Usually people choose a white-on-white tallit either for a wedding or because they are Sephardic. Although not all Sephardic Jews wear a white tallit, the custom is fairly widespread. And then there are some Ashkenazim who go with a white tallit simply because they like the classic look or want an all white tallit for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and possibly other holidays.
Recently I received the following question from a customer in Los Angeles:
I want a size 70 white tallit made of wool, to be used at our upcoming wedding and then on high holidays. I cannot decide between the Prima, the Tashbetz, the Beit Yosef, Chatanim or Pe’er. They all look similar to me. I need help identifying the differences to make a selection. Can you please help me?
Let me try to shed some light on the scene.
The Prima A.A. Tallit is the standard white tallit. It’s a good quality weave, but has no special features. The stripes are satiny. The Chatanim White Tallit is the same idea, but has a denser weave, stiffened corners (to keep the tzitzit from sliding around), the corner reinforcements are made of wool, which is slightly superior from a halachic standpoint, and the fabric is designed to resist stains and stay white for many years.
Non-slip white tallit
The Pe’er White Tallit has many of those features, but has a different weave that’s softer, more pliant, a bit puffy on the shoulders. It tends to stay in place a bit better on the shoulders.
The Tashbetz Tallit is similar, but lighter in weight and it doesn’t have wool corner reinforcements. If you hover on the image you should be able to discern the waffle-like pattern of the weave.
The Beit Yosef Tallit stands apart. It is made entirely of wool, including the corners and the atara (neckband), and the striping is not satiny, but very subtle. Because the atara is all wool it’s heavier than the typical atara, so you can feel it sitting on your shoulders. It’s also very slightly cream-color rather than a bright white tallit. From a distance it probably looks plainer than the others, but up close the weave is quite attractive.
Go to White Tallit page>>>
The Kaf Hachaim (9:15) cites various reasons why the tallit itself should be white, adding that black stripes do not invalidate this, since we consider the majority of the tallit (hat tip: Menachem).
One of the reasons he mentions is that the Shulchan Aruch says the tzitzit should be the same color as the garment; since the strings are white, the tallit should be white as well.
The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 17B) says G-d wore a tallit when telling Moshe the 13 Attributes of Mercy. G-d then told Moshe if the Jews do as I have done they will be forgiven. In Daniel 7:9 we find, “I was looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days sat; His raiment was as white as snow,” which shows G-d wears (so to speak) a white tallit.