||It is a positive commandment to put tzitzit on any four cornered garment
that you wear, as it says in Numbers 15:37-41:
The Lord said to Moses as follows: Speak to the Israelite
people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners
of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to
the fringe at each corner. That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall
all the commandments of the Lord and observe them, so that you do not follow
your heart and eyes in your lustful urge. Thus you shall be reminded to
observe all My commandments and to be holy to your God. I the Lord am your
God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I, the Lord
As is apparent, this mitzvah is given in order to remember God,
His great love, all of His commandments and to do them.
While the large tallit is used specifically for prayer, it is a mitzvah
in itself to wear a garment with tzitzit all day. Traditional Jews, therefore,
wear a tallit katan (small tallit) all day and a large tallit just for
The tallit is not worn at night because the mitzvah stipulates that
one should see the tzitzit. (The implication is that this should be seen
by light of day, not by artificial light.)
The tzitzit have to be at the corners; but there is a question as to
where the corner is on a four cornered piece of material. A general guide
is that the hole be three or four finger breadths from the corner edges.
There is an opinion that the tzitzit should hang on the side of the
corner and not on the bottom toward the ground.
There is a custom not to cut the tzitzit to shorten them, but to bite
them with your teeth.
How to tie tzitzit: ritual macrame
Before you try tying tzitzit to your tallit, it is advisable to practice
with twine or heavy string looped around a chair leg.
you can spin or devise your own tzitzit strands, it is easier to buy a
tzitzit pack, which is available at most Hebrew bookstores.
There will be sixteen strands in the pack (four long ones and twelve
short ones; four off 60 inchest and twelve at 40 inches). Separate these
into four groups with one long and three short in each.
The longer strand is called the shammash and is the one used for the
winding. Even up the four strands at one end and push the group through
one of the corner holes in the tallit.
Even up seven of the eight strands (the four being doubled) and leave
the extra length of the shammash hanging to one side.
With four strands in one hand and the other four in the other hand,
make a double knot near the edge of the material. In order to fulfill the
mitvah of tzitzit, it is customary for you to say "l'shem mitzvat tzitzit,"
"for the sake of performing the mitzvah of tzitzit," each time you tie
Take the shammash and wind it round the other seven strands in a spiral
(seven turns). Be sure you end the winding where you began, otherwise you
may end up with 7½ or 6½ winds. Make another double knot
at this point (four over four).
Spiral the shammash eight times around. Double knot. Spiral the shammash
eleven times around. Double knot. Spiral the shammash thirteen times around.
Final double knot.
This is the common, and halakhically precise type of tying. There are,
however, two variations on this:
1. A Sephardic tying adds another dimension to the pattern:
each time the shammash is brought around, take it under the previous wind
before winding it further. This will produce a curving ridge around the
tzitzit. This, too, should be practiced before trying it on the tallit.
2. Although not in strict accordance with the halakhah,
some tie the tzitzit with the shammash spiraling 10-5-6-5 times respectively.
The symbolism for the numbers is central to the overall symbolism
of the tallit. Seven and eight equals fifteen, which in gematria (numerology)
is equal to the two letters yod and heh the first two letters
of the Name of God. Eleven is the equivalent of vav and heh
the last two letters of the Name of God. The total, twenty six, is thus
equivalent and representative YHVH the four letter Name of God. Thirteen
is equivalent to the Hebrew word Ehad alef, chet, dalet
which means One. So to look at the tzitzit is to remember and know that
"God is One".
According to the second way of winding, each section is a different
letter of God's four letter Name.
The central commandment surrounding tzitzit is:
"And you should see it and remember all of God's commandments and do
How do the tzitzit do this?
In gematria, tzitzit = six hundred. In addition there are eight strands
plus five knots. The total is six hundred and thirteen which, according
tradition, is the exact number of commandments (mitzvot) in the Torah.
Just to look at them, therefore, is to remember all the mitzvot.