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What's the story with "undershirt Tzitzis"? In case you've never heard of them, they're special Tzitzis made to be worn directly on the body. So is there any problem with them? Like, do some hold they're no good?

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4 Answers 4

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As I understand it, there are two issues:

  • Is it appropriate to wear tzitzis directly on your skin, where they can get sweaty?
  • If you have a T-shirt-like-shape, but it still has four square corners, is that obligated in tzitis like a four-cornered garment?

As far as what's appropriate, I don't know. Biblically, people just attached fringes to their normal clothing, which was four-cornered, so of course it got sweaty (and I assume was up against their skin). Today that we wear a special garment for the sake of the mitzva, many people like to keep it separate from the skin, but I don't know sources on that (or if it's in fact required anyplace, or just a practice that developed.)

As for the shape, see above. The first Lubavitcher Rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch HaRav says it's okay, in his siddur says not. Chabad-Lubavitch hassidim consider the latter source more authoritative. Non-Lubavitchers often take the Shulchan Aruch HaRav into consideration (especially when it comes to informing non-Lubavitch Hassidic halacha), but I think they treat the siddur as specifically Lubavitch practice. The Chayei Adam (who was non-Hassidic; he lived in Vilna and was strongly influenced by its Gaon) says he sees French Jews attaching fringes to their ordinary vests, which happen to be four-cornered. He thought that was great. I don't know of other sources on this.

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According to HaGaon HaRav Yitzchak Yosef Shelit"a in Sefer En Yitzchak we rely on the Siddur over the S"A if there is a contradiction. –  Hacham Gabriel Mar 26 '12 at 1:52
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As I recall, HaRav Binyomin Zilber zt"l addresses this question in Az Nidberu, and he learns that a t-shirt tzitzit is more problematic because it's not just liable to absorb sweat, but is made to absorb sweat. Also, it should be noted that what are referred to commercially as "t-shirt tzitzit" vary dramatically in design. Some of them are mamash like a t-shirt, while others are close to a traditional cotton tallis katan, only they are designed to stay in place better. –  Ben - Ben's Tallit Shop Jun 18 '13 at 20:14

Apparently the Siach Yitchok in Siman Ches says they are no good.

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Yeah, I saw your answer. But this might be different because it's made for it.?. –  yydl Jun 4 '10 at 0:55
    
and therefore what? –  SimchasTorah Jun 4 '10 at 5:32

The Baal Hatanya, in his Shulchan Aruch (10:18), says that as long as visibly more than half the length is open along both sides of the garment, then it's fine.

However, in Hilchos Tzitzis in his Siddur (which was written later, hence it represents his final decision), he says that it should be completely open on both sides, not connected even with laces, let alone stitches. According to this, then, undershirt tzitzis are no good.

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Okay, so assuming this is correct, why do undershirt tzitzis have a hechsher? (they happen to be open most of the way) –  yydl Jun 4 '10 at 0:56
    
The question is whether Chabad-Lubavitch would use them, based on the Siddur of the 1st Lubavitcher Rebbe. Non-Lubavitchers would take other considerations into account, such as the leniency in Shulchan Aruch HaRav. –  Shalom Jun 4 '10 at 13:22

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