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June 2005
Rabbi Monique Susskind Goldberg


Dear Rabbi,

What is the position of the Conservative Movement towards the wearing of a tallit katan? It appears mandatory amongst Orthodox men. Although one could argue that since we do not wear four-cornered garments anymore, the mitswah may not be relevant anymore, but we still insist on wearing the tallit gadol. If I am paraphrasing correctly (from memory), doesn't the Torah say that tzitzit is a commandment "for all generations... and so that our eyes may see them."? Couldn't it be argued that the tallit katan has a religious/spiritual function on its own that developed throughout the ages? (There seems to be a connotation of modesty, when the Talmudic story of the man whose tzitzit slapped in his face when he wanted to sin with a prostitute). Or is it an unnecessary "stringency"? I am curious to hear your opinion.


You correctly understand that wearing tsitsit is not an obligation of a person. Rather the tsitsit is mandatory on four cornered garments. However, if you do not wear a four cornered garment, you are not obliged to wear tsitsit. Men wore tsitsit on the cloaks they were already wearing. However, when the fashion changed and men no more wore big cloaks, the custom was kept to wear the tsitsit on a prayer shawl at prayer time. So as to have a constant reminder to observe all the commandments, some went even further, in performing the mitzvah of tsitsit and began wearing a Tallit Katan under their clothing, with the tsitsit often showing outside. This became a well established custom and even mandatory among Orthodox Jews.

As I already wrote elsewhere, there is no "position of the Conservative Movement" about every issue. As far as I know, wearing a Tallit Katan is an individual choice. I even know women who wear them.

I hope I answered your question,
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah.

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