Apr 212014
 

A customer by the name of Nir was getting ready to buy a Beit Yosef Talit from our webstore before Pesach, but, like many noble plans during that time of year, he wasn’t able to make the purchase as planned. After Pesach, when he had more time on his hands, he was ready to go ahead with the talit purchase, when suddenly a new issue came up: Was it permitted to buy a new talit during Sefirat Ha’omer?

That’s a good question, and I’m not the right person to ask for two reasons: 1) I have a vested interested in allowing talit sales and 2) I’m not a rabbi and am not qualified to answer halachic questions.

But obviously this type of question is bound to pique the interest of any tallit seller, so I opened up the Shulchan Aruch to siman 493 to look up the topic of buying clothes during Sefirat Ha’omer. After searching in vain for about 10 minutes I was starting to feel a bit stupid, then realized that it isn’t mentioned there at all — which in itself is an important piece of information. Rabbi Eli Mansour writes that the Shulchan Aruch does not prohibit buying new clothes during Sefirat Ha’omer at all, and Rabbi Abba Shaul Ben Tzion ruled accordingly.

Some Ashkenazi poskim concur (see also Yeshiva.org.il), but according to Rabbi Dovid Horwitz the consensus among contemporary halachic authorities is that buying new clothing should be avoided, because of the issue of Shehechiyanu. The custom to avoid reciting Shehechiyanu seems to be a stringency taken from the Three Weeks and applied to the Sefira, when the prohibitions are much more lenient. According to the Maamar Mordechai, the custom was mistakenly carried over from the Three Weeks.

According to the above references, there is definitely room to permit buying clothes or a new tallit during Sefirat Ha’omer, but it might be a good idea to ask your own rabbi, based on the circumstances. The mitzvah of tzitzit is very important and would clearly override the issue of Shehechiyanu during the Sefira in many situations.

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 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.

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 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 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.

Dec 012013
 

Maaseh Oreg has been weaving fantastic tallits for many years, but is not widely known. The work is done on handlooms in a small Negev community, but you may have passed by their shop in the Old City, just off the Cardo. Although the designs are not as eye-catching at those by other handwoven tallit makers such as Gabrieli, the weaving and finishing work is very high caliber. The beauty of each tallit reflects the hard work and care that goes into the weaving.

Tallis Man

Click on image to see more designs

Maaseh Oreg, also marketed online as Jerusalem Tallit, Tallis Man and Weaving Creation, has recently added a number of new designs to their repertoire, including the Gan Eden Tallit, Keter Tallit and Malchut Tallit. We used to sell their tallits for $350-$450, but we are now able to obtain them for less and so we are passing that savings onto our customers.

All of their tallits are made of cotton. Some people hear “cotton” and think of a shirt that takes forever to iron, but if you zoom in on the photos, you’ll see that the weavers use thick cotton yarn that lends the tallit rich texture and hangs very nicely. It creates a fairly weighty tallit, that you definitely feel on your shoulders, but at the same time it’s made of airy cotton, so it breathes very well.

The weavers’ designs are not flashy, but rather have a refined beauty and distinctiveness. Many of their designs use earthy shades, but they also have some models with strong blue striping.

Go to Maaseh Oreg Handwoven Tallit page>>>

Sep 122013
 

Recently we received an inquiry from a customer concerned about tallit slipping.

I prefer a full size tallit and I am 5’8″ tall (173cm I think). I am quite broad across the shoulder and my current tallit always slips off my shoulders. My current slippery tallit is 130cm long and 178cm wide. I think the reason it falls off my shoulders is because it is not wide enough. Could that be the case?
Tashbetz nonslip tallit

Tashbetz with black stripes. Note the box-weave.

In recent years many tallit makers have developed non-slip tallit fabrics. They have more texture, which give them a nice supple feel and creates more friction. On our webstore, all of the Tashbetz and Bareket are made using this type of nonslip tallit fabric.

I told him a size 60 should fit well, and that he can expect it to drape down in back to mid-thigh.
Tallit slippage is a common issue but not an exact science. I am willing to entertain his hypothesis, but from my experience, less tallit actually stays on your shoulders better. I know a broad-shouldered tallit dealer whose ownpersonal  tallit is quite narrow, yet he claims it stays in place really well. His theory is that lightweight material stays put better, which makes sense to me. If this theory eventually gains traction, I might try to write up a formula to express it. Something like this:
Less Tallit = Less Slippage
Aug 052013
 

Mishkan Hatchelet is arguably the leading tallit maker in Israel, and therefore in the world, but their top-of-the-line tallit models may all be unfamiliar to you. Why? Because the same tallitot, when distributed outside of Israel, are marketed under a different set of names. So if you are comparing Keter Judaica products such as Tallis Hameshubach, Tallis Hamefoar and Kelilas Yoffi online, or shopping in Jerusalem tallit stores, be aware that these same tallits are known by different names among Israeli sellers.

Also, you might feel somewhat bewildered by a selection of tallit options that sound almost identical. When shopping for a tallit online, you benefit from a broader selection than you can expect from your local Judaica dealers, but of course you have the disadvantage of not being able to see and feel the tallit up close. So to make the right choice you rely on good images and detailed descriptions, yet the type of people who write product descriptions and similar Web content are not always world-class writers with power of description on a par with Charles Dickens or Thomas Wolfe. As a result, when you sort your way through traditional wool tallits such as Tallis Hameshubach, Tallis Hamefoar and Kelilas Yoffi, they all sound pretty much the same.

Tallis Hameshubach

Tallis Hameshubach, a.k.a. Chatanim

The following is a Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary to help you keep the names straight:

Tallis Hameshubach = Chatanim
Tallis Hamefoar = Pe’er
Kelilas Yoffi = Kalil Lightweight

The Tallis Hameshubach is a top-of-the-line traditional wool tallit popular as a gift for a groom or bar mitzvah boy, or someone who wants a nice, no-compromise tallit for Shabbos.

Tallis Hamefoar is similar to Hameshubach, but features a special box-weave fabric that helps the tallis stay in place on your shoulders and lends it a supple, luxurious feel. Also comes in a lightweight version.

Kelilas Yoffi is a high quality lightweight tallis often chosen for weekdays. It’s compact folded size is helpful for commuters trying to trim down their carrying bulk.

Aug 052013
 

If you are looking for a white-on-white tallit, two of the most popular options are the Malchut Tallit, by Talitnia, and the Beit Yosef, by Mishkan Hatchelet.

Malchut Tallit

Malchut by Talitnia

Note that the Malchut Tallit is only available in Sizes 60, 70, 80 and sometimes 90, so if you need a smaller size, e.g. 45, 50 or 55, you’ll have to choose a different talit. On the other hand, the Beit Yosef Tallit is available in sizes 45, 50 and 55.

Beit Yosef & Malchut Tallit: Wool from top to bottom

Both the Beit Yosef and the Malchut tallitot are distinctive in that they are all-wool, including the corners, striping and atara. The Malchut Tallit features attractive braided fringes. The Beit Yosef Talit is available with fabulous netted fringes by special request, but be prepared to spend an extra $40. The Malchut Tallit is made of a lighter fabric than the Beit Yosef.

A third option is the Tashbetz Tallit, which is also made by Mishkan Hatchelet. The Tashbetz is a very popular lightweight, nonslip tallit, usually sold with black stripes or light blue stripes, but the Tashbetz Tallit also comes in a white-on-white version that looks fairly similar to the Malchut Tallit, but with standard fringes.

The truth is that all three of these options stay in place well, so you are free to choose whether you want a standard weight tallit (Beit Yosef) or lightweight (Malchut or Tashbetz), and which type of fringes you prefer.

Beit Yosef Tallit – more info>>

Malchut Tallit – more info>>

Tashbetz Tallit – more info>>