Ẓiẓit

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ẒIẒIT

ẒIẒIT (Heb. צִיצִית pl. צִיצִיּוֹת, ẓiẓiyyot; "fringes"), name of the tassels attached to the four corners of special (four-cornered) garments worn by men in fulfillment of the biblical commandment in Numbers 15:37–41 and Deuteronomy 22:12. It has been suggested that the ẓiẓit served as a talisman (*amulet) or that it was instituted in order to distinguish between male and female garments which were very similar in biblical times. In the latter case it served as a protection against immoral conduct (an interpretation derived from Numbers 15:39). Talmudic literature invests the commandment of ẓiẓit with exalted symbolism. The rabbis regarded the ẓiẓit as a reminder to the Jew to observe the religious duties, giving it a function similar to that of the *mezuzah on the doorposts and to the *tefillin on the head and arm. The Talmud brings the parable how a person was saved from sensual sin because he wore fringes (Men. 44a).

The biblical commandment prescribing the entwining of a blue cord in the fringes is regarded as essential because blue, the color of the sky, was also supposed to be the color of the "throne of glory" (Men. 43b). Difficulties in obtaining the dyeing material for this purpose caused rabbinic authorities in the second century c.e. to waive this requirement.

In modern times, each ẓiẓit consists of one long and three short white threads which are passed through the holes in the four corners of the garment and folded so as to make eight threads. They are then fastened with a double knot. The long thread (called shammash) is wound around the other threads seven, eight, 11, and 13 times and the four joints are separated from one another by a double knot. The ẓiẓit thus consists of five double knots and eight threads (a total of 13). This number, together with the Hebrew numerical value of ẓiẓit (600), amounts to 613, the number of the biblical commandments of which the ẓiẓit are to remind the wearer (Num. 15:39). Ẓiẓiyyot of wool or linen are ritually fit for a *tallit of whatever material. A silk or cotton tallit, however, should have ẓiẓiyyot of only the same fabric. The minimum length of the ẓiẓit threads should be four thumb lengths. If one of the ẓiẓit threads is torn, it is customary to replace the whole fringe. A person not wearing a four-cornered garment is exempt from the mitzvah of ẓiẓit since the religious duty of wearing ẓiẓit is not a personal one (ḥovat gavra). In order to fulfill this biblical commandment, however, pious Jews always wear a (tallit katan) "small four-cornered garment."

Women are exempt from the duty of ẓiẓit as the fulfillment of this commandment relates to a specific time and women are exempt from such obligations: ẓiẓiyyot have to be worn only during the day, based on the Bible verse "ye may look upon it" (Num. 15:39) which excludes the night.

It is customary to kiss the ẓiẓiyyot while reciting the last section of the *Shema (Num. 15:37–41) in the morning service. The ẓiẓyyot of the tallit in which males are buried are torn to make them ritually unfit.

bibliography:

Maim. Yad, Ẓiẓit, 1, 2, 3; Sh. Ar., oḤ 8:24; Eisenstein, Dinim, 349–50; S.R. Hirsch, Ḥorev, tr. by I. Grunfeld, 1 (1962), 180–6; idb, 2 (1962), 325–6.