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What’s the reason for the black stripes on the tallit and tzitzit?

by Rabbi Moshe Miller

  

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Some suggest that the stripes are to remind us of the techailet.1 Indeed, some communities have the custom of using (dark) blue stripes, not black. For those whose custom it is to use black stripes, perhaps this is so that one should not erroneously believe that real techailet was used. (Because if we would have techailet we would use it to dye the Tzitzit strings with it, not the Tallit garment).

White represents Divine Benevolence and the dark stripe represents G-d’s severity
Also, the Zohar2 explains that white represents chesed (Divine Benevolence) and the blue (black, dark) stripe represents gevurah (G-d’s severity).

Furthermore, the Mitzvah of reciting the morning Shema begins when it is light enough for one to distinguish between white and techailet.3 Since we no longer have the techailet, the black stripe in the cloth of the tallit can be used to ascertain whether the time for reading the Shema has yet arrived.

Footnotes

  • 1. Pri Megadim, Orach Chaim siman 9, s.k. 6.
  • 2. Vol. 3 p. 227a.
  • 3. Mishnah, Berachot 9b.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Tallit and Tzitzit

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Tallit
A prayer shawl. A large four-cornered woolen garment with fringes attached to its corners in a specific manner. This garment is worn by males during the morning prayers, fulfilling the Biblical obligation of attaching fringes to four-cornered garments.
Tzitzit
Literally: the fringes which are attached to four cornered garments, as Biblically mandated. Normally this word refers to a t-shirt sized four cornered garment which contains such fringes, and is usually worn beneath the shirt.
Shema
The most fundamental Jewish prayer, recited twice daily. This prayer, of Biblical origin, professes the belief in G-d's absolute unity.
techailet
A blue dye which is produced from the "chilazon" fish. We are Biblically commanded to dye a thread of the tzitzit with this dye.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.