Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tying Tzitzit at Night & More

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Although many things can be done by machine, tying Tzitzit strings is still not one of them. In order to render a Tallit useable, the Tzitzit strings must be hand tied onto a Tallit by a God-fearing individual. What is amusing, however, is the largely mistaken belief that it is forbidden to tie the Tzitzit strings onto a Tallit at night. [1] The source for this misunderstanding is due to a perceived concern that doing so may be a violation of the Talmudic principle of “Ta’ase V’lo Min Ha’asui”.

The principle of "Ta’ase V’lo Min Ha’asui" teaches that a Tzitzit garment must be functional upon completion. When one ties Tzitzit onto a Tallit at night, the Tallit has no halachic function and is essentially unusable until the next morning. This is because the mitzva of Tzitzit is one of those mitzvot which apply only during the day and not at night.[2] This delay between the assembly of the Tallit and one's first opportunity of being able to use it only arriving the next day, is deemed by some authorities as a possible violation of the “Ta’ase V’lo Min Ha’asui” principle.[3]

Click here to read moreIn deference to this view, there a number of authorities who advise against tying Tzitzit at night.[4] While the majority of halachic authorities don't disqualify Tzitzit which were tied at night, there a number of whom which recommend avoid doing so if at all possible.[5] Nevertheless, normative halacha is not like these views and tying Tzitzit at night is permitted without reservation.[6] As is the case with all chumrot, those who choose not to tie Tzitzit at night are conducting themselves in a manner not required by normative halacha.[7]

Related to this issue is the writing of the Tefillin parchments which all authorities permit one to write at night although the mitzva of Tefillin is one which is only performed during the day.[8] Accordingly, one should not hesitate to wear Tzitzit that were tied at night.[9] The Chazon Ish was known to permit tying Tzitzit at night and specifically requested that his own Tallit be prepared at such time.[10] One should only use Tzitzit strings that were hand made,[11] though one should not criticize those who use the machine made variety.[12]

Many Tzitzit professionals have the custom never to cut Tzitzit strings with scissors or any other metal object. Instead, any necessary cutting or shortening is done with one's teeth.[13] This idea of not using metal in the process of making Tzitzit mirrors the building of the Beit Hamikdash. We are told that it was forbidden to use any metal utensils when hewing the stones which were to be used in the construction of the Altar. As such, some suggest that the use of metal should be forbidden in the process of making Tzitzit as well.

This common denominator between the Altar and Tzitzit is their role in lengthening human life,[14] while metal is a material used in weaponry whose primary purpose is to shorten it.[15]It is interesting to note that a person has thirty-two teeth which is the equal number of Tzitzit strings on the Tallit.[16] One who is unable to cut Tzitzit strings with his teeth may use a knife made from silver, bronze, or plastic.[17] It is said that being careful in the observance of the mitzva of Tzitzit is a segula for preventing tooth aches.[18]

Another application of the principle of "Ta’ase V’lo Min Ha’asui” requires that the Tzitzit strings be placed upon the Tallit and not the other way around. For example, if one tore through the corner of one's Tallit causing the Tzitzit strings to fall from the garment, it would not be permissible to simply replace the Tzitzit strings onto the corner and then sew up the tear. Rather, the tear must first be sown up and then the Tzitzit strings re-tied on to the garment anew. Similarly, in the event that one's Tallit had ripped in half, even if the strings remained fastened in the corners, it would not be permitted to simply sew together the two halves of the Tallit. Rather, the Tzitzit must be removed, the Tallit sewn together and then the Tzitzit strings tied anew.

A blessing is not recited when tying Tzitzit because neither the Tzitzit strings nor even the tying process are inherent requirements relating to a Tallit.[19] Tzitzit strings are among those ritual items, that while not inherently a mitzva, they are necessary component for discharging one, a standing known as "hechsher mitzva". As such, it is perfectly permissible to own a four cornered garment which one does not intend to attach Tzitzit to, or even ever use. It is, however, forbidden to wear such a garment until the Tzitzit are tied to the corners.[20]Authorities cite this concept as additional grounds to permit tying Tzitzit strings at night.[21]

The principle of “Ta’ase V’lo Min Ha’asui” is highly applicable with regards to the preparations for Sukkot. Among the rules in building a Sukka is the requirement to first build the frame and walls for one's Sukka and only then to place the Sechach on top. It would not be permitted to first prepare the Sechach and only afterwards to erect the walls of the Sukka.[22]

NEXT WEEK: "Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin". Please send me your lesser-known and obscure sources as well as anecdotes for inclusion. I truly thank and appreciate all those who sent me tidbits in preparation for this article. rabbiari@hotmail.com


[1] Pri Megadim 18:1
[2] Menachot 43a
[3] Afikei Maginim 11;Biurim 13, Shulchan Hatahor ch. 14 and 18
[4] Shulchan Hatahor 18:1
[5] Silmat Chaim 28
[6] Rivevot Efraim, O.C. 3:27; Teshuvot V'hanhagot 2:13, Yabia Omer 8:3
[7] Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 14:7, Yabia Omer 8:3
[8] The Butchacher Gaon, cited by Da'at Torah of Maharsham O.C. 10:10
[9] Neot Deshe 62, Nachalat Binyamin 12, Halacha L’moshe 39, Lev Chaim 3:29, Chachmat Shlomo 18, Maharshag 2:74, Ben Ish Chai Lech Lecha, all cited in “Chokrei Minhagim” by Rabbi Eliyhau Yochanan Gurari
[10] "Dinim V'hanhagot Mimaran Ba'al Hachazon Ish 2:11
[11] Piskei Teshuvot 11:2, Divrei Chaim 2:1
[12] Eretz Tzvi 1:5, Shevet Halevi 1:6, Tzitz Eliezer 6:15
[13] Mishna Berura 11:61
[14] Shabbat 32b
[15] Shulchan Aruch Harav 11:24, Middot 3:4
[16] Machatzit Hashekel 11
[17] Piskei Teshuvot 11:29
[18] Kaf Hachaim 11:17
[19] Menachot 41a, Yevamot 90b
[20] See Mishna Berura 17:5
[21] Chochmat Shlomo O.C. 14:1, 18:1
[22] Rema O.C. 735:1

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More