Shabbat Parashat Miketz | 5769
Mitzva of tzitzit
Ask the Rabbi
Question: I was trying on some pairs of tzitzit in a store to see what size would be best for me. Afterwards I wondered whether what I had done was okay since the actual tzitzit were not yet attached. Isn’t it forbidden to wear the garment without tzitzit?
Answer: There is an interesting question about the timing of the mitzva of tzitzit. Is the mitzva is to attach the tzitzit to the tallit katan (the garment that tzitzit are attached to) before it is put on (see Rambam, Tzitzit 3:10)? Alternatively, does the mitzva to put on the tzitzit actually begin, at least in theory, only after one puts on the garment (see Tosafot, Yevamot 90b)?
In any case, since you knowingly put on the garment with the intention to take it off (albeit, relatively soon thereafter) without attaching tzitzit, your question is a good one. There are actually two reasons why putting on the garment without tzitzit was fine in your case.
The gemara (Chulin 136a) infers from the pasuk regarding tzitzit that refers to “the four corners of your (singular) garment” (Devarim 22:12) that one is exempt from tzitzit on a borrowed garment. (After borrowing it for 30 days there is a rabbinic obligation because it already appears that the garment is yours). This ruling is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 14:3). The Shulchan Aruch does say that the mitzva of tzitzit would apply if one used someone else’s completed tzitzit. This is because we assume that the owner is willing to transfer ownership (on the condition that it will be returned) to the one who is wearing it so that the latter can fulfill the mitzva (Mishna Berura, ad loc.:11). However, neither you nor the storeowner is interested in your acquiring ownership in a manner that you would then be forbidden to wear the tallit katan.
This logic also explains the rationale of what most people do when they use a shul-owned tallit for an aliyah or the like and do not make a beracha before putting it on, as the original halacha suggests (see Mishna Berura, ibid. at length). The explanation of most people’s practice is that this would take too much time as the congregation is waiting and, therefore, they leave the tallit in the congregation’s possession and do not make a beracha on it. (Whether or not this is the preferred practice is a good question for a different time.)
There is another reason that you were not required to have tzitzit on the garment you put on, and this one would apply even if you were trying on a tallit katan at home after it had been bought. First we have to see a halacha regarding another halachic issue affecting clothing. The mishna (Kilayim 9:5) says that one may wear a garment containing shaatnez as part of the process of selling it [to a non-Jew] on condition that he is not intending to also benefit from it as a garment at the same time. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 301:6) accepts this ruling. Commentaries explain that the wearing is considered a davar she’eino mitkaven (an aveira that one does without intention) in that he is not interested in the wearing the garment per se. (The exact explanation of the application of this rule in this context is quite complicated, but this is the bottom line.) Tosafot (Nidda 61b, accepted as halacha by the Magen Avraham 19:2) says that the same leniency applies to wearing a tallit katan without tzitzit for the purpose of selling it. The requirement to have tzitzit applies to garments that are being worn as garments for the purpose of benefit. The same logic that applies to one who puts on the garment in the process of selling it applies to one who puts it on momentarily in the process of trying it on for size (“Tzitzit,” Halacha Psuka 19:(4)).
Therefore, what you did was certainly fine, and the store is not causing anyone to fall into a “halachic trap.”
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.