Cf. Siddur, p. 11
The [minimal required] width of the tallis katan is one amah (cubit) of the Torah measure, which equals 24 generous-sized thumbwidths [i.e., 48 cm.]. This is also the [minimal required] length
- from the neck hole to the garment's lower edge at the back, and
- from the neck hole [or from the fillet that laces it closed] to the garment's lower edge at the front.
These measurements can be reckoned only when the garment is fully spread, and no part of it has been folded or creased: folds and creases cannot be included in the required dimensions. One who is careful to fulfill the precept of tzitzis
throughout the day should therefore be constantly vigilant.
Those who are meticulous wear a tallis katan whilst sleeping.
Measuring from the edge of the garment, the minimal distance of the hole(s) through which one inserts the threads of the tzitzis is the length of the terminal joint of an average man's thumb [viz., 3.5 cm.]. The maximum distance of the hole(s) is slightly less than the width of three thumbs [5.9 cm.]. [The average distance from the edge of the garment (Fig. 1) is 4.0 cm.]
In each corner of the tallis katan there are two holes, equidistant from their respective edges. The four strands of wool are threaded into one of these holes and drawn out through the second [so that there are now two sets of four strands, of equal length]. These [two sets] are tied and double-knotted as near to the surface of the garment as possible. Some [and this (Fig. 2) is common practice] make a point of positioning these holes diagonally.
In each corner of the tallis gadol (Fig. 3), only one such hole is made. In addition (Fig. 4), it is advisable to make a small hole at the very edge of the garment's width; its distance from the other adjoining edge of the garment should be slightly more than the length of the terminal joint of an average man's thumb [i.e., slightly more than 3.5 cm.]. Through this hole the longest of the four strands is threaded after the above-mentioned [double] knot has been tied, and before one begins winding [it around the other threads].
[In each corner of both the tallis katan and the tallis gadol, once the first double knot has been tied as described above, the longest thread is wound around the other seven threads seven times; then the eight threads are separated into their original two sets of four threads, which are again tied in a double knot; the longest thread is then wound around the other seven threads eight times; a double knot is again tied, as above; the longest thread is now wound eleven times; again a double knot is tied; finally, thirteen such circuits; and again a double knot.]
Our custom is [to further subdivide these series of seven, eight, eleven and thirteen circuits (Figs. 5, 6) into] brackets of three (Fig. 7). These brackets overlap the intervening double knots, as follows: 3,3,1, double knot; 2,3,3, double knot; 3,3,3,2, double knot; 1,3,3,3,3, double knot.
Before putting on the tallis - this applies to other mitzvos as well - it is not our practice to say l'sheim yichud....
The tallis gadol (Fig. 11) is worn at prayer only after marriage.
The tallis katan is put on in the morning after the hands have been washed, and in a place where blessings may be pronounced. The blessing concludes with the words, ...al mitzvas tzitzis "...concerning the mitzvah of tzitzis" [rather than the blessing for the large tallis cited below], since a tallis katan is not large enough to actually wrap oneself in. If one is unable to say the blessing at this point, he should take the four fringes of the tallis katan in hand before the morning prayers - unless a tallis gadol is about to be worn as well - and pronounce the blessing then.
According to our custom, the folded tallis gadol is placed on the right shoulder, and one checks its tzitzis (Fig. 8) while reciting the two verses beginning, barchi nafshi. The tallis is then unfolded and opened wide, one kisses its upper edge, and it is swung around from the position in which it is held in front of the worshiper until it is hanging behind him (Fig. 9). At this point the blessing l'hisateif b'tzitzis is begun, and it is completed as one is about to bring the two right hand corners of the tallis in front of the neck and over the left shoulder (Fig. 10).
When enwrapping oneself in the tallis gadol, there is no need to draw its upper edge so far forward over one's head that it will cover the face down to the mouth; rather, only far enough to cover the eyes (Fig. 10).
The beis of b'tzitzis is vocalized with a sh'va.
- (Back to text) [The source for this paragraph:] The Alter Rebbe's Siddur; see also Piskei Dinim of the Tzemach Tzedek, Orach Chayim 2:3.
- (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe's Siddur; see also Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 8; Piskei Dinim of the Tzemach Tzedek, Orach Chayim 3:2.
- (Back to text) Letter of the Rebbe Shlita, 4 Elul, 5715 [reprinted in his Igrois Koidesh, Vol. XI, p. 361].
- (Back to text) This practice is not cited by the Alter Rebbe in his Siddur (though in Likkutei Torah on Parshas Devarim, p. 55, column 3, he explains the custom of saying LeShem Yichud before every mitzvah; and see also Shaar HaKollel 6:2), despite the statement in Pri Etz Chayim, Shaar HaZemiros, end of ch. 5. See also the supplements at the end of Part I thereof, and Shaar Ruach HaKodesh (p. 12a); and Sefer HaLikkutim, Parshas Re'eh; and elsewhere.
- (Back to text) Maharil, Hilchos Nissuin; HaManhig, ibid.; Magen Avraham, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 8:104; Sdei Chemed, Aseifas Dinim: Chassan VeKallah, sec. 11. This will suffice for the present.
- (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 62.
- (Back to text) Ibid., p. 85. (See also She'eris Yehudah, Orach Chayim, sec. 1; Divrei Nechemiah, Orach Chayim, sec. 9.)
- (Back to text) Ibid., p. 51. See also the Notes and Sources to the Siddur im Dach, p. 359a.
- (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe's Siddur, Hilchos Tzitzis. Though in his Shulchan Aruch, sec. 8, the Alter Rebbe had ruled according to the view of the Magen Avraham that the beis should be vocalized with a pasach, the Kabbalists ruled according to the principles of the Kabbalah and of grammar that it should be vocalized with a shva, [implying an indefinite article,] since one does not enwrap oneself in the tzitzis themselves but in a tallis which includes tzitzis. See Birkei Yosef and Machzik Berachah, as cited by Shaarei Teshuvah (on Orach Chayim) 8:106. (Shaar HaKollel 2:5.)