Tzitzit Question

This actually comes from my son. He wonders if you have to put tzitzit on the corners of a scarf – it’s a four-cornered garment….

(This all came about because I crocheted him a scarf and wanted to know if he wanted it to have fringes….)

So #JewCrew – what are your thoughts?

16 responses to “Tzitzit Question

  1. No idea, but I didn’t know you crocheted! I knit. It’s a great hobby/obsession/hole to throw money down.

  2. My husband and I ponder this often….

  3. no, it doesn’t cover enough of the body to qualify.

    • While Michael’s argument below heads in many of the correct directions, this one is probably the simplest while still being entirely accurate.

      The Ben Ish Hai, Year 1, Parshat Beresheit(can’t remember which letter) states that while the exact size varies according to different opinions, according to all it has to be able to cover the majority of the torso front and back. I don’t think any scarf has that ability.

  4. No, it doesn’t need tzitzit. To require tzitzit, a garment must be, if I recall correctly, a square amah (cubit) in size.

    Different rabbinical authorities have differing opinions on the size of an amah. According to this website, we read:

    The minimum size talit katan that should be worn by anyone over bar mitzvah age depends upon which Rabbinical authority you follow, as shown in this chart. If you are uncertain which of these opinions to follow, consult your Rabbi.
    Hazon Ish 24″ x 24″ (60 x 60 cm)
    Rav Chaim Naeh 20″ x 20″ (50 x 50 cm)
    Rav Moshe Feinstein l’hatchila, preferred 22″ x 22″ (55 x 55 cm)
    Rav Moshe Feinstein b’di’avad, minimal 18″ x 18″ (45 x 45 cm)

    The phrase “[t]he minimum size talit katan that should be worn by anyone over bar mitzvah age ” means, the minimum size talit katan that satisfies the mitzvah. And only a garment large enough to satisfy the mitzvah, requires tzitzit. The same way that the only foodstuff that can satisfy the mitzvah to eat matzah is the very same foodstuff that can become hametz, likewise, the only garments that need tzitzit, are those that are large enough to require tzitzit, and anything too small to satisfy the mitzvah, does not require tzitizit.

    As an aside, Rabbi Chaim Naeh’s opinion deserves an explanation, because most American Jews do not know much about him. Rabbi Naeh was a Habad shaliah in Egypt, where he saw that the Egyptian Jews were not keeping the same shiurim (measurements) as the Ashkenazim that Rabbi Naeh knew. He asked for an explanation, and they responded that the the RambaM defined all shiurim according to the drachma coin, and that the very same drachma coin which Rambam used, was still in use by the Ottoman Empire. Rabbi Naeh realized, therefore, that the Sephardim still had a perfect mesorah regarding the Rambam’s opinion, a mesorah the Ashkenazim lacked, and Rabbi Naeh adopted the Rambam’s opinion. Similarly, I saw that Rabbi Haim Palache/Pallagi of Izmir, Turkey, when he saw that the Ashkenazim were making shiurim larger, according to the opinion of the Noda b’Yehuda, responded that in Turkey, they stuck with Rambam’s drachma-based measurements, and didn’t understand the Ashkenazim pilpul. I say all this, just so that you know who Rabbi Naeh was.

    • Okay, apparently, I got some biographical details about Rabbi Naeh wrong. According to this, he wasn’t a Habad shaliah. Rather, he was just a stam Lubavitcher from Hebron who got expelled from Israel during WWI by the Ottomans, because he lacked Ottoman citizenship, and he moved to Alexandria, Egypt. Meh, same difference.

    • A bit of a tangent, but since Michael brought it up…

      I heard from Rav Mordechai Eliyahu z’l about the Rambam’s conversion of measure only in regard to volume to weight. He referred in a presentation of the laws of Passover to the Rambam having used the coin (which he called ‘dirham’ in his pronunciation) to establish reliable *weights* for various volumes. So, a k’zayit weighed x, and a k’beitza weighed y, etc. I never asked him, but I also never heard him say that the Rambam had somehow done this for measures of *area* as well. The halachic requirement for a talit that it cover ‘rosho v’rubo shel katan’/the head and torso of a child is a measure of *area* as far as I can tell.

      Did Rav Naeh actually write that the Rambam used the drachma/dirham somehow for measure of area, as well?

  5. “likewise, the only garments that need tzitzit, are those that are large enough to require tzitzit”

    I meant to say, “likewise, the only garments that need tzitzit, are those that are large enough to satisfy the mitzvah of tzitzit”

  6. well, I’m always looking for some interesting topic to dicuss at the jewish gift shop I work at.Now I have one!!!

    get this though…I actually just learned how to tie tzi-tzit…so….needless to say, my hubby was impressed with me when I came home with my sons tzi-tzit all fixed up.

    I also know of the many different kinds that exist, i love it when some of the men come into the store, take one look at me and think I have no knowledge of Tallit and Tallit Koton, as well as Sefers and assume they need “the man of the store” or “the owner” to help them.

    I smile and simply say..follow me and proceed to help them myself!!!!


  7. I always wonder about that myself. I keep a large square Russian shawl in my box in shul for when I’m cold. When I swing it over my shoulders, it seems like I’m doing what the men do with their tallit.

    • Batya, you are a woman, and while you are allowed to wear tzitzit, you are not obligated to do so, as a mitzvah. Remember, the mitzvah is not to wear tzizit, but rather, the mitzvah is to wear tzitzit on a given four-cornered garment of specific specifications. Therefore, a woman is not merely exempt from having to wear tzitzit in general; rather, she is exempt from having to put tzitzit on her four-cornered garment.

    • Likewise, men do not have a mitzvah to wear tzitzit; they have a mitzvah to wear tzitzit when they are already wearing a four-cornered garment. Men often go out of their ways to wear such a garment, but there is no requirement to wear a tallit or a tallit qatan, and if a man fails to wear these garments, he has no requirement to wear tzitzit. And the woman, being exempt, does not have to wear tzitzit even when she is wearing a four-cornered garment. (Although, as I said, she is certainly allowed to put tzitzit on her four-cornered garments if she wants to, and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein even says she can say a berakhah.)

  8. Well, it just so happen that this exact question appears in the Shulchan Aruch. Tell your son that means he’s asking bright questions. Then have him look up O.C. 10, 11. Be sure to take a look at the Bei’ur Halacha there, too. The bottom line is that a scarf is exempt because its main purpose is to keep your neck warm, and not to be wrapped around your body.

  9. Makovi
    Rav Naeh measurements are the same as was practiced by the great majority of Ashkenazic Jews as well.
    About 250 years ago a great sage Rav Yechezkel Landau The Noda BeYehuda of Prauge challenged the accepted norm of measurements of vairous mitzvos, and came to the conclusion that most shiurim must be doubled.
    This view was accepted the Chasam Sofer and others. But must common Jews in Europe kept the old standards.
    Only after the WW2 and led by the Chazon Ish a storm was created when he strongly advocated for the larger shiurim, and had somewhat of a bitter dispute with Rav Avrohom Chaim Na’eh.
    And over time many Yeshivishe folk started to be machmir according to Chazon Ish.
    Still Lubavitch and many Chasidic groups still keep the smaller sizes for mitzvos.

    • Thanks. Yeah, I remember seeing in things like “Rupture and Reconstruction” and such, that it was WWII that caused the abandonment of minhag and the adoption of textual stringencies. So what you say makes sense. Thanks.

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