A few years ago I ran into a friend who has a house full of teenagers. I sometimes see the strain showing on his face, so after directing the conversation to his kids I said with a grin, “It sounds like keeping your boys with 16 unbroken tzitzits is not the ultimate parenting challenge.”
“It sure isn’t,” he replied, offering no details.
Broken Tzitzits and Other Parenting Challenges
But with several boys under bar mitzvah age, keeping their tzitzit whole and clean is a real and pressing challenge for me. (I prefer to keep the trials and tribulations of raising teenagers into mensches and maideles out of mind for now.)
I learned the hard way how important it can be to teach boys to tuck their tzitzits in a little when they head off on a bicycle. When a single tzitzit string gets caught in a wheel or a chain, it’s not a pretty sight to behold.
Low-riding scooters are a quick way to snap tzitzit strings in half.
I know some people who buy thick tzitzits to help keep them intact, but I don’t know how well that strategy pays off.
Of course cleaning tzitzits is not easy either. A few minutes in a washing machine is enough to leave them hopelessly tangled and mangled and frayed. I wash them by hand, although I’ve heard about special mesh laundry-machine bags to protect tzitzits from harm.