Posted on January 11, 2014
When a young man comes of age as a member of the congregation and the Jewish people, one of the external signs of this advancement is the mitzvah of tzitzit, i.e. a bar mitzvah tallit. The Sages said ideally a mitzvah should be performed in a beautiful manner – zeh Eili ve’anveihu. Our aim is to help the young man find a bar mitzvah tallit that feels just right on his shoulders – on his bar mitzvah day and for years to come.
If you’re looking for a traditional tallit, be sure it is made of wool tallit. Wool looks nicer, lasts longer and is the fabric of choice from a halachic standpoint.
The more expensive type of wool tallit is made of a denser weave and may include special features such as wool corners and stain-resistant fabric. Many parents want a traditional-looking tallit, but want it personalized for their son. They may want to have a special atara (neckband) sewn on or have the bar mitzvah boy’s name embroidered on the tallit. Personally, I discourage name embroidery on the tallit, but certainly it’s very appropriate to have a name embroidered, in Hebrew or English, on a tallit bag.
Thinking of buying a handwoven tallit? Although handwoven wool tallits are common, you will also come across cotton and silk. Gabrieli is the only tallit maker I know of that works with all three materials. Their wool and cotton look very similar, although the cotton is a bit thinner and smoother in texture. A handwoven silk tallit is not the sheer silk of a silk blouse, because thick silk yarns are used. Compared to wool and cotton, a handmade silk tallit is somewhat thinner, more details and has higher sheen.
The age-old wool tallit is invariably white with black stripes. Some Sephardic Jews have a custom of opting for a white tallit with white stripes, which has a very elegant and distinguished look. Ivory and off-white handwoven tallits look traditional, yet unique and distinctive at the same time. White with blue stripes seems to be a popular choice among bar mitzvah tallit buyers, possibly because it is not too eccentric, yet adds a bit of color and flare.
In a recent email, I received the following inquiry:
Hello and good morning. I am looking for a tallit for my son. Do you have any sort of tallit that is 18 by 64 inches?
That was actually the fourth time in the past few weeks that I received a request for a tallit less than 70 inches long, for bar mitzvah boys around 4’8″ or 4’10″.
One aunt buying a bar mitzvah tallit for her nephew, worded her inquiry as follows:
The bar mitzvah boy is on the small side, about 4’8” and 80 lbs. So, that was why I thought an 18 x 64 tallit would be the best fit for him. Do you agree or do you think he would be OK with a 20 x 72? I don’t want him to feel like he is swimming in a too big tallit, but I also don’t want him to outgrow it within months.
Another customer said she didn’t want the tzitzit dragging on the floor, and recalled that she once saw a bar mitzvah boy trip over his tzitzit while walking down the aisle. “It wasn't a pretty sight,” she added.
As far as I’m aware, the tallit makers in Israel do not make shorter lengths in the narrow (i.e. 18 to 36 inches) type of tallit.
However, we have longstanding relations with three of the tallit makers we work with (Gabrieli, Maaseh Oreg and Mishkan Hatchelet), and each of them has made arrangements to provide me special order tallits in shorter sizes, e.g. 18 x 64 inches, 18 x 65 inches, 20 x 64 inches, etc.).
What is the right bar mitzvah tallit size? That depends not only on the bar mitzvah boy, but on the type of congregation he belongs to as well.
In most Reform congregations, people wear the type of tallit that sits on the shoulders and hangs in front, but does not cover the back. This comes in Size 18, Size 24 and Size 36. Those numbers refer to the width. A Size 18 is narrow, just 18 inches wide, a Size 24 is medium and a Size 36 is wide. The Size 36 can be cumbersome on a boy. If he is still short, say under 5 feet tall, he’ll need a custom size. We get this type of request fairly frequently, and have several options available.
In some Conservative and all Orthodox congregations, people wear a full-size bar mitzvah tallit, worn in the traditional fashion – over the shoulders, with the corners pulled down the front and two-thirds of the tallit covering the back and hanging down to the waist (or sometimes even down to the legs).
If you wear the tallit this way, you’ll want a Size 45, Size 50, Size 55 or Size 60, depending on the bar mitzvah tallit wearer’s height.
Of course the best advice is to have the young man try on different bar mitzvah tallit sizes and decide which works best for him. If you’re unsure which size a given tallit is, measure it from top to bottom (from the edge with the neckband to the edge opposite it that hangs down in back). If it’s around 24 inches, it’s a Size 24, if it’s around 36 inches it’s a Size 36, 45 inches is a Size 45, etc.
Tallit Size Video>> (a one-minue video showing a 5'1" boy sporting various tallit sizes
We avoid using the term bar mitzvah set because it can mean different things to different people. Often a bar mitzvah set consists of a tallit, matching bag and matching kippah. In other cases a bar mitzvah set revolves around a set of tefillin and often includes a siddur as well. Some bar mitzvah boys won’t want a matching kippah, and what they really need is a matching bag with custom name embroidery.
Our solution is to invite parents to browse our tallit and tefillin webstore, where they should be able to find whatever they need, and put together a bar mitzvah set of their own. Since we charge a low fixed price for shipping, essentially you only pay shipping for one item and the rest ship for free. For discounts, be sure to see our coupon listings.
If you would like a pair of tefillin for your bar mitzvah boy, Tefillin Peshutim Mehudarim is a popular choice. You can then choose a traditional tallit, a modern tallit or even a handwoven tallit set.
All of our Gabrieli and Maaseh Oreg handwoven tallit sets are available with matching tallit bag and kippah. Most of our tallits are also available with a matching bag and you can generally find a nice kippah that matches well among the Raw Silk Yair Emanuel kippot we offer.
If you have any questions about tefillin, tallit sizing, letter embroidery, shipping time etc., be sure to see the many resources listed in the top navigation bar, and of course if you contact us with inquiry, you can expect a quick reply.
Traditional wool tallits with a wide range of tzitzit options.
Made in the Negev by Mishkan Hatechelet.
Go to Traditional Tallits>>>
Wide selection of modern tallit designs in a range of colors and sizes.
Go to Modern Tallits>>>
The weavers at Gabrieli produce a large array of designs, from various styles in wool in traditional colors, to cotton and silk tallits in bold colors and patterns. Gabrieli Hand Weaving was founded in 1964 by Malka Gabrieli, who studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Today the studio boasts 40 workers on 13 looms. Prices start at $205
Go to Gabrieli Tallit Sets>>>
One-of-a-kind custom tallits lovingly woven in cotton by craftsmen
Yosef Gabso and Ori Faran on their looms in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Bar mitzvah tallit sets beyond compare. Starting at $290
Go to Maaseh Oreg Tallit Sets>>>