Nov 222012

In general, the tallit has traditionally been made of wool for centuries, and today, most quality tallits are made of 100% virgin wool. It looks good, hangs well, lasts and is the fabric of choice from a halachic standpoint. But what do you do if you happen to be allergic to wool?

Silk or Acrylic Tallit: Is It Kosher?

Only wool and linen garments require tzitzit according to Torah law, whereas other fabrics require tzitzit according to Rabbinic law. That means wearing a cotton tallit or one made of silk or acrylic is a mitzvah, but at the Rabbinic level, not the Torah level.

You might conclude that the obvious solution for someone with a wool allergy is to wear a linen tallit. But the halacha clearly states that linen should be strictly avoided today. The reason has to do with shatnez (forbidden fabric mixtures) and techelet. The topic is quite complicated, so we will not delve into it in this post.

Cotton Tallit

However, it should be noted that certain preeminent halacha authorities (e.g. the Vilna Gaon and the Chazon Ish) held that a cotton tallit requires tzitzit according to Torah law, just like wool.

In practice, handwoven tallits are often made of cotton. Gabrieli also offers silk, which creates higher sheen.

Commercial tallit manufacturers generally use wool, but offer acrylic options as well. An acrylic tallit can be lightweight, soft, and warm, with a wool-like feel, and the price of an acrylic tallit is about half of the wool equivalent. An acrylic tallit takes color well, is washable, and is generally hypoallergenic, although it may cause irritation in people with certain dermatological conditions (e.g. eczema).

If you are interested in an acrylic tallit, take of look at any of the synthetic tallits shown on this page. (To view them clearly, click on any image, and then when the page changes, click on the image shown. You should see a full-screen image.) Prices range from $30-$60, depending on size.

Another option is a handwoven cotton tallit by Gabrieli, Kedma or Weaving Creation. Since their tallits are almost all custom made, any of these tallit makers can use whichever colors you choose. All of them work in cotton (Gabrieli also has a silk option).

Jun 022012

Today, almost every traditional tallit is made of wool, although you can also find inexpensive tallits made of acrylic or other synthetic materials or occasional a wool/acrylic blend, such as the Hadar Tallit made by Talitania. In the realm of modern tallits, especially handmade, some are also made of silk or cotton. But there is one you won’t find very often: a linen tallit.

The reason is based on halacha. According to the Shulchan Aruch, only a wool or linen tallit or garment is  required to have tzitzit d’oreisa (based on Torah Law), whereas all other fabrics require tzitzit d’Rabbanan (based on Rabbinical Law). The Rema emends this, saying other fabrics also require tzitzit d’oreisa, and the Ashkenazi custom is to rely on his ruling.

Linen Tallit with Wool Tzitzit – Or Vice Versa

So it would appear that linen is just fine – even preferrable – as a tallit fabric. The problem is kilayim, of ten known as “shatnez,” which is a forbidden mixture of wool and linen. The Torah actually makes a special exception in the case of tzitzit, allowing you to tie wool tzitzit onto a linen tallit or garment, or linen tzitzit onto a wool garment. But the Shulchan Aruch notes that today we cannot put linen tzitzit on a wool garment or wool tzitzit on a linen garment because “we do not have techelet [therefore] it would be kilayim” (9, 2).

(Ptil Tekhelet proponents might differ on this point, but very few of them – even if those who are 99% convinced the techelet they are wearing is the real thing – would be willing to take their chances by wearing a linen tallit or tallit katan garment, since Ptil Tekhelet tzitzit are made of wool.)

Linen Tzitzit on a Linen Tallit

However, if you look carefully at what the Mishnah Berurah writes on this point, it seems there is room to be lenient and use linen tzitzit, except in the case of a wool or silk tallit or tallit katan garment. And some people need to make use of this leniency, especially if they are allergic to wool. In fact, there are even other less known fabric allergies, such as allergy to the shellfish additives in some fabrics, allergy to synthetics and even allergic to cotton. But as far as I know, nobody is allergic to linen.

Consumers should be aware that many online linen tallit sellers are Messianic Christians, so it’s important to check your source thoroughly.

Some people think linen is synonymous with cotton, which is not the case at all. A cotton tallit or tallit katan garment is clearly permitted (although some Sephardic Jews are stringent to stick with wool). Though rare, you may come across a handwoven tallit katan made of fine cotton yard using a linen weave. But cotton yarn is made of cotton, while linen is made of flax.

I once had a customer who wanted to buy a cotton tallit, but was concerned that the wool tzitzit would render it shatnez. I reassured the buyer that there was nothing to worry about, that cotton and wool are fine.

As a side note, you may run across references to “wool tzitzit” or “cotton tzitzit.” Generally this is not a reference to the tzitzit strings, but to the tallit katan garment the tzitzit are tied onto.

Enter Tallit & Tzitzit Store>>>

May 052012

Why are the vast majority of tallitot made of wool? Why is a silk tallit or a cotton tallit the exception and not the rule? According to halacha, wool is the material of choice for a tallit, although other materials are acceptable as well. The only problem fabrics would be synthetics, according to some opinions, and a linen tallit.

For a very interesting discussion of different tallit materials, including silk and linen, take a look at this thread:

Enter Tallit & Tzitzit Store>>>

Feb 122012

Tallit Hamefoar can be roughly translated as Tallit Splendor. It is among the top-of-the-line tallits made by Mishkan Hatchelet, one of Israel’s leading tallit manufacturers.

Chatanim Tallit

Tallit Chatanim

Until a few years ago, Mishkan Hatchelet, like its leading competitor, Talitania, had a standard quality wool tallit called Prima A.A. and a deluxe wool tallit called Chatanim. (In Hebrew, chatanim means “grooms,” and it can also be used to refer to bar mitzvah boys.)

The Chatanim Tallit features a high-density weave, so discerning tallit buyers will notice that it looks nicer up close and falls straighter. The fabric is treated to repel stains and retain whiteness over time. And the corners are made of stiff wool to help the tzitzit stay in place, i.e. not slide over around the corner (tzitzit are supposed to stay on the side with the fringe, so that they hang down right on the corner).

Hamefoar Tallit

Tallit Hamefoar

Then both Mishkan Hatchelet and Talitania introduced a non-slip tallit made of an airy weave. This type of wool fabric has more body to it, so the wearer feels it on his shoulders, unlike a lightweight tallit.

Tallit Hamefoar essentially combines the features of Tallit Chatanim with the non-slip tallit fabric to create a very high quality tallit with a soft, luxurious feel, making it the ultimate non-slip tallit.

At Ben’s Tallit Shop we offer a complete line of Mishkan Hatchelet tallit designs, including the Chatanim Tallit and Tallit Hamefoar. Both are available with either black or white striping and a range of tzitzit and atara options. And our prices are guaranteed to be the best you’ll find online.

Tallit HaMefoar – More Info>>>

All Nonslip Tallit Options>>>

The Atara

 Tallit  Comments Off
Jan 312011

If you’ve ever shopped for a tallit, the issue of the atara may have come up. The tallit atara (or neckband) is really just a trim, which can range from a subtle white-on-white design to a bold and colorful embellishment.

Atara origins

Atara with classic leaf patternThe custom originated to ensure that the prayer shawl was worn the same way each day. The idea is not simply to make sure the tallit is not worn upside-down, but to keep the same two tzitzits in front and the same two tzitzits in back every time the tallit is worn. According to the Shlah, this is in keeping with the teaching that in the Tabernacle, the northern boards had an established merit to occupy the north side, the eastern boards the east side, etc.

Atara on the traditional tallit

If you prefer a traditional tallit made of wool, there are several options for the tallit atara. The most common option is a very simple white atara, which comes standard on most classic wool tallits. Some Sephardic Jews are careful to wear a tallit that is entirely wool – including the atara and corners.

Sometimes the tallit atara has the tzitzit blessing embroidered on it, but many Orthodox Jews who wear a tallit seven days a week will eschew the blessing, which can come across as “amateurish” and superfluous. Some people have a special Shabbos tallis with an ornate atara featuring rich embroidery work or embedded metallic squares.

The modern tallit atara

In the realm of the modern tallit, anything goes. Often the atara is designed to highlight a motif in the prayer shawl itself or to match the corners.

If you would like a traditional tallit (or not-so-traditional tallit) with a unique or custom atara,
please go to our Custom Tallit page.
For a standard tallit, go to our Traditional Tallit page