Shulchan Aruch Chapter 11:  Laws of The Tzitzit Threads (15 Paragraphs)


Note:  The Rama is in brackets [ ]


1.  The threads must be spun לשׁמה.  [There are those who are stringent and even require the “beating”[1] to be done לשׁמה.  The custom is to be lenient with “beating”.]   At the beginning of the spinning process, one should recite that he is doing it for Tzitzit or he should tell a woman “spin me Tzitzit for a טלית”.  If they were not spun לשׁמה, they are invalid. 


2.  If a non-Jew does the spinning while a Jew supervises, and tells him to make them לשׁמה,  according to the Rambam it is invalid while the רא׳שׁ says it is Kosher.  [The custom is for a Jew to help him out a little as we find later on in chapter 32 p. 9 & ch. 14 p. רע׳א by Tefilin and by Sefer Torah.]  The threads must be intertwined/ twisted[2] and the twisting must be done לשׁמה. 


3.  If the twisting came apart, unfolding into 16 (threads), they are Kosher as long as enough twisting is left for a loop.  [It is better to tie the ends of the threads as in p. 14] 


4.  The legnth of the 8 threads cannot be less than 4 fingerwidths while according to others, 12 finger breaths; and so is our custom.  Less than that is not sufficient.  [If Tzitzit were made longer than neessary, they can be shortened and there is no תעשׂה ולא מן האשׂוי[3].  One of the threads should be made longer than the others to wind the tassels with. 


5.  Tzitzit may not be made from wool caught in the thorns when the (sheep) were running through them, nor with fibres torn off from the animal.  Simlarly, Tzitzit can’t be made from thread remnants left in the weave after finishing a garment.  The reason is because this would be a disgrace for the Mitzvah.


6. If stolen wool was used, the Tzitzit are invalid since it is written in the Torah “and you should make for yourself” meaning they must belong to you.  [This is only where the threads were stolen, but if the raw wool was stolen and then it was made into threads, it is Kosher.  However, לכתכילה it is forbidden to use them.]


7.  Borrowed threads are like a loan where the object is not returned and they are considered like your own. 


8.  If the animal used to make the thread was worshipped, the wool is invalid for Tzitzit.  If one bowed down to a flax plant the linen is Kosher for Tzitizit since it became transformed. 

9.  One must make a hole for the Tzitzit relative to the length of the Talit.  It must not be above 3 fingerbreaths [large ones (or thumb widths)]; for it would not be called a corner.  It can’t be below the measurement from the joint of the thumb untill the nail since it says “on the corner”.  If it was below the full measurement made from the joint of the thumb, it is below the corner (and invalid).  [This is measured strait[4] and not diagonally from the corner.] 


10.  Consider a case where the Tzitzit were originally seperated from the corner by the joint of the thumb.  Then they were ripped from the fabric of the garment until there was no longer the propper שׁיעור  (set measurement) left when it was put on.  Since the garement fulfilled the requirement when the Tzitzit were originally attached, it is Kosher.  [The custom is to reinforce the area around the whole in order that it shouldn’t tear to less than the requirement.  Similarly, a reinforcement is made at the corner of the garment for this reason.]  There are those who say that with regard to the width of the garment, there is no שׁיעור[5].  Others claim that the width follows the same laws as the length of the garment and their words appear correct.


11.   If the corner is what we call an אורילייזא (see footnote 6) and is wide, Tzitzit shouldn’t be put on it.  If one put Tzitzit on the garment, it is invalid since it is written “on the corner of your garments” and this is not considered from the garment.  Rather, there must remain at least the measuremt of joint of the thumb and not farther than 3 fingers since the hole must be in the garment.[6] [It is good to measure the joint of the thumb without including the fringes while measuring the 3 fingers including the fringes.]


12.   The number of the Tzitzit threads on all corners is 4 strings folded over, which is 8.  If more were added, they are invalid.  You should trim the tips of the 4 threads[7] then insert them in the corner.  Finally, double them over and then there will be 8. 


13.  One should be careful the cut the tips of the threads into 8 before wrapping them.  For even if one thread was wrapped and tied with just one tie and afterwords cut, this is invalid by the principle of [8]תעשׂה ולא מן העשׂוי since they they were made defective. 


14.  You should take 4 threads on one side and 4 threads on the other side and tie them two times, making a double knot[9].  Afterwards, you should use wrap the longest thread around the 7 others with a little wrapping and then make a double knot.  Then repeat and wrap.  This should be repeated until 5 double knots are made with the 4 spaces between them filled with windings.  There is no שׁיעור (set measurement) for wrapping other than the fact that all the wrapping and the knots must be 4 thumb widths wide and the branch (protruding threads) 8 thumb widths.  [If the Tzitzit are longer, one should make sure that one the tassels should be (at the minimum) one third of the length and the branch should be two thirds of the length.]  It is the custom to have 7 wrappings in the first space, 9 in the second space, 11 in the third, and 13 in the fourth.  They all add up to 40 corresponding to the numerical value of “השׁם אחד(G-d is one) which is actually 39 and by adding G-d (since G-d is one, you add one), it makes 40.  It is customary to tie a knot at the end of every thread so that they should remain intertwined. 


15.  There are those who require the Tzitzit to hang by the length of the Talit since they must drop by an angle [he means “hang by an angle”][10].  If the Tzitzit were placed on the width of the Talit, they would not drop but would hang facing the ground.  Some say that no material should be in the holes of the talit containing the Tzitzit.  Others allow this and so is our custom. 

[1] I once had the privilege of listening to an expert on cloth and thread give a speech.  There are 4 steps to making thread.  1- Preparing the sheep for shearing by combing the wool with long iron combs 2-Shearing the sheep 3- The wool is further combed and straitened to prepare the wool for spinning.  This is known as carding.  A carding machine now does it.  4- the thread is spun.  “Beating” refers to the third step or carding. 

[2] M.B:   The Torah used an extra word, “פתיל” which teaches us the threads must be twisted. 

[3] See Ch 10 first footnote.

[4] ביושׁר could also refer to the two lengthwize sides of the garment since when compared to the corner, this side is the “head”.   In any case, it means the same thing.

[5] M.B. writes that this opinion refers to the minimum distance.  Namely, some claim there is no minimum distance from the width but all agree that the maximum length of 3 finger widths apply. 

[6] When a garment is weaved, there are horizontal and vertical arrays of thread held down.  These arrays are woven together to make fabric.  At the ends of the fabric, there are left over unwoven arrays of horizontal and vertical threads.   Usually, these are cut off.  However, in many garments such as scarves and the Talitim we have today, the edges of the garments have threads sticking out from the weave.  In Talitim and in other fancy clothing, these are knotted together to form tassels.   I’ll call these “threadlings” from now on, since there is no English phrase to describe this.  If the threadlings are at a corner, one must count them into the measurement.  However, Tzitzit must be placed on the garment itself and not on these threadlings.  If the threadlings are three fingers wide, then there is no way that one can put Tzitzit on the garment while satisfying p. 9.  M.B. writes that the solution is to cut off these threadlings at the corners.  In our Talitim, the threadlings are cut off near the corners to avoid this problem. 

[7] The S.A. probably means you should fold one thread over 4 times, and then cut the loops so you’ll have 4 separate threads.

[8] See Ch. 10 first footnote.

[9] Lit. “tie them two times one on top of the other”

[10] If the Tzitzit are tied firmly to a corner, there are two ways to hang them.  They can be hung by the length or the width of the garment.

Translated By Jay Dinovitser

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