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What is a Tallit?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Daily Life » Clothing » Tallit and Tzitzit | Subscribe | What is RSS?


A Tallit (Hebrew word for "garment") is commonly a reference to the prayer shawl with Tzitzit attached to its four corners.

During the morning prayers, it is customary to don the tallit gadol (“big tallit”)—a prayer shawl.1 Wearing a tallit is the ideal way to observe the Biblical Mitzvah of attaching fringes to the corners of one's garments, for only in a tallit gadol is the individual enwrapped in the garment.

Even one who does not wear tzitzit throughout the entire day should wear a tallit during prayers
Even one who does not wear tzitzit throughout the entire day should wear a tallit during prayers. The mitzvah of tzitzit is discussed in the third section of the Shema, and it is slightly hypocritical to recite the verses which discuss the importance of tzitzit whilst choosing to refrain from fulfilling this mitzvah.

In most Ashkenazi communities, men begin to wear the tallit only after marriage. Once one begins to wear a tallit during prayer, one doesn’t stop doing so even if the person becomes (G-d forbid) widowed or divorced. According to Sephardic tradition, boys begin wearing a tallit at the age of Bar Mitzvah or even earlier.

[Ed. note: Also read about "Who wears a tallit during prayers?"]


  • 1. As opposed to a tallit kattan -- a "small tallit" -- (also known simply as "tzitzit") a much smaller four-cornered garment which is customarily worn all day beneath the shirt.


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Mitzvot » Tallit and Tzitzit

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(pl. Ashkenazim). A Jew of Northern or Eastern European ancestry.
(adj.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Bar Mitzvah
The thirteenth birthday of a Jewish male. On this day -- customarily celebrated with a modest party -- the adolescent reaches adulthood and is responsible to observe all the commandments of the Torah.
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.
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.
The most fundamental Jewish prayer, recited twice daily. This prayer, of Biblical origin, professes the belief in G-d's absolute unity.
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.