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What is Tzitzit and What Does it Represent?

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Tzitzit means “fringes” in Hebrew and it refers to the strings attached to the four corners of the tallit. A tallit is a Jewish prayer shawl and it looks like a poncho which is worn under the shirt throughout the day.

Jewish people were commanded by God to wear the Tzitzit so that they can remember him and his commandments.  Rabbis constantly talk about how important the Tzitzit is; however, new information has emerged on the importance of it recently.

Tzitzit fulfills a couple of commandments in the Torah and most notable are those in Number 37, a portion called Pashat Shlah.

Jewish tradition requires Jewish people to wear Tzitzit throughout the day. It is supposed to be attached on all four corners of the garment one wears; however, in the modern day most clothes don’t have corners at all. So because of that, the Tzitzit is supposed to be worn on the prayer shawl or on the special small tallit. This tallit is called a tallit katan and traditional Jews still wear it under their clothes. The Tzitzit can be tucked inside or it can he hang from their tallit katan.

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There are a couple of ways how to attach the Tzitzit, but mostly it is attached to the knotted corners of the tallit, in a specific pattern.

But as time moves on, the tallit was replaced with jackets, trousers, shirts, and robes, so Jewish people have found new ways to fulfill the mitzvah. The first way was using a big tallit, which is essentially like the ancient times; the second way was by wearing the tallit katan, which is a more modern way and widely accepted amongst modernized Jews.

The Tzitzit which can be removed from one tallis and placed on a kosher tallis katan is eighter made of wool or cotton, but the former is more accepted amongst Jews. The Tzitzit is supposed to be sprung with the intention that It will be used for the mitzvah.

How to tie the Tzitzit?

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The Tzitzit is supposed to be tied on all four corners of the garment. You start by making four threats and you thread them through a hole. After going into each hole, look the Tzitzit so that there are eight strings hanging down. You need to knot the first few inches down so that the rest of the eight hang freely down.

Why is the Tzitzit so important to Jewish people?

There are multiple interpretations as to why Tzitzit is important to Jews. One rabbi reads a Talmudic passage and suggests that by wearing the Tzitzit, you obey the Shema.

Other say that it is a reminder that Jews are God’s servants – an interpretation by R. Hezekiah ben Manoach (13th century). God says that they must wear the Tzitzit so that they never forget that they are his servants and they are supposed to never forget the commandments.

Another explanation is offered to Jews in Torah Number 115.  The passage says that the Tzitzit saves Jews from sin. Often you can hear in rabbinic literature how people were miraculously saved from sin. Some suggest that this is because they wore the Tzitzit in the traditional way.

No matter what the explanation is, the Tzitzit is a tradition that all Jews need to follow.



Peter is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience covering topics in politics. He was one of the guys that were here when the foreignpolicyi.org started.