C.
Naeh, it is about 1.6 inches.
5. O.C. 12:1. It is commendable, however, to repair such strings
immediately; Eishel Avraham, O.C. 12 and Kaf ha-Chayim 12:12. See also
Mishnah Berurah 15:3.
6. Depending on the exact method used for attaching the tzitzis to the
garment, it is possible that a tallis will remain kosher even if more than
one (or even four) strings snapped off completely. We refer here to the case
where the method is unknown, e.g., a tallis that was bought with the tzitzis
already attached to the garment.
7. Mishnah Berurah 12:11 and Beiur Halachah, s.v. v’halachah.
8. Mishnah Berurah 12:13; Chazon Ish, O.C. 3:6, 13.
9. Aruch ha-Shulchan 16:5; Hisorerus Teshuvah 3:38. See Igros Moshe, Y.D.
3:52-2 for an elaboration.
10. The view of the Gaon of Vilna, as quoted by his disciples; see Keser
Rosh 4, and Da’as Torah 16:1. See also Kaf ha-Chayim 16:2, quoting the Arizal.
11. See Mishnah Berurah 16:3; Chazon Ish, O.C. 2:9; 3:31.
12. Whether or not the neck opening is included in the minimum size is
disputed by the poskim. Mishnah Berurah (8:17, 16:4) holds that it does not
count, while Chazon Ish (O.C. 3:30) rules that it does, and that there is no
need for stringency on this issue.
13. We have calculated the amah according to the measurements in Igros
Moshe, O.C. 1:136. According to Chazon Ish, the preferred size is 48 by 24
inches, while according to Harav A.C. Naeh, 38 by 19 inches will suffice.
14. 8:17, 16:4.
15. According to Harav A.C. Naeh, the minimum size would be 30 by 15 inches.
16. O.C. 2:9, 3:31. See also Igros Chazon Ish 1:10.
Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Torah.org.
Rabbi Neustadt is the Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit and the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek of Detroit. He could be reached at email@example.com