Apr 142012

A black tallit was often worn by Yemenite Jews, particularly in central Yemen. According to Tamir Ratzon, a black tallit was commonly worn in Talmudic times.

He cites Shabbat 147a, which discusses shaking a new black tallit on Shabbos. However, if I’m not mistaken, the word tallit in the Gemara is often a generic word for a garment, i.e. a shirt or tunic, in which case Ratzon may have misinterpreted the passage of Gemara he cites.

He goes on to write that the white tallit with black or blue stripes as we know it was introduced to Yemen in the 20th century, and only took hold in Sanaa, because it was too pricey for most Yemenite Jews.

The Original Yemenite Black Tallit

The original Yemenite black tallit comes in three variations:
1) Shamla Baladi – A lightweight all-black tallit worn on Shabbat.
2) Shamla Machtara – A heavy black tallit with thin brown or white stripes, worn on weekdays.
3) Shamla Amrania – A heavy brown or dark burgundy tallit, worn on weekdays.

Yemenite Tallit

Yemenite Tallit

Today the all-black tallit is quite rare, although we carry some.

Today’s Yemenite Tallit

Currently, Yemenite Jews (and sometimes others who simply like the way it looks) wear a distinctive white tallit with black stripes, special fringes, an large atara and corners embellished with silver embroidery work. The tzitzit are tied according to the standard Ashkenazi custom, the Sephardic custom or according to the Rambam-Yemenite tzitzit tying custom.

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