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The source of the attara is found most easily in the Mishna Berurah siman 8 siff 4. It is based on chazzal who tell us the krashim (beams) in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) had signs written on them, so that the ones that merited to be on the north side would always be on the north side. So too the sides of the talis -- the side that is in front should always be ...


see here from Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz Question: Must a Talit have an Atara? Answer: No - in the sense that you mean an Atara of silver etc. - usually there is a cloth on the Talit to indicate which side should be used for covering the head.

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