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.

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