Wrapped into the Fabric of Jewish Life
A tallit (prayer shawl) is worn during morning prayers, used to wrap a baby at a naming, a gift to a bar/bat mitzvah, as a chuppah (canopy) to stand under at a wedding. Traditionally the deceased is also wrapped in one at the time of burial, with one of the tzizit (fringes) cut to demonstrate that the deceased is no longer obligated to do mitzvoth; worn on Kol Nidre, the beginning of Yom Kippur; and drawn over the faces of the descendants of the high priests when the bless the congregation.
Wearing the tallit is a mitzvah. Yet the Torah makes no mention of tallit, per se, focusing entirely on the fringe. The knots, twists and turns it takes to make tzizit serve as a reminder of Judaism’s 613 mitzvot.
Today’s tallitot come in all shapes and sizes. Traditionally made of wool, they now come in a wide range of fabrics – from silk to cotton – and in a wide variety of colors.