Donning the Tallis Kattan and the Tallis Gadol

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: What is the proper procedure for putting on tzitzis in the morning?

Tallis Kattan: Commonly, the berachah on the tallis kattan is not said at the time that it is put on (that is, even regarding a person who does recite the berachah on the tallis kattan; see below). Therefore, we will first present the procedure of putting on the tallis kattan in general, and then add particulars relevant to reciting the berachah.

Putting on the tallis kattan in the morning:

Essentially, one should recite the berachah before putting on the tallis kattan. However, there are a number of fairly common scenarios and circumstances where one would not do so. For example, if one wishes to put on his tallis kattan before walking a distance of four amos – as one should ideally do230 – he will often be putting on the tallis kattan before going to the bathroom, while he has an urge to relieve himself. At such a time, one may not recite a berachah. One should nevertheless put on the tallis kattan, before relieving himself, and only recite the berachah afterwards.231

Also, if a person rises early in the morning and gets dressed when it is too early to recite the berachah on the tallis kattan, he would put it on and recite the berachah later, when the time comes.232

Mishnah Berurah (8:22) rules that one should check the validity of the tzitzis strings (to ensure that they have not ripped etc.) before putting on the tallis kattan. Some contemporary Poskim maintain that this is not required if one is not reciting a berachah on the tallis kattan, since tzitzis strings today are of a higher quality and, therefore, there is less concern that they have ripped.233

Disentangle the tzitzis strings.234

The tallis kattan should be put on while standing (even if one is not reciting a berachah).235

One should have intent to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis and, preferably, one should also have in mind the purpose of this mitzvah: to remind us to observe Hashem’s mitzvos.236

One then puts on the tallis kattan. [Even if a person is particular to wrap himself in the tallis kattan when donning it (discussed below), he need not do so if he is not reciting a berachah on it.]

Reciting a berachah on the tallis kattan:

One should check the validity of the tzitzis strings. 237

One should stand when reciting the berachah.

The berachah should be recited immediately before putting on the tallis kattan. If one follows the practice of wrapping himself in the tallis kattan, he should hold the tallis kattan in position to immediately wrap it around himself, and recite the berachah.

In circumstances where one recites the berachah after he is already wearing the garment, he should handle the tzitzis strings before reciting the berachah,238 because it is appropriate to do something that accentuates the performance of the mitzvah at the time that one recites the berachah.239

When one recites the berachah before putting on the tallis kattan, there is a halachic preference to actually wrap oneself in the tallis kattan upon making the berachah, as one does with the tallis gadol (described below).240 This is done by turning the tallis kattan sideways, which allows more fabric for wrapping around one’s head.241 If one does wrap himself with the tallis kattan, he recites the berachah of lehisateif betzitzis.242 One who does not wrap himself, but simply puts it on in the regular manner, recites al mitzvas tzitzis instead of lehisateif betzitzis.243 Bedieved, both lehisateif and al mitzvas are valid.

Tallis gadol: One always recites a berachah before putting on the tallis gadol, and the berachah is “Lehisateif betzitzis.”244 Therefore, one should check and disentangle the tzitzis strings, stand, and hold the tallis in a position to be able to wrap it around himself as soon as he recites the berachah (the procedure of wrapping is discussed below).

Question: What is the reason that one first wraps himself in the tallis gadol when putting it on, and what precisely is the correct manner of wrapping oneself?

Discussion: The wording of the berachah on the tallis is lehisateif betzitzis, which means “to wrap oneself in tzitzis.” Some Rishonim infer from this wording that the mitzvah of tzitzis is fulfilled specifically by wrapping oneself in the tallis, not by merely wearing it.245

The essential halachah does not follow this view. Hence, even a garment that one wears but does not wrap himself in246 has the obligation of tzitzis, and can be used to fulfill the mitvah of tzitzis. Yet, in deference to the first view, we customarily do wrap ourselves in the tallis upon reciting the berachah.247 Additionally, Kabbalistic sources indicate that one should wrap oneself in the tallis.248

Those Poskim who require wrapping oneself in the tallis write that one should wrap himself “in the manner of Ishmaelites.” Mishnah Berurah (8:4) explains this to mean that one wraps “his head, until his mouth.” Some understand this to mean that one wraps his face from top to bottom, until his mouth.249 However, many Poskim argue that this cannot have been Mishnah Berurah’s intent, as it is implausible that Ishmaelites (or anyone else for that matter) would dress in a manner that does not enable them to see where they are going!250 Rather the intent is, they explain, that one has the tallis draped over his head without covering the face, and one then wraps the bottom of the tallis around the neck and the bottom of the face up until the mouth, leaving the top of the face exposed.

Many Poskim hold that besides wrapping the face, one must make sure to cover part of the body as well. Therefore, one should make a point of covering the majority of the back as well251 (see footnote for other opinions252).

There are differing views as to how many of the tallis’s corners should be thrown over one’s shoulder when wrapping. Mishnah Berurah writes that all four sets of tzitzis strings should end up over one’s left shoulder. However, there are different customs. Some maintain that only the tzitzis strings on the two right corners should be thrown over the shoulder, leaving the left ones on his side.253 Some do both, first throwing the two right corners over his left shoulder, waiting a moment, and then throwing the remaining two corners over the left shoulder as well.254 Whichever practice one follows, he should stay wrapped for 2-3 seconds, which is the standard amount of time it takes to walk four amos.255

230 Mishnah Berurah 8: 1.

231 Hilchos Yom Beyom, 10:5.

232 Rema 8:16.

233 R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (cited in Hilchos Yom Beyom, Tefillah I, Chapter 10 fn. 22).

234 Shulchan Aruch 8:7.

235 Mishnah Berurah 8:2.

236 Shulchan Aruch 8:8 with Mishnah Berurah 19.

237 This applies even to today’s higher quality strings (see Hilchos Yom Beyom, Tefillah I, Chapter 10 fn. 22).

238 Shulchan Aruch 8:10.

239 Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim IV: 7. Cf. Beis Yosef (cited in Mishnah Berurah 8:23); Bach, end of Chapter 8; Or Hachamah to Mishnah Berurah 8:23.

240 Shulchan Aruch 8:3

241 Ibid.

242 Mishnah Berurah 8:17.

243 Rema 8:6.

244 Shulchan Aruch 8:5. Mishnah Berurah 8:10 writes that the correct pronunciation is betzitzis (with a sheva), as we wrote it; but some have the custom to say batzitzis (with a patach). See Siddur Aliyos Eliyahu, Mesores Hatefillah, p. 7, for sources for this latter custom. See also Piskei Teshuvos 8:15, listing several Gedolei Yisrael who used the batzitzis pronunciation.

245 Teshuvos Maharach Ohr Zarua, 4 and 8 (as understood by Chazon Ish 3:37); Ramah (cited in Hama’or, 5695 – Iyar, p. 58-59). This is inferred from Tosafos in Erchin 2b ד"ה היודע as well. Tur (8) cites the opinion of the Geonim, that one must wrap himself in the tallis. Mahari Abuhav and others understand that this parallels the opinion of Maharach Ohr Zarua. However, Aruch Hashulchan (8:5) argues that the Geonim do not maintain that the mitzvah of tzitzis only applies to a garment that one wraps himself in (which would mean that a four-cornered garment that is not worn that way would not require tzitzis at all); rather, they require wrapping the head simply because of the language of the berachah recited. Hilchos HaGra Uminhagav (18, p. 22) also maintains that wrapping is merely an enhancement of the mitzvah according to this view, not an absolute requirement.

245Several sources imply that the importance of wrapping oneself in the tallis is only when one first puts on the tallis, but one need not keep it that way all throughout the time he is wearing it; see Terumas Hadeshen 45; Da’as Zekeinim, Shemos 14:29; Lev Chaim II, 168; Eretz Tzvi I, end of Chapter 1.

246 Shulchan Aruch 8:2, Mishnah Berurah 8:3. Some Poskim maintain that although wrapping oneself as the Ishmaelites do is not required, covering the head with the tallis is required; see Vayashav Hayam II:1. See also Beis Baruch 11 to Chayei Adam 12:3.

247 Mishnah Berurah 4:4.

248 Sha’ar Hakavanos and Pri Etz Chaim, Tzitzis 1.

249 See Kinyan Torah Behalachah I:2 for a defense of those who follow this practice.

250 Nimukei Orach Chaim 8:2, Yechaveh Da’as V:1, Teshuvos Vehanhagos II:10, Sefer Tzitzis p. 11, citing R’ Chaim Kanievsky in the name of the Chazon Ish.

251 Based on Beis Yosef, Chapter 8, citing Mahari Abuhav and Terumas Hadeshen.

252 Siddur Harav and Shulchan Aruch Harav 8:8 indicate that one should cover both his front and back at chest level while wrapping. This is very complicated and, indeed, some require larger dimensions for the tallis to accommodate this approach.

252For additional approaches, see Ben Ish Chai (1, Bereshis 5), and see Yalkut Yosef 8:27; Atifas Tzitzis Kehilchasah, Chapter 4.

253 Siddur of the Ba’al HaTanya.

254 Kaf Hachaim 8:7.

255 This is an approximate measurement which appears in several sources. See Sha’arei Zemanim (Heber), Chapter 10, fn. 4, for an elucidation of this approach.