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Shabbat Parashat B'ha'alotcha 5772

Ask the Rabbi: Viability of Tzitzit When the Garment Rips and Is Repaired

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Sometimes my tallit katan (=tk – the garment part, which we usually call tzitzit) rips a little around what would be the collar area and I don’t know if it is still kosher. If I sew it back up, do I have to undo and retie the tzitzit?


Answer: The first question, which we will just touch on, is whether we need wide shoulder pieces to connect the two sides of the tzitzit. The earliest stringent source on the matter is the Maharil, quoted by the Magen Avraham (introduction to siman 16). The simple reading is that if the hole is bigger than either one of the shoulder pieces, the tk is considered two separate small garments with two sets of tzitzit each and invalid. The Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 2:9) understands it this way and says that one should try to follow this opinion. The Machatzit Hashekel (on the Magen Avraham, ibid.) says that it is enough for the shoulder pieces to be a real part of the garment and not just a thin connector. There are also questions of what counts toward the minimum size of a garment. Do the front and back parts count together? What impact does the hole for the head have? The Mishna Berura (16:4) believes that the hole for the head does not count, and seems to assume that we should have the requisite size in both the front and back. If the hole is relatively small in comparison to the shoulder straps, it is easier to contemplate counting that section or at least combining the front and the back sections. In any case, we will discuss the worst case scenario: a case where the remaining width of the shoulder piece would not be enough to create a kosher tk garment.

The question that arises when fixing a tk is called ta’aseh v’lo min he’asuy (=tvlmh). This means that something, like tzitzit, which the Torah says to make, has to be turned into a halachic entity by a direct action, not created by an indirectly created situation. A classic application is when one attaches three sets of tzitzit to a three-cornered garment (which is not obligated in tzitzit) and only afterward creates a fourth corner. There, we disqualify the three existing tzitzit sets for having been turned into ostensibly kosher tzitzit indirectly (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 10:5).

Let us consider a tallit that was severed into two, with each side maintaining some tzitzit and enough fabric to be a kosher tallit. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 15:3) says that tvlmh is not a problem here, as the remaining tzitzit were made properly. The Taz (15:3) says that if one reattaches the garment, only the tzitzit of one side are considered valid, whereas the part that is considered reattached needs to have its tzitzit removed and returned. According to the Magen Avraham (15: 4), when it is reconnected nothing has to be redone, for the situation is just a return to the garment as it used to be with properly attached tzitzit. However, Acharonim infer, if  when severed in two, the tk turned into two pieces that each do not constitute a halachic tk garment (which is usually the case according to most opinions), all the tzitzit have to be redone (see Mishna Berura 15:17).

Our case is more lenient for two reasons. Firstly, only one side is affected, and there is a machloket among Acharonim in a case where the garment is not severed but remains connected on one side instead of two (see opinions in Halacha P’suka 15:31). There is also a machloket regarding a case where the garment was not totally severed but most of it was ripped (the Lechem Mishneh and Mishneh Lamelech require a small minority of connection, whereas the Artzot Hachayim (15, AY 3) who cites them, says we follows the minority.  More importantly, a more accepted leniency applies here. The Chazon Ish (3:19) says that if the shoulder pieces are clearly intact but are ripped, the ripped part is not considered to be nonexistent, and the tk can be used as is. Certainly, then, if it is sewed up (which is a good idea if for no other reason than to prevent further ripping) there is no problem of tvlmh.

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