Tzitzis Checklist

This Halacha is an excerpt from our Sefer

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Introduction:

The laws of Tzitzis contain a wealth of information relating to the details of the Mitzvah; the differences of opinions, the reasons behind the laws; and an abundance of scenarios. Not all of this information is necessary for the simple learner who requests to know the practical laws that apply daily. A long digest on the topic is hence disadvantageous, as it obscures within a sea of knowledge the main and practical laws most necessary for the law abiding Jew,. For this reason, we have compiled a short checklist and summary of the most vital laws needed for the learner.

 

Checklist

The Mitzvah:

  • One is to wear a four cornered garment with Tzitzis at all times in order to remember the Mitzvos constantly.
  • When placing on the Tallis one is to have in mind that G-d commanded us to wear the Tallis in order to remember all of His commands and consequently fulfill them.
  • When one puts on his Tzitzis it is an auspicious time to Daven to Hashem to be saved from bad emotions and character traits such as anger, jealousy and hatred.
  • One is to look at the Tzitzis at every opportunity in order to remember Hashem’s Mitzvos. If one is sitting idle, he is to touch the Tzitzis and look at them. Whenever one looks at his Tzitzis he should have in mind to fulfill the positive Mitzvah of “Ureisem Oso”.
  • The scrupulous are particular to sleep with a Tallis Katan.
  • The custom of Chassidim is to sleep with a wool Tallis Katan.
  • It is proper to have two pairs of Tallis Katan in order to be able to switch the Tzitzis daily, and hence recite a new blessing each day [if one is a Bochur].
  • It is best for the pairs of Tzitzis to be worn from one morning to the next morning, being changed every morning as opposed to at night.

 

Checking and untangling the Tzitzis prior to wearing:

  • Every day upon wearing a pair of Tzitzis, one must examine the Tzitzis prior to the blessing, to verify its validity.
  • Prior to wearing the Tzitzis one is required to separate the strings of the Tzitzis from each other.
  • In a time of need it is permitted to skip the examination and separation process, such as if one is pressed for time to say Shema with Tzitzis or pray with a Minyan.
  • Even in a case that for whatever reason one is not saying a blessing over the Tallis, he must examine the strings prior to wearing it.
  • One is search for torn strings that invalidate the Tzitzis. One is to check if even one string has torn in the area of the Tzitzis that lies on the corner of the Tallis, as well as in the braided area of the Tzitzis.
  • One is to also verify that the Tzitzis are lying on the side of the corner, and have not fallen below the corner.
  • In a time of need, it is permitted to skip the examination process.
  • One is only required to examine the strings once a day. This applies even if one removed the Tallis and is now placing it back on.

 

Wearing the Tallis Katan:

  • The Tallis Katan is worn in a way that it covers at least 49 cm by 49 cm of one’s front and 49 cm by 49 cm of one’s back. The folded areas of the Tallis are not included in the above size.
  • The Tallis Katan is to cover the entire chest area [up until the neck].
  • Some Chassidim wear a bindle over their Tallis Katan.
  • The Tzitzis of a Tallis Gadol/Katan is to be tied to the corner in a way that a) the first knot rests 4 cm above the corner, and b) the Tzitzis hits the corner when it is worn, and does not hover over the ground.
  • The Chabad custom is to wear the Tallis Katan under the shirt, but over the undershirt, and to have the Tzitzis stick out.
  • A Tallis Katan [that has two holes in the corner] is not to be worn inside out.
  • Upon wearing a Tallis Katan between Mi Sheyakir and sunset, one recites the blessing of “Al Mitzvas Tzitzis”.
  • The widespread custom is that those that wear a Tallis Gadol for Davening never recite a blessing over a Tallis Katan that is worn prior to Shacharis, and they rather include it within the blessing said over the Tallis Gadol.
  • It is proper to look at the Tzitzis upon one wrapping it over him, while saying the blessing.
  • The blessing of Lehisatef Betzitzis is to [Lechatchila] be recited in a standing position.
  • The donning of the Tallis must be done in a standing position even if a blessing is not being said.

 

Wearing the Tallis Gadol:

  • The Tallis Gadol must be worn in a way that the width of at least one Ama [49 cm] of material, and the total length of at least two Amos [98 cm] is spread open and covers the person’s body.
  • The Tzitzis of a Tallis Gadol/Katan is to be tied to the corner in a way that a) the first knot rests 4 cm above the corner, and b) the Tzitzis hits the corner when it is worn, and does not hover over the ground.
  • One is not to wear the Tallis upside down, and hence is to be careful to always wear the top part of the Tallis [Gadol] on one’s head.
  • The blessing of “Lehisatef Betzitzis” is recited over the wearing of the Tallis Gadol, upon wrapping it in a Yishmaeli wrap.
  • A blessing may be recited over the Tallis starting from Mi-Sheyakir.
  • It is proper to look at the Tzitzis upon one wrapping it over him, while saying the blessing.
  • The blessing of Lehisatef Betzitzis is to [Lechatchila] be recited in a standing position.
  • The donning of the Tallis must be done in a standing position even if a blessing is not being said.

How to perform the Yishmaeli wrap of the Tallis Gadol during the blessing:

  1. The folded Tallis Gadol is placed on the right shoulder, and one checks and separates its Tzitzis while reciting the two verses beginning, Barchi Nafshi.
  2. The Tallis is then unfolded and opened wide; one kisses its upper edge, and it is swung around from the position in which it is held in front of the person until it is hanging behind him.
  3. The upper edge of the Tallis is placed on one’s head and is stretched forward over one’s face until it loosely covers the eyes.
  4. At this point, the blessing is slowly begun and is only completed at the end of the wrapping when one is about to bring the two right hand corners of the Tallis in front of the neck and over the left shoulder, as explained in the next steps.
  5. Many Chabad Chassidim are accustomed to even out both sides of the Tallis prior to swinging the right Tzitzis over the neck.
  6. One lifts the top and bottom corner of the right side of the Tallis in one’s right hand and wraps it around one’s neck towards his left. The fringes of the right side are to rest behind ones neck/shoulder of the left hand side. [The widespread Chabad custom today is to grab the actual corners with the right hand, and swing the Tzitzis over the shoulder. However in the tradition of Reb Shilem and the Rebbe Rashab one evens out the sides of the Tallis prior to swinging it over the neck, and then swings the entire right side over the shoulder, and not just the Tzitzis.] It is inappropriate however to throw the Tallis over one’s entire head in a way that it prevents one from seeing.
  7. The Tzitzis of the left side are to remain positioned on the left side thus having in total all four corners of Tzitzis on the left side; the two of his left side by his front left, and the two of his right side by his back left. [The widespread Chabad custom today is to lift the two corners of the left hand side with the left hand and then proximate the Tzitzis near the chest. However according to the tradition of Reb Shilem, as well as according to most sources, one is to leave the left Tzitzis hanging on the front left side, pointing slightly to the right, without lifting it.]
  8. The material of the Tallis must cover one’s front and back until below his chest for a total of one Ama on each side. There however is no need to draw its upper edge so far forward over one’s head that it will cover the face down to the mouth; rather, only far enough to cover the eyes.
  9. One is to stand in this position of wrapping for the period of time it takes to walk four Amos, which is approximately three seconds.
  10. One is then to undo the wrap and roll the right side of the Tallis over his right shoulder and the left side over the left shoulder
  • It is forbidden to speak, or even answer for Kaddish or Kedusha, until the blessing and the wrapping is complete. Once the wrapping is complete [step 7 above] one may talk.

 

Holding the Tzitzis during Davening:

  • While saying Baruch Sheamar one holds the two front Tzitzis with the left hand.
  • At the conclusion of the blessing one passes the Tzitzis over his eyes and kisses them.
  • At the phrase beginning “Vehavienu Leshalom” one brings the two front Tzitzis together; one then adds the Tzitzis at the back left side, to the left of the two front Tzitzis; and one then adds the remaining back-right Tzitzis, to the right of the two front Tzitzis.
  • All four Tzitzis, following the above order, are then held together between the pinky and the ring finger [fingers 5-4].
  • One then crosses the strings over the ring and middle finger [fingers 4 and 3] and passes the strings between the middle finger and the index finger [fingers 3-2].
  • The Tzitzis are to be held near the heart.
  • When one reaches the Parsha of Tzitzis [Vayomer] one takes hold of the loose strings of the Tzitzis with his right hand, having the Gedil of the Tzitzis remain in the left hand [and looks at them]. [One holds it in this manner until the words “Nemanim Venechmadim Laad”.]
  • One passes the Tzitzis over his eyes and kisses the Tzitzis at the following places: 1) Tzitzis, 2) Tzitzis 3) Tzitzis; 4) Emes; 5) Kayemes; 6) La’ad. After the final kissing by the word La’ad one is to let the Tzitzis go from his hand. One does not place the Tzitzis over the eyes or kiss them upon saying the word Ureisem Oso [although when he reaches those words he is to take hold of the two middle Tzitzis with his right hand].
  • After kissing the Tzitzis by the word La’ad, one lets the Tzitzis go from his hands.
  • It is brought in the name of the early Sages that whoever passes the Tzitzis over his eyes during the Parsha of Vayomer is guaranteed not to become blind.

Folding the Tallis Gadol after Davening:

  • The Tallis is to be removed using the left hand.
  • One is to fold the Tallis immediately after Davening.
  • It is proper to personally fold one’s Tallis rather than give it to someone else to fold.
  • The Tallis is to be folded while one is standing.

 

Making a Kosher Tallis:

  • The garment is to be white.
  • The custom in Lubavitch was for the Tallis Katan to contain a width of 54 cm. The minimum length of the Tallis is 49 cm on each side, for a total of 98 cm excluding the neck hole.
  • The Chabad custom is not to use a V-neck Tallis.
  • The Chabad custom is to make two holes by the Tallis Katan and a single hole by the Tallis Gadol.
  • The holes must be made within 4-6 cm [exact measurement is within 5.875 cm] from both the width and length of the edge of the corner. If it is made outside of these dimensions, it is invalid. Practically, the custom is to make the hole on the 4.5-5 cm mark.
  • The custom is to sew a rim around the holes to which the Tzitzis are tied. One is not to use for this sewing a white thread which is of valid material for the Tzitzis of this garment.
  • One is to stitch the rim of the corners in order to prevent it from tearing.
  • One is not to have loops near the corners.
  • The Chabad custom is to sew a cloth on the inner side of the upper part of the Tallis, and not to sew anything on the outer side of the top part.
  • It is customary to sew a piece of cloth by [each of] the corners of the Tallis. This corner may be made of any material, even leather. The Chabad custom is for this piece of cloth to be made of silk.
  • The Ashkenazi custom is to have black stripes placed on the bottom of the Tallis in commemoration of the Techeiles.

  

Kosher Tzitzis:

  • The Tallis Gadol/Katan is to be made entirely from sheep wool.
  • The Tzitzis strings may only be made from materials that are used for making garments.
  • The Tzitzis strings may be made of any material of which a Tallis can be made [i.e. wool; silk; cotton; not leather; linen only in a time of need]. Nevertheless, it may only be tied to a four cornered garment of that same material, with exception to wool Tzitzis of which the custom is to use for any material garment.
  • Practically, the custom is to use white Tzitzis on all colored garments.
  • The raw material of wool or other fabric must be spun [[טוויה into a thread and then interwoven [[שזירה into a string for it to be a valid string for Tzitzis.
  • Both the spinning of the fiber into threads [[טוויה and the interweaving of the threads into a string [[שזירה, must be done “Leshma”, for the sake of the Mitzvah of Tzitzis.
  • One must own the Tzitzis strings used to tie to the corners of his garment.
  • After the four Tzitzis strings are folded to form 8 strings, each of the 8 strings must contain a [minimum] length of 12 Gudlin/Thumbs. Practically, this length is 24/24.5 cm.
  • One of the strings from amongst the 8 strings must be longer [than 24 cm] in order for it to be used to make the braid of the Tzitzis [and still retain its minimum 24 cm length after the braid is complete].

 

How to tie the Tzitzis:

  1. Purchase Tzitzis strings under a reliable Kashrus supervision.
  2. Separate three normal length strings and one long string.
  3. Some are accustomed to begin with the front corners of the Tzitzis.
  4. Say “Lesheim Mitzvas Tzitzis” prior to entering the strings into the hole. Some repeat this statement throughout the tying and between corners.
  5. Enter all four strings simultaneously into the hole.
  6. Even out the strings so they are of equal length on both sides, aside for the long string which remains longer on one side.
  7. Make a double knot.
  8. The Tzitzis is to be tied to the side of the corner which will not be facing the floor while worn, in order to ensure that the braid of the Tzitzis hits the corner.
  9. Some are particular not to tighten the knots onto the side of the corner in a way that it causes the corner to be pressed together and fold. [This is not relevant to the Chassidic Tallis Katan that has two holes.]
  10. Make a sign [loop] on the Tzitzis of one side in order to keep them on the same side throughout the tying.
  11. Begin to make the loops and knots. The loops may be made in any direction-right to left or left to right.
  12. Make the loops of the 1st set: 3, 3, 1
  13. Make a distance between each group of 3, 3, 1 in order so all the four sets are of equal space. Some are particular that each set is a space of exactly 2 cm.
  14. Tie a double knot
  15. Make the loops of the 2nd set: 2, 3, 3
  16. Make a smaller distance between each group of 2, 3, 3 in order so all the four sets are of equal space. Some are particular that each set is a space of exactly 2 cm.
  17. Tie a double knot
  18. Make the loops of the 3rd set: 3, 3, 3, 2
  19. Make a smaller distance between each group of 3,3,3,2 in order so all the four sets are of equal space. Some are particular that each set is a space of exactly 2 cm.
  20. Tie a double knot
  21. Make the loops of the 4th set: 1, 3, 3, 3, 3
  22. Make a smaller distance between each group of 1, 3, 3, 3, 3 in order so all the four sets are of equal space. Some are particular that each set is a space of exactly 2 cm.
  23. Tie a double knot

Bedieved or time of need: All of the above number of loops and knots is only initially required. However Bedieved, if one made at least one loop and a double knot on top of it, it is valid and may be worn with a blessing. In a time of need, such as on Erev Shabbos near sunset, one may even initially make the braid in this fashion.

 

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