Created By: mtlwriterguy on November 19, 2011 Last Edited By: mtlwriterguy on August 28, 2012

Gratutious Use of the Tallit

Jews don't wear prayer shawls all the time

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The tallit, (also pronounced "tallis" by Yiddish speakers) or Jewish prayer shawl is a religious item worn during prayer by Jewish men in orthodox and traditional circles, and also by women in more liberal Jewish movements.

The tallit is such a cool, exotic-looking visual-shorthand for "Jews Doing Jewish Stuff" that it tends to get used indiscriminately in TV, film, comic books and other visual media, almost always incorrectly.

In most mainstream Jewish denominations and sects, the tallit is only worn during weekday morning prayers, during morning Sabbath and festival services in synagogue, and on a few other very specific occasions. Even in synagogue, the tallit is almost never worn during afternoon or evening services, and it's virtually never worn for most other religious observances. In some ultra-Orthodox communities, traditionally a man does not even own a tallit before he is married. (There are some marginal sects which encourage their members to wear their tallits all day long, but this is very far from being a normative practice.)

That said, many orthodox Jewish men do wear an undershirt-like garment called the tallit katan (or "small tallit") at all times to fulfill the Biblical commandment to wear a "fringed garment." But a tallit katan is not a full-fledged tallit, and is not visible except for small fringes which dangle from the beltline.

Contrary to many media portrayals -- and with the marginal sects noted above possibly excepted -- you'd never see a full tallit worn:

- At a funeral

- At a wedding, except by the groom during the ceremony

- While lighting Chanukah candles

- During a Passover Seder

- While celebrating Israeli Independence Day or any other secular/cultural Jewish event

- By a rabbi, just because he's a rabbi

- By a cantor, just because he's a cantor

- By an Orthodox Jew, just because he's an Orthodox Jew (marginal sects, again, excepted)



Superman: The Animated Series In the "Death of Dan Turpin" episode (an homage to Jack Kirby), the rabbi or cantor officiating at the funeral is wearing a tallit.

In a 1970's Justice League Chanukah/Christmas story, a man is shown lighting his Chanukah menorah while wearing a tallit.

Community Feedback Replies: 3
  • November 24, 2011
    Gratuitus Use Of The Tallit would be a more accurate title.
  • November 24, 2011
    Yeah, the current name might be a little politically incorrect as well.
  • November 24, 2011
    • The Holocaust survivor in the original V is wearing his kipah and prayer shawl when the Visitors come for him (as he expected).