The Talit Gadol
The minimum size for a talit gadol is so you could put it over your head and wrap your body in it (even though this is not how you must wear it!).
A talit gadol (or a talit katan) must be made from at least 51% natural fibers.
A talit should be primarily white. Here are some details:
A talit gadol should be either all white or white with black stripes. Avoid a very colorful talit that makes the white part look insignificant.
Blue stripes used to be used: as with techelet, the blue reminds us of the sky, of God’s throne (kisei ha’kavod), and of God.
Even though the talit was originally supposed to have blue stripes, it is not the custom today to use blue stripes.
Black stripes have no significance or importance.
Like all tzitzit, tzitzit on a talit gadol must hang over the edge of the talit and not hang down from the bottom (see diagram).
The tzitzit should hang down along the vertical border (screen left/model's right side)
Men wear a talit as a mitzva (wearing a four-cornered garment in order to wear tzitzit).
It is a form of honor for the congregation for the leader to dress up (some congregations have the custom of requiring the leader to wear a jacket for mincha for this reason). A talit is usually the form of dressing up for all men during prayer services.
When a person speaks directly to God, it is very important to demonstrate humility. Since the Talmud says that covering one’s head is a form of humility (and that learned Jews/talmidei chachamim used to cover their heads), men who wear a talit for prayer should ideally use it to cover their heads whenever they wear it, but the minimum is during the amida.
When To Wear
A talit is required only when saying the amida prayer, but the universal custom (for men who wear talitot!) is to wear the talit during the entire shacharit service.
Note: A talit is worn for shacharit, musaf, and all day and night on Yom Kippur; it is not commonly worn for mincha or ma'ariv (except on Yom Kippur).
A prayer leader should be especially careful to cover his head when saying the reader’s repetition of the amida. A hatless prayer leader covers his head with the talit gadol during the private amida (also during the public amida and repetition). If wearing a hat, he does not cover his head with the talit.
Wear a talit gadol even though you are already wearing a talit katan, as a means of honoring the prayers.
Once a man has been married, he must wear a talit when saying shacharit and musaf, even if he becomes widowed or divorced.
When wearing a talit at mincha Torah reading--such as for an aliya, hagbaha, or glila--you do not need to wear it until after kedusha, but some people have that custom.
The blessing over putting on the talit gadol is lehit’ateiph ba’tzitzit.
Saying the blessing on a talit gadol, while intending to cover all other talitot (whether talit katan or talit gadol), will cover:
All talitot that you already put on.
All talitot that you will put on later that day.
If you go out of whichever building you are in when you say the blessing on your talit, you must say a new blessing if you put on a talit (even the same talit) in a different building.
Exception: You may intend for the blessing NOT to cover other talitot.
Example: You say the blessing over your talit gadol on the morning preceding Yom Kippur.
You may intend for your blessing not to cover the talit gadol that you will put on just before Kol Nidrei.
Note: If you don't have a talit gadol, say al mitzvat tzitzit over your talit katan.
Note: If you remove your talit gadol, go to a different building, and put the talit gadol on again, you DO say a new blessing.
Placing the talit gadol over your head while saying the talit blessing is a halacha, but wearing it on your head any other time is a custom.
Do not say a new blessing when you replace a talit that you chose to take off, with the intention of putting it back on (such as removing it to go to the bathroom).
Say a new blessing when you replace a talit gadol that fell off your body completely (not just if it slipped off one shoulder).
If you borrow a talit, such as for an aliya or to serve as prayer leader, it is not customary to say a blessing on it.
Note: If you want to say a blessing on a borrowed talit, ask the owner to “give” it to you as a gift, which you will later give back as a gift.
Do not say a new blessing when you put back on your talit gadol that you loaned someone if you are at the same prayer service.
Situation: You began shacharit on your way to synagogue and are between bar’chu and the amida when you arrive. You have not yet put on a talit.
What To Do:
Put on a talit immediately.
Say the blessing on the talit after you finish the amida.
You may say the blessing on a public talit gadol available at the synagogue, even though it is not your talit.
Reason: It is assumed that the talitot at synagogues are there to be used by anyone.
Once a man is married and wears a talit gadol, he stops saying the blessing on tzitzit on his talit katan; it is covered by the blessing on his talit gadol.
How To Put On
To put on a talit in the morning:
Say the blessing lehit’ateiph ba’tzitzit.
Put the garment over your head and down to your nose.
Gather the two tzitziyot from the right side and the front one from the left side and swing them over your left shoulder (you do not need to bunch up the talit before doing so).
Wait for at least 2 ½ seconds and say the appropriate verses (see a siddur for the text).
How To Care For
You do not need to fold a talit after using it; you may roll it or hang it up. The only requirement is that you take care of it and don't crumple it or treat it disrespectfully.
You only need to wear a belt/gartel (for saying blessings, prayer services and for studying holy texts) if:
You are wearing an open and loose garment such as a robe (or other toga-like garments) and
You are not wearing any undergarments.
Note: The belt separates upper from lower parts of your body and this requirement is not normally relevant for Western attire. If it is your family tradition, you should follow that.
There may also a kabalistic reason to wear one.
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.