A tallit is traditionally made of wool, as mentioned in the Torah. Although talitot can be made of other materials, such as linen, silk, or cotton, wool is still the preferred material. As per the Torah, wool and linen fabrics must never be mixed, so wool talitot cannot contain a mixture of the two materials. Synthetic materials are also frowned upon, as they are not natural.
The word "Tallit" comes from two Hebrew words which literally mean "little tent." The tallit, or prayer shawl, was created in response to God's commandment to Moses to have the children of Israel affix tzitziot to the four corners of their garments in order to remind them of the commandments. The tallit was crafted to be an outer garment, in which fringes on the four corners fulfill this commandment.
How to Wear a Tallit
Talitot are worn during morning prayers and during holidays and special religious ceremonies. They are typically only worn by men, though some traditional Jewish women also wear them. Talitot are designed to be draped over the back, shoulder, arms, and head, in order to block the world out while you say your prayers. The tallit is a prayer enhancer, and must not be worn at night time.
Why a Wool Tallit?
Although talitot can be crafted out of a variety of materials, wool is the preferred fabric, as it is what was worn in the Torah. When choosing your wool tallit, be sure to select the one that speaks directly to you. Wool talitot come in a variety of colors and designs; there are no laws stating what a tallit must look like, other than that it must contain fringes on its four corners.
The Meaning of the Colored Stripes
Traditionally, talitot have white backgrounds with blue or black stripes. Originally, the blue stripes represented the special Techelet dye used on ritual fringes centuries ago. In the Torah, when God orders His people to wear garments with fringes to remind them of his commandments, He also instructs them to incorporate blue fringes among the white fringes. The blue stripes on many talitot are representative of the blue tzitziot, although over time the blue stripes became black.
Today, any color tallit may be worn, as there are no laws regulating the colors of the stripes, or even that a tallit must have stripes. The talitot featuring blue stripes currently have deeper meaning, as the colors of the Israeli flag are also blue and white.
Nowadays, talitot have stripes in a variety of colors, and there is no "right" or "wrong" one to go with. When choosing a tallit, pick the one that speaks to you. It's important that you feel a connection with the garment, as you are the one who will be wearing it during prayer each morning.
Picking Out the Right Tallit
Wool talitot make the perfect gifts for yourself, or for someone else. When choosing a tallit, it is vital that you select one that speaks to your spirit. The garment is considered sacred and is a prayer enhancer for those looking to improve their morning ritual. When shopping for a wool tallit, it's important to keep in mind your height so your prayer garment is the proper length. The Code of the Jewish Law states that a tallit must be large enough to cover a small child that is able to walk, but otherwise there are no other specifications as to how big a tallit must be, what colors it must be, or even what materials it must be made of. Wool is the preferred material, simply because it is what the talitot of the olden days were crafted out of.