July 14, 2010 8:49 PM   Subscribe

I have noticed in some Orthodox neighbourhoods , that very young boys (5 or 6) wearing tzittzit's. I thought that only boys who had gone through bar mitzvah's wore them?

Can someone explain what the guidelines are?
posted by PinkMoose to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Haven't been to synagogue in years, but from my experience a good number of young Orthodox children wear tzittzit.

It is a tallit that is only worn after your bar mitzvah.
posted by rancidchickn at 8:53 PM on July 14, 2010

Nope, boys wear them as soon as...I think it's once they're potty trained in most families.

PS - I can't explain why, but you should just say tzitzit, not tzitzits here. The word is used sort of like "underwear," gramatically, by Jews speaking English.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:00 PM on July 14, 2010

Wearing a tallit katan, or tzitzit (tzitzis, where I grew up), usually starts at age 3 or so in Orthodox circles. Maybe you're thinking of a regular tallit/tallis?
posted by greatgefilte at 9:00 PM on July 14, 2010

There's a forum discussion about it among some Orthodox Jewish mothers here. It seems to reinforce my memory that customs vary on when boys start wearing them (but definitely by kindergarten or so.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:11 PM on July 14, 2010

In many Orthodox families, boys have their first haircut at age 3, during a ceremony called the (Yiddish) upsherin or (Hebrew) halaqah. After the haircut, they start wearing a yarmulke (kippah) and tzitzis, and formally learning Torah. It is traditional to have the upsherin either on the child's birthday or on Lag B'Omer
, a celebratory holiday that interrupts the long period of mourning between Pesach and Shavuot.

This is a video of a young boy's upsherin, with some explication by the rabbi performing the ceremony.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:13 PM on July 14, 2010

thank you!
posted by PinkMoose at 9:35 PM on July 14, 2010

By the by, tallit katan (plural: talliot k'tanot) are the basis of a widely repeated misconception about the sexual practices of Orthodox Jews (repeated by no less an "expert" than Christopher Hitchens in "God is Not Great"): if you have ever heard some idiot state that Orthodox Jews have sex through a hole in a sheet, they do NOT.

This rumor/canard comes from the uninitiated seeing tallit katan being hung out to dry in Orthodox neighborhoods and speculating as to what a sheet with a hole cut in the middle might be used for. They are worn as garments under one's dress shirt and typically, over one's undershirt. On hot days in NYC, you may see Orthodox men walking around in an undershirt and tallit katan on top.
posted by holterbarbour at 10:30 PM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

A tzitz is a thread or fringe in Biblical Hebrew. FringeS are tzitzIT, and by extension so is the garment. Since it's in the plural it isn't re-pluralised, even when talking about more than one garment, but if you wanted to be precise you could talk about tallitot ketanot.

Anyway, practices and customs vary (e.g., Sephardi boys generally wear big tallitot for prayer, Ashkenazi boys generally don't) but I've observed that there has been a move towards greater standardisation of things like this in the USAn Orthodox community, and they do seem to have settled on the age of three for wearing tzitzit. And Jewish practice in the USA eventually filters through to much of the rest of the world.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:52 PM on July 14, 2010

You're right that the obligation doesn't kick in until bar mitzvah. But they are permitted to wear it earlier because its considered an educational practice, and as others have said, that's the custom now.

In most Askenazi communities men only start to wear a large tallit for regular morning prayer after their first marriage.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:29 AM on July 15, 2010

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