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Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan | 5769

Ask the Rabbi: Tzitzit

Question: When I was a katan (under bar mitzva) I made tzitzit for myself. Someone told me that they are no longer valid, now that I am fully obligated in mitzvot. Is that so? If it is, may I untie one knot and upon retying it as a gadol (above bar mitzva), fix them, or must I do something else?


Answer: The gemara (Menachot 42a) cites Rav’s statement that a non-Jew may not make tzitzit for a Jew, based on the pasuk regarding tzitzit that addresses “the Sons of Israel,” which excludes non-Jews. Tosafot (ad loc.) comments that this implies that women would be able to make kosher tzitzit, as only non-Jews are excluded, and this is how the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 14:1) rules. On the other hand, the gemara (Gittin 45b) learns from the p’sukim “You shall fasten … You shall write …” (Devarim 11: 18, 20) that only those who are involved in putting on tefillin can write tefillin, mezuzot and sifrei Torah, not non-Jews, women, and children. Tosafot (ad loc.) cites Rabbeinu Tam as saying that this is part of a general rule that only those who are obligated in a mitzva can create the halachic object needed for the mitzva. Therefore, he says, tzitzit tied on to a garment by a woman, are not valid. Tosafot dispute this based on the aforementioned gemara and the one that validates a sukka made by a non-Jew. The Rama (OC 14:1) mentions the strict opinion and recommends being careful in the first place not to have a woman make tzitzit. He says that if it was done, then b’dieved they are valid.

The Magen Avraham (14:2) suggests another reason why women should not make tzitzit: the words “the Sons of Israel” often exclude not only non-Jews but also the “daughters of Israel.” The Pri Megadim (ad loc.:3) says that while, according to Rabbeinu Tam, the issue of not being obligated in the mitzva excludes minor males as well, the limitation on the daughters of Israel does not apply to minors, to whom the mitzva of tzitzit applies even if presently they are too young to be fully responsible for any mitzvot. In any case, the Magen Avraham equates between women and children in this matter, making your tzitzit of a questionable status. The Mishna Berura says that it is proper to avoid a katan making tzitzit for a gadol (apparently only for Ashkenazim). However, he also says (Biur Halacha, ad loc.) that once the tzitzit were made when one was a katan, when he must decide if he can, as a gadol, use them, it is a question of b’dieved and he can use them as is.

In at least one way, a katan lacks what a woman possesses: the ability and reliability to do things in a kosher way. Regarding the physical element, one can check to see if it was done properly. However, what about the required kavana (intention) to act to create valid tzitzit? The gemara (Sukka 9a) says the threads of the tzitzit must be spun lishma (on behalf of the mitzva). The Rambam (Tzitzit 1:12) says that this is not a requirement for the attaching to the garment, but the Rosh says attaching must also be done lishma, and we try to follow the latter position (Shulchan Aruch, OC 14:2). Therefore, even regarding b’dieved, only if an adult was standing with the katan and training him to have in mind lishma would the tzitzit be valid (see Mishna Berura 14:4 and Biur Halacha, ad loc; see Gittin 23a). In your case, the situation is significantly better. You don’t have to convince someone else that you had proper intention. Rather, if you are confident that you had in mind that the tying was being done for the mitzva of tzitzit (which is highly likely), you can continue to use them (Biur Halacha ibid.; Tzitzit (Cohen) 14:8). If you are not confident that you had the right intention or if you want to follow the opinions that are stricter than what we presented, you should undo the tzitzit fully so that the whole tzitzit will be formed properly.

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