Ask the Expert: Is It OK to Wear a Tallit Outside of Morning Services?

Is the Jewish prayer shawl reserved only for times of prayer?

Question: Is it OK to Wear a Tallit Outside of Morning Services?

 

Answer: In a word, yes.

Maimonides says you should not walk four cubits without wearing either a tallit with tzitzit fringes or a fringed four-cornered undergarment (known as a tallit katan). While you don’t often see people wearing a tallit as they go about their daily business, in certain ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Israel it’s not uncommon to see people wearing a large wool tallit katan over their shirts (rather than under).

In ancient times, the tallit itself was a garment that people wore — not unlike togas. Today, some rabbis will always wear a tallit at Jewish rallies. And there is a custom to wear a tallit under the chuppah marriage canopy. But generally Maimonides’ requirement is fulfilled with the more discrete tallit katan.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t wear a tallit. It’s best not to wear one in the bathroom, as a sign of respect. But anywhere else is not a problem. So long as you’re not wearing a tallit merely to show off, it’s fine to wear it anytime.

Got further questions? Email them to us at community@myjewishlearning.com. Or join MJL’s Facebook page Let’s Talk Jewish Holidays. 

Discover More

Jewish Ritual Objects: A Guide

From challah covers to yahrzeit candles, what they are used for, how they look and where you can find them.

Ask the Expert: Tzitzit Hanging Out

Why do some people tuck them in, and others let them hang free?

Tzitzit, the Fringes on the Prayer Shawl

Fringes for four-cornered garments.

What Do Jews Believe About Jesus?

How Judaism regards the man Christians revere as the messiah.

Why Do So Many Orthodox Men Have Beards?

The Jewish reasons for facial hair, including sidelocks (payot).

Did God Write the Torah — and Does it Matter?

For many Jews, the Torah's authority does not derive from being a divine document.

What Is the Meaning of Chai?

The Hebrew word for life is a popular symbol and toast — and is linked to the number 18.

A Guide to Jewish Acronyms and Abbreviations

Common Hebrew (and Aramaic) shorthand translated and explained.