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October 7, 2015 | 24th Tishrei 5776
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Tallit and T'fillin
See also "Kippah."
The postings below include discussions of:
  • Jewish Sources about Wearing Tallit
  • Wearing Tallit on Friday Night

  1. Recognizing that the wearing of a tallis is a personal choice for Reform Jews, are there guidelines for appropriate times to wear a tallis other than local minhag? Richard

  2. I do know that one should wear the tallis on Shabbat morning because that is when the Torah is read. (I believe that the tallis should be worn during weekday Torah services, also.) In some (many? most?) Reform congregations, wearing of the tallis at Friday night services is discouraged, because it is traditionally worn on Saturday mornings. My feeling is that the tallis should be worn on Friday nights when the Torah is read. Katherine

  3. It is my understanding that a tallit is worn during daylight only, when the fringes can be seen. That means that at any service that is in the daytime. The only time we wear a tallit at night is on Erev Yom Kippur. I have seen some people who are called for a Torah aliyah on a Friday night put on a tallit for that purpose alone. They remove the tallit when they descend from the bimah. Linda

  4. This is correct [worn in daylight], although in practice a tallit is worn only for Shacharit (morning services) rather than Minchah (afternoon services). Some wear a tallit katan ("small tallit," something like a serape with tzitzit at the corners) all day and remove it at nightfall; Breslover Chasidim wear it until bedtime. Neal

  5. I believe the rule concerning the wearing of a tallis is [that] with the exception of Erev Yom Kippur, it is worn during daylight hours so you will have the light to see the fringes. Warren

  6. My understanding is that wearing a tallit is a daytime mitzvah (because you must be able to see the fringes, see Numbers 15:37-41). As a service leader, I usually also wear a tallit in the evening. My thanks go to Rabbi Emily Lipoff for clarifying the justification for a service leader to wear a tallit at night: she explained that, even though the rest of the shul might be darkened, the bimah is always well-lit for a service, and so the rabbi and cantor would easily be able to see their tzitzit (tallit fringes). Robin

  7. should be noted that the tallit and t?fillin are not worn during the morning service on Tishah B'Av, but during the afternoon service.

    I was wondering if anybody has any experiences to share about wearing t'fillin as a Reform Jew. I've been davening with t?fillin daily (or at least on the days they should be worn) for more than three years and find it to be a very spiritual time for me. I usually pray alone, but when I pray with a minyan, it's either with a Chabad congregation or a Conservative congregation because the only Reform synagogue in the area that has a daily morning minyan is too far from home or work.


  8. I agree laying t'fillin is most spiritually satisfying. Several members of our congregation do tallit and t'fillin at our every week Wednesday morning minyan. We have engaged one of our cantorial soloists to be our ba'al t'fiflah and remarkably we always make a minyan and often have fourteen or fifteen attending. One of the distinctive attributes of this service is the depth of prayer rather than the performance that one usually finds in our Union synagogues. Michael

  9. ...t'fillin...are not worn in our temple. However, I had the opportunity to learn to lay t'fillin last year from a female cantorial student in the Conservative movement who davens with them daily, and I found it to be a very moving and spiritual experience and a practice which I feel ready for, though perhaps not on a daily basis.

    I'm sure I'm not alone. Since Reform Judaism gives us the freedom to choose what rituals make sense for us in our individual observance, I would love to see a workshop on t'fillin at the next Biennial. I attended a similar workshop on tallit at the Dallas Biennial, and it changed my entire approach to prayer.

    Brenda 1200 Families

  10. I ask if anyone has any experiences to share about wearing t'fillin as a Reform Jewish woman. Mary

  11. You are not going to see t'fillin worn much in a Reform synagogue. Why? T'fillin are worn on weekdays and not on Shabbat. With the exception of Festival services, most Reform congregations do not have weekday services. At kallah I have seen a few people wear t'fillin. I think there is a curiosity by people since most people, especially women, have never worn t'fillin. Warren

  12. I believe it should be optional at all times. Personally I wear it out of respect for its creator.. my wife who made it for our Jewish wedding nearly eleven years ago. Dave

  13. It is true that most Reform synagogues do not hold daily morning services, but there are people who pray and/or do Jewish meditation daily at home. Some would like to enhance the spirituality of the prayer experience by laying t'fillin, but it's hard to figure out how to do it from a diagram in The Jewish Catalogue! I once approached a woman at the Conservative synagogue who feels the same way, thinking that perhaps someone from her synagogue would teach us, but she was reluctant to ask. Yes, as a group of middle-aged women, we never had the opportunity to learn about this (my brothers and son who were bar mitzvah at Reform temples didn't either). And no, we do not regard this as a curiosity. Our interest lies in devekut and kavanah. Marian

  14. I think it's regrettable if we wear a tallit on Friday night, or put on t'fillin on Shabbat, if we do it out of ignorance of traditional practice. But I think it is authentic for Reform Jews to consider the tradition and its reason and, for good reason, to reject or modify it. For example, it is not traditional to read from the Torah at a Kabbalat Shabbat service. However, that is when most of our members attend, and so that they may hear Torah, we read from it on Friday night. That isn't very different from the original practice of reading Torah on Mondays and Thursdays, traditional market days when the people were there. And--for those who respect the original principle of wearing a tallit only when one is able to see the fringes--our sanctuaries are as brightly illuminated at night as during the day. On the other hand, I honor tradition too much to affirm that whatever feels right to me is authentic. I think we are best served when informed choice guides our practice. Harvey 2000 member units

  15. In our...we are holding two daily services and in the Shacharit we may have up to six or seven people putting on t'fillin. I myself am teaching young children to put it on and immerse themselves with t'fillin not as a tool for new-age made-up spiritualistic feelings but a mitzvah mideorayta. Beny

  16. Our Reform congregation of 265 member units asks that all gentleman, members and visitors alike, wear a head covering as a sign of respect in our congregation. Many women congregants do as well. It you are called up for an aliyah at a Shabbat and/or a bar/bat mitzvah, you are required to wear a tallit. If you are on the Worship Committee, or on the board and have a seat on the bimah, or are a service leader, you are also required to wear a tallit.

  17. At [our congregation], the decisions to wear a kippah and a tallit are left to the individual worshiper.

    We make available both kippah and tallit to whose who want to exercise this option. Other worshipers choose to wear their own.

    There are also worshippers who do neither.

    Our premise is that these are personal decisions, and we choose not to interfere with such personal decisions. If the wearing of a kippah and tallit is meaningful, and enhances one's spirituality--great! We sincerely honor and respect this decision--while at the same time we honor and respect those worshipers who choose not to wear the kippah and tallit.

    We think that this position is in line with the thinking and position of Reform Judaism. Our position helps to create good will and respect for every individual's rights and traditions.

    128 households

  18. Like many congregations, the wearing of tallit and kippah are optional, for men and for women, on bimah and in the pews--an approach totally in line with the philosophy of individual informed choice that is the premise of Reform Judaism.

    Our rabbi does not wear a kippah; our cantorial soloist does.

    Even though we do not read Torah on Friday nights, a few of our congregants, who only come to worship then, choose to wear tallit. They do so through informed choice; knowing a tallit is typically worn during the morning worship and adapting the age old custom of wrapping themselves in G-d's presence when they are in worship.

    We do not yet have a tallit rack or tallitot available (I am sure we will someday, but a good number of years down the line), but do have kippot available and sell both in our gift shop. I would say that about one-third of our community chooses to wear one on Friday evenings. At our informal Saturday morning minyan, the percentage is higher, with many tallitot visible--it is a different community of worshipers.

    I run one or two tallit-making workshops each year, which shows interest is growing.

    680 member units

  19. We are a large Reform...Our congregants are from many backgrounds and places. We do not require the wearing of tallit or kippah for our congregants, although many do, particularly on the High Holy Days. We offer them both in the foyer for optional use, and kippot are often passed out at bar or bat mitzvahs.

    We have a female rabbi, and our clergy wear both kippot and tallit on the bimah. Wearing them on the bimah for other congregants is optional.

    We have a part in our High Holy Day service where those who have tallit are encouraged to spread them over those seated near them. The bar/bat mitzvah is given a tallit, usually from the parents as part of the service. The clergy sometimes use their tallit to give blessings to individuals on the bimah. All of these situations have helped create acceptance for the tallit and kippah, and everyone seems comfortable with the option. At least we haven't had any complaints!

    1000 plus families

  20. The current discussion about kippah/tallit seems to confirm that contemporary practice in the Reform synagogue upholds the Reform principle of personal autonomy--wear or don't wear according to what feels right to you. Although there have been posts about the "days gone by" taboo against head covering, I don't recall anyone reporting that as current practice. What has been perhaps the most surprising thing from a Reform perspective is the report of congregations that--permissive as they may be in the pew--require tallit on the bimah, at least for Torah readers/blessers.

    One element, however, has been totally missing from the discussion: Why? The sanction for kippah/tallit seems to revolve around the idea of enriching the worship experience--but there has been no commentary on why or how the ritual regalia does that, nor on the evolution of minhag (customary practice) regarding kippah/tallit in the synagogue of yore.

    When our son had his bar mitzvah some 25 years ago, in a congregation that was just starting its transition from classical to mainstream Reform, we had to ask whether it was OK for him to wear a tallit. In assenting, the rabbi made a comment that has stayed with me this quarter-century: Yes, he may wear a tallit; and I hope that the Shabbat after his bar mitzvah, when he comes for his friend's bar mitzvah, he'll wear it again. It is not a bar mitzvah uniform.

    The Union's Biennial in Atlanta some dozen years ago was the first where I noted a substantial number of kippot/tallitot at Shabbat morning services, worn by both men and women--leading my wife to query, "Is this a religious statement or a fashion statement?" (She, by the way, now wears a kippah and a tallit; I, who grew up Conservative, now wear neither except to conform with minhag hamakom (the custom of the place).

    When our rabbi came to the congregation eight years ago, the principle he inherited was that the clergy on the bimah should present a united front--and the senior rabbi had chosen bare head, bare (albeit clothed) shoulders (even while vigorously asserting the right of congregants to wear kippah/tallit whether in the pew or on the bimah). Before making a change in the practice, the new senior led a thorough study of the issues involved, refrained from routinely wearing a tallit until the Board, on recommendation of the Worship Committee, not only assented to a change but also allocated funds to provide tallitot to all who wanted to wear them. The new rabbi also rescinded his predecessor's rule on a united front, leaving each member of the clergy free to wear or not wear as he/she chose. All have chosen to wear kippah/tallit.

    The important principle here is that the change was made not on the basis of personal choice, but of informed personal choice.

    1200 members

  21. Dec 2004 Digest #1121

                …I was recently at a discussion about the origins of ritual garb. As choice through knowledge is an important part of the Reform Movement, I thought that I'd impart what I learned before giving my opinion.

    Kippah: It's completely minhag (custom) to wear a head-covering.

    Tallit: There's a commandment to see the t'cheilet (blue strand) on the tzitzit (fringes), which are to be put on four-cornered garments. The commandment is found at the beginning of the third paragraph of the full Sh'ma (which starts "Vay'dabeir Adonai" and continues with “L'ma-an  tizk'ru”), and in Talmud it is explained that we remember the exodus from Egypt when we wear tzitzit. Remembering the exodus is a commandment, and putting tzitzit on four-cornered garments is commanded, however, there is no requirement to make a four-cornered garment on which to put tzitzit.  However, it's easy enough to fulfill the commandment by making such a garment to wear. To sum it up, wearing a tallit (i.e. a four-cornered garment specially made for tzitzit) at any time is minhag.

    T'fillin: It's commanded that we bind them (i.e. all of God's commandments) on our hands/arms and that they be "totafot" between our eyes.  We read that in the first paragraph of Sh'ma.  Now, what this means is up for debate, but it is the custom to put a few specific paragraphs of Torah into compartmentalized leather boxes and wear one on the head and one on the arm. When one wears t'fillin one is supposed to focus only on holy topics, which only the holiest of holy people are capable of doing for the entire day.  So everyone else wears them for the morning prayers (when focusing is easier), and these extra holy people wear them all day.  That way, the commandment is fulfilled without defiling the purpose.

    As for requiring or forbidding people from wearing this ritual garb, it seems to be completely against the current Reform idea of "choice through knowledge."  Why expect or, at least encourage, the practice of choosing what to do after obtaining knowledge on the topic if it results in specific synagogues forcing you to do something that you're not comfortable doing? As someone said earlier, the ritual garb one individual chooses to wear is not something that affects the entire congregation, whereas the standard of kashrut in the synagogue kitchen is.  Reform synagogues should not be controlling individual choices like the wearing of ritual garb.

  22. Dec 2004 Digest #1121

                That's the bottom line, isn't it? If Reform Judaism asks us to make conscious decisions, shouldn't we be permitted to follow through on our choices? Is it appropriate for a Reform congregation to forbid (or conversely, demand) it?

  23. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-1

    …what is or is not appropriate is for a given congregation to determine. That is what minhag is all about. A congregation can forbid the serving of pork products on their premises. Is this appropriate? I would think so…

    What I think is the true issue is what smacks of traditional observances. Anything that seems like a backslide towards Orthodoxy is suspect.  ……[It] is within the purview of a congregation to draw their lines in the sand where they wish.


  24. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-2

    I was interested in the recent discussion on tallit. Virtually all men wear a tallit and kippah whether as part of the congregation on Shabbat morning or on the bimah, as do some women. Some of the girls who celebrated their bat mitzvah wore a tallit during the service and have occasionally worn one since. We recently held a mini-course on the relevance of tallit and each participant made their own tallit. Since there is no reason why women cannot wear a tallit, it is a case of women feeling comfortable wearing it. Although I made one, I have not worn it yet but am thinking about it.

    Our rabbi has also started explaining the relevance of tallit to the bar mitzvah family (and congregation) when the parents come onto the bimah at the start of the Shabbat service and place the child's tallit round him/her. We felt that if a child is going to wear a tallit, they should know why they are doing so and, therefore, make their own choice. No child has not worn one following their bar mitzvah and, in fact, they do so with pride as they feel totally part of the community.


    720 families
  25. June 2007 Digest 119

                In our congregation, no one is required to wear a kippah or a tallit on the bimah at any time. They are welcome to do so, but that is a matter of their personal choice. We believe that it is contrary to the fundamental ideology of Reform Judaism to impose a personal ritual practice such as the wearing of a kippah or a tallit upon any of our members. There was a time in the history of our movement when people were actually forbidden from wearing them in Reform synagogues. That was wrong. It is equally wrong to require it of them now. When Reform Judaism abandons the principle of personal autonomy it no longer can claim to be Reform Judaism but rather has become just a liberal wing of Conservative Judaism.

  26. June 2007 Digest 119

                We require all men to wear a yarmulke on the bimah during a service, and the Jewish men to wear a tallis. They may remove either or both once leaving the bimah.

                We require the young male students to wear a yarmulke during the period they are in the sanctuary for the ending of their religious school class lesson.

                Reform Judaism has not abandoned the concept of personal autonomy. That is why [one temple] has its ruling and [another] has its ruling.

  27. June 2007 Digest 119

                We also leave the issue of tallit and kippah to the individual. During services, our former rabbi for ten years wore a robe and tallit, but never a kippah. Our previous rabbi wore a kippah, and sometimes a robe and/or tallit. Our current rabbi wears neither robe, tallit nor kippah. In general, the congregation is split on the wearing kippot and hardly anyone wears a tallit, on or off the bimah.


    165 Families
  28. June 2007 Digest 119

                One thing I've found odd (and a bit disturbing) is when a congregation will require men to wear tallit and kippot, but not women. In particular, when the religious school has a class service and the boys are always told they need to wear kippot. What about the girls? Moving personal autonomy aside for a moment (either as an individual or a congregation), when we permit and encourage women to become both cantors and rabbis do some congregations still not engage women and men in the same obligations?

  29. June 2007 Digest 119

                While we don't have any strict rule--we provide both tallitot and kippot at the back of the sanctuary for whomever wishes to wear them…men and women who have been given a Torah aliyah usually wear a tallit (and some both). We consider the opening and closing of the ark, haggbah/gelilah, etc., as being aliyot but normally those doing these activities do not wear tallitot

                Our song-leader is considered part of the clergy when she participates in the service and always wears a kippah and tallit, as does the rabbi on the bimah. Our cantorial soloist who is not Jewish wears a kippah during services (never a tallit). Our part-time cantor (invested) wears kippah, tallit and sometimes robe (depending on whether or not the rabbi is wearing one).


    120 Families
  30. June 2007 Digest 119

                Why do I wear a kippah and tallit? Because I am on the bimah, and I want my congregation to not only be able to pray and learn with me aurally, with music, I want them to have a visual environment too.

                When we hear our liturgical music (whatever kind we have in our shuls,) we hope it will bring us to a place of prayer, whether or not we are in the mood. It's lucky our predecessors were smart enough to include all those introductory psalms, because many's the time I've shown up on the bimah grumpy, tired and other directed! We hear and speak, even if we don't want to, and soon, we can allow ourselves to join our community's conversation with God.

                Our visual cues are equally motivating, and as the many teachers on this list know, many students are visual learners. We see the Hebrew letters, and even those among us who cannot read Hebrew can be here now, can see the beauty of the text. We see the beautiful ark, and we all get a tiny thrill when the Sefer Torah, garbed and crowned like a Queen, is removed. When we see at least some of our neighbors, and our leaders, robed in prayer, (even when they are in no mood to pray inside,) we have an image of a Kehlliah Kedosha before us. We remember before whom we stand.

                I am sometimes not in any mood to stick that kippah on my head…or to don my tallit…After a while though, I feel the protection and embrace of my tallit, and the awesome hand of God on my head.


    90 high quality member units
  31. June 2007 Digest 119

    …[where I belong] some choose to wear kippot and put on tallitot on appropriate occasions and some do not. Complete individual choice. Relatively few persons wear tallitot on Kol Nidrei. Rabbis and Cantors wear kippot and tallitot. At [one congregation] our senior rabbi stopped wearing pulpit gown several years ago, and men have lit candles on occasion--though not very often.

  32. June 2007 Digest 119

                At the expense of sounding judgmental (al cheit shechatani), requiring any congregant to wear a tallis or yarmulke sounds un-Reform. Our movement stresses personal autonomy and, until it decides what Jewish ritual garb worshippers shall wear, no congregation should compel people to conform.

                Our rabbi (almost) always wears a tallis and a yarmulke. He stopped wearing a black robe a little more than a year ago, but still wears a white robe on Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Shavuos.

                Talleisim and yarmulkes are available at the door, but wearing them is optional.


    ~500 families
  33. June 2007 Digest 119

                While personal autonomy is a key principle in Reform Judaism, each congregation has not only the opportunity but in many ways the obligation to set standards for its own community. Many congregations have already set standards for worship(ful) dress, in particular creating rules for what is and is not permitted on the bimah during (for example) a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. We set minimum standards of behaviour, we set standards for the content of the worship service itself--the previous and the new siddur offer enough flexibility for each congregation to find the worship experience that suits them. Requiring that those participating on the bimah be clad in kippah and tallit isn't really any different.

                By the way, the tallit is not specifically required in Judaism either. The tallit was created so that people would have the opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah: if one wears a four-cornered garment it must have fringes, and so people started wearing four-cornered garments. They were, and are, not really a part of the "normal" clothing. It is not a mitzvah to wear them, only to have the fringes (tzitzit) if such a garment *is* worn.


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