Sunday, May 12, 2019

Talitnia Traditional Wool Tallit Prayer Shawl

If you spent some time comparing prices of traditional wool tallits made by Talitnia (a.k.a. Talitania) you might start to get a sense of déjà vu. Haven't I seen the exact same product description elsewhere? Weren't those the same options?

The reason is because at least three of the leading Israel-based Judaica stores are under the same ownership. In fact, if you go to aJudaica and Canaan-Online Judaica, take a look at the mini-logo at for the website tab at the top of your browser and you'll see that they have the exact same stylized J logo. They also operate a third micro-niche site called Tallit.biz. They also have the same product listed on their Amazon store, but at a higher price.


Traditional 100% Wool Prayer Shawl made by Talitnia
Talitania Traditional Wool Tallit
Now look at the prices for any of their traditional wool tallits (blue-silver stripes, blue-gold stripes, black-silver, black-gold, etc.) and you'll see that the prices are almost, but not quite, identical. (Be sure you're comparing the same size.)

Their price is at actually quite competitive, but it's slightly lower at one of their competitors, Ben's Tallit Shop.

Is this Traditional Wool Tallit a good deal? Actually at around $90 for the size 60 (which is considered a Medium), it is a good value. Talitnia has been making tallits for a century (!) and they do a good job. If you're looking for almost the same striping with a slightly higher quality weave, you might want to consider the Prima A.A. Both Talitnia and their leading competitor, Mishkan Hatchelet, make it.

In general, when shopping for a traditional wool tallit in the lower and medium price ranges, keep in mind that if it has only black, white or blue striping (no gold or silver pinstripes), the atara (neckband) will have a quiet, satiny design with no letters, whereas if the striping is black-silver, the atara will be black-silver with the Tzitzit Blessing embroidered on it, if the striping is blue-silver, the atara will be blue-silver, etc.

The white-on-white, white-silver and white-gold tend to be more commonly found among Sephardic Jews, but that's not a hard and fast rule.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Do you measure tallit katan shiur from the bottom of the slit or the top?

In a recent order a customer intended to select t-neck but accidentally selected round neck. He didn't notice his mistake until the order had already been delivered to him.

I don't know if was any consolation, but told him that personally I'm in favor of round neck tzitzit (i.e. tallit katan) and switched to it about a year ago.

For a tallit katan to be kosher (i.e. to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit) it has to have a minimum size requirement. To meet that requirement isn't always such a simple matter.

One solution is to create a slit along the front, so that you can have a relatively small neck opening (without the slit you wouldn't be able to put it on). If you do that, and you want to measure the beged from top to bottom to ensure it meets the minimum size requirement, how do you measure it? From the bottom of the slit or the bottom of the neck opening.

Most people will tell you that you can measure from the bottom of the slit, and consider it as if it's closed, just like a button-up shirt is considered whole in front. But some poskim do not agree, and I think I have some very strong practical evidence to back that.

After a short time of wear, just about any tallit katan with a slit in front starts to lay down permanently, like lapels, and form a deep crease. So if you now have a tallit katan with "lapels," why should you count that as if it's closed?

Friday, December 14, 2018

Talitnia Hermonit Tallit

Hermont Tallit with Light Blue Stripes
Talitnia, probably the world's longest standing tallit manufacturer, has a tallit marketed in Israel under the name Hermon and a second tallit marketed under the name Hermonit, both references to the tallest mountain in Israel, Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights, which has a small ski resort.

The Tallit Hermon is available in four different colors, including one with burgundy-gray striping. The Hermonit is available with sky blue striping, blue-gray and royal blue, all shown here.

Mishkan Hatchelet makes similar tallits called Tashbetz, which are extremely popular nonslip designs.

Tallit, tzitzit and tefillin: The basic essentials

I get dozens of inquiries per week, but today I received some questions from a recent Jewish convert who wanted to learn everything about tallit, tzitzit and tefillin standing on one foot!

Shalom- I am so hoping that you will be able to help me sort all of this out!! We are a newly-converted Conservative family. I have found many Ashkenazim on my family tree. My husband's family is entirely from the Sephardic tradition. My 28 yr old son has also converted. I’m in a tallit, tzitzit and tefillin nightmare. I was okay on outfitting them and getting kippot and turning our home into an observant one, but I can’t make heads or tails out of what my 60 yr old left-handed hubby needs or my right-handed 28 yr old. My husband is 6 foot tall. My son is 6’4. I can’t figure out which Tefillin and which Tzitzits. I bought some at a Jewish bookstore - they are just plain white t-shirt material with the knotted white strings. They want one with blue...but I’m lost. I don’t want to buy the Tefillin for them on Amazon because everyone says they are not Kosher and these are so important, on the other hand I don’t know whether to buy Sephardic or Ashkenazi. Can you please help me?  

I explained to her that she should get in touch with a qualified Orthodox rabbi. I am certainly not a rabbi, but I have studied the halachas related to tzitzit and some related to tefillin. I have a lot of expertise in the area of tallits and tzitzit, and some knowledge of tefillin.

I'm posting my reply in full, not just for converts, but because other Jews often have a whole lot of questions on these subjects:

I agree that the tefillin sold for under $200 on Amazon look quite dubious. I know one of the big Amazon sellers, who's based here in Israel. He's observant, and I've always wondered how he can sell tefillin with such questionable kashrut. Apparently he feels that if he adds a "disclaimer" regarding the kashrus, he's covered.

Ashkenazi or Sephardic? It's widely accepted that families follow the husband/father's custom. I'm Ashkenazi and my wife is Sephardic, and our practices and prayers are all according to Ashkenazi customs (although one of my teenage boys seems to be rebelling and "converting" to Sephardic customs). However, that rule of thumb is sometimes a bit different when it comes to converts. You really should discuss it with a rabbi (so again, where do you live?).

Once you know whether you should be following Ashkenazi or Sephardic, it gets easier. People get confused ordering tefillin because if you're right-handed you wear tefillin on your left hand, and vice-versa. To avoid any possibility of confusion, on our website you select "I am right-handed" or "I am left-handed." If figured that leaves no room for uncertainty, but I was wrong: a few weeks ago a customer wrote, "I am right-handed, and so I wear tefillin on my left hand. Which option should I choose?"

Next is tallit sizing. In conservative congregations you'll see that some people wear a narrow tallit resting on their neck with all four corners hanging in front (size 24 or 36), while others wear a larger tallit, traditional-style, draping down the back with two corners in front and two in back (sizes 45, 50, 55, 60, 70, 80). My guess is that you'll husband will want a size 70, but I could be wrong. Refer to our Tallit Size Wizard.

Now for tzitzit. The Torah says you must put tzitzit on your four-cornered garments. Besides a tallit worn in synagogue ("tallit gadol") many people wear a "tallit katan" in order to keep the mitzvah all day. These may be made of wool or cotton (see here and here). My guess is that the type you bought at the local Jewish bookstore are the ones we sell on this page.

A note on terminology: a tzitzit garment is called a tallit katan (or tallis katan) or arba kanfos, but some people will simply say tzitzit, i.e. if they say "I need to buy new tzitzit" they probably mean they want a new tallit katan (including the tzitzit), not just a set of tzitzit strings to tie themselves. This leads to some confusion. Online you'll find "cotton tzitzit," which really means a cotton tallit katan with wool tzitzit strings, and "wool tzitzit," which really means a wool tallit katan with wool tzitzit strings. (Today about 99% of all kosher tzitzit strings produced are made of wool.)

The next question is what tzitzit do you put on the garment (sometimes referred to as the "beged")? Most cotton tallit katan garments come with machine-spun tzitzit tied Ashkenazi as the default option. This is definitely the least expensive option, but a lot of people upgrade the tzitzit to hand-spun thin, medium or thick. If you want them tied according to any tying custom other than Ashkenazi, that can only be done with hand-spun tzitzit

Then a lot of people want to go with blue tzitzit ("techelet" or "tekhelet"). This is what the Torah requires, beyond any doubt, as stated very clearly in the third paragraph of Kriat Shema. For many centuries the masora (tradition) for the proper dye was lost. Over the past 50 years or so a lot of work was done to uncover the proper dye and there is a wide consensus that Murex trunculus (almost always produced by a company called Ptil Tekhelet) is the correct dye. However, you'll still see that most people have all-white tzitzit. How can that be? That's a loaded question. In my opinion, simply because people are slow to change -- which is good, because it helps ensure that Jewish tradition gets handed down faithfully through the generations. 

There is also a blue dye produced from cuttlefish called Radzyn Techelet. In recent years fewer and fewer people hold that this is the correct dye.

Techelet is expensive! If it's important to you and you want Ptil Tekhelet, ask me for some tips on how to make it affordable.

I realize this is a whole lot of information to absorb all at once. You might want to print out this email and some of the links, and go through it on Shabbat with your family. Don't think that most Jews know all this stuff! Many know very little about tzitzit, techelet, tefillin, etc. and have a whole lot of questions when they set out to make purchases.

Based on your time and energy, here are some more links you might find useful. Shabbat Shalom.


On the discovery of the techelet dye:

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Canaan Online vs. aJudaica

Our headline is a bit ironic because, well, Canaan Online and aJudaica are one and the same. aJudaica is among the most veteran Judaica web stores on the Internet. They started out as a smallish STaM shop in Bnei Brak and did quite well online.

To expand their reach, they opened other micro-niche Judaica web stores, including MyShofar and Tefillin Store (www.tefillin.biz) and Tallit.biz.

Then a few years ago they bought out a successful competitor and changed the name to Canaan Online. So while searching for a certain Judaica product you might get various results on different web stores with almost the same price and almost the same product description -- because they are all being offered by the same company (Peer HaStam).

Take, for example, the Gilboa Tallit. If you do a search for "Gilboa Tallit" you'll find it on a half-dozen web stores:

  • JudaicaWebStore.com
  • Canaan-Online.com
  • Tefillin.biz
  • aJudaica.com
  • Tallit.biz
  • tzitzit.tallit-shop

The first web store on the list is more expensive (and may also be owned by Peer HaStam). The last web store on the list offers the Gilboa Tallit at an affordable price, similar to the "conglomerate," but specializes in tallit and tzitzit sales (Ben's Tallit Shop), therefore it offers more options and better service. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Talitnia Traditional Tallit 100% Wool

On Amazon I came across a product headed "Talitnia Traditional Tallit 100% Wool." The price was good, but it's not such a great find for several reasons:
  • If you have the patience to wait a week or two for shipping from Israel, it's advertised on Ben's Tallit Shop for about the same price.
  • If you order it there, the product page includes an option for a matching bag for just $12.50.
  • Ben's Tallit Shop offers various other tzitzit options, such as hand-spun, thick and techelet (blue). 
  • If you don't want just black striping, you can find the exact same Talitania Traditional Wool Tallit with black-silver striping or black-gold striping.
Go to Talitnia Traditional Wool Tallit>>

Note that the black-striped version has an atara (neckband) with a subtle diamond and leaf pattern, whereas the black-silver and black-gold have the Tzitzit Blessing embroidered on the atara.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sephardic Tzitzit: Should I tie 10-5-6-5 or 7-8-11-13?

Almost always, Sephardim will tie the tzitzit on their tallit gadol with 7-8-9-11 windings (sometimes known as "Tal"). On a tallit katan, about half tie 7-8-11-13 and half 10-5-6-5. Here's a question from a tallit buyer in Los Angeles.
I have one last question (maybe). I'm an Iranian Jew and I was wondering how do we tie tzitzit, on tallit katan and gadol. I'm pretty sure that on a tallit katan we tie 10-5-6-5 with the spine/ridge/etc..
I have been talking with a few of the people I know recently and they sparked a new thought in my mind. Before this I was almost sure that both tallit katan and gadol were tied using 10-5-6-5 with the ridge. Then one of the guys who I was talking with said I should do 7-8-11-13 with the ridge. I felt kind of ashamed because I had 10-5-6-5 with the ridge on my tallit. Afterwards I realized that the two people I was talking with were from not from were my parents/grand-parents. 
So pretty much my question is do Iranian Jews tie 10-5-6-5 with the ridge on both tallit katan an gadol?
Sorry, but I'm not familiar with different Sephardic customs. The most common custom is 10-5-6-5 on a tallit katan and 7-8-11-13 on a tallit gadol. Some do 7-8-11-13 on their tallit katan as well. Doing 10-5-6-5 on a tallit gadol is quite rare, but not unheard of. I have heard that this is the custom among Persian Jews, but I have never seen it in writing.

And even if there isn't, if you ask me, it's not such a terrible crime. The main halachot  pertaining to tzitzit are where the hole is placed, how long the tzitzit are, etc. Tying customs are much less critical.

Sephardic Tallit >>