Ben

Jul 292014
 

Most people are looking for either a traditional tallit with black striping (or white-on-white), or a colorful tallit, but there are also plenty of tallit buyers looking for a nice gray or gray-striped tallit, which I suppose in some ways is somewhere between the traditional black-striped look and vibrant striping.

The options available are factory-made wool tallits with gray striping, handmade wool tallits with gray striping or handwoven tallits in wool, cotton or silk, with gray striping, or even a gray base color.

In the realm of traditional-looking wool tallits with gray stripes, we have a Maalot tallit with gray and hints of burgundy and gold. Be aware that not all sizes are available, so you might want to check with us before placing an order. Another option is the Tashbetz with gray and silver, a very popular tallit featuring an anti-slip fabric.

Among modern designs, you will find two Yair Emanuel tallit sets, one gray-on-gray and one gray-on-cream. Both are made of raw silk and feature geometric striping patterns. Moving up in price, Galilee also makes an attractive handmade gray-striped tallit known as the Gray Classic.

And finally, Gabrieli Hand Weaving offers several designs on a gray base: the Gray & Black, the Joseph’s Coat Gray, which has vibrant rainbow striping on a gray base, Storm Clouds, which has more sheen with hints of green and gold, and the Gray & Silver.

 

Jul 202014
 

We often get tallit size inquiries. Obviously it’s a problem sizing someone for a tallit when he can’t try it on. But fortunately perfect tallit sizing is not critical. Since a tallit is worn loosely, you have some leeway. It’s not like buying a t-shirt where you have to get the fit just right.

This week we received an inquiry from someone debating whether to buy a tallit in a size 60 or a size 70.

I think I want to order the blue Prima A.A. Tallit for weekday,s and the Malchut Tallit for Shabbat. Both with thick Ashkenazi tzitzit. I am still worried over whether I should go with a size 60 or a size 70. If I get both tallits in a size 60, and I feel they are too small, can I swap for 70?  Thanks, Zach.

It’s a good thing Zach asked, because since we are located in Israel, returns and exchanges are problematic. You have to pay for shipping three time (to you, back
to Israel and again to you) and we do not refund the amount for the tzitzit we tie on.
I suggested to Zach that he try to do either of the following:

1) Find someone with a size 60 or 70 that you can try on. Remember, the difference between sizes is four inches.
2) Order the Prima A.A. Tallit in a size 60 and wait until it arrives. Then decide if you want to go with a size 70 for the Malchut Tallit. It’s actually fairly common to have a slightly bigger tallit for Shabbat. The smaller size is more practical, the larger size more elegant.

I told Zach that if he wanted to go with the second plan, we could send him a coupon for free shipping on the second tallit.

Jul 162014
 
One of our customers just expressed concern and asked whether we are managing to maintain operations, getting tallit and tzitzit orders out without delay.
Shalom Achi,
We are davening for you everyday! Just wondering if you are able to fulfill orders to America right now with all that is going on.
Kol tuv,  Akiva
All is well. Thank you Akiva, along with other customers who have expressed their concern. The truth is we haven’t experienced any problems or slowdowns. Our main tallit supplier is located in Beersheba, so they might have some production work slowdowns, but that won’t be felt for at least a few weeks.
We have only experienced one five-minute delay when a rocket got shot down out of the sky over Jerusalem. I was at one of my suppliers and when the siren sounded we all ran into a back room When we heard two booms, someone there said it didn’t sound like a rocket landing. He rushed outside on time to see the trailer smoke from the Iron Dome missile still hovering in the air, and everyone outside gazing up in wonder.
Praying for Israel

Outside the Gaza Strip

If all Am Yisrael keeps their eyes upward toward Avinu Sh’B'Shamayim (and not just Iron Dome), I’m sure all will be well and good. But it’s not an easy war to win. Hamas is trying all the tricks up their sleeve to lure the IDF into a ground confrontation inside Gaza, which would not be pretty.

And of course it’s very hard to win the war on the PR front. I think the IDF should cyberbomb the UN so that can’t hold meetings and put out their lovely briefs. I was a bit encouraged, however, by a Washington Post editorial that really hit the nail on the head with moral clarity. But that may be an exception. You don’t see a straightforward account of events in the New York Times, The Guardian, Haaretz and a whole lot of other leading publications.

This is a big test for all of humanity and sometimes I worry that the whole globe could be in for a disaster. We learn in Parshas Noach that humanity was warned time and again over the course of a century that they need to shape up. And if you take a look at the Israel-Palestinian conflict over the course of the past half-century, it’s seems as if public opinion keeps getting tested, and largely fails the test, and each time the situation gets clearer and clearer from a moral perspective. Like when you ask a kid a question and he doesn’t know the answer, so you keep rephrasing your question, easier and easier each time, until he spits out a correct answer.

Over time the Palestinians just keep get more and more evil and more overt about their intentions.

Jul 152014
 

The campaign to stop Gaza rockets has now resumed, and in the meantime Lt. Colonel (res.) Rabbi Yedidya Atlas of the IDF Central Command is continuing his campaign to supply IDF soldiers with army issue tzitzit and other religious articles needed by soldiers in the field.

Operation Protective Edge

IDF soldiers with two layers of protection

He told me that he has received repeated requests on the command level, both from units in the south around Gaza and in Judea and Samaria, for the IDF Rabbinate to meet the demand for olive green “dri-fit” tzitzit for all the combat soldiers who request them.

“I’ve been working hard to raise the necessary funding for the religious needs of the combat soldiers stationed on the various fronts for the past months, in particular since it was obvious that something was going to ultimately break and it has,” Rabbi Atlas told me. “I’m raising funds for three key items that I have received repeated requests for on the command level, both from units in the south around Gaza and in Judea and Samaria. The first key item is these special Tzitzit.”

Many combat soldiers refer to the olive green tzitzit as השכפ”ץ האמיתי (“the real bullet-proof vest”). The IDF Rabbinate is churning out supplies as fast as it can, but does not have the significant quantities it will need in the coming weeks as Operation Protective Edge expands. A major call-up of reserve combat troops is anticipated as well. Most combat reservists only have a white tallit katan to bring with them when they report for duty. The white not only compromises unit discipline, but can actually pose a danger since it can be too visible at night, with flashes of white peeking out from under army fatigues.

During operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF handed out over 8,000 tzitzit to soldiers. Normally the IDF distributes simple cotton tzitzit garments that  become saturated with sweat, making them uncomfortable during training and combat, and making soldiers more vulnerable to skin irritation. The “dri-fit” type features an inner layer designed to wick away moisture and odor.

Personally, I recall that while serving as a “Lone Soldier” in the IDF about 15 years ago, I needed a pair of tefillin, and the IDF Rabbinate came through for me.

Tzitzit for IDF soldiers

An IDF unit currently stationed outside the Gaza Strip

Rabbi Atlas is trying to arrange an additional 15,000 pairs of these special tzitzit for combat soldiers, in addition to the quantity already stockpiled for emergency use. The approximate cost per combat company is $1,800. A full battalion is $5,000.

Below are three ways to make a donation to this fund.

1) U.S. checks can be sent to the following address:

American Friends of the IDF Rabbinate
c/o David Schwartz
5 Sutton Road
Monsey, NY 10952

2) Credit card donations can be made via the American Friends of the IDF Rabbinate website.

3) If you make a purchase on our tallit and tzitzit webstore, you can donate by clicking here and adding any number of tzitzit to your shopping cart.

Jul 112014
 

UPDATE: All of these tefillin have now been returned to their owners. The story of how the tefillin owners were found is a good read in and of itself.

 

We are posting the following as a “public service message.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Subject: Lost tefillin in unclaimed baggage store in Alabama

HELP! HELP! HELP! Hashovas Aveida!

We went to a store today in Alabama that sells unclaimed baggage from all over the world.
We found Tefillin!!! People are missing their tefillin! Most were probably left on airplanes or at airports.

Please send on all around the world and if these lost tefillin are yours please email pillows123@gmail.com to claim them!

LostTefillin-1 LostTefillin-3 LostTefillin-4 LostTefillin-5 LostTefillin-2 Lost Tefillin

Jul 102014
 

We often get requests for a custom tallit. Often the customer just has various option requests and letter embroidery. Here’s a typical request of this sort.

Shalom! I am getting married soon. My kallah wants to buy me a new tallit. I was looking over your website and wondering if you could put it together. Here’s what I’m thinking:
1) the Chatanim White tallit, size 60
2) with Ptil Tchelet tzitzit (thin, tied according to nusach Ashkenaz)
3) an Atara embroidered with my Hebrew name
4) the Jerusalem in Color tallit bag also embroidered with my name. Is that possible? Thank you!

Except for the atara request, this is not really a custom tallit per se, because all of these options are readily available right on our webstore.

Typically a customer asks us to customize a tallit by creating the striping in colors that are next to impossible to find in a ready-made tallit. This is definitely doable, but can take six weeks to prepare.

Sometimes we get ideas for a custom tallit that sound a bit extreme to me:

  • I would like to have a tallit made for my son’s Bar Mitzvah using the State of Maryland flag
  • We are huge Gators fans. Could you put together a talit with the University of Florida colors, orange and blue?

For bar mitzvah boys, sometimes parents get very creative. We’ve actually received three requests from mothers who want a music theme incorporated into the tallit somehow.

  • He is very passionate about playing classical guitar and music. Is there something that can be done to put a bit of his personality in to the tallit? Also, would like stars with his name in Hebrew.
  • We went his Hebrew name, “Gidon,” as well as musical notes or notes on a staff with G cleff. Can this be done?
  • We’re looking for a tallis that would include some sort of music motif. Possibly some musical notes and a pasuk involving music.

One customer wanted to have some of his family heritage imbued in the tallit: “I would also like my family crest on the two front corners.”

One customer was looking for a tallit that featured an image of a man blowing a shofar. Another wanted to customize the tallit by embroidering letters on the neckband.

I would like on the atarah: ‘קודש לה

Four sons contacted me two months before their father’s 80th birthday, asking if we could create a tallit with their names embroidered on each corner. There is very limited space for name embroidery on the corners, but luckily all of the names were quite short in Hebrew, so we were able to make it happen.

This idea struck me as quite distinctive:

I’m interested in buying a special tallit for the shalosh regalim, whose traditional color (at least among German-Jewish communities) is green. I would like a tallit to be very traditional Ashkenazic, but instead of black stripes, it would have deep green stripes. Also, I would like it to have the following words (also in green), somewhere on the tallit, either on the atara or elsewhere: והשיאנו את ברכת מועדיך לשמחה ולששון

I am fairly familiar with German-Jewish customs, but this was new to me.

Sometimes we are contacted about a custom tallit that involves unusual striping colors. A few examples:

  • Light gray body, blue and gold stripes
  • I am thinking about doing a white Tallit, with black and orange stripes
  • Red, Gold, White, Purple
  • I’d like it to be sparkly
  • Black with bright stripes
  • Green and gold stripes
Kohen Tallit

A mock-up of an atara for a kohen

Sometimes we get a request from a kohen who wants a tallit that expresses kohen themes, such as an image of hands positioned for Birkas Kohanim.

And on several occasions we have received requests for a white-and-blue tallit that resembles the Israeli flag. In fact, we’re working on one this week.

 

Jul 102014
 

Not everyone buying a Chassidic tallit is Chassidic. Sometimes it’s someone who is connected with a Chassidic kehilah or someone who traces his family lineage to Chassidic roots and wants a tallis close to what his zeide or alter zeide must have worn.

The Echt Turkish tallit used to be quite common among many chassidim, but today it is becoming much more rare and the leading tallit manufacturers no longer produce it. However, a less heavy version is the Kmo Turkish, which does not have such a heavy fabric, but it’s definitely not a lightweight tallit and it has the same striping, lining and sidebands as the Echt Turkish.

Often tallit buyers will have a standard white atara on their weekday tallis and a decorative atara (e.g. gefluchtene) on their Shabbos tallis.

Until recently Talitnia was making a Vizhnitz tallit, which I personally liked a lot, but it is no longer in production, apparently because the market for it was so limited. Mishkan Hatchelet now makes a Belz tallit, which actually has very, very dark navy striping. The Belz tallit seems to have replaced the Echt Turkish among Belz chassidim.

Chabad tallit

The unique striping pattern on the Chabad tallit

And of course there is the inimical Chabad tallis, with extensive striping and a second tzitzit hole on each corner. Those who adhere closely to Chabad minhagim insist on silk corners, silk and no atara. The Chabad tallit now comes in a nonslip version, which is gaining popularity among younger Lubavitchers. But be aware that if you put a silk lining on a nonslip tallit, you essentially wind up with a slippery surface covering the part of the tallis that rests on your shoulders. The Chabad tallit is available with a cotton lining, upon request.

Tzitzit

The vast majority of chassidim will put thick, handspun tzitzit tied according to the regular Ashkenazi custom on their tallit. Among Radzyn and Breslov chassidim, techelet is quite common. Some choose Radzyn techelet, but many Breslovers seem to be switching to Ptil Tekhelet instead. Arizal tying is probably the most common for chassidim who use techelet, but Breslov also has a tying method that is sort of a hybrid of regular Ashkenazi and the Rambam.

Go to Chassidic Tallit page>>>

Jun 292014
 

This is way off topic for this blog, but I couldn’t help snapping a shot of this food stand I saw on the way to work.

Fast_and_Tastey-02Israel is not China: Most Israelis speak some English, many speak good English and some speak great English. But when making bilingual signs, it seems many sign makers figure perfect English is superfluous and underestimate how appalling a “little” mistake may appear to the native speaker who happens to read it.

Once, while strolling with my mother, who had come to visit the grandkids, she pointed at a sign in my quiet residential neighborhood, and said, “Hey, let’s take the kids to the amusement park.” Looking at the Hebrew, gan sha’ashu’im, I saw that she (and the kids) were in for a disappointment: Disney had not decided to open Disneyworld Israel. “It’s just a piddly playground, Mom.”

During the 10 years I spent working as a translator and editor I was hypersensitive to the more serious instances of abuse of my beloved native tongue, but over the years I became more forgiving. Then yesterday I saw a sign that left me speechless. The menu on this food stand contained such horrific spelling, grammar and usage errors that I couldn’t just walk by and go about my business.

I’m willing to drink “espreso,” but the further you go down the menu, the harder it becomes to decipher. Was this a scheme to get lazy Americans to read the Hebrew? Are we really expected to guess that “Salab” is sachlab? And who could possibly surmise that “Ace” is really ice coffee?

Life in JerusalemAfter reading through the entire sign, I thought my suffering was over, but then on the other side of the food stand was another menu. The English went from bad to worse.

Readers with a powerful imagination may be able to fathom that “Potyto” refers to an order of French fries and “Sabich” is close enough to sabiach for the tolerant English-speaking customer. But hard as I tried, not until I read the Hebrew side was I able to guess that somehow “In Bard” is a hot dog in a bun. Even the most haphazard Google Translate cut-and-paste user would have a hard time missing the mark so badly.

And then there’s the top item on the list, which may be the house specialty. The “French crepe” on the Hebrew side sounds quite enticing, but I couldn’t help changing my mind about it after reading the description on the English side.

May 202014
 

I know it’s not easy to buy a tallit. For of all, most people buy a tallit only a few times during their lifetime, so their tallit shopping experience is highly limited. And even if you do have a general idea of how to go about buying a tallit, there are so many options and subtleties involved, and you want to get everything just right.

Believe it or not, even though I spend all day long dealing with tallits and tzitzit, when the time comes for me to buy a tallit for myself, either for weekday or Shabbos use, I suffer from indecision, too.

Tallit buying choices: Fabric, striping, atara and tzitzit

The first step when you buy a tallit is choosing which fabric you want to go with. That’s easy enough. In 90% of cases I definitely recommend you stick with wool. If you are thinking of buying a handwoven tallit, you might consider cotton.

Buy Tallit

Wool tallit with traditional black striping

Next is striping color. The traditional tallit striping color is black. Some Sephardic Jews have a custom of buying a tallit with white striping. And of course some people want a bit of color on their shoulders, so they look for black and silver striping or blue-silver, blue-gold, blue stripes, etc. If you plan to buy a traditional black striped tallit, the striping is quite similar among most basic designs. Some exceptions are the Echt Turkish and Kmo Turkish, which have more solid bands, and the Chabad tallis and Yemenite Tallit, which have more elaborate striping.

If you intend to buy a basic, traditional tallit, the atara (neckband) will be white with a very quiet leaf and diamond design. Of course you can always have a different atara sewn on when you buy the tallit. On the more colorful and modern tallitot the atara usually has the Tzitzit Blessing embroidered on it.

Sizing is a big issue. Tallit sizes are standardized around the world. A size 45 is quite small, usually for a 5′ bar mitzvah boy. With every size increase the height of the tallit increases by 10 cm (4 inches). In other words, a size 50 will hang down in back an additional 4 inches, compared to a size 45. Going up, the next sizes are 55 (small), 60 (medium), 70 (large) and 80 (extra large). In the photo to the right, a size 60 tallit is worn on by 5’7″ model.

Tallit Size Wizard>>

Some people do not wear the tallit in the traditional style, draping down the back, but just resting on the neck and hanging down in front. These sizes include size 18, which is 18 inches wide, size 24, which is 24 inches wide and size 36, which is, you guessed it – 36 inches wide. The size 36 is actually worn a bit differently, because it will cover the upper back and then wraps around the upper arms. The length of the size 18, 24 and 36 is standard, 70 to 72 inches. For a short bar mitzvah boy, that can be a bit of a problem, but for most people the standard length is manageable.

The next issue when you buy the tallit is to decide on the tzitzit. Most tallits you see come with thin, machine-spun tzitzit. We offer a range of options for those who prefer thick, handspun, niputz lishmah or techelet. The all-white tzitzit options will add $10 to $25 to the price

Tzitzit Wizard>>

When you buy your tallit, you might want to add a tallit bag as well. When buying a tallit bag, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. The fabric used to make a $30 or $40 tallit bag is much nicer than the fabric you get with a $15 tallit bag. But an inexpensive tallit bag usually does the job, too.

Buy Tallit – Traditional>>

Buy Tallit – Modern>>

May 082014
 

I recently decided it’s time for me to put together a new tallit katan. I have several – cotton and wool, Shabbos and weekday – but the tzitzit strings on most of them are starting to look dingy to me. Considering I operate a tallit and tzitzit webstore, have connections with various suppliers and manufacturers and sell dozens of tallit katan products per week, one tallit katan for myself should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. The more I though about it the more indecisive I became.

Tallit Katan options>>

For those of you who are in the market for a new tallit katan, but haven’t decided which type is right for you, or if you are wholly unfamiliar with the various types of tallit katan, here is a brief overview.

Traditional Cotton Tallit Katan – Untailored. Just a big rectangle with a hole for the head and neck. Available with a round neck opening or a neck opening with a slit running down the front. Needs to be worn over an undershirt, but unlike the wool tallit katan, a tank top is enough.

Wool Tallit Katan – The wool tallit katan (or “wool tzitzit,” which is a bit of a misnomer) is available in the regular fabric and a special lightweight wool version (“Kalit”). Surprisingly the Kalit is popular even in winter. My speculation is that there are people who are think a wool tallit katan is blazing hot in the summer (personally I disagree) so they stick with a cotton tallit katan, but in winter they are willing to move from cotton to lightweight wool.

NeaTzit – These are quite popular. Almost always cotton, but we now sell them in a lightweight wool, which is off-white. Sometimes NeaTzit are partially sewn along the sides. We carry that design, as well as our Cotton Comfort, which features a patented connector strap, as you can see on the product page.

Sports Tzitzit and TzitzShirt – Both these are quite innovative. Both the Sports Tzitzit and the TzitzShirt have snaps along the sides and can be worn alone.

Go to Tallit Katan options>>