Ben

Apr 032014
 

Occasionally we get inquiries from Christians who would like to buy a tallit or even wear tzitzit. In fact, I know from one of the tallit distributors I work with that Judaica stores in downtown Jerusalem sell a lot of tallits to Christian tourists. Usually they sell inexpensive synthetic (acrylan) tallits which presumably are bought more as a souvenir and maybe for very occasional use.

Sometimes I have a hunch that an email inquiry is coming from a Christian. For example, this message:

I’m looking for a tallit that’s sewn like a shirt. Would you help me? I’m still a novice, but I’m learning.

To be honest, I’m not really clear what type of shirt he is referring to. We do sell tzitzit t-shirts, but presumably he has something very different in mind. It turns out his guru is a certain Kirt Schneider, who has never gone to yeshiva, but claims to be a rabbi. He was born and raised Jewish, but somewhere along the way turned to Christianity.

According to Rabbi Tuvia Singer, so-called Messianic synagogues like the one Schneider leads are essentially “a form of consumer fraud. They blur the distinctions between Judaism and Christianity in order to lure Jewish people who would otherwise resist a straightforward message.”

Rabbi Singer, 45, who studied at Mir Yeshiva, hosts a radio talk show and heads Outreach Judaism, an organization that counters efforts by Messianic Jewish groups aiming to convert Jews. He says Messianic Jews and Jews for Jesus and Messianic Jews often leverage today’s “deep interest” among some Christians to delve into the shared roots of Judaism and Christianity.

“I welcome the Mormon who knocks on the door representing himself honestly as a Mormon,” says Rabbi Singer. “But are you going to have ‘vegetarians for hamburgers?’ or ‘Buddhists for Muhammed’? What sense does that make? It’s the same with Jews for Jesus.”

“Judaism teaches the righteousness of all nations, that all have a place in the world to come. One does not have to be Jewish to be right by God,” Rabbi Singer said. “The notion of Christianity, the fundamental teachings of church fathers, is that if you’re not a Christian, you’re not saved. The fundamental teaching of Islam is that if you’re not Muslim, you’re lost. The fundamental teaching of Judaism is that God loves all mankind, that every human being is created in the image of God. The Jew has a special role in the world that is unique. We’re here to be a light to the world. That is our mandate. But we do not have a closer relationship to God than the gentiles do.”

I’m a bit undecided on how to approach the question of Christians who want to wear a tallit or tzitzit. The topic is discussed in halacha in a more general sense (see Rambam, Hil. Tzitzit, 3, 9), but may be less relevant for this specific issue. I have discussed the matter with eminent rabbis and found there is some room to provide tzitzit to Christians, under certain circumstances. My question is whether it’s a good idea. For example, if I were to sell tzitzit to a clergyman who heads a Messianic synagogue, could I be aiding and abetting him in leading Jews astray?

Several years ago I discovered a tzitzit order I received would be going to the head of a Messianic congregation. I wrote to him as follows:

I regret to inform you that I will not be filling your tallit katan order. After taking a glance at what Beit Shalom is all about, I’ve decided I cannot contribute in any way to individuals active in such an organization.

I sense that you are earnest in seeking out Hashem, but have been unable to set aside certain ideas that are clearly anathema to Torah and to the open revelations in Egypt and on Mt. Sinai. At the same time I am confident that eventually you will set aside that mode of thinking and fully accept the yoke of Heaven, whether as a righteous adherent to the Seven Noahide Laws or as a Jew. If you are honest in your search, Hashem will show you the proper path.

You should receive notice of a full refund within 48 hours.

I don’t know whether that was a very intelligent approach to deal with the situation, but it turns out that apparently my message was directed from Above and had a very positive outcome:

B”H

Ben,
Thank you so much for saying these words to me back in July. I’m happy to tell you I’ve rejected those ideas and am beginning my search to convert to Torah Judaism. I’ve started a blog to talk about me rejecting Christianity/Messianic Judaism and turning to Hashem.
I’d appreciate your davening for me, my wife and son as we are facing a great deal of adversity because of this decision.
Recently I recounted this exchange to a prominent Jewish blogger, who wrote to me, “I’m glad this worked out the way it appears to have worked out, but I wouldn’t be so sure that this approach will necessarily be effective again in the future.” I think he’s probably right.
Mar 312014
 

Our tzitzit t-shirt has been gaining popularity. Although some companies market it as a revolutionary new concept, it has been sold in Israel and France for close to a decade. The design is fairly similar to the very popular and now widespread Neatzit, except that the Neatzit (also known by various other names, including PerfTzitz and TrimTzitz) is meant to be worn as an undershirt, whereas the tzitzit t-shirt is just that: a t-shirt with tzitzit designed to be worn alone.

T-shirt with Tzitzit The concept was endorsed by the late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l, the late chief rabbi of Israel, and one of the manufacturers told me the late Rabbi Eliashiv also gave his approval. According to halacha, a garment is required to have tzitzit attached if it is open more than half-way up the sides. The TzitzShirt is open almost all the way to the sleeve, but while worn the sides are closed with three discreet snaps.

Of course the tzitzit t-shirt can also be worn as an undershirt, which means you can wear it as an undershirt, and when you hit the basketball court, the tennis court, during your morning jog or just sitting in the yard on a hot day you can slip off your shirt without feeling too exposed and without having to be sans tzitzit.

We sell the tzitzit in both men’s and boys’ sizes in white, blue and gray. Black is also available, by request.

TzitzShirt for Men>>

TzitzShirt for Boys>>

Mar 182014
 

According to Torah law, there is no requirement for tzitzit to have 7-8-11-13 windings. The Torah says you must have one knot and one chulyah. There is a dispute in the poskim as the whether the knot comes before the chulyah or after, so we do both. The Mishnah Brurah explains that if you tie on double knot, wrap a few windings around (at least three) and tie a second double knot, you have fulfilled the mitzvah according to Torah law. He says this is what one should do if he finds himself stuck without tzitzit a short time before Shabbos begins. He then goes on to explain that there is also a requirement according to Rabbinical law to tie the tzitzit in such a way that you have one-third anaf (tied) and two-thirds ptil (loose).

Therefore when the Shulchan Aruch (11, 14) explains how to go about tying tzitzit, it makes no mention of how many windings there should be, and in fact writes that there is no set number of windings.

ואחר-כך יכררך חוט הארך סביב השבעה קצת כריכות וקושר שני פעמים זה על גב זה, וחוזר
וכורך; וכן יעשה עד שישלים לחמש קשרים כפולים וארבעה עוירים ביניהם מלאים כריכות.
אין שעור לכריכות רק שיהיו כל הכרוך והקשרים רחב ארבעה גודלים והענף שמונה גודלים

Thus the number of windings is not Torah law or even Rabbinical law, but rather a custom that developed later. Interestingly, based on the Shulchan Aruch, the Rema and the Mishnah Brurah, it seems that the one-third/two-thirds requirement, described as , is of more importance than the number of windings, but if you look at the vast majority of tzitzit you will find that they are much closer to one-fourth/three-fourths.

In fact we normally leave the tzitzit we tie for our customers one-fourth/three-fourths, because I believe if they saw one-third/two-thirds many would be somewhat alarmed and possibly disappointed. In the yeshiva world today, you often see students sporting very long tzitzit. I imagine many of them think this is very pious, when in fact it is actually a leniency.

It’s very difficult to get the windings exactly 7, exactly 8, etc. We try our best to do it within half a winding. If you are not experienced at tzitzit tying, this may be hard to discern. If you look at the tzitzit on one side, you may count 7 windings in the first section, but when you flip it around to the opposite side there are 6 or 8 windings, because there may be six-and-a-half or seven-and-a-half. (The way to count accurately is to note careful where the winding starts, note where the final winding ends and compare the location.)

Rabbi Mois Navon of the Ptil Tekhelet Association speaks of this issue as well. “The truth is that it is very difficult to get precisely three full winds when coming out of a double knot or going into a double knot,” he writes. He then argues that “the Gemara’s requirement that a chulya be 3 winds is a directive for action to be taken by the person wrapping and not necessarily a statement on how the final product is to appear.  That is to say, the tier is required to wrap the shamash around the core strings three times, this may however result in a chulya looking like two-and-a-half wraps or even three-and-a-half, depending on where the string started or ended.”

Mar 072014
 

This post is way off the topic of our tallit, tzitzit and tefillin blog, but I thought I’d write up a short informational post as a public service at this time of year. Have you been toying with the idea of buying a Megillas Esther for years and want to know how much it will cost? I certainly have.

Today I happened to be waiting in line at the local beis hora’ah and one of the people waiting in line was a sofer with a Megillas Esther in hand. It was a top-quality 11-line (Vilna Gaon) scroll that he managed to write in just two weeks. He is a veteran sofer, but still I was surprised that he could get the job done so fast. He needed to ask the rav two sheilas, both cases of a כ that had a very tiny protrusion sticking out from the bottom right, which could make it resemble a ב. Of course he could fix the letters, but a erased and rewritten letter doesn’t always come out looking so nice, so he wanted to ask if he could erase just half the letter in those cases (i.e. according to halacha the כ couldn’t be mistaken for a  ב).

Anyway, I went ahead and asked him how much that Megillas Esther costs. He said it was worth NIS 4,000 but he sold it for NIS 3,500 ($1,000). He added that the materials and checking cost him NIS 1,000.

I also asked him how much a basic 6-line Megillah with run-of-the-mill writing would cost. He said he doesn’t know market prices for lower-end Megillah scrolls, but he speculated that something like that would cost NIS 2,500. I have a feeling that prices outside of Israel run higher.

* A beis hora’ah is a rabbinical bureau set up to provide answers to everyday halachic questions.

Mar 052014
 

A fairly significant number of our tallit and tallit katan customers who select Ptil Tekhelet tzitzit want us to tie them according to the Sephardic custom. For example, this week we received the following inquiry from a prospective techelet buyer in the US:

I am looking at new Tallit Gadol. In the past I have tied my own P’til Techelet Tzitzit but since you offer this service I would request information on your method in relation to the Sephardic or Raavad option. In particular,
- Do you use a full P’til Techelet Tzitzit when doing the “Sephardic” method (ie. not a half-white, half-techelet string), as I am sure you would under the “Raavad” method?
- What is the numerical sequence of wraps in both cases?
- Are you able to forward pictures of examples of both?

Todah,
David

In my reply, I told David that if you do Sephardic tying, in my humble opinion you should use Rambam techelet strings.

Thank you for your inquiry. I trust you have read our techelet tying page.

Based on my understanding of halacha, if you go ahead and tie Sephardic windings, it makes most sense to use Rambam tekhelet strings so that you get seven white strings and one blue string hanging down from each corner. Of all of the Rishonim and Achronim who explicitly discuss how to tie tzitzit with techelet, the Rambam is generally considered the most authoritative.

I even know an Ashkenazi yeshiva student who ties his tzitzit with Vilna Gaon windings, but uses Rambam strings! He holds that from a halachic standpoint, the main question is how many white strings and how many blue you should have; how to do the windings is of secondary importance.

I think there is a fairly significant number of Ashkenazim who choose to tie according to the Rambam for this reason, so I would assume it applies even more so for Sephardim.

But I am not qualified to make halachic decisions, so you should really try to speak with a rav about this, though many rabbanim have not looked into techelet and techelet tying. Feel free to forward this email to a rav to see what he says. I’d be interested to get some feedback, if possible.

Regarding your question on the numerical sequence of the wraps, on a tallit gadol Sephardic tzitzit are always done 7-8-11-13, so with techelet it would be as follows:

initial double knot
1 white – 6 blue – double knot
8 blue – double knot
11 blue – double knot
12 blue – 1 white – double knot

The Gemara tells us very clearly that you always start with white and end with white, and that rule applies no matter how you do the windings.

Some of my customers know very little about tzitzit tying, so I was quite astonished by the highly erudite (and fascinating) reply David sent me the next day. The following are his remarks on the Raavad and Rambam tying methods:

Shalom,

Although Sephardim normally follow Rambam, I am personally in favour of the Raavad method, & just for the sake of interesting Torah discussion I will share the reason.

In Sefer HaBahir there are two potentially relevant discussions:

If it is within your tradition to read there, paragraph’s 92 & 93 become relevant.
Now, from one perspective [Rambam] it could be said to be better to have only one blue thread showing on each corner, this would indicate the “garden” is the King’s (Keter).

However, paragraph 93 discusses the role of the King’s daughter (Malchut) …”with these two signs, ‘G-d will watch you from all evil, He will safeguard your soul’ – part of the function of the reminder of the Tzitzit.”

So, as it happens, some ascribe this book to the Raavad, and his technique for tying happens to have the showing of two blue threads on each corner.

Thanks for taking the time to get back to me & providing the link & additional information. The foregoing thoughts are just for your interest & any other students of the Torah you may wish to discuss with.

With G-d’s help I will place an order with you via the website & will probably opt to tie the Tzitzit myself although I am sure your methodologies are all good & acceptable.

Yours Faithfully,
David

Jan 312014
 

Recently we had a customer from Vancouver who ordered a Tashbetz Tallit with Ptil Tekhelet tzitzit. He was quite pleased with it, and decided to buy another tallit.

I love the white-on-white Tashbetz Tallis and the Rambam techelet tzizit, thank you!
It’s a long story, but now I’m interested in buying a traditional black-striped non-slip tallis with techelet.
You have so many choices, it’s hard for me to tell what the differences are…What would you recommend?
Are some of the non-slip weaves more effective than others?
I was glad to have another satisfied customer. I sent him to our classic, black-striped tallit page. The problem is that if he sticks with a size 55 actually the only option we have is the Tashbetz since Hamefoar and Hamefoar Prestige are only available in size 60, which is 10 cm (4 inches) longer than the size 55.
The difference between the Tashbetz and Hamefoar is that the Tashbetz is a bit lighter, and may stay in place better than Hamefoar. Also, the box weave of the Tashbetz is a bit more visible than the weave of Hamefoar, so Hamefoar looks almost the same as the traditional tallit fabric. Since the Tashbetz is lighter, Hamefoar feels somewhat more “substantial” on your shoulders.
Some people go with a lightweight tallit for weekdays and a heavier tallit for Shabbos.
Another option is the Malchut Tallit, which is made by Talitania. Like the Beit Yosef Tallit, it does not have any shiny striping, but the fabric is similar to Hamefoar and it has distinctive fringes.

 

Jan 312014
 

When it comes to the raging debate over whether Murex trunculus is the real techelet mentioned in the Torah, it’s hard to find someone who is really objective on the issue. Many people, including some rabbanim, seem to have made up their minds for the most part, before they start “investigating” the matter.

For example, a year or two ago a Torah scholar in Bnei Brak published a booklet strongly arguing against Murex trunculus as the real techelet. While reading through it, I felt it was very clear the writer was extremely biased and presented his case in a highy selective manner. When discussing the correct color of techelet, for instance, he wrote that according to Rashi it should be a very dark blue, almost black, but neglected to mention the many opinions – including Rashi himself, elsewhere – that speak of very different shades of blue (see below). In the booklet he also claimed the chilazon is found in the Kinneret. This opinion is mentioned in the Midrash, if I’m not mistaken, but a much more accepted opinion is that the chilazon dwells in the Mediterranean.

That’s why it helps to take a look at what Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt”l wrote over 30 years ago in his commentary on Chumash, The Living Torah. And it’s particularly worth taking a look now, since you will find it in this week’s Torah reading, Parshas Terumah.

The verse in Shemos 25:3 lists the various materials used in the construction of the Mishkan, including techelet. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan translates it as “sky-blue.” The shade of techelet is a matter of debate in and of itself, and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan mentions five or six different opinions, including Rabbi Saadia Gaon, Rambam, Yosephus, Rashi and Radak.

Sometimes I get customers who ask for me to dig through my stock of Ptil Tekhelet for the darkest set I can find (or sometimes the lightest). Although there can be slight differentiation between one batch and another, for the most part they all look to me to be the same shade. However, the thin is always noticeably darker than the thick, presumably because the Murex trunculus dye penetrates better.

Rabbi Kaplan goes on to mention various points that anyone who has looked into the present-day techelet debate will recognize immediately: purpura, Murex trunculus shells found at the site of the ancient Tyrian dyeworks and the signs of the chilazon.

Jan 082014
 

At the end of Parshas Bo, the Torah mentions tefillin twice. The first time the Torah commands us:

והיה לך לאות על-ידך ולזכרון בין עיניך

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt”l translates this verse, “[These words] must also be a sign on your arm and a reminder in the center of your head” (Shemos 13:9).

A few verses later, the Torah again mentions tefillin, but this time describes the Shel Rosh a bit differently:

והיה לאות על ידכה ולטוטפת בין עיניך

Rabbi Kaplan translates this verse, “[These words] shall [also] be a sign on your arm and an insignia in the center of your head.” The Targum Onkeles renders the word totafos as tefillin, which connotes prayer, judgment and testimony. In Greek they were known as phylacteries, from the root phylassin, which means to watch or guard.

Dec 252013
 

Some 350 participants and 20 speakers are expected to take part in an international conference on techelet research on December 30 at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.

Techelet research pioneer Rabbi Herzog

Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Herzog

The conference was initiated to mark the centennial of the late Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Halevi Herzog’s ground-breaking doctoral dissertation, “The Dyeing of Purple in Ancient Israel.”

Throughout the day video clips will be screened and a tekhelet dyeing station will be set up to provide hands-on demonstrations.

The conference will be streamed live, starting at 9:30 am (Israel time) at yutorah.org/live.

Scheduled speakers include MK Isaac Herzog, grandson of techelet research pioneer Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Herzog, Professor Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel, Rabbi Menachem Burshtein, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik and Dr. Naama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The keynote speaker will be Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

Dec 122013
 

To tell you the truth, we avoid using the term bar mitzvah set because it can mean different things to different people. Often a bar mitzvah set consists of a tallit, matching bag and matching kippah. In other cases a bar mitzvah set revolves around a set of tefillin and often includes a siddur as well. Some bar mitzvah boys won’t want a matching kippah, and what they really need is a matching bag with custom name embroidery.

Our solution is to invite parents to browse our tallit and tefillin webstore, where they should be able to find whatever they need, and put together a bar mitzvah set of their own. Since we charge a low fixed price for shipping, essentially you only pay shipping for one item and the rest ship for free. For discounts, be sure to see our coupon listings.

Bar Mitzvah Set with Tefillin

If you would like a pair of tefillin for your bar mitzvah boy, Tefillin Peshutim Mehudarim is a popular choice. You can then choose a traditional tallit, a modern tallit or even a handwoven tallit set.

Tallit with Matching Bag and Matching Kippah

All of our Gabrieli and Maaseh Oreg handwoven tallit sets are available with matching tallit bag and kippah. Most of our tallits are also available with a matching bag and you can generally find a nice kippah that matches well among the Raw Silk Yair Emanuel kippot we offer.

If you have any questions about tefillin, tallit sizing, letter embroidery, shipping time etc., be sure to see the many resources listed at the top of our webstore, and of course you can contact us with questions, and we’ll reply right away.