Three basic items can be observed being worn in a synagogue: head covering, prayer shawl, and phylacteries–in Hebrew, kippah, tallit, and tefillin. They are also worn when praying individually at home.
The tallit is a large rectangular shawl made of wool, cotton or synthetic fibers. In each of the four corners of the shawl are strings tied in a particular pattern, called tzitzit. The origin of the tzitzit is biblical; the practice is prescribed in Numbers 15. The precept is to put these strings on the four corners of one’s garment–in ancient tradition, with a single strand of blue as well–as a reminder of the duties and obligations of a Jew. Since we no longer wear four-cornered garments, the tallit is worn specifically to fulfill the biblical precept.
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