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I have heard reference to a large, square garment used by poor for sleeping. I have also heard that it is/was so important that it was forbidden to ask it as collateral for a loan.

My question(s): does this garment have a proper name? Does it have any relationship to the tallis as we know it today?

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blanket?....... – Shmuel Brin Jul 5 '13 at 2:16
@EricBrown, why do you think something called s'micha doesn't fit the bill? Is there some knowledge of this garment that you have and are hiding from us? :-) Seriously, asking a question with all your cards showing will help you get the answer you seek. – msh210 Jul 5 '13 at 5:28
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The torah actually does permit taking a poor man's garment as pledge for a loan. However, Devarim 24:13 says it must be returned to him at night -- he needs it to sleep in. The text here is not specific about the type of garment, but from context it sounds like it would be a wrap, cloak, or other item that could serve as a blanket.

וְאִם-אִישׁ עָנִי, הוּא--לֹא תִשְׁכַּב, בַּעֲבֹטוֹ.‏

הָשֵׁב תָּשִׁיב לוֹ אֶת-הַעֲבוֹט כְּבוֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, וְשָׁכַב בְּשַׂלְמָתוֹ וּבֵרְכֶךָּ; וּלְךָ תִּהְיֶה צְדָקָה, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ. ‏

12 And if he be a poor man, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge;

13 thou shalt surely restore to him the pledge when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his garment, and bless thee; and it shall be righteousness unto thee before the LORD thy God.

It's only when we get to "garment" in 13 that the pledge (that's been discussed for a few verses) is characterized. Someone with more resources would pledge something else; a poor man has only the garment off his back.

I'm not aware of any connection to the tallit beyond that they are both garments. Rabbinically tzitzit, the fringes on a tallit, are only worn during the day time, so a garment used for sleeping is probably not a tallit.

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Thanks for the helpful answer, that also fixed another misconception that I had. – Eric Brown Jul 5 '13 at 12:01

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