Question: Do men have an halachic obligation to wear a tallis katan?
Discussion: According to the Midrash quoted by Rashi in Parashas Noach, the
Jewish People were rewarded with the mitzvah of tzitzis, which are attached
to a garment, because our forebear, Shem, took pains to preserve the modesty
of his drunken father Noach by covering him with a garment. The Talmud
states that one who is scrupulous in his observance of the mitzvah of
tzitzis will merit “to see the Shechinah.”
But is one halachically required to wear a garment with tzitzis fringes
attached to it, or is it merely optional?
Although Biblical law does not require one to put tzitzis on a garment
unless the garment that he is wearing has four square corners, which most
garments nowadays do not have, it is fitting and proper for every male to
wear a tallis katan (a small four-cornered garment) all day and thereby
incur the obligation to wear tzitzis. In so doing, he fulfills an important
mitzvah, one that serves as a constant reminder of all of the other mitzvos
of the Torah. Accordingly, it has become customary for all G-d-fearing
men to wear a tallis katan all day. Since this has become the prevalent
custom, one may not deviate from it, and nowadays, one is obligated to wear
a tallis katan all day long. Indeed, those who are meticulous in their
mitzvah observance do not walk four cubits (approximately eight feet)
Question: Which blessing, if any, does one recite over a tallis katan?
Discussion: Married men and those who wear a large tallis during davening
need not recite a separate blessing over their tallis katan. Rather, when
they recite the proper blessing over the tallis gadol, they should have the
tallis katan in mind. Unmarried men who do not wear a tallis gadol
recite the blessing of Al mitzvas tzitzis on a tallis katan. If the
tallis katan is of questionable size or material, a blessing should not be
Although all married men should wear a tallis gadol during Shacharis,
they should not forgo davening with a minyan if a tallis gadol is
unavailable. [In regard to tefillin, however, it is preferable to daven
without a minyan than to daven without tefillin. ]
Before the blessing on a tallis gadol or katan is recited, the tzitzis
fringes must be separated from one another so that they are not
entangled. While some poskim imply that fringes which are entangled
invalidate the tzitzis and the mitzvah cannot be fulfilled at all, most
poskim agree that b'diavad one could fulfill the mitzvah even with entangled
tzitzis strings. [All poskim agree that if the fringes are tied (or
glued) together, then the mitzvah has not been fulfilled and the blessing
said over them is in vain. ] Accordingly, while we are careful to
separate the tzitzis whenever possible, we forgo doing so when we cannot.
Thus, on Shabbos and Yom Tov one should not separate the tzitzis strings
before putting on his tallis, since some poskim maintain that separating
severely entangled tzitzis strings is a violation of makeh b’patish.
Similarly, if taking time to separate the tzitzis will cause one to miss
tefillah b'tzibbur, one should rely on the lenient view and wear the tallis
even though the tzitzis strings have not been separated.
Often, the chulyos (the top segment of the fringes which is wound and
knotted) become unraveled or loosened. If this happens, the fringes should
be rewound and knotted. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, however, this is strictly
forbidden. Tightening or knotting tzitzis fringes on Shabbos may even be
Question: May one wear a tallis katan made out of cotton?
Discussion: There is a dispute among the Rishonim as to whether it is a
Biblical requirement to attach tzitzis to a four-cornered garment made of
cotton, or only to a garment made out of wool or linen. While some Rishonim
hold that only woolen and linen garments are Biblically obligated in
tzitzis, others include cotton as well. Both views are quoted in the
Shulchan Aruch, and the Rama rules according to the view that maintains
that cotton garments do incur the Biblical obligation of tzitzis.
Nevertheless, many poskim advise a G-d-fearing person to wear only a tallis
katan made from wool and thereby fulfill the mitzvah according to all
views. Other poskim, however, do not insist on a wool garment, and
there were eminent Torah scholars who wore a tallis katan made out of
Question: May women “make tzitzis”—i.e., attach tzitzis strings to a garment
(tallis katan or tallis gadol)?
Discussion: The Talmud excludes women from the writing of tefillin
since they are not commanded to wear tefillin. Following this line of
reasoning, Rabbeinu Tam ruled that since women are not commanded to wear
tzitzis, they are also not permitted to attach the tzitzis to the
garment. Most Rishonim, however, do not agree with this ruling and
allow women to be involved in all phases of tzitzis production. The Shulchan
Aruch rules with the majority. Nevertheless, in deference to the
minority opinion (and for other reasons as well), the Rama advises that
l'chatchilah women should not be allowed to put tzitzis on a garment.
Although one should follow the Rama's directive, all poskim agree that
after the fact, if the tzitzis were attached by women, the tzitzis are
kosher and need not be restrung.
Question: May a minor attach tzitzis fringes to a garment?
Discussion: Based on the previously mentioned Rama, some poskim rule that a
minor below the age of bar mitzvah should not attach tzitzis to a garment.
Other poskim feel that minors are not excluded and may attach tzitzis to a
garment even l’chatchilah. Mishnah Berurah recommends that l’chatchilah it
is appropriate to be stringent.
A minor, however, may prepare tzitzis for himself or for another minor. Even
when he becomes bar mitzvah, he does not have to unknot the tzitzis and
There is, however, another issue concerning minors attaching tzitzis to a
garment. When tzitzis are placed on a garment, they must be attached with
the intention of “l'shem mitzvas tzitzis,” for the sake of the mitzvah of
tzitzis. Since a minor may not be mature enough to concentrate properly, he
may not attach tzitzis to a garment unless he is under the supervision of an
adult. If a minor was not properly supervised, then the tzitzis must be
removed and reattached properly.
Question: Is it permitted to attach tzitzis fringes to a garment at night?
Discussion: Some poskim recommend not doing so. Their reasoning is
based on the halachic principle of ta'aseh (you should make) v'lo min
ha-asui (it should not be automatically done): Since one is not obligated to
wear tzitzis at night, it follows that one cannot produce kosher
tzitzis at night, either. The vast majority of poskim, however, reject this
argument. The Mishnah Berurah does not discuss this issue, but the
Chafetz Chayim is quoted as permitting tzitzis to be attached at night.
The Chazon Ish is reported as having asked that tzitzis be prepared for
him at night.
1. Menachos 43b, quoted in O.C. 24:6.
2. Bamidbar 15:39 (quoted in O.C. 24:1): “That you may see it and remember
all the commandments of Hashem and perform them.” In addition, the Talmud
(Menachos 41a) says that wearing a tallis katan protects a person from
4. Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:4. See also Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:20-25.
5. Mishnah Berurah 8:1. See Halichos Shelomo 1:3-16, Devar Halachah 25,
and Tzitz Eliezer 14:49, who say that the tallis katan should be left on
even if one is suffering from the heat. See The Daily Halachah Discussion,
pgs. 58-60, for an elaboration.
6. Mishnah Berurah 8:24, 30; Aruch ha-Shulchan 8:16. Some poskim rule that
if there will be a “long break” until the tallis gadol is put on, a blessing
should be said on the tallis katan. See The Daily Halachah Discussion, pgs.
307-311, for the various views.
7. Rama, O.C. 8:6.
8. Mishnah Berurah 8:17. See The Daily Halachah Discussion, pgs. 306-307,
for the proper dimensions of a tallis katan.
9. The Sephardic and German custom is that unmarried men wear a tallis
10. Mor u’Ketziah 25; Imrei Yosher 2:201-2. See Halichos Shelomo 1:3-3 who
debates this issue.
11. Mishnah Berurah 66:40. See, however, Minchas Yitzchak 2:107.
12. O.C. 8:7. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, however, the tzitzis should not be
separated from one another; Halichos Shelomo 1:3-5.
13. See Artzos ha-Chayim and Beiur Halachah 8:7, s.v. tzarich.
20. Chayei Adam 11:5; Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 9:4; Mishnah Berurah 9:5;
Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:2; 2:1; 3:1; 3:52. In Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:20-25, Rav
Feinstein adds that one who suffers from the heat is not required to wear a
wool tallis katan, although he himself was particular to do so.
21. Chazon Ish (quoted in Shoneh Halachos 9:1) and Rav Y.Y. Kanievsky
(quoted in Orchos Rabbeinu 3:188) based on the ruling of the Gra (Ma'asei
Rav 17). There are several reasons given as to why the Gra ruled so; see
Tzitzis-Halachah Pesukah, pg. 77.
22. Gittin 45b.
23. Many poskim add that other mitzvos (i.e. placing sechach) are included
in this prohibition as well. See, however, Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:40-3.
24. O.C. 14:1.
25. The Rama's restriction, however, applies specifically to inserting the
strings through the hole and knotting the first set of chulyos and the
double knot immediately following; all the rest may be done by women
l’chatchilah; Mishnah Berurah 14:1.
26. Aruch ha-Shulchan 14:7 refers to this stringency as a chumra b'alma.
27. Mishnah Berurah 14:5.
28. In 14:4 he quotes both views without a decision. In Beiur Halachah,
s.v. l’hatzrich, he rules that it is appropriate to be stringent.
29. Beiur Halachah 14:1, s.v. l’hatzrich, since we view that situation as
a b'diavad, and b'diavad the tzitzis are valid according to all views. See
Even Yisrael 9:63 and Chanoch l’Na’ar 9, note 16, who question this leniency.
30. Mishnah Berurah 14:4.
31. Peri Megadim (Mishbetzos) 18:1; Tosefos Chayim on Chayei Adam 11:1;
Halichos Yisrael 1:7, quoting Rav Y.Z. Gustman.
32. The Talmud (Menachos 43a) derives from the verse “and you should see
them” that there is no mitzvah of tzitzis at night.