Simanim 8:1 - 8:13 The Wearing of Tzitzit

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion


SHIUR #5:Siman 8:1 - 8:13

Pages 25 - 30


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon



Siman 8:  The Wearing of  Tzitzit



Donning the tallit (se'if 2):


The Torah commands,


"Make for yourself fringes on the four corners of your garment with which you COVER yourself." (Devarim 22:12)


            According to the Ge'onim, the tallit must cover the head as well.  This is based on the gemara (Mo'ed Katan 24a): "All robing that is not done the way the Ishmaelites do it is not considered robing."  The Ba'al Ha-ittur, however, maintains that one need only wear his tallit the way that people in general wear their garments, and since this can be either with or without a head covering, it is sufficient simply to cover the body with the tallit.  The gemara's statement in its simple understanding, he points out, refers to the robing of a mourner.


            How does the Shulchan Arukh rule (se'if 2)?  The M.B.?  (Yechaveh Da'at, vol. V, siman 1, rules like the M.B., because his opinion reflects popular practice.)  What style of wearing the tallit is invalid according to all opinions?


Donning the tallit katan (se'if 3):


"And it is good to rest it upon the head…" (S.A. se'if 3).  The Ashkenazic custom is rather to don the tallit katan simply, without wrapping it around the head.  The Arukh Ha-shulchan (8:9) explains that since Ashkenazim bless "al mitzvat tzitzit" on the tallit katan, instead of "le-hit'atef be-tzitzit," they are lenient and do not require wrapping it around the head even while making the berakha.


Separating the strings of the tzitzit (se'if 7):


The source of this law is found in Menachot 42a:


"Said Abbaye, 'And one must separate it like the locks of the Gentile.'"


            Two reasons can be offered for this.  The Ba'al Ha-ittur (brought in the Beit Yosef and in the Magen Avraham 8:10) relates this law to tekhelet.  Since the tekhelet-colored string had to be separate from the white ones, we still do it nowadays as a reminder.  The Gra (8:9), on the other hand, notes that Rashi, in our source in Menachot, requires all the strings, including the white ones, to be separated.  Therefore, he concludes, this is a law with intrinsic independent importance and is unrelated to tekhelet.


            What if one is in a hurry and does not have the time to separate the strings - should he still recite the berakha?  The answer depends, of course, on which side one takes in the above-mentioned dispute.  See the Bi'ur Halakha s.v. Tzarikh in which he remains in doubt regarding this question.  In practice, one can be lenient, since (a) the Arukh Ha-shulchan (8:13) interpreted the gemara as referring only to the making of the tzitzit, not to the wearing, and (b) the Chazon Ish (OC 3:9) ruled leniently.  (It should be noted, however, that a knot renders it invalid according to all opinions.)


Checking the strings of the tzitzit (se'if 9):


            Both Rishonim and Acharonim were puzzled by this requirement.  Don't tzitzit, once they are checked once, have a chazaka (established status) of being kosher until they are shown to be defective?


            The Rosh (Hilkhot Tzitzit; Responsa 2:9), based upon this reasoning, asserts that indeed there is no need to check them.  Most poskim, however, disagree, as does the Shulchan Arukh.  The Acharonim debate the reason for this:


1) The Magen Avraham I (8:11): One can rely upon a chazaka only when it is impossible to check the facts in a case.  When possible, one must check.

2) The Magen Avraham II: The chazaka of tzitzit in particular is not a reliable one because the strings can break at any time.

3) The Taz (8:8): Because of the severity of a berakha taken in vain, we are extra strict about checking tzitzit.


            The practical differences which arise from these approaches include:


a) If one wears more than one pair of tzitzit, must he check them all?  (According to (3) it is enough to check just one)

b) If one is in a rush, can he skip the checking?  (According to (1) he can be lenient in such a case)

 The M.B. rules stringently in case (a), and leniently in case (b).


Kavana in the berakha (se'if 8):


            There is a certain fundamental level of kavana which is required for every berakha; that is, the intention to fulfill the mitzva commanded us by God.  Beyond this, there are three mitzvot which ideally require an additional degree.  See M.B. 8:19.


Wearing tzitzit out (se'if 11):


            According to the Shulchan Arukh, one should wear the entire tzitzit over his clothes - both the strings and the garment.  See the Rama 13:3.  Does he agree?


            The M.B. (8:25, based on the Magen Avraham) rules that one must leave out at least the strings.


            The Nimukei Yosef and the Ri ben Maron (brought in the Ba'al Ha-ittur) locate a biblical source for this ruling:


"Those who cover their tzitzit underneath their cloaks are not properly fulfilling the mitzva, as it is written, 'Make for yourselves fringes on the four corners of your garment,' meaning that the tzitzit should always be ON the garment."


            However, this is the subject of debate; the Ittur himself disagrees with the Ri ben Maron.


            In practice, the following halakhic opinions appear.  The M.B. is extremely stringent about this issue (see 8:26).  The Arukh Ha-shulchan (8:17) believes that the strict letter of the law does not require it, though he adds, "Why should we be ashamed of God's mitzvot?"  In Yechaveh Da'at (vol. II, 1) it is written that Sepharadim should not wear their tzitzit out lest they appear boastfully arrogant about their performance of mitzvot; Ashkenazim may do so without fear.  (Both Asei Lekha Rav and Az Nidberu, vol. III, 3, permit this for Sepharadim as well.)  The Tzitz Eliezer (vol.VIII, 3 and vol. XIII, 5) rules that one who wears his tzitzit inside is not at fault; it is, however, praiseworthy to leave them out, especially for Ashkenazim.


            There are those who follow the custom of the Shla (the beginning of Chullin, s.v. U-mei'achar), who wrote, "And because of the mockers, I, too, wear my tallit katan beneath my clothing; yet I take the two front tzitziot and bring them out through the hooks of the garment [nowadays, wrapped around the belt], and I see them constantly."


Wearing more than one pair of tzitzit (se'if 13):


            The obligation of tzitzit falls upon people, not upon inanimate objects (this will be more fully explained in siman 24).  Therefore, one need not put tzitzit on a four-cornered garment which is not being worn.


            What if one wears several garments which are four-cornered - must he put tzitzit on all of them?  The Orchot Chayim (the Ri Mi-lunel) rules that tzitzit on the outermost piece of clothing suffices.  See S.A. 8:12.  How does the Shulchan Arukh rule?


            According to the Mor U-ketzia (OC 10), although we do not rule like the Orchot Chayim, this opinion can be taken into account under certain circumstances, when there are other mitigating factors.  The Tzitz Eliezer (vol. VI, 1) ruled that one need not put tzitzit upon a suit jacket which has four corners (nor need one round one of the corners) even if the slit is more than half the length of the jacket.  Following the Mor U-ketzia, he includes among his reasons that of the Orchot Chayim - that the tallit katan is sufficient.


Donning the tallit katan and then the tallit gadol (se'if 13):


            One who puts on his tzitzit with a berakha and immediately puts on his tallit does not make a second berakha.  What if he waits in between - for example, goes to synagogue - is this considered a hefsek (break or interruption) that would require another berakha?


            The Shulchan Arukh believes that the very act of walking constitutes a hefsek.  The Acharonim (cited in M.B. 8:33) maintain, in contrast, that the walking per se is not a hefsek, but the change in location is.  (The precise definition of "change of location" is a complex one which will be discussed in the context of hilkhot se'uda in siman 178; as a rule of thumb, "change of location" or shinu'i makom involves going out from under one roof, even if one returns to the same room, but not going from room to room under the same roof.)


            According to either of these two opinions, one who leaves his home to go to synagogue, even if the synagogue is nearby, must make a berakha upon his tallit.  There is a third opinion, however, held by the Chayei Adam (brought in M.B. 8:34;  and in Biur Halakha s.v. Chashiva he writes that this is also implied by the Taz and the Gra) which states that even a change of location is not considered a hefsek; therefore a second berakha is not required unless the synagogue was far from his home, or he became distracted in between, or the like.


            The M.B. apparently does not accept the position of the Shulchan Arukh; however, he does not tell us which of the other two he believes correct.  In practice, what is the preferred option?  See above M.B. 8:24.  In any case, one who does not wear a tallit but has proper tzitzit should make a berakha on those.


(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)