Feb 242011
 

Sudilkov, a small town in Ukraine, is reportedly the shtetl Stephen Spielberg’s family hail from. It has a history of Jewish settlement reaching back to the 17th century, but today there are no Jews there and almost no trace of the Jewish presence remains.

The Jews of Sudilkov were renown for the tallits they made.

“Talleisim of Sudilkov were known internationally and their production was the main source of income for the townspeople. The people of Sudilkov believed that anyone who bore the family name Talisman or Talismacher certainly could trace their origin to Sudilkov. The silk and wool threads were brought from Lodz and in the local workshops, skilled craftsmen wove the talleisim. Traveling salesmen sold their product in all the Jewish communities both near and far.”

Quoted from Yalkut Volhynia, 1948

Nov 212010
 

Although some Jews have a custom to wear their tzitzit tucked in to their pants, the origins of that custom remain somewhat obscure. The mitzvah is to see them and keep all of the mitzvahs in mind.

Tzitzit Tucked in or Showing?

Rabbi Eli Mansour notes that twice in his presentation of the laws of tzitzit the Shulchan Aruch writes that the tallit katan should be worn over one’s clothing, so that he sees the tzitzit at all times and thereby is reminded of the mitzvahs.  According to the Shulchan Aruch, even the tallit katan itself should be worn over one’s shirt (like many Chassidim do today).

The Mishna Berura sharply condemns the practice of those who tuck the tzitzit inside their pants rather than leave them exposed, saying that this not only undermines the purpose of tzitzit – “you shall see them and remember all the commandments of God” (Bamidbar 15:39) – but also denigrates the mitzvah.

Tzitzit and Kabbalah

However, various kabbalists, including the Arizal, hold that neither the tallit katan nor the tzitzit strings should be exposed. Therefore many Sephardim, who generally follow the laws and customs of the kabbalists, keep their tzitzit tucked in. According to Rabbi Bentzion Abba Shaul zt”l, Rabbi Ezra Attia zt”l remarked that any Sephardic Jew who exposes his tzitzit casts aspersions on the previous generations of Sephardic Jews.

Meanwhile, the Magen Avraham (and Shulchan Aruch Harav) holds that the allowance to conceal the tallit katan applies to the garment, but that the tzitzit should remain hanging out.

Rabbi Chaim Vital explained the Arizal’s practice of keeping both the tallit katan garment and the tzitzit concealed by saying the tallit gadol represesents chitzonius while the tallit katan represent pnimius. The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l contended that the Arizal’s custom was not meant as an instruction to others, but his own practice, adding that on the Arizal’s level, a look inward would suffice, whereas the rest of us need to keep our tzitzit out and visible.

Tzitzit tucked in or showing?The question gets more complicated when it comes to techelet tzitzit. About ten years ago a rav, who did not support wearing Ptil Tekhelet tzitzit, said they could be worn discreetly, i.e. at home or not showing. But it seems to me this largely compromises the proper fulfillment of the mitzvah.

Rabbi Berel Wein reportedly said that one of his rabbis in Chicago wore his tzitzit tucked in. When asked why, he told his students that they should always remember that their rebbe wore his tzitzit tucked in, and if they ever encountered a situation where tzitzit hanging out would look untoward, they would wear them tucked in, rather than taking the tallit katan off altogether.

Related resources:

Keeping Tzitzit Tucked In (post and thread)
Dangling Tzitzit (StackExchange – Mi Yodeya)
Tzitzit In/Out (ImaMother – post and thread)

Rabbi Eli Mansour notes that twice in his presentation of the laws of tzitzit the Shulchan Aruch writes that the tallit katan should be worn over one’s clothing, so that he sees the tzitzit at all times and thereby be reminded of the Mitzvot.  According to the Shulchan Aruch, even the tallit katan itself should be worn over one’s shirt (like many Chassidim do today).

The Mishna Berura (sharply condemns the practice of those who tuck the tzitzit inside their pants, rather than leave them exposed, saying that this not only undermines the purpose of tzitzit – “you shall see them and remember all the commandments of God” (Bamidbar 15:39) – but also denigrates the mitzvah.

However, various kabbalists, including the Arizal, hold that neither the tallit katan nor the tzitzit strings should be exposed. Therefore, Sepharadim, who generally follow the laws and customs of the kabbalists, should keep their tzitzit tucked in. According to Rabbi Bentzion Abba Shaul zt”l, Rabbi Ezra Attia zt”l remarked that any Sephardic Jew who exposes his tzitzit casts aspersions on the previous generations of Sephardic Jews.

According to halacha the tzitzit strings may come in contact with one’s skin.

Rabbi Berel Wein reportedly said that one of his rabbis in Chicago wore his tzitzit tucked in. When asked why, he told his students that they should always remember that their rebbe wore his in, and if they were ever in a situation where tzitzit hanging out would look wrong, they would thus wear them tucked in, rather than taking them off altogether.

The Wall is Wailing

 Tallit  Comments Off
Jul 252010
 

by Rabbi Avi Shafran

Neither facts nor logic have impeded champions of Nofrat Frenkel, the woman briefly detained by police at the Western Wall in November 2009.

Needless to say, Ms. Frenkel’s charge that she was unnecessarily manhandled by police should be responsibly investigated. Even a violator of the law has the right to be detained in a nonviolent manner. But that Ms. Frenkel violated the law, as per the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision in 2003 to apportion a special area, at Robinson’s Arch, for women to chant at feminist religious services, is not at issue.

Ms. Frenkel’s detention was not spurred, as her champions (media and pundits dutifully trotting behind in step) have repeatedly proclaimed, by her having dared to wear a tallit, or Jewish prayer shawl, at the site.

Women in Tallitot Not the Problem

Indeed, by Ms. Frenkel’s own account (Forward, November 24), she and 40-odd other “Women of the Wall” prayed as a group that morning in the main Kotel area wearing tallitot, without incident.

But the tallit-garbed women did not stop there. They sang the Psalms that comprise the song of praise Hallel “in full voice,” as per the testimony of Ms. Frenkel’s fellow activist Anat Hoffman (quoted on the Forward’s “Sisterhood Blog” in a November 18 posting). Even then, though, recalls Ms. Hoffman, “there was no complaint whatsoever from anyone.” (It is odd – well, not really – that the lack of any reaction by others even at that point went unnoted in the paper’s news coverage, or that of other mainstream Jewish media.)

It was only what then transpired that motivated the police to accost the group. Ms. Frenkel had brought a Torah scroll hidden in a duffel bag to the site and removed it, according to her own account above, to publicly “read from the Torah opposite the stones of the Kotel.” That brought others at the site to object (“We told them to butt out,” recalls Ms. Hoffman), and the police to intervene.

Flouting the Law

Those who are unhappy with the Israeli Supreme Court’s 2003 decision have the right to their unhappiness, and even to seek to have the court revisit the issue. But if they choose instead to intentionally flout the law, they should honestly acknowledge that they are courting prosecution through civil disobedience – not seek to portray themselves as innocent victims wondering what they might possibly have done wrong.

Facts notwithstanding, one of Ms. Frenkel’s advocates, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., complained to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren that “If a Jew had been arrested for wearing a prayer shawl in any other country… there would be outrage,” and characterized the enforcement of the law at the Kotel as “religious persecution.”

Turning the tallit into a red herring (David Copperfield, watch out!), the rabbi went on to lecture the Ambassador, quoting Maimonides about the permissibility of tallit-wearing by women (but somehow overlooking the sage’s prohibition against women reading publicly from the Torah – Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Tefilla, 12:17), and charging that Ms. Frenkel “had been den[ied] the right to expressly follow the teachings of the Torah.”

Free for All at the Wall

Not only are facts flexible in the religious progressives’ circle; logic is uninvited. Do the Freedom Chanters really want to open the Kotel plaza to all religious expressions?

Would the Frenkel forces be pleased with Buddhist intonations and incense-burning at the Kotel? Catholic hymns and processions? Taoist drumbeating ceremonies? Surely the activists don’t mean to limit their liberalmindedness to services conducted by Jews alone.

People of all faiths, after all, are welcome at the Kotel – as they should be. Out of respect, though, for the Jewish historical and spiritual connection to the place, public services there should respect a single standard of decorum. And that standard should be, as it has been, millennia-old Jewish religious tradition.

The Kotel is a holy place, and should not be made a battlefield by advocates for social or religious change. Men and women, whatever their backgrounds or beliefs, are welcome and unbothered by the traditionally religious Jews who most often frequent the site, seeking only to pray there as Jews always have prayed.

Ms. Frenkel and her friends are clearly committed to a cause. But promoting their particular view of feminism should not compel them to act in ways that they know will offend others, to seek to turn a holy place into a political arena.

Such “activism,” unfortunately, actively hinders the coming of the Messiah, and the rebuilding of the Jewish people’s true National Synagogue, the one that once stood just beyond the Western Wall.

Rabbi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.

© 2010 Am Echad Resources

More tallit articles:

Beyond the Here and Now by Dan Slobodkin
Connecting Heaven and Earth
Do-It-Yourself Tzitzit Tying
A Tallit in Auschwitz