Mantle with fringes (ẓiẓit) at the four corners; a prayer-shawl worn over the garments, and used by men after marriage and, in modern times, by boys after their confirmation as "bar miẓwot." The ṭallit, which can be spread out like a sheet, is woven of wool or silk, in white, with black or blue stripes at the ends. The silk ones varyin size, for men, from about 36 × 54 inches to 72 × 96 inches. The woolen ṭallit is proportionately larger (sometimes reaching to the ankle) and is made of two lengths sewed together, the stitching being covered with a narrow silk ribbon. A ribbon, or, for the wealthy, a band artistically woven with silver or gold threads (called "spania"), with the ends hanging, and about 24 inches long by from 2 to 6 inches wide, is sewed on the top of the ṭallit. From the four corners of the ṭallit hang ẓiẓit, in compliance with the Mosaic law (Num. xv. 38 et seq.; see Ẓiẓit). The woolen ṭallit is preferred by the pious, especially if made of coarse and half-bleached lamb's wool from the Holy Land, when it is known as a "Turkish ṭallit." Woolen ṭallits are made in Russia also, but are finer spun and almost pure white. The silken ṭallit was formerly made principally in Germany; but of late several silk manufacturers in the United States (at Paterson, N. J.) have produced the bulk of the American supply.
The original ṭallit probably resembled the "'abayah," or blanket, worn by the Bedouins for protection from sun and rain, and which has black stripes at the ends. The finer ṭallit, very likely, was similar in quality to the Roman pallium, and was worn only by distinguished men, rabbis, and scholars (B. B. 98a; Gen. R. xxxvi.; Ex. R. xxvii.). The ṭallit of a "talmid ḥakam" extended to within a hand-breadth of the length of the bottom of his undergarment (B. B. 57b). The ṭallit was sometimes worn partly doubled, and sometimes with the ends thrown over the shoulders (Shab. 147a; Men. 41a).
The most approved style of adjusting the ṭallit is the Turkish ("'aṭifat yishma'elim"), and is as follows: The scarf is thrown over the head with the middle point of one of the longer edges over the middle of the forehead and the left-hand end hanging over the left shoulder; the right end is then also thrown over the left shoulderso that all the four corners are upon the left side; a short pause is then made, and the corners are allowed to fall back in their original position, two corners suspended from each shoulder. The portion covering the head is next pushed backward, and may be removed entirely therefrom and made to rest on the back of the neck. The more modern style is to roll up the ṭallit like a scarf, put it round the neck, and let the ends hang from the shoulders (comp. Yalḳ., Ps. 723; Pesiḳ. R., ed. Friedmann, ix. 32a, note).
The cabalists considered the ṭallit as a special garment for the service of God, intended, in connection with the phylacteries, to inspire awe and reverence for God at prayer (Zohar, Exod. Toledot, p. 141a). The ṭallit is worn by all male worshipers at the morning prayer on week-days, Sabbaths, and holy days; by the ḥazzan at every prayer while before the Ark; and by the reader of the scroll of the Law when on the almemar. In earlier times the ṭallit was likewise spread over the canopy at the nuptial ceremony.
In the Talmudic and geonic periods the phylacteries were worn by rabbis and scholars all day, and a special ṭallit at prayer; hence they put on the phylacteries before the ṭallit, as appears in the order given in "Seder R. 'Amram Gaon" (p. 2a) and in the Zohar (Ba-Midbar, 120b). In later times, when the phylacteries came to be worn at morning prayer only, the ṭallit was put on first, after a special benediction had been recited. See Fringes.
- Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 8-24;
- David de Ginsburg, in R. E. J. (1890) xx. 16-22.