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    Throughout the ages, there have been different practices regarding keeping tzitzis tucked into pants or out. In addition, Chassidim wear their tzitzis garment over their shirt, while Ashkenazim wear it under the shirt. Sefardim do not keep their tzitzis out, while many others do. Is wearing tzitzis out a halachah or custom that only some observe? In addition, what should be done with tzitzis when entering a cemetery?

    These and other related questions will be discussed in this issue.

    How to Wear the Tallis Kattan

    As mentioned, there are different customs regarding where to place the tzitzis garment. On one hand, the Shulchan Aruch says the main mitzvah of the tallis kattan is to wear it over[MJ1] [m2] one’s garment (i.e., his shirt) in order that one should always see it. The Shulchan Aruch says in a different place that it is proper to wear it over one’s garment. The Beis Yosef says the reason for the different wording is that the custom of many is to wear it under one’s garment, and the Shulchan Aruch stated what is proper. Some maintain that the reason the Shulchan Aruch used the word proper is because many say one should wear the tallis kattan under one’s garment. The Tzitz Eliezer maintains that the reason for the second, more vague language is to demonstrate that indeed it is only proper to wear the tallis kattan over one’s garment but this is not the main part of the mitzvah. Others say the reason different language is used is because the Shulchan Aruch, which says to wear the tallis kattan over one’s garment, was referring to those who don’t wear a tallis gadol until they are married. They should therefore wear a tallis kattan over their clothing. Others also mention that one should wear the tallis kattan over one’s garment. However, this does not seem to be the prevailing custom. The opinion of many is that one should wear the tallis kattan under one’s garment. This is also the opinion of the Arizal.Some suggest this is because non-Jews would laugh at us if they saw the tallis kattan worn over the garment (see “Leniencies” below), while others say the reason is based on Kabbalah. Others say the reason is because many years ago, people wore their tallis gadol and tefillin all day. It would be pointless for one to put his tallis kattan over his garment along with his tallis gadol. Therefore, the tallis kattan was worn under the garment. The custom of most people is not to wear the tallis kattan over one’s garment, but rather over one’s undershirt. Some maintain that one should not wear a tallis kattan directly on the skin since it is a disgrace for the tallis kattan, but others maintain that doing so is permitted.

    The Strings

    There are differing practices regarding wearing the tzitzis out of one’s pants or in his pants. Some think that wearing tzitzis out of the pants is only a custom for “yeshivish” people. We will discuss this halachah below. Many poskim are of the opinion that one should wear the tzitzis strings out of his pants in order that he should always see the strings. Others maintain that the custom followed by many was to keep them tucked into one’s pants. According to those who say the tzitzis should be tucked in, one fulfills the mitzvah of seeing the tzitzis when he puts them on in the morning and looks at them or when taking them out to kiss for Krias Shema (see “Kissing Tzitzis During Davening” below). Some frown upon tucking in the strings in a way that they are not seen. Those poskim who maintain the tallis kattan should be worn under one’s garment also imply that the tzitzis may be in one’s pants. For those who keep the tzitzis tucked in, there is no concern about them touching the skin.

    Mishnah Berurah on This Issue

    The Mishnah Berurah uses choice words on this topic, which we will paraphrase below: “It is bad enough that those who place their tzitzis in their pants close their eyes from the fact that one should see the tzitzis. They disgrace the mitzvah of Hashem and will give a judgment on this. The claim that this should be an exception because we live among the nations of the world is not valid. If a king of flesh and blood would give you a present, you would flaunt it wherever you go. How much more so with one’s tzitzis.” It is out of character for the Mishnah Berurah to use such words in relation to a mitzvah. Many maintain that when saying one will give a judgment, the Mishnah Berurah was referring to the fact that people put their tzitzis in their pants because they are embarrassed to keep them out. However, many Sefardim keep them in, as well as others, and the Mishnah Berurah was not talking about these people. One who wishes to put his tzitzis out is not considered to be showing off.

    Custom Prior to Mishnah Berurah’s Times

    It seems that prior to the printing of the Mishnah Berurah, the custom of most people was to tuck in their tzitzis. However, when the Mishnah Berurah wrote what he did on this topic many people began to wear their tzitzis out.

    Custom of the Sefardim

    The custom of the Sefardim is to wear the tallis kattan under one’s shirt and to cover the tzitzis as well by placing them in one’s pants. Although the Shulchan Aruch says to wear the garment on top, the Arizal maintains otherwise and this is the practice of the Sefardim. A Sefardi who wishes to put his tzitzis out should be frowned upon, as this indicates that those who follow the Sefardic custom are not correct. If a Sefardi is learning in an Ashkenazi yeshivah he may continue his custom of keeping his tzitzis in even if the yeshivah boys wear them out. However, if he feels that by keeping his tzitzis in he will be looked down upon since he is in an Ashkenazi yeshivah, then he may also wear them out. A baal teshuvah should keep his tzitzis out so they can help him strengthen his Yiddishkeit.


    Some suggest that the fact that we live among non-Jews may be a leniency for not keeping tzitzis out of pants. Others say one should not rely on this unless he knows he will be belittled. Others say not keeping tzitzis out is not a lack in the performance of the mitzvah. Some have the practice to wrap the tzitzis around the belt so the strings don’t dangle on the sides of the pants.

    Custom of Ashkenazim

    As mentioned earlier, the custom of many people from Ashkenazic descent is, in fact, to wear the tzitzis out. There is no concern of showing off that one is doing so. This is especially common among people learning in yeshivah. However, the custom of many Chassidim is not to wear the tzitzis out. According to those who maintain one should wear the tzitzis out, this is halachah and not merely a “yeshivish” thing to do. This is also the custom of Lubavitch, even though the Shulchan Aruch says one should wear the tallis gadol over one’s garment while the Arizal says it should be worn under one’s garment. Some question the practice of the Chassidim who wear their tallis kattan over their shirt, which is not like the practice of the Arizal, while Ashkenazim wear it under their shirt like the Arizal. Some suggest that since Chassidim usually wear a frak, or overcoat, and tzitzis underneath that, it is considered as if they are wearing the tallis kattan under the garment. There are also Chassidim who, even when wearing a frak, want to follow the words of the poskim who say that the tzitzis should be seen. They therefore make their tzitzis longer so they hang out of the frak and can be seen.

    Seeing the Tzitzis

    As mentioned above, there are many poskim who maintain that one does not wear his tzitzis out. However, if this is true, how do these poskim fulfill the passuk of “one should see the tzitzis”? This can be explained as follows: Is the fact that one has to see the tzitzis part and parcel of the mitzvah, or it is just an outcome of the mitzvah but not connected and intertwined with the mitzvah? These two different aspects can explain the varying customs of how tzitzis should be worn. According to the Arizal, seeing the tzitzis is not part of the mitzvah itself but is an outcome. Therefore, one does not have to wear the tzitzis out. However, the poskim who say the tzitzis should be worn out hold that this is part of the mitzvah of tzitzis itself.

    Walking into a Cemetery with a Tallis

    It is forbidden to enter a cemetery if one’s tzitzis are revealed. However, if they are covered then entering is permitted. This iXs based on the concept of lo’eg l’rosh, since a dead person can’t perform the mitzvah. Therefore, one may not enter a cemetery with a tallis if he is not wearing a coat that covers both the tallis and the tzitzis. One may not walk into a cemetery while wearing tefillin unless the tefillin batim are covered. The tefillin straps must also be covered. Some poskim say that if one is going to daven at a kever, the custom is to be lenient and permit one to wear tallis and tefillin. One would have to cover the tzitzis when visiting a child’s grave, but not a woman’s grave.

    Carrying a Niftar

    When one is carrying a niftar he should make sure to cover his tzitzis.

    More Halachos of Tzitzis

    Although we have discussed other halachos related to the tzitzis strings, in order to complete the topic the following relevant halachos will be discussed below. (These halachos were discussed in earlier articles.)

    Treating the Tzitzis Strings Properly

    Tzitzis strings that are no longer attached to the garment may not be treated in a disgraceful manner. They may be placed in a public place for disposal. Some are particular to put them in sheimos, and doing so is praiseworthy. It is permitted to use the tzitzis as a bookmark, but they should not be simply placed in a sefer. Detached strings are muktzah and may not be handled on Shabbos. The strings should not be tied together in a knot. Some children tie the strings of talleisim together on Simchas Torah; they should be discouraged from this practice. It is permitted to cut the tzitzis if they are too long.

    Dragging Tzitzis on the Floor

    While wearing a tallis (whether gadol or kattan), one should be careful not to let the strings drag on the floor. This is a disgrace to the tzitzis, and there is a chance that the strings will tear and render the garment unusable. Some people stick the tzitzis in their belts in order to avoid this problem. Some poskim permit one to sit while his tzitzis are on the floor, while others are stringent in this situation. If one sees tzitzis lying on the floor there is no need to pick them up if they are detached from the garment. If one sees his friend’s tzitzis dragging on the floor he does not need to inform him either. One should not sit on the tzitzis because this is a disgrace to the mitzvah. Sitting on the garment, however, is permitted.

    Using a Tallis Kattan

    A tallis kattan may be used for mundane purposes, but not in a disgraceful manner. Some poskim prohibit cleaning eyeglasses with a tallis kattan, while others permit it.

    Entering the Bathroom Wearing a Tallis Kattan

    The minhag is that we do not enter the washroom wearing a tallis gadol, but a tallis kattan is permitted, even if the strings are visible. One should remove his tallis kattan before going into the shower so as not to forget it in the bathroom. Some maintain that when using the bathroom for “longer periods of time,” one should tuck in his tzitzis so they do not become dirty when in the bathroom.

    Kissing Tzitzis During Davening

    There is a custom that one should look at his tzitzis when reaching the words “u’reisem osam” in Krias Shema (of Shacharis), and place them on one’s eyes as a sign of love for the mitzvah. In addition, some mention to kiss them when one sees them as a sign of love for the mitzvah. It is said that if one passes his tzitzis over his eyes when reading the parshah of tzitzis he will not become blind. The custom of many is to kiss the tzitzis each time the word tzitzis is mentioned in Shema as a sign of love for the mitzvah. Some had the custom to only kiss the tzitzis at the end of the parshah of V’yomer. The custom during Krias Shema is to hold all four tzitzis strings. One does not kiss the tzitzis on Tishah B’Av when reciting Krias Shema. There is no concern on Tishah B’Av of keeping the tzitzis strings outside one’s pants if he normally does so all year round.

    Baruch She’amar

    Many have the custom to hold the front two tzitzis when reciting Baruch She’amar. Many have a custom to kiss the tzitzis at the conclusion of Baruch She’amar. The source of this custom is attributed to the following: The word “baruch” appears ten times in Baruch She’amar, corresponding to the Aseres Hadibros. Two strings of tzitzis have ten knots. Therefore, when taking the two tzitzis it reminds us of “baruch,” which reminds us of the Aseres Hadibros. Once we have the tzitzis in our hands we kiss them. One does not kiss the tzitzis on Tishah B’Av when reciting Baruch She’amar.