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What is the halachik difference between a talit gadol and a talit katan? If the talit gadol is somehow better, why don't we only wear that? If they are equal, why do we need a talit gadol at all?

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You know, there is a Kabbalsitic answer to this (for those interested, IIRC it's in Shaar HaKawanot 7b-c around there). – Hacham Gabriel Feb 26 '12 at 1:36
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The advantages of a Tallit Katan is that you get to wear it all the time. The advantage of a tallit gadol is that it is for sure the correct size to be obligated in the mitzva. So, since for many it is impractical to wear a big enough tallit to be for sure obligated all the time, they are at least encouraged to wear a smaller one which might be obligated at all times as this is preferable to not wearing any tzitzit all day. But at least once a day during davening they put on a bigger tallit to for sure fulfill the mitzva once every day. (Based on Mishna Berurah 16:1 quoting Shut Rama 110)

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I think the Mishna Berura misquoted the number in shut rama because it's not 110. Any ideas? – Double AA Feb 26 '12 at 2:14
This may warrant another question, but then why would we only start wearing a talit gadol after marriage (I know there is a custom to start earlier, I am asking why it is only a custom)? – Ari A Feb 26 '12 at 2:17
@AriA See judaism.stackexchange.com/q/7724/759 for more. As for our purposes, since making sure to wear tzitzit every day is not a chiyuv per se if you aren't wearing a four cornered garment, perhaps people are not so worried about missing it until marriage (if the tallit katan is actually too small). – Double AA Feb 26 '12 at 2:37
@AriA the Hesed LeAlafim isn't so satisfied that Ashkenazim don't wear Talit Katan before they are married. – Hacham Gabriel Feb 26 '12 at 2:52
@DoubleAA (first comment): this article says that it's a typo and should be שו"ת רמ"מ, meaning Maharam Mintz, who indeed discusses tzitzis in his sec. 110 (although the author of this article says that this teshuvah doesn't seem to deal with this particular issue). – Alex Feb 26 '12 at 3:42

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