The Tallit (known in some Jewish communities as Tallis) is a Jewish prayer shawl worn by
Jewish males. The Tallit is a white rectangular piece of fabric (usually made of wool but can also be made of cotton, polyester or silk). On each of the four corners of the Tallit are ritual fringes that are called Tzitzit in Hebrew.Many Tallitot have colored stripes woven in along the shorter ends. Traditionally these stripes were black or blue in memory of the blue strings that the Jewish people were commanded to include in the white ritual fringes but which ceased to happen after it became unclear from what animal the blue dye was attained. Nowadays, the stripes that are woven in come in an assortment of colors, perhaps on account of the great desire to be an individual in today’s world.
The top long end that goes around the person’s neck is called Atarah in Hebrew and is commonly decorated with embroidery or even a silver neckpiece. There is no religious significance to the Atarah, it simply makes it easier to identify the top of the Tallit.
The Tallit is worn by Jewish males starting from their coming-of-age at thirteen or from the day they get married- depending on their community. It is worn every weekday at the morning prayers.
The Tallit is worn in fulfillment of a Biblical commandment to wear fringes on the corners of one’s garment so as to remember G-d and His commandments. There was a time when males would wear cloaks or shawls with four corners on a daily basis and could therefore just attach fringes to the corners and fulfill this commandment but fashion has changed since then and nowadays such a garment is not commonly worn. Therefore, the Tallit was introduced and this way each morning the Jewish males could put the Tallit on and thereby fulfill the commandment to attach fringes to the corners of one’s garments.
The aforementioned Tallit is called a Tallit Gadol (Large Tallit) in Hebrew- there is also a Tallit Katan (Small Tallit) that is worn by observant boys and men from the age of three and upwards. The Tallit Gadol should be large enough to cover most of the person’s body whereas the Tallit Katan is more like a poncho worn under the clothing that measures at least 16 x 16 inches.