We get plenty of customers looking for a genuine Chabad tallis, but we also see a number of tallis buyers who want what you might call a “pseudo-Chabad tallit.” Today, for example, we received the following inquiry:
Is there any difference between your Chabad Tallit and your Prima A.A. Tallit with Ari/Chabad tzitzis?
Thank you for your time. It’s great to be able to purchase a tallit from an expert.
The question is actually somewhat involved, so first let’s discuss the tallis, and then clarify the tzitzis.
Chabad Tallit vs. Typical Ashkenazi Tallit
There are a number of differences between the the Chabad Tallit and a typical black-striped wool tallit like the Prima AA:
1) No atara, because Lubavitch holds that the atara sort of deflects attention from the essence of the mitzvah of wearing a tallis. They don’t really have to worry about the issuing of making sure the tallis is worn the same way every day because the lining takes care of that. On our Chabad Tallit product page you’ll notice that we do offer an atara option for those who do not adhere so closely to Chabad customs.
2) A silk lining comes standard. Purists insist on silk, although it tends to make the tallis slippery. We can sew on a cotton lining instead, by request.
3) The corner squares are made of silk. Normally they are synthetic, or may be wool on high-end tallitot.
4) A Chabad tallis has a lot more black striping than a standard tallis. Some non-Lubavitchers wear a Chabad tallis simply because they like the striping.
Chabad tzitzis tying, based on the Arizal, are tied by linking the windings into groups of three, which is then called a chulyah. This takes some expertise. Many tallis dealers, brick-and-mortar stores and webstores, lack the know-how to tie Chabad tzitzis. In fact, a well-known handwoven tallis maker I work with recently got an order from a customer who wanted Chabad tzitzis on a tallis they had made, and we were called on to help them tie the tzitzis.
The second element of Chabad tzitzis tying is a halachic innovation of adding a second hole beneath the main tzitzis hole. The issue behind this is the problem of keeping the tzitzis on the fringed sides of the tallis so that they hang down properlywithout having to scrunch up the fabric, which introduces a new issue of bringing the tzitzis hole too close to the sides of the tallit. Most poskim favor one attribute or the other, since they are mutually exclusively, but Lubavitch came up with a way to have your cake and eat it too: rather than bunch up the fabric they anchor the tzitzis in place by looping the shamash string one time through that second hole. In theory you could do this with a different tying custom. In fact, we once had a customer who wanted Ptil Tekhelet tzitzit tied on a Chabad tallis according to the Raavad, and using that second hole was important to him.