May one use a Tallis for a mundane purpose [i.e. scratch my head; Dry my hands; Clean my glasses]?

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Respecting the Tallis-Restriction of usages:

A. Introduction:

The laws relating to the respect that must be shown to a Tallis/Tzitzis differentiates between a Kosher Tallis that can still be used for the Mitzvah, and a Tallis or Tzitzis that is invalid for the Mitzvah, such as a Pasul Tallis, or a Tallis without Tzitzis, or a torn string, or strings that have not yet been tied to a Tallis. By a Kosher Tallis the laws of respect are more severe, and one is not even allowed to use it for a non-belittling mundane purpose, as explained in A. However, by a Pasul Tallis, such as a Tallis without Kosher Tzitzis, or by Tzitzis strings that are not attached to a Tallis, the laws are less severe, with some opinions even allowing it to be used for a belittling purpose and for it to be discarded in the garbage, as will be explained in B. The law here is based on the general law regarding Tashmishei Mitzvah, or items used for a Mitzvah, as explained in Megillah 26b and Admur 42/6. There it is explained that although Tashmishei Mitzvah does not always need to be treated with respect, nevertheless at the time of the Mitzvah respect is required.

B. Making use of a Kosher Tallis Gadol/Katan for mundane purposes, and discarding a Kosher Tallis:[1]

Making use of the Tzitzis strings: Throughout the time that the Tzitzis strings are tied to the Tallis it is forbidden to use the strings for any mundane purpose, such as to tie something using/onto[2] the strings of the garment, and any action of the like.[3] [Thus one may not tie a Tzitzis string to his clothing, or tie an item to them as a reminder. This applies even when one is not wearing the Tallis.[4] This applies to the Tzitzis of both a Tallis Gadol and Tallis Katan, and applies even to the Tzitzis of a child.[5] This applies even if one made a stipulation on the Tallis/Tzitzis at the time of its first use.[6]]

Making use of the Tallis:[7] One may not use a [Kosher] Tallis that is worn for the Mitzvah for a belittling purpose. [Regarding whether the cloth of the Tallis [excluding the Tzitzis] may be used for a non-belittling mundane act, some Poskim[8] rule it is permitted, while other Poskim[9] rule it is forbidden.[10] Practically, one is to be stringent in this matter, even regarding a Tallis Katan.[11] However some Poskim[12] are lenient by a Tallis Katan, to allow the garment area to be used for non-belittling mundane purposes.]

 

Summary:

A Kosher Tallis [i.e. a Tallis with Kosher Tzitzis] may not be used for a mundane purpose even if the action is not belittling. This applies for both the cloth of the Tallis and its Tzitzis, and both to a Tallis Gadol and Katan. [However, some Poskim are lenient to allow using the cloth part of a Tallis Katan for a mundane purpose that is not belittling.]

Examples of belittling matters that may not be done with the Tallis or Tzitzis:[13]

·         Wipe sweat from one’s body[14]

·         Scratch one’s hair with it[15]

·         Tickle someone’s ear with the string.

·         Clean dirt with it[16]

·         Clean dirty hands on it[17]

·         Cleaning wet hands on it.

·         Clean utensils or fruit and vegetables on it

 

Examples of non-belittling mundane matters that may not be done with the Tallis[18] or Tzitzis:[19]

·         Tie items to the Tallis/Tzitzis.

·         Wrap items in the Tallis/Tzitzis.

·         Use the Tallis as a cushion to sit on

·         Use the Tallis as a tablecloth.

·         Use the Tallis as a curtain.

·         Using it to help open a bottle.

·         Using it instead of a mitten to grab hold a hot pot of food.

·         Sleeping with the Tallis Gadol: See Halacha 17E!

 

Q&A

May one use his Tallis to clean the lenses of his glasses?[20]

No.[21] This applies for both a Tallis Gadol and Tallis Katan.[22]

 

May one place his Tallis Gadol/Katan on the floor?

No, as explained in Halacha 17C!

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[1] 21:1; 42:6; Michaber 21:1

[2] See the difference in wording between 21:1 and 42:6

[3] The reason: This is forbidden due to it being a belittlement of the Mitzvah. [21:1] Meaning, although Tashmishei Mitzvah, such as Tzitzis, are permitted to be used for mundane activity [Megillah 26b], nevertheless one may not do so while the Tzitzis is still being used for its Mitzvah. [Admur 42:6]

[4] Implication of Admur ibid; Olas Tamid 21:2; P”M 21 M”Z 1; Kaf Hachaim 21:3

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that one may make use of a Tallis for mundane purposes during times that one is not using it for the Mitzvah, [and certainly when he is not wearing the Tallis]. [Taz 21:1]

[5] Piskeiy Teshuvos 21:1; See Az Nidbaru 8:50

[6] P”M 21 A”A 1; M”B 21:5; Kaf Hachaim 21:4; See Admur 638 regarding making a stipulation by the Kedusha of a Sukkah. The novelty here is that this stipulation is not valid by a Tallis.

[7] Admur 21:2; Michaber 21:2; This refers to making use of the actual Tallis garment without using the Tzitzis strings [as it was already explained above that the actual Tzitzis strings of the Tallis may not be used for any mundane purpose]. The question thus is whether using the Tallis has the same laws as using the Tzitzis.

[8] Olas Tamid 21:4; P”M 21 A”A 1 regarding a Tallis Katan; To note that so is implied also from the Michaber ibid and Admur ibid which specifically write “belittling activity”, however perhaps they refer to a Tallis without Tzitzis, Vetzaruch Iyun.

[9] Elya Raba 21:1; Taz 21; P”M 21 A”A 1, brought in M”B 21:12; Teshuvah Meahava 1:49; Toras Chaim Sofer 21:2; Piskeiy Teshuvos 21:1

[10] Thus, it is disputed as to whether the garment area of the Tallis has the same laws as its Tzitzis and is forbidden for even non-belittling mundane usage, or is more lenient than its Tzitzis and may be used for non-belittling mundane activity even though its Tzitzis may not.

[11] Kaf Hachaim 21:10 being that today we wear the Tallis Katan for the sake of the Mitzvah

[12] P”M 21 A”A 1; M”B 21:12; Piskeiy Teshuvos 21:1

[13] Piskeiy Teshuvos 21:1

[14] Makor Chaim 21:2

[15] Chaye Levi 3:2

[16] M”B 21:11

[17] Ben Ish Chaiy Lech Lecha 20

[18] As stated above, this matter is disputed, with some Poskim ruling non-belittling mundane matters may be done with the Tallis [excluding the Tzitzis], and others ruling it may only be done with the Tallis Katan, and others ruling it may not be done even with the Tallis Katan. 

[19] Piskeiy Teshuvos 21:1

[20] Halichos Shlomo 3:19; Piskeiy Teshuvos 21:1

Other Poskim: Some Poskim rule it is permitted to use a Tallis to clean the glasses, as this is not considered a belittling purpose. [See Koveitz Teshuvos of Rav Elyashiv 1; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid in footnote]

[21] The reason: As one may not use the Tallis for even a non-belittling purpose.

[22] See Kaf Hachaim 21:10; however see Poskim ibid

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