Tallit / Tallis

The tallit (tall-EET) or tallis (TALL-us) is a large rectangular shawl made of wool, cotton or synthetic fibers. In each of the four corners of the shawl are strings tied in a particular pattern, called tzitzit. The origin of the tzitzit is biblical; the practice is prescribed in Numbers 15. The precept is to put these strings on the four corners of one’s garment — in ancient tradition, with a single strand of blue as well–as a reminder of the duties and obligations of a Jew. Since we no longer wear four-cornered garments, the tallit is worn specifically to fulfill the biblical precept.

 

Traditionally, men wear a tallit during morning services; in Conservative and Reform synagogues, many women also wear a tallit. In some Orthodox congregations, only married men wear a tallit.  One may see people gathering the tzitzit in their left hand and kissing them when the paragraph from the Torah referring to them is recited.