Yemenite Tallit

 

To this day the Yemenite tallit reflects certain distinctions that set it apart from the tallits worn in other parts of the world.

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Netted Fringes or Double-Knotted FringesTraditional Yemenite TallitThe traditional Yemenite tallit is typically quite elaborate, including a wide atara (neckband) embroidered with silver or gold threads, as are the corner reinforcements. The striping pattern also is distinct from the typical Ashkenazi or Sephardic tallit custom. And most notable of all, perhaps, are the hallmark double-knotted or netted fringes along the two sides.

Among Yemenite Jews who follow the Baladi tradition, the tzitzit on a Yemenite tallit are tied according to the Rambam, with seven “joints” not separated by any knots. After the cords have been inserted into the hole at the corner of the tallit, a double knot is made. The longest strand is then wound around the other cords three times to form the first joint. A small space is left and the cord is wound around another three times. The process continues until the tzitzit has seven joints with no intermediate knots.

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On Yemenite Jewry

Yemenite Jews have a unique religious tradition that distinguishes them from Ashkenazi, Sephardi and other Jewish groups. For instance, Yemenite Jews are among the few communities that maintain the tradition of reading the Torah in both Hebrew and the Aramaic Targum (“translation”).

Jew with simonim and wrapped in Yemenite tallithIn the Yemenite tradition each person called to the Torah scroll for an aliyah reads for himself. (The only other communities that follow this practice are and the Aramaic-speaking Kurdish Jews and isolated groups that closely adhere to the customs of the Vilna Gaon.)

All Yemenite Jews knew how to read from the Torah Scroll with the correct pronunciation and cantillation because children were taught from a young age to read without any vowels.

Temani Jew wearing Yemenite tallith and blowing shofarAlmost all 50,000 Yemenite Jews came to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet between June 1949 and September 1950. Today a handful remain in Yemen along with other indigenous religious minorities – a small number of Christians, Hindus and Baha’is.

The small community that remains in the northern region of Yemen is tolerated and allowed to practice Judaism. However, its members are still treated as second-class citizens and cannot serve in the army or be elected to political posts. Yemenite Jews have little social interaction with their Muslim neighbors and are largely prevented from communicating with world Jewry.

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