May 252015

A large proportion of our customers are Sephardic. Recently we had a return customer who wanted a bigger talit, because he wants to start wearing it wrapped around him.

Hi, Ben. I bought a Beit Yosef Tallit from you two years ago, and you were able to put in the medium size tzitzit, tied 10-5-6-5 Sephardi. I’m looking to get a Talitania Malchut the same way but slightly larger, but wanted to clarify sizing with you.

Since purchasing the Beit Yosef, I’ve changed shuls, and in the more Western Sephardic atmosphere I’m in now, it’s very popular to wear the tallit, even a full size one, with all four tzitzit in front. However, my size 50 Beit Yosef is just fractionally too short in length to do this comfortably.

The Western Sephardic minhag (Spanish and Portuguese, much of Europe) is traditionally to wear the tallit wrapped around the upper part of the body, so it drapes across the back but then comes up over the upper arms, above the elbows, then either hang all four tzitzit in front or sort of hold them out. I’ve found by watching older men in shul that this makes it a lot less awkward for gathering the tzitzit for Shema, because one doesn’t have to reach around behind and fumble for the strings.

Thanks, Michael

It sounds to me like Michael needs a bit more in the length, i.e. if his present tallit were longer in back, he’d be able to bring it in front. When you move up a size, you gain an additional four inches in length.

The bigger number in our size tables refers to the length/width of the tallit across the shoulders, i.e. from one fringed side to the other. Our size chart shows typical sizes, but different companies have slight differences in their size 60 or size 70.

In addition to the advantages in terms of mechanics during Kriyat Shema, to my mind there is a halachic advantage. The Rishonim (e.g. the Rambam) talk about the requirement of עיטוף or wrapping. (And of course the Tzitzit Bracha says להתעטף.)

It’s harder for me to understand how עיטוף is achieved when the tallit is worn on the shoulders and draping down in front and back, compared to the Sephardic/Yemenite/German עיטוף Michael describes.

  • Gavriel

    I believe the Vilna Gaon holds having all 4 in front invalidates the wearing. By shema, the vilna gaon followers do not kiss their tzizit nor gather all 4 in front….