Tallit sizing can be a complicated affair, especially if you are trying to figure out sizing online.
This week we received an inquiry from a father in Chicago buying tallits for his two sons.
Trying to determine size of Tallit for my two oldest sons. They are uncomfortable using full size Talletim, of course, and I thought I would get them an intermediary size that would fit them up to their Bar Mitzvahs. (they are 9 and 7 and dont like the ‘holiday tallits’ they inherited from their grandfathers). I wanted to get a wraparound one like mine are but in a smaller size. Is 45 too large still? your sizing scale only goes to 45 but some seem available in 24? Is that 24 inches in the height of the back? thanks, Henry
In many Reform and Conservative congregations you see size 18 and 24, which are narrow tallits that sit on the shoulders and hang in front.
In Orthodox congregations (and sometimes in Reform or Conservative) people wear the tallit traditional style, with two tzitzit in front, and two in back, with the tallit draping down the back to the waist or the back of the thighs. These tallits are sizes 45, 50, 55, 60, 70 and sometimes are available in size 80 or even size 90.
But there also is a third way to wear the tallit, which is sort of in between. A size 36 tallit (which is about 36 inches from the edge that rests on the neck to the edge parallel to the floor) is also designed to be worn with all four tzitzit held in front, but unlike the size 24, it covers much of the back and the upper arms. Since Henry used the word “wraparound,” I needed to clarify with him whether he meant a size 36 tallit, or the larger sizes worn traditional style.
In traditional Orthodox congregations a size 36 tallit is not common. According to the old Yemenite and German customs, a large tallit is worn but wrapped around with all four corners held in front. Some Yemenites even fold it in half so that it comes out pretty much the same dimensions as a size 36.
And there are also a small number of Sephardic Jews who apparently have a custom of wearing this size tallit in a similar fashion.