Head Covering (Kisuy Rosh)
When To Cover Head
It is customary for men to wear a head covering always, even indoors. This is a custom, not a halacha. When praying or saying blessings or studying Torah or when in a synagogue or bet midrash, men must wear a head covering.
With What To Cover Head
You may use your sleeve or someone else’s hand (but not your own hand) to cover your head to say a blessing if you are not wearing a head covering.
Wearing a mesh head covering (kipa) is OK if the threads cover more area than the spaces.
Minimum head covering (kipa) size should be large enough to be considered a head covering:
a 3-inch diameter would be reasonable.
Kipot (yarmelkas, skullcaps) do not have any holiness (kedusha).
Wear a head covering (kipa) on top of the head, not over the ear as some men do.
Tzitzit have protective value; wearing them provides a continuous mitzva throughout the day and even at night (but only when wearing a garment which is primarily worn during the daytime).
How To Wear
Wearing tzitzit hanging out of your clothes is a non-binding custom, not a halacha.
When To Wear
Boys begin to wear tzitzit as follows:
Custom: When the boy is toilet trained and knows how to say the blessing.
Halacha: When the boy knows that two tzitzit go in front and two in back.
Tzitzit should be worn day and night but not during sleep. (The commandment is to wear tzitzit only during the day, but they still provide protection at night.)
Note: Men (and boys) wear a talit katan even after dark but only on clothes which are primarily worn during the daytime), due to doubt as to whether tzitzit are required at night.
You do not need to wear a talit katan at any time when you would not wear a shirt, such as if it is too hot or if you are too sweaty. If you wear a shirt, you should also wear a talit katan.
You do not need to wear tzitzit if they will interfere with an activity such as swimming, scuba diving, or gymnastics (and, for me, hanging upside down on a flying trapeze!).
What To Wear
A garment or cloth requires tzitzit if:
Worn by a male 13 years old or above,
Contains at least 51% natural fibers (cotton, wool, silk, etc.), and
Has four corners in which two corners are normally behind you and the other two are normally in front of you while wearing it (A shawl will not normally need tzitzit).
Note: It is the widespread custom to begin wearing tzitzit at the age of chinuch—typically about three years old but this can vary by child.
Tzitzit strings have five knots separating four wraps of strings. This applies to tzitzit whether on a talit katan or talit gadol. The minimum length for tzitzit strings:
- From the first to fifth knots--at least 4 inches;
- From the fifth knot to the bottom (lower end) of the strings—at least 8 inches.
The wraps go around the entire bunch of strings as follows:
- At top but below the first knot: 7 times
- Below the second knot: 8 times
- Below the third knot: 11 times, and
- Above the bottom knot: 13 times
Note: The total of the wraps’ gematria values (7+ 8+ 11 + 13 = 39) equals the gematria values of Hashem (one of God's names) Echad (is One), as follows:
Hashem (spelled: yud, heh, vav, heh) = 26
Echad (spelled: alef, chet, daled) = 13
Hashem + Echad = 26 + 13 = 39
The purpose of a shamash on tzitzit is to have a string long enough to make wraps.
Like all tzitzit, tzitzit on a talit gadol should hang over the side edge of the talit and not hang down from the bottom.
Note: They are still kosher even if they hang straight down, b’di’avad.
The tzitzit should hang down along the vertical border (screen left/model's right side)
How To Check
In checking tzitzit, determine:
Are any loops torn?
Are 8 strings visible on each corner?
If you cannot see 7 strings due to one or more having been torn off, consult a rabbi.
There is no problem if tzitzit are tangled. However, to untangle them:
Is a superior way to fulfill the mitzva, and
Allows you to easily check them to see if there are 8 tzitziyot.
If any tzitziyot are so frizzy that the individual tzitziyot cannot be distinguished, they are invalid (pasul).
Note: To prevent frizziness during laundering, wrap the tzitziyot tightly in a rubber band before drying them in a dryer, or hang them to dry.
Note: If the hanging end of a tzitzit string breaks below the lowest knot, the string is kosher.
If more than one string breaks, or if one string breaks above the lowest knot, consult a rabbi since the tzitzit may not be kosher.
When To Check
You are not required to check tzitzit on a talit katan or talit gadol each day.
Reason: We assume, based on the norm (chazaka), that the tzitzit are OK.
But it is a good idea to check them before saying the blessing over them each day.
Do not check tzitzit on Shabbat or Jewish festivals.
Reason: If there is something wrong, you might untangle them and thereby untie a knot, which is prohibited from the Torah.
Only say the blessing on tzitzit during the day.
On Tish’a B’Av, say a blessing on tzitzit in the morning as always.
When saying morning shema, kiss the tzitzit when saying the words:
“tzitzit” in the shema, and
“emet” and “la’ad” in paragraph following the shema.
These are non-binding customs, not halacha.
Don't kiss tzitzit when saying the shema at night.
Holding all four tzitziyot when saying the shema in the morning is not required, but it is customary to do so.
You may tie knots in the ends of tzitzit strings to prevent fraying.
To dispose of items used for mitzvot (tashmishei mitzva) such as tzitzit or etrog, you may wrap in one layer of plastic and throw it into dry garbage, or wrap in two layers of plastic and throw it into wet garbage.
You may cut off (shorten) tzitzit strings before the first time they are used and throw away the pieces without covering them. Once tzitzit strings have been worn, you must wrap them before disposal as above.
Garments for talit katan and talit gadol have no special holiness (kedusha). But once used for a mitzva, the garments—like the tzitziyot themselves--must be wrapped before disposal, as above.
The minimum size for the garment of a talit katan is large enough to wrap your torso in, in front and in back: 17 inches (43 cm) wide and 17 inches (43 cm) long, from the top edge to bottom edge and so the total minimum dimensions will be 17 inches wide by 34 inches long. The optimal size is 24 inches wide and 24 inches long on each side (resulting in dimensions of 24 inches by 48 inches.
The minimum width for a talit katan is 17 inches
A talit katan (or a talit gadol) must be made from at least 51% natural fibers.
A talit katan do not need to be marked with a front and back, but some people have a custom to do so.
Situation: You wake up early and want to say shema (in case you return to sleep and might miss the latest time to say morning shema).
What To Do:
You need to wear only a talit katan (not a talit gadol).
Say the blessing al mitzvat tzitzit, even if you normally would later put on a talit gadol and therefore would not normally say that blessing over a talit katan.
Situation: You switch to a special talit katan right before Shabbat and Jewish festivals.
What To Do: You do not need to say another blessing over the special talit katan if to switch:
Is your normal intention (even if you did not specifically intend to switch when you put on your talit katan that morning), or
Is NOT your normal intention but you did intend to switch later that afternoon.
You must say another blessing if to switch:
Is not your normal intention and you also did not intend to switch when you put on the talit katan that morning.
Copyright 2015 Richard B. Aiken. Halacha L’Maaseh appears courtesy of www.practicalhalacha.com Visit their web site for more information.
This material is provided for informational purposes only – not a substitute for the consultation of a competent rabbi.