Tzitzit and Techelet: Tallit Strings and Tying Traditions

The Tallit Is one of the most important items in a Jewish man’s life and Jewish tradition. More than the Tallit itself are actually the fringes, tzitzit and techelet, attached to the tallit at its four corners.  White or white and blue, these fringes are called Tzitzit and they are as reminders of the Covenant between man and God, a sign of commitment to following and keeping the Mitzvot and commandments in one’s life. The fringes are made of refine wool and will often say if the man wearing them is of Sephardic or Ashkenazi community and reflect his level of observance. Picking a tallit as a wedding or Bar Mitzvah gift can be quite a difficult task, just as picking a tallit for you to wear on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. on most occasions selecting the Tzitzit or Tekhelet style, meaning thick or thin, handmade or machine spun made, and choosing the knot,  can be a challenging task on its own. Strings are available in Raavad, Rambam or Razdyner knotting style, so how do you decide which one? Follow our guide and all confusion will be cleared out!

Thin vs. thick Tzitzit?

It is a matter of personal preference, in general. Thin tzitzit will be a better choice for Tallit Katan, whereas on Tallit Gadol, both are fine. Thin Tzitzit are often machine-spun (machine-made), while thick tzitzit are handmade, and also called ‘Avodat Yad’. The most important aspect of making Tzitzit is the intention, as wearing tzitzit is Commandment from the Torah, the intent in making the tzitzit has a key role in their Kosher aspect and significant. Thin tzitzit that are usually made by machine are often considered less ‘Kosher’ as the machine lacks the human ability to infuse the process with meaning and special intention. Therefore, in traditional Orthodox congregations, thick tzitzit are the norm. Among the Modern Orthodox, you will see both, although thick tzitzit are probably more common.

Rambam, Raavad or Radzyner Techelet Tzitzit Custom

The choice between pre-tied or tie them yourself is your choice, but the choice between the Razdyner, Rambam or Raavad methods of tying the techelet tzitzit is in accordance with your community.
The techelet is mentioned 49 times in the Torah and it is a blue dyed string affixed to the corners of one’s tallit, together with white tzitzit. The tekhelet was used in the clothing of the High Priest, the tapestries in the Tabernacle, and the tzitzit attached to the four cornered tallis.

There are four sets of four strings which are threaded through a small hole at each corner of the garment. At the middle of these sets of strings, they are folded and then tied, creating eight strings at each of the four corners of the garment. The length of the strings should be double the length of the knots, i.e. the proportion of the strings should 1/3 knots 2/3 strings. Tzitzit are kosher even if the tzitzit do not have this proportion. There are three main shitot (methods) how to wrap the strings: Ra’avad, Rambam and Radzyner.

Ra’avad tradition: can be tied in HaChinuch, Ra’avad and GR”A methods- 2 of 8 strings are tekhelet, in accordance with Rabbi Avraham Ben-David, 1120, Provance, prevails among Ashkenazi communities
3 of the 4 full-length strings are white and one is blue

Rambam tradition- following Rabbi Moshe Ben-Mimon, 12th century, Spain. This method prevails in Yemenite Sephardic Jewish communities. 1 of 8 strings tekhelet.
3.5 of the full-length strings are white and 0.5 is blue
Each knot has three coils (forming a chulya) that stay in place without any double knots. Either 7 or 13 chulyas are made, depending on the custom followed.

Radzyner tradition-  Chabad approach in accordance with Rabbi Radzyner, Poland.

So, now that everything is cleared out, the final step is learning tying your own tzitzit and tekhelet. Learn here with this tutorial clip.
Learn about what makes a tallis and why we wear Tallitot in our Tallit guide.  As all our customs are anchored in the Torah, learning about making the Torah and Torah accessories will be a fantastic idea!