Donning The Tallit

Putting on the Prayer Shawl

The Tallit, commonly referred to in English as a "prayer shawl," is a four-cornered garment or cloak to which the tzitzit are affixed. The tzitzit endow the garment with its religious significance. The term tallit is derived from the Hebrew-Aramaic verb meaning to cover.

The Tallit is worn during the Shacharit (Morning) service. Among Sephardic and German Jews, the Tallit is worn even by children, but in most Ashkenazic congregations it is worn during prayer only by one who is or has been married. The preferred material is wool, but silk is also used in making the tallit.

Minhag (Custom) is that although one is to recite the appropriate blessing over each garment upon donning it, but one who wears a tallit at Shacharit does not recite the blessing al mitzvat tzitzit (regarding the commandment of tzitzit) when donning the tallit katan. Instead before donning the large tallit he has in mind that the blessing lehitatef batzitzit (to wrap ourselves in tzitzit) should apply to both garments.

Before donning the Tallit, one also must examine the tzitzit carefully for tangling and torn strings (torn strings invalidates the tzitzit and the garment may not be worn).

Bless Hashem, O my soul; Hashem, my G-d, You are very great; You have donned majesty and splendor; cloaked in light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a curtain (Tehillim 104:1-2).

Many recite the following declaration of intent before donning the tallit:

For the sake of the unification of the Holy One, Blessed is He, and His Presence, in fear and love to unify the Name - yud-kei with vav-kei - in perfect unity, in the name of all Yisrael.

I am ready to wrap my body in tzitzit, so may my soul, my two hundred forty-eight organs and my three hundred sixty-five sinews be wrapped in the illumination of tzitzit which has the numerical value of six hundred thirteen. Just as I cover myself with a tallit in This World, so may I merit the rabbinical garb and a beautiful cloak in the World to Come in the Garden of Eden. Through the commandment of tzitzit may my life-force, spirit, soul, and prayer be rescued from the external forces. May the tallit spread its wings over them and rescue them like an eagle rousing his nest, fluttering over his eaglets (Devarim 32:11). May the commandment of tzitzit be worthy before the Holy One, Blessed is He, as if I had fulfilled it in all its details, implications, and intentions, as well as the six hundred thirteen commandments that are dependant upon it. Amein Selah!

Unfold the Tallit and hold it in readiness to wrap around yourself, and recite the following blessing:

Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvatov v'tzivanu lehitatef batzitzit
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to wrap ourselves in tzitzit.

Wrap the tallit around head and body and recite:

How precious is Your kindness, O G-d! The sons of man take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. May they be sated from the abundance of Your house; and may You give them to drink from the stream of Your delights. For with You is the source of life - by Your light we shall see light. Extend Your kindness to those who know You, and Your charity to the upright in heart (Tehillim 36:8-11).

Cited References

Tehillim 104:1 Bless Hashem, O my soul. Hashem, my G-d, You are very great; You have donned glory and majesty; 2 covering with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a curtain.

Devarim 32:11 He was like an eagle arousing its nest, hovering over its young, spreading its wings and taking them, carrying them on its pinions.