The Kohen Gadol wore 8 garments, and regular Kohanim wore 4. Why wasn't tzizis one of their required garments? Also, did they have to fulfill the mitzvah of tzizis before or after their daily service, or were they exempt while they were serving?

Kohen Gadol: - Choshen (Breastplate) - Ephod (Apron) - Ketonet (Tunic) - Meil (Robe) - Mitznefe (turban) - Avent (Sash) - Michnasayim (Pants) - Tzitz (Forehead Plate)

Regular Kohanim: - Ketonet (Tunic) - Michnasayim (Pants) - Migba'at (Turban) - Avent (Sash)

  • Related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/29575/…
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 16:06
  • zaq, are you asking specifically about the obligation for tzitzit while they do the daily service? (Please tell me if my answer addresses your question at all or misses the mark so I know whether to delete it. Thanks.) Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 18:45
  • 1
    I was asking specifically about during their service, since the clothing they must wear is specified and does not include tzizis. However I wouldn't delete your answer, it definitely adds important information to the topic.
    – zaq
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 15:48

3 Answers 3


First of all, to clarify what the question is/should be, there's no obligation to wear tzitzis under normal circumstances, unless one is wearing a four cornered garment. Hence, the fact that tzitzis aren't in the list of clothing is not a problem; they aren't commanded in wearing an extra garment to put on tzitzis, just as no Jew is obligated (strictly speaking) to do so.

However, the kohanim actually should be obligated in tzitzis, because they might have been wearing a four-cornered garment: the me'il. However, this depends on what the me'il actually looked like (there are four different opinions). The real question is, if the Meil had four corners, did the kohanim put tzitzis on the me'il, and if not, why not?

The Radvaz in his commentary to the Rambam (Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 9:3) asks this question on the Rambam, and answers that despite the fact that the garment technically had four corners, these were all attached towards the top, and so the meil wasn't really a four cornered garment (this has significant halakhic importance).

The Minchas Chinuch (Mitzvah 99, by R. Yosef Babad) writes that the garments of the kohanim didn't require tzitzis because they belonged to hekdesh, and they weren't the property of the kohanim (a borrowed garment doesn't require tzitzis). After all, the Gemara in Kiddushin 54a states: that a kohen cannot use his garment to affect kiddushin, which requires ownership of the object used for betrothal. However, the question of whether or not kohanim own their garments isn't necessarily so clear-cut.

R. Gershon Chanoch Henoch Leiner, in his book "Ein HaTecheilis" argues on the Minchas Chinuch and explains that the reason for the exemption from tzitzis is merely a 'gezairas hakasuv'. In other words, Hashem told Moshe to make a Meil, and the description doesn't include tzitzis, end of story.

He also quotes a Zohar that explains this 'geziras hakasuv' by saying that the bells and pomegranates that were on the bottom of the Meil served the same purpose as the tzitzis serve on a regular garment.

(All of these opinions are quoted and discussed by R. Menachem Mendel Kasher in Torah Shelaima, vol. 23 pg 177)


The commentaries on the Rambam discuss it, with regards to the Me'il (which appears to have had four corners). If there were fringes attached, it's missing from any documentation we have about them!

Minchas Mordechai al haTorah discusses this question and several proposed answers, but the strongest one appears to be that when the Torah says "put fringes on the your four-cornered garments", that applies only to personally-owned garments. The Kohen Gadol's garments were considered Temple property and not personally-owned.

At any point the Kohen was wearing non-personally-owned garments, he wasn't expected to have fringes on them. When his shift was over and changed out of them into his personal clothes (which in ancient times, usually had four corners), those would have had tzitzis.

We don't want to be people who "avoid" a mitzva, and thus today we wear four-cornered garments so we can put fringes on them. However, if someone found themselves in a situation where for legitimate reasons they couldn't wear a personally-owned four-cornered garment today, it's not that they failed their obligation "though shalt wear a fringed four-cornered garment"; it's that they didn't get a chance to connect to G-d via "if you wear a four-cornered garment, put fringes on it." So if the kohen gadol had a particularly busy day in the Temple and couldn't wear personally-owned clothes at any time from dawn till dusk, I doubt he'd be taken to task for it.

(Nor could a kohen on-duty wear a personally-owned tzitzis garment in addition to his standard uniform. While serving in the Temple, they have to wear the listed clothes, no more no less.)

A similar question comes up with regards to Tefilin. Rambam explains that there was room below the turban to wear Tefilin shel rosh; however there was no way to wear the shal yad -- both the tefilin and the ketonet's sleeve must be worn directly on the skin of the arm -- they're not mutually compatible! When a kohen was off his shift he could wear the shel yad.

  • Note my answer to the linked question above.
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 16:26
  • 1
    Can you include where in the Rambam this is discussed?
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 16:30
  • @Shalom Yashar koach on the Minchat Mordechai. The personal ownership issue is the most obvious. A couple of additional thoughts worth noting...1) The mitzvah is on the tzitzit, not the garment. One of the details of where the mitzvah of tzitzit is that they are to be used only in regard to a 4 cornered garment. 2) Although I haven't calculated, the issue with the Me'il may have been that it was not obligated for tzitzit because it was too small in terms of coverage (Atifah and the majority of the body). Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 19:58

Actually, according to Menachot 43a, the kohanim were obligated in tzitzit. The g'mara says (quoting from the Soncino English translation):

Our Rabbis taught: All must observe the law of zizith, priests, Levites, and Israelites, proselytes, women and slaves. R. Simeon declares women exempt [...]

The Master said, ‘All must observe the law of zizith, priests, Levites, and Israelites’. Is not this obvious? For if priests and Levites and Israelites were exempt, then who would observe it? — It was stated particularly on account of priests. For I might have argued, since it is written, Thou shalt not wear a mingled stuff, wool and linen together, and [it is followed by,] Thou shalt make thee twisted cords, that only those who are forbidden to wear mingled stuff must observe the law of zizith, and as priests are permitted to wear mingled stuff they need not observe [the law of zizith]; we are therefore taught [that they, too, are bound], for although while performing the service [in the Temple] they may wear [mingled stuff] they certainly may not wear it when not performing the service.

  • 2
    excellent point; the Gemara is saying that a kohen has the same obligation in his personal life. How that applies to his "duty clothing" is actually more complicated. See my answer.
    – Shalom
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 14:50
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    I don't see how this answers the question really. As @Shalom points out, this is about their obligation to wear tzitzis on a quadrangular garment any old time; the question (if I understand it correctly) is about their obligation to wear an extra garment (talis katan or talis gadol) with tzitzis while serving in the bes hamikdash..
    – msh210
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 18:39
  • @msh210 oh, I guess I got tripped up by the title (which seemed to be saying that they don't at all). Maybe I misunderstood the question? Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 18:43
  • ...or maybe I did.
    – msh210
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 18:49
  • I've asked OP for input. Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 18:50

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