Is My Tallit Kosher?
In order for a tallit to be kosher, it must adhere to certain specifications when being made, and of course be constructed according to history requirements. The construction of the tallit itself should not be undertaken lightly. If you want to make your own tallit, do so with the assistance of someone who is au fait with the requisite laws and requirements so that the garment will end up as a kosher tallit.
The cloth used to construct the tallit must not be of mixed fibres (referred to as shaatnez) – if wool is used it must be fully constructed of wool and so on. A mix of such fibres as linen and wool must not be used.
The garment must comply with measurement specifications, being large enough to wrap around the entire body. The tallit must have four corners, two being at the front and two at the back. Additionally, as the tallit is in fact a garment, an indication at the neck of which way is ‘up’ is required.
The threads (fringes), or tzitzit, are the most important part of the garment, and it is preferable that these threads be of the same fibre as the garment itself. Kosher threads can be purchased from a Judaica, Jewish Book Store, and also from several websites online.
For each of the four sets of threads making up the tzitzit, there must be one thread longer than the other. According to Jewish laws (halacha), the tzitzit are made of pure wool and are tied by a God fearing individual.
The tallit itself does not require a specific pattern or scene as these are of a more decorative nature, and can be fabricated from such natural materials as silk, cotton or wool, or indeed from synthetic materials such as nylon. If tzitzit are not kosher, the commandment for wearing tzitzit will not have been fulfilled.
It is recommended to check the tzitzit each morning to ensure they are kosher prior to putting the tallit on. Any strings that are broken should be replaced immediately and if more than one string is missing the tallit is no longer kosher to wear. If the five knots down the side have been unraveled, the tallit is still kosher, however it is best to keep the knots tightened to avoid this occurring.
The Torah commands that each fringe should contain one blue string. However, as time passed, the dye (extracted from a particular fish-worm called Chilazon) was lost, and the exact shade of blue became no longer known. Thus, only white threads were then utilized. There are only very few circumstances where the blue shade remains in use in tzitzit amongst some Chassidic groups. As a result, there are mixed feelings amongst rabbis as to whether blue utilized in tzitzit today is kosher or not.
Many items come complete with a kosher certificate upon purchase. This is the best way to ensure your tallit is kosher.