May 122012

I came across an interesting question on a frum forum about long tzitzit strings on little boys. I’d love to put in my two cents, but it’s a forum for Jewish mothers and they explicit state that men (and boys and unmarried girls) are uninvited. So I thought I’d at least comment here, since I’m sure there are a lot of mothers and others out there wondering the same thing.

My 3y/o DS’s tzitzit are SOOOO LOOONG and it just makes me crazy. I try to tuck them in, but they always come out. I did not grow up Orthodox and I just find that no matter how cute I dress him, the tzitzit ruin the whole look – sweeping the ground as he walks. He even had a cat come close to attacking him because the cat thought he had on a human wearable cat toy…

Anyway, I know people do trim them. However, I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to do it with metal blades/scissors because metal is associated with instruments of war or something. There may be other ‘rules’ I don’t know about…I tried googling ‘wooden scissors’ but got nothing besides decorative wall scissors, wooden scissor holding racks, and maybe some metal scissors with wooden handles. I’ve also heard that some people trim them using their teeth. I had DH do this with one particularly long string, but I can’t imagine him or me sitting there chewing off each string one by one.

She’s right. Trimming tzitzit is a challenge, but looking frumpy – even just frumpy tzitzit – is not a mitzvah. The best solution is ceramic scissors (made of something called zirconium oxide). Mine cost me over $20 on Amazon and shipping to Israel cost almost that much. If someone finds them for less, please leave a comment on this post. Since I tie at least 10 sets of tzitzit a week, it was definitely worth it for me and has made my life much easier.

As someone on the Imamother thread mentioned, broken glass is an option. If you live in a bad neighborhood or have young kids in the house, this shouldn’t be hard to come by. Collect a couple of shards and search for a very sharp section that cuts well. You will get a much better cut of the tzitzit strings than with your teeth, but much worse than with scissors. As one of the commenters wrote in the forum thread, you can then dip the tip of the cut tzitzit in clear nail polish to keep it from unravelling.

If you find these suggestion impractical, go to your rov, relate your own circumstances and ask about using regular metal scissors. I came up with a sevora that maybe you could use kids’ plastic scissors to cut tzitzit, even though the blade has a metal blade added to it, because the ikar of the scissors is plastic, which certainly does not resemble war implements. Daggers, swords and machine guns are not made of plastic. You might want to run that by your rov and see what he says.

However you wind up cutting the tzitzit, be aware that tzitzit must be 12 etzba’ot (24 cm) long from the first knot down to the end of the dangling part of the tzitzit. Ideally the dangling part should be twice as long as the knots and windings, and if you look around you’ll see that most men wear their tzitzit longer than that, although based on my understanding of the halacha, this is unwarranted. I’m sure some of them hesitate to trim the tzitzit because of the metal scissors issue.

With little boys, it also helps keep the tzitzit look a bit neater if you tuck them under the belt, like yeshiva boys do.

You can view the whole tzitzit cutting thread at Imamother here and if someone happens to be a registered member of the forum you might want to link to this post.

For a brief halachic discussion of the custom not to cut tzitzit, go to Din.

Tallit Katan for Children – Buy Boys Tzitzit>>>

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