Jan 032017

Sometimes you run across odd uses for tzitzit strings. This week we received an inquiry from a young woman from Germany, suffering from an ailment and hoping that blue tzitzit strings (techelet) have curative powers.

Shalom. One quick question: I am girl. Can I put tzitzit blue to my neck pendant with Hebrew letter[s] chai? I am sick and this color tzitzit give me heail power from Hashem. Plz answer me. Todah, shalom.

I replied to her as follows:

Thank you for your inquiry. Not a good idea! The Torah clearly states that tzitzit are meant to be tied onto the corners of four-cornered garments. That’s the mitzvah. There is no mitzvah to attach tzitzit to jewelry, just as there is no mitzvah to put a mezuzah on a car door.

When my wife was nine months pregnant with our first child, she was very nervous about the birth. She kept sending me around town to obtain all sorts of segulot (charms). I went to a very notable, sagely rabbi, one of the leading poskim of the generation, to ask him about a certain segulah.

“I don’t deal much with segulot,” he told me. “The main thing is prayer.”

The Torah teaches us that when Yishmael was dying, Hashem harkened to the lad’s prayer for himself before he harkened to his mother Hagar’s prayer! Praying earnestly for your own health is the key.
Sep 182016

We now have a Jew formerly from Denver working as a shipping clerk, so I asked him a bit about the Jewish profile of the Mile High City and took a look at our orders from Colorado over the past year.

As expected, the bulk of our tallit and tzitzit buyers indeed hail from Denver (especially the west side, Greenwood Village, Englewood and Aurora). I was told a lot of Denver’s frum Jews live in Greenwood Village and Englewood, not too far from the Aish HaTorah shul.

Aish HaTorah synagogue in DenverWe also saw a number of tallit and tzitzit orders coming out of Littleton, Commerce City, Highlands Ranch, Westminster, Lakewood, Golden and Thornton.

The other significant places with customers buying tallits or tzitzit are Colorado Springs and Boulder. For some reason I’m not seeing a single order coming from Pueblo.

We also have a few dozen orders from the various mountain towns in Colorado.

What are our Colorado customers buying? A lot of traditional wool tallits, some high-end wool tallits and a lot of tzitzit garments, both wool and cotton.

Sep 012016

Regrettably I’ve never been to Australia, but I have sent a lot of tallits and tzitzit Down Under. I have heard many places in Australia have vibrant, dynamic Jewish communities comprised of native Australians as well as a substantial number of Jews from other parts of the world.

I just leafed through our order history and noticed that the vast majority go to customers in various parts of Sydney (especially Bondi and Rose Bay), and of course we get a significant number of orders from Melbourne and Brisbane, but a good number of tallit sales also go to Perth (Daniella), Adelaide, Canberra — and even one order to Tasmania.

Tallit sales to Brisbane go primarily to Surry Hills, Meridain Plains, Zillmere, Carindale and Acacia Ridge, while our tallit and tzitzit customers in Melbourne hail from Caulfield, Ararat, Elsternwick, Southbank, Coolaroo, Bayswater and Ormond.

The bulk of our tallit and tzitzit sold to customers in Sydney are shipped to Chatswood, St Ives, Marrickville, Bellevue Hill, Rose Bay, Bondi, Killara, East Lindfield, Drummoyne, Penrith, Abbotsford, Pagewood, Kings Park, Alexandria and West Hoxton.

What tallit and tzitzit products are our customers in Australia buying?

Much of our tallit sales are lightweight tallits, nonslip tallits, high-end tallitot for grooms, traditional wool tallits and Chabad.

Our tzitzit buyers in Australia are buying undershirt tzitzits, t-shirt tzitzits, tzitzit for kids, traditional wool tallit katan and techelet tzitzit.

Aug 092016

Although I have modified tallit katan garments a few times, I have never endeavored to make one from scratch. Still, I can offer some tips on how to go about it. Here is an exchange with a customer who wanted to make tzitzit for his 18-month son. Our smallest tzitzit are meant for a child of two or two and a half. I am posting the exchange because I believe it may be helpful for others who plan to make their own tallis katan for whatever reason.

Hi Ben,
Hope you are well. I was wondering if you sold tzitzit with a beged I could give my 18-month-old. He greatly admires his older brother’s and this is not something I want to discourage.
Thanks, C


Glad to hear from you, Charles. The smallest I know of is this. It comes in size 2 and size 3. The size 2 is really designed for two-and-a-half-year-olds, but he might be able to manage. You could always tuck extra length into his pants and if it drops off the sides a safety pin would probably do the trick.


Thank you.  I’d feel weird giving that to anyone who isn’t three years-old.  I suppose we can turn a t-shirt into a beged on our own.


That’s an idea. Two important points:
1) Measure from the bottom hem straight up to the middle of the shoulder, and make sure you make the sides more open than closed. You consider the sleeve opening as if it’s closed, i.e. as if there is no sleeve. This point is discussed in the Mishnah Berurah.
2) Make sure the tzitzit holes are as close as possible to 5 cm from each side. If it’s more than 6 cm or less than 4 cm you start to move into a halachic grey zone. It’s very difficult to make nice round reinforced holes, but it’s not essential. If you make elongated button holes, keep them as short as possible.
Jul 102016

Jerusalem, March 9, 2002. Yishai, then 17, was with friends on a Motzei Shabbat, playing his guitar.

At 10:30 a powerful explosion shook Rechov Ibn Giboral. Outside, people were running up and down Rambam Street. Yishai was a volunteer with Magen David Adom. He ran out to help. The smell of burning wires, plastic and flesh grew stronger as he approached the Moment Cafe. He was used to working as part of an ambulance crew, but this time he arrived before the ambulances.

He leaned over one young person, but there was no breath. Another young woman was lying nearby. He saw her flinch. Blood gushed from her leg. At the scene of the mayhem without even a tourniquet, he tried to come up with an idea to stop the bleeding. Yishai was wearing a tallit katan. He stripped off his white Shabbos shirt and removed the tallit katan garment. Together with a man named Yaron, he turned the tzitzit into a tourniquet. Wrapped tightly around the young woman’s leg, the cotton fabric and the wool tzitzit turned bright red. Moments later the ambulances arrived.

When Yishai got home, his clothes were soaked with blood. “I don’t have my tzitzit,” he told his mother. She was surprised. Yishai’s tzitzit were techelet. He never went anywhere without them.

Across town, orthopedic surgeon Moshe Lifschitz rushed the young woman into the operating room. Her leg bones were shattered and her femoral artery was torn in two places. He found the blue tzitzit strings, tied like a tourniquet around her leg.

The name of the wounded woman in the operating room was Efrat. Someone who knew Efrat later asked the surgeon: “So Yishai saved her leg?”

“No,” he replied. “I saved her leg. Yishai saved her life.”

I just came across the above story recently. Many years have gone by, but in any case, if someone knows how to contact him, tell Yishai we would be honored to provide him with a replacement tallis katan with techelet tzitzit, free of charge.

I served as a medic in the IDF, and often imagined myself facing a situation like this.

Jerusalem is a small town. My wife’s high school friend was sitting at that cafe on that fateful night. She wasn’t as lucky as Efrat. She was buried the next day. Limor bas Tziporah Hy”d.

Mar 132016

Some years ago I came up with a brilliant idea for a Purim costume for myself. I would take my white and black and blue handwoven Mexican blanket to a seamstress, with instructions to make a hole in the center. Then I would tie thick tzitzit on the corner and don my fabulous gigantic tallis katan poncho. Of course this would be topped off with a big sombrero, and voila! our Jewish Mexican Caballero is decked out for Purim parties and shlach manos deliveries.

MexicanBlanketThe first year I dawdled over the idea until it was too late. The next year, as Purim drew near, I got serious. My plans were all in place, and then I went to dig out the blanket. But it was nowhere to be found.

After an extensive search, I asked my wife if she happened to know where the blanket was. She replied with those dreaded words that test a husband’s love for his wife: “That tattered old thing? I tossed it out two months ago.”

I was crestfallen. My big plans dashed on the rocks. And of course I suddenly felt a wave of nostalgia for that “tattered old thing” I had bought 15 years earlier as a teenager on a road trip in Mexico with some buddies. The last time I felt that pang of loss for a discarded object was when I learned my wife had gotten rid of my mountaineering boots. She couldn’t fathom why they should possibly be taking up storage room over a decade after I moved to Israel, where there’s hardly a patch of snow to be found. Did I really think I would one day have the opportunity for another jaunt in the Sierra Nevadas?

Every year, come Purim time, I try to come up with a good costume, but never seem to hit on an idea as good as that tzitzit poncho costume that wasn’t.

Dec 242015

Although I encourage my customers to try tying tzitzit themselves, most of them are not ready to take the plunge, and so we tie the tzitzit for at least 90% of the orders we receive. But this week we received a detailed inquiry from someone by the name of Bennett who wants to tie techelet according to the Vilna Gaon, and sent me a number of good questions.

G-d willing, I will be placing an order for a tallit in the very near future. I would also like to tie my own tzitzit, which I see to request that in the comments when purchasing. My question is actually about the tying method.

I am of Ashkenazim heritage and have resolved myself to the Vilna Gaon method. It is the one that my eye seems to gravitate to the most and without any other rationale, it seems like a good one.

I’ve found several good resources through your site and tekhelet.com but I’m afraid I’m still unsure about a couple of things.

I was very happy to hear Bennett was taking the initiative to tackle tzitzit tying himself. It’s a valuable skill to acquire and it helps connect you to the mitzvah.

Ptil Tekhelet - Vilna Gaontying

Vilna Gaon tying

Vilna Gaon is quite straightforward. Basically you can just watch one of the online videos for regular white tzitzit, and then all you have to add on is switching back and forth from white shamash to blue shamash.

Here is our question-and-answer exchange:

* Is the blue string considered the shamesh? In a set of Raavad tzitzit you’ll find eight regular strings, four blue strings and four long white strings. So for every corner you take two white, one long white and the blue, even them on one side, insert them into the hole and make a double knot. On the other side two ends will be approximately even, and you’ll have one long blue string and one long white string to work with.

* Since there are both white and blue windings in Vilna Gaon, should one of the white strings also be longer? See above.

* Once the tzitzit is completed, should all of the strings end up being the same length? Chances are very slim they will end up the same length.

* If they’re not the same length, should they be trimmed, or retied? Definitely not retied. You can trim them, but take a look at this post first.

* When the tzitzit is complete, should the blue string still be longer than the white ones? It probably will be, but if you trim them, all of the tzitzit should be about the same length. According to my personal aesthetics it doesn’t look nice to snip them all in a straight line, but rather slightly different lengths.

* I would like to practice a couple of times before tying the actual tzitzit. I’m thinking that I can use simple masonry string that I have here at home and use 3 strings of one color and 1 string of a different color to emulate the tekhelet. What lengths should I cut my practice strings? The regular length strings, 120 cm, the long strings, about 150 cm.

Jun 282015

After over a thousand years during which we were unable to observe the mitzvah of techeles in tzitzis, in recent years, strong proofs for the identity of the original chilazon have come to light and the dyeing technique has been revived. It now appears quite reasonable to assert that the mitzvah of tzitzis can be observed in the complete and proper manner, after many generations of being unable to do so.

It seems that the various debating points have now been brought to the fore, so that now anyone has the opportunity to examine the issue and make a choice. He who delves into the issue, researches it thoroughly and remains unsatisfied with the proofs we have today will probably not be swayed by another handful of proofs. Even if one day tzitzis dated from the time of Beis HaMikdash with the seal of the Kohen Gadol were found right on the Temple Mount, most dissenters would contine to stand their ground. Likewise, those who have been convinced would not change their stance considerably were another challenge be presented here or there, for the gates of explanation remain open.

Today it could be said that the question over the revival of techeles is more a question of hashkafa than of halacha.

The issue can be presented as follows: On one hand there is a preponderence of strong evidence that the chilazon used to produce techelet in the past is purpura-murex. However, on the other hand, most of the stronger proofs did not emerge in the beis midrash, i.e. they werenot derived from an examination of the relevant sugias or statements by Chazal and the poskim, but rather from a wealth of knowledge drawn from outside sources.

Indeed, we have not come across any substantive contradiction in the words of Chazal or the poskim to obfuscate the identity of porpuria as the chilazon associated with the authentic techeles dye. Furthermore, once we know the identity of the chilazon and the manner in which the dyeing process is carried out, new light is shed on the words of Chazal.

But when all is said and done, the main thrust of evidence comes from outside the beis midrash. This is the main reason why we see many talmidei chachamim who are unprepared to hear new ideas introduced and are opposed to the renewal of the mitzvah of techeles in our day. Yet on the other hand, from day to day Jews who feel a strong appreciation for this mitzvah and adhere to the fine points of halacha now have techeles in their tzitzis, whether worn openly or discreetly.

The post was adapted from an article by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver originally published in Hebrew in “Vehaya Lachem L’Tzitzit,” Ninth Edition, 5755, Ptil Tekhelet Association.

May 152015

Undershirt tzitzit were introduced onto the tallit katan market about two decades ago. But I suspect there were similar designs many years ago. If you open up the Chayei Adam to Hilchot Tzitzit 11, 9, the Chayeh Adam [Rabbi Avraham Danzig, 1748-1820], describing various tallit katan designs and whether they would require tzitzit, writes, “And therefore one must be careful with the tallit katan made in our country [probably referring to Saxony and Prussia] that the sides be mostly open; not like those tailors who make a tallit katan and sew it along the sides and leave a hole for the arms and then sew beneath the hole and leave it open, and measure only beneath the arms, which is clearly a mistake, because then [the garment] is not considered to have four kanfos, and we can say with near certainty that one who receites [the Tzitzit Blessing] recites a blessing in vain.”

Indeed, this problem does come up. I know of one importer who made a batch of about 30,000, all of which were definitely more closed than open along the sides.

Note that Mishkan Hatchelet’s patented design on their undershirt (“Cotton Comfort“) eradicates this problem entirely, because the sides are almost entirely open, with just a narrow band fairly high up holding them together.

What about the hechsher? Take a close look, and you’ll see that the hechsher is on the tzitzit strings and the tzitzit tying, not the tallit katan garment. One rav I spoke recently with expressed surprise that a rav would supervise tzitzit tying on a garment that does not require tzitzit. But that fact is that even with traditional cotton tallit katans, you won’t find a hechsher on the beged.

Another issue is the tzitzit holes. They should be positioned 5 cm from the sides of the tallit katan. If the hole is 4.5 cm or 5.5 cm, that’s fine, but if it’s under 4 cm or over 7 we start to run into questions.

Some poskim are against the whole idea of undershirt tzitzits, saying the tallit garment must be a bone fide garment, not an undershirt whose task is to absorb sweat. In my opinion, even according to that opinion, a tzitzit t-shirt would be fine, because it is clearly designed to serve as a genuine garment, not just as an undershirt.

What about undershirt tzitzit for boys? Does it have to be more open than closed along the sides? I really don’t know, you’ll have to ask a qualified rabbi. On one hand, the mitzvah here is chinuch, not the actual mitzvah of tzitzit, and in any case the garment probably does not meet the minimum size requirement, but on the other hand he is probably reciting a bracha on the tzitzit, which can be problematic — especially if he is beyond bar mitzvah age.

Apr 132015

The following is an exchange with a prospective customer who seems to be debating whether he wants to wear a cotton tallit katan or a wool tallit katan. Although I found some of his questions a bit surprising, I think the exchange may be instructive for some other people out there interested in buying a tallit katan.

With wool tallit katans, do I wear it against my skin? What is the general custom for wearing one? Thank you for your time.

No, you can’t wear wool against your skin (try it and you’ll see what I mean). Even our Wool Comfort undershirt style tzitzit is not meant to be worn against your skin. You need an undershirt. It is made from a very soft wool, but it’s still itchy.

(I once told a customer who asked a very similar question that there’s no such thing as wool that can be worn against the skin. I was wrong. He was from New Zealand, which is one the the world’s leading producers of wool, and he gave me a quick lesson on Merino wool.)

People who don’t like to wear three layers choose a cotton undershirt style tzitzit garment.

How would I wash the wool undershirt tzitzit?

Personally I wash mine by hand, but I think woolite and a gentle cycle, cold water should be fine. The real problem is the tzitzit. Even on a gentle cycle they can get horribly tangled. Did you even buy one of these? If not, there are ways to improvise. You can tuck the tzitzit into a sock and tie it up tight and wrap rubber bands around it.

Thank you very much for the response. I know someone who wears the wool against his skin and he is an observant Jew. So I wasn’t sure if it was against halacha or not. Are there special undershirts for wool katan use? Or can just any cotton shirt work?

What if they made wool katans with a special thin soft lining that is only on the inside. The inside that touches the skin? But without commiting shatnez? It would be interesting. It beats 3 layers.

If I may ask, what is it that you wear? Do you wear wool katans?

I have both cotton and wool.

There are some opinions that wearing the garment against your skin (cotton or wool) is inappropriate. Not against halacha, strictly speaking, but sort of showing a lack of respect for a mitzvah item. But a tallit katan is in essence a regular garment, so it does not have the kedusha of items like a mezuzah or tefillin. According to that opinion, which is a stringency that not all poskim concur with, because a tallit katan is used specifically for the mitzvah of tzitzit, it’s more than just a regular garment. These opinions state that an undershirt is meant to absorb sweat, so creating a tzitzit garment that serves that function is disrespectful.

Shatnez is not an issue here because the fabrics involved here are wool and cotton. The prohibition is against a combination of wool and linen. Cotton and linen are not the same thing. Linen is made from flax/linseed.