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What Size Tallit Should I Buy?

I get this question all the time. And because tallitot come in all shapes and sizes, it’s a very valid question.

There are a range of standard sizes. They are 72” – 80” in length and 18” to 24” in width.  Non standard sizes increase in width because the tallit worn in a special way where the tsitsis and corners in the front are thrown over the shoulders and sometimes over the head.  These can go up to 60” in width and are usually preferred by some conservative and orthodox worshipers.

I personally do not carry short sizes (except for a few for very petite girls).

In my opinion, every Bar/Bat Mitzvah child should have a tallit at least 70” in length  (a size they can wear for life) or in a few years they will be back for another one because their shorter one will be way to short for them to use as an adult. It’s amazing how kids shoot up like corn stalks right after they become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  Years ago, there was such a thing as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah tallit which was 64” in length.  Men come to me all the time because that tallit now looks like a shrug on them.

So here are my guidelines:

If you are 4’8” to 5’10” a 72” tallit will work for you. A broader man can wear a tallit with an  80” length because the tallit is hiked up by the shoulders.

If you are over 5’10” go for an 80” tallit which will be perfect and not look too short.

As far as the width is concerned, it’s a personal choice. Most men like them wider (22-24”) and girls or women like them more narrow. Both men and women often fold the width of the tallit in half or scrunch the tallit at the neck.

The most important thing is that you are comfortable in the choice you make.

 

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Women and the Tallit

Wool

Why do women wear tallitot, and should they? These Jewish prayer shawls are ceremonial and symbolic, and provide an important connection to a woman’s heritage. It also lends itself as a focal point of concentration. Usually made of wool, they are often first worn by children on their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs. Traditionally, however, they are only worn by men.

According to Halachic works, both women and men are forbidden to wear clothing of the opposite gender. As the tallit is most commonly associated with and worn by men, this explains the taboo of a woman wearing one.

So, what should a woman do if she wants to wear a tallit? According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a woman who wishes to wear a tallit must wear a distinctly feminine one [Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim V, section 49]. This should not be done as a protest of the tradition, but as a way for a woman to fulfill this mitzvah and recognizing that they are not required to do so.

This issue directly relates woman’s equality and rights, both within the religion and socially. While the Torah does not outright forbid a woman to wear a tallit, it certainly does not encourage it. That does not mean that change isn’t underway, and while Rabbi Feinstein warns a woman not to wear a tallit as a sign of protest, it still nonetheless is an indication that these changes are underway.

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