Mar 082015
 
This week a customer ordered a size 60 tallit for a soon-to-be bar mitzvah boy, and added a note regarding the size.
Please confirm prior to processing that this is a good size for Bar Mitzvah boy, with the hope that it will last him into adulthood.
Thanks, Tracey ​
The truth is, I think Tracey should choose a smaller size. I wear a size 60 and I’m 5’7″. It drapes down in back to mid-thigh on me, which is just right. I could get away with a size 70, and have sometimes toyed with the idea for my next Shabbos tallis, but for now I’m sticking with a size 60.

Tracey didn’t tell me how tall her son is, but I’m guessing he’s in the neighborhood of 5′ to 5’2″. I think she should consider going with a smaller size for two reasons:
  • In my opinion, when introducing a child or a young man to a mitzvah, it’s important not to make it feel burdensome. A tallit that is too big means you’re constantly trying to prop it up on your shoulders and distracted during tefillah. A tallit is essentially a garment, and nobody likes to wear clothes that are too big on them.
  • A lot of parents want a tallit that “he can grow into,” but you have to keep in mind that again, a tallit is like clothes. Many parent would like to buy a suit “he can grow into,” but realize that a suit that fits a 13-year-old is probably going to be too small on him just one year down the road, and the chances of it fitting him two years later are extremely slim.
A size 50 is usually a safe bet for a bar mitzvah boy. When he grows it won’t hang down as long on him, but on the other hand, it won’t look rinky-dink for a few years. It just doesn’t look as elegant when it doesn’t hang down long.

I think a tallit that is too big is a big problem, whereas a tallit that is too small is a small problem.

We made a two-minute video showing a bar mitzvah boy (5’1″) wearing different size tallits. It’s quite amateurish, but still helpful.

All of the above is, to a certain extent, editorializing, since some people like their tallit long and elegant, while others prefer a more manageable length. This of course applies not just to bar mitzvah boys, but to anyone trying to figure out the right size tallit to buy.