In Numbers 15:38, God commands the Jewish people to “make themselves tzitziton the corners of their garments, throughout their generations.” Additionally, it is written in Deuteronomy 22:12, “make twisted cords on the four corners of your covering, with which you cover yourself.” These vague instructions leave us with a lot of questions:Where does one put the strings? The answer is: on four-cornered garments. Since these are not generally worn anymore, special garments with four corners are used to fulfill this mitzvah. The tallit is a large four-cornered garment draped over one’s shoulders during prayer. The tallit katan (little tallit which is often incorrectly referred to as tzitzit) is a smaller, four-cornered garment with a hole cut-out for the head so that one may wear it comfortably like a shirt.

What are the tzitzit? The word tzitzit specifically refers to the fringes, each of which is composed of four strands of string. These strands are inserted through a hole near the corners of the garment, folded over and then tied according to specific halachic regulations. Pre-tied tzitzit can be purchased at any Judaica store.

Who wears a tallit/tallit katan? According to the Torah (Numbers 15:39), the obligation to wear tzitzit is only during the day when they may be seen. Thus, it is a positive, time-bound mitzvah, which, according to the traditional understanding, exempts women from the obligation.

The purpose of the tzitzit is stated in Numbers 15:39: “That you may see it and remember all the commandments of God and perform them, and not wander after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray.”

Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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