The Tallit is a shawl worn by Jewish men and non-Orthodox women in morning prayers beginning with their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, age 13 for men and 12 for women. It creates a daily connect to G-d, as Hashem says: "Speak to the children of Israel and tell them to make tzitzit fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations." (Numbers 15:37-41)
The Tallit is created from wool in most cases but others are available in silk, cotton, nylon or polyester. It must not be made from a mix of fibres, such as wool and linen -- a combination forbidden in any clothing. The tzitzit, the corner of the Tallit, must be made from wool. If any portion of a Tallit is not kosher, the commandment for wearing tzitzit will not have been fulfilled.
Tzitzit should be checked daily to make sure none of its strings are missing or torn.
To qualify as a “garment,” a Tallit must be wide enough to wrap around one’s body, usually five to six feet in length. The depth of a Tallit depends on an individual’s preferences, but generally is anywhere from 18 to 90 inches.
Many Tallit have blue or black stripes woven into them and have an artistic motif that goes against the neck.
Most people use only the traditional Tallit, the large poncho-style garment known as “Tallit Gadol.” But a much smaller second type of garment, Tallit Katon, or Arba Kanfot, can be worn under a shirt. It must be a minimum of 16 by 16 inches. This style of Tallit allows one to benefit spiritually all day from the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit.
The tzitzit in either Tallit Gadol or Tallit Katon consist of four strings (doubled over into eight), and then tied in a special way to all four corners of the garment. There are at least seven different styles of tzitzit knots that are Ashkenazic, Sephardic or Yemenite in root. Some were begun by Torah scholars Rambam, Ramban and Vilna Gaon.
The Bible calls for a blue thread in each corner of the Tallit known as Techailis. The indigo color, between blue and violet, is drawn from a snail in some cases but there are inorganic sources as well. While preferred, the blue is not required since we are uncertain of its original animal source. G-d chose the color for the tzitzit to remind the Jewish people of the saphire-colored tablets carried down by Moses and the laws written on them.