What makes a Chabad tallis distinct from a standard wool tallis?

Posted by Ben G. on 21st May 2014

Chabad has a tendency to do things their own way, and the Chabad tallis is no exception. The Chabad tallis features extra striping and each corner has a second tzitzit hole. Chabad tzitzis tying method uses an innovation of placing the shamash through the second, lower hole, acting as an anchor to keep the tzitzis from roaming around the corner to the wrong side fo the tallis. And the Chabad tallis features another distinctive trait: it's just about the only tallit (along with the Turkish tallis) that lacks an atara.

The following table compares a bona fide Chabad tallis to a standard wool tallis.

Standard Wool Tallis
Chabad Tallis
Striping Typically has a set of five stripes and a thicker band
Distinctive striping based on Chabad custom
Atara Atara, pattern may vary
No atara
Lining Cotton lining is an add-on feature
Silk lining comes standard, cotton by request
Corners Square on corners made of wool, cotton or synthetic
Square on corners made of silk
Tzitzit Holes
One tzitzit hole per corner
Each corner has a second tzitzit hole
Tzitzit Usually Ashkenazi or Sephardic tying
Distinctive Chabad tying custom

Chabad tallit

Recently both Mishkan Hatchelet and Talitania introduced a Chabad tallis with "nonslip" fabric. The Mishkan Hatchelet version is marketed as Chabad Pe'er Kal or Nonslip Chabad, while the Talitania version is known as Chabad David.

Originally the custom of sewing on an atarah was to ensure the tallit was worn the same way every day; not simply to ensure it is not worn upside-down, but to keep the same two tzitzis in front and the same two tzitzis in back each time the tallis is worn. The Shlah writes that this is in keeping with the teaching that in the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the northern boards had the honor of occupying the north side, the eastern boards the east side, etc.

Some halachic authorities, however, were concerned the atarah might come to dominate the tallit, stealing some of the limelight from the main mitzvah: the tzitzis.

The Lubavitcher custom is to add a silk lining to the bottom side of the tallis where the head goes, which means the Chabad tallis is always worn in the same manner, yet there is no atarah to draw attention away from the tzitzis.