Posted by Ben G. on May 08, 2016
Sometimes we get emails asking about ways to restore an old tallit. Invariable the tallis has a lot of nostalgic value, often because it was worn for years by a cherished grandfather.
For example, here's an inquiry we received last week:
I am wondering if you can help with the restoration of an old European tallit that came from my wife's late grandfather? In addition to needing tzitzit and fringes repaired, there are some stains from improper cleaning and damage to the edge of the atarah (I can email pictures). If not, are you aware of any resources for tallit restoration? I would like to be able to use this tallit again regularly without harming it. Thank you in advance for your consideration, David M.
David sent several photos showing the tallit, tattered corners, fraying tzitzit, some stains and an atara that has seen better days. All these problems are actually quite common.
In his case, I'm not sure whether it's worth trying to restore it. It's a mitzvah to wear a nice tallit, and wearing a tattered tallit is unlikely to bring merit to the deceased.
The main problem, from my perspective, was the stains. There are a lot of stories of dry cleaners ruining tallits.
Regarding the corners, it's easy to sew on new corner patches, but the problem is the reinforcement for the hole. That requires a special machine that the major tallit makers have. So to handle that, I would send it to one of the tallit manufacturers we work with, and ask them to add new corners.
Regarding the atara, I would just take it off and put on a new one.
Regarding the tzitzit, I recommended that David buy a set of strings and teach himself how to tie them. The tzitzit are really the essence of the mitzvah of wearing a tallit, and learning how to tie them really connects you to the mitzvah. It should take about an hour.