Tallit - Jewish Prayer Shawl

All Jews wear a Tallit (Talit, Tallis, Talis), the Jewish prayer shawl by the morning prayers. Also the Chazan, or Cantor will wear the Tallit by most prayers. There are various customs how to wear the Tallit, and many styles of Tallit designs.

The Tallit

The Tallit is a wool cloth that has four corners. By each of the corners there are eight fringes hanging down. This custom is based on a commandment of Hashem, written in the Bible (Numbers 15:38).

First Tallit

There are two customs on when to start wearing a Tallit. While many will celebrate their Bar Mitzvah with their new Jewish prayer shawl, others have their custom to start wearing the Jewish prayer shawl at their wedding.

Purchase Tallit

Before you purchase a Tallit, make sure you know what to buy. There are many different Tallit designs, Tallit sizes and styles. You might want to wear it as prayer shawl and end up with a Tallit like the Hasidim that covers most of your body... So watch!

Before you buy a tallit make sure you see a sample of it, and you like it. The Tallit prayer shawl is mostly worn by the modern orthodox and by some leading Cantors, while the Ultra orthodox will just call it a Tallit. The ultra orthodox do not wear it as a shawl, rather like a cover that surrounds their body and covers their head while praying.

Tallit designs

One of the famous Tallit designs is its black or blue stripes. Many people ask "Why does the Tallit have black stripes?" Firstly, it should be clear that the black stripes on the tallit and/or tzitzit are not mandatory. Many have other colors on their tallits, and many have completely white ones. Nevertheless, it is traditional in many communities to wear a tallit and tzitzit which sport black stripes. There are two main reasons to this custom.

  • 1) To remind us of the "techielat" the blue dye that was required to be put on the fringes of the Jewish prayer shawl. In nowadays this dye isn't available, so we resemble it with the stripes on the Tallit.
  • 2) According to Kabbalah, the color white represents Hashems kindness, while the color black represents his strictness. Therefore we wear a white cloth with a small amount of black to show that we pray to Hashem that his kindness should lead over his strictness.
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