A fairly significant number of our tallit and tallit katan customers who select Ptil Tekhelet tzitzit want us to tie them according to the Sephardic custom. For example, this week we received the following inquiry from a prospective techelet buyer in the US:
I am looking at new Tallit Gadol. In the past I have tied my own P’til Techelet Tzitzit but since you offer this service I would request information on your method in relation to the Sephardic or Raavad option. In particular,
– Do you use a full P’til Techelet Tzitzit when doing the “Sephardic” method (ie. not a half-white, half-techelet string), as I am sure you would under the “Raavad” method?
– What is the numerical sequence of wraps in both cases?
– Are you able to forward pictures of examples of both?
In my reply, I told David that if you do Sephardic tying, in my humble opinion you should use Rambam techelet strings.
Thank you for your inquiry. I trust you have read our techelet tying page.
Based on my understanding of halacha, if you go ahead and tie Sephardic windings, it makes most sense to use Rambam tekhelet strings so that you get seven white strings and one blue string hanging down from each corner. Of all of the Rishonim and Achronim who explicitly discuss how to tie tzitzit with techelet, the Rambam is generally considered the most authoritative.
I even know an Ashkenazi yeshiva student who ties his tzitzit with Vilna Gaon windings, but uses Rambam strings! He holds that from a halachic standpoint, the main question is how many white strings and how many blue you should have; how to do the windings is of secondary importance.
I think there is a fairly significant number of Ashkenazim who choose to tie according to the Rambam for this reason, so I would assume it applies even more so for Sephardim.
But I am not qualified to make halachic decisions, so you should really try to speak with a rav about this, though many rabbanim have not looked into techelet and techelet tying. Feel free to forward this email to a rav to see what he says. I’d be interested to get some feedback, if possible.
Regarding your question on the numerical sequence of the wraps, on a tallit gadol Sephardic tzitzit are always done 7-8-11-13, so with techelet it would be as follows:
initial double knot
1 white – 6 blue – double knot
8 blue – double knot
11 blue – double knot
12 blue – 1 white – double knot
The Gemara tells us very clearly that you always start with white and end with white, and that rule applies no matter how you do the windings.
Some of my customers know very little about tzitzit tying, so I was quite astonished by the highly erudite (and fascinating) reply David sent me the next day. The following are his remarks on the Raavad and Rambam tying methods:
Although Sephardim normally follow Rambam, I am personally in favour of the Raavad method, & just for the sake of interesting Torah discussion I will share the reason.
In Sefer HaBahir there are two potentially relevant discussions:
If it is within your tradition to read there, paragraph’s 92 & 93 become relevant.
Now, from one perspective [Rambam] it could be said to be better to have only one blue thread showing on each corner, this would indicate the “garden” is the King’s (Keter).
However, paragraph 93 discusses the role of the King’s daughter (Malchut) …”with these two signs, ‘G-d will watch you from all evil, He will safeguard your soul’ – part of the function of the reminder of the Tzitzit.”
So, as it happens, some ascribe this book to the Raavad, and his technique for tying happens to have the showing of two blue threads on each corner.
Thanks for taking the time to get back to me & providing the link & additional information. The foregoing thoughts are just for your interest & any other students of the Torah you may wish to discuss with.
With G-d’s help I will place an order with you via the website & will probably opt to tie the Tzitzit myself although I am sure your methodologies are all good & acceptable.