Feb 142013

I recently received an interesting inquiry from a prospective customer. I’m not 100% sure what he meant, but I decided to write a detailed response that covers several points related to his question on tallit and tzitzit. His brief question was as follows:

I just wondered if the tallit and tzitzits you sell are of the same brand used by the Haredis of Jerusalem especially Mea Shearim?

Based on the question my assumption was that he wants to be sure the tallit and tzitzit he buys are completely kosher, so I touched on various topics related to the halacha of tallit and tzitzit:

Thank you for your inquiry. There are dozens of tallit and tzitzit manufacturers in Israel. The two leading companies are Mishkan HaTchelet (distributed in the U.S. by Keter) and Talitania (also spelled Talitnia). All of our traditional tallit and tzitzit products are made by Mishkan Hatchelet. They have three factory outlet stores in Geula, which is Jerusalem’s “Charedi downtown” and it borders Meah Shearim. Their products adhere to very high halachic standards. (If you can read Hebrew, click here.)

For instance, one of the important details to keep in mind when making a tallit or tallit katan is the placement of the tzitzit holes. The Torah says explicitly that the tzitzit must be placed on the kanaf, which literally means “corner.” The Karaites decided this means right on the corner itself. I’m not sure how they get tzitzit to stay there, but I’ve heard that’s what they do. On the other hand Chazal learned, based on various proofs, that kanaf means the corner, but not too close to the edge. It comes out that the holes for the tzitzit should be located 4.8-6.0 cm from the edges. That may sound easy, but I have come across products made by small manufacturers (and handwoven tallits) where the tzitzit holes are too far or too close to the edges, rendering the tzitzit invalid. This is fairly rare, but two or three times I’ve had to reject products.

If you are concerned about making sure the tallit and tzitzit you buy are perfectly kosher, I would advise you to avoid machine-spun tzitzit. Handspun tzitzit only cost about $6 more, and from a halachic standpoint it’s worth the money. (If you’d like to understand why, refer to my post, “Kosher Tzitzit: A Matter of Intent“.) Also, according to some opinions it’s best to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit with a wool tallit or tallit katan, not cotton. (See my post, “Four Reasons to Opt for a Wool Tallit Katan” and another post titled “Tzitzit: Cotton or wool?“.)

One stringency that some (but not most) charedim insist on is tzitzit known as lashonot hatzemer. If I’m not mistaken this stringency is based on a psak (halachic ruling) by HaRav Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss zt”l. We have a few sets of these available, so if you’re interested, let me know. They cost a few dollars more than the standard handspun tzitzit strings.

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