Is there any reason for the stripes on a talis? Does the color of the stripes have any significance?


From Rabbi Hershel Schachter's YUTorah lecture on the topic:

The stripes are reminiscent of the techeilet (blue string) that everyone used to wear; depending on the concentration of the dye, you could a color anywhere from light blue to near-black; hence some people have blue stripes, some have black.

I believe there are also kabbalistic meanings behind the stripes (try Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's A Thread of Light), but the above is the simple explanation.

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    Thanks. I found the shiur at yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/721283/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/… just after the 37 minute mark. He quotes the Mishna Berura in the name of the Levush, but doesn't say where. Do you (or does anyone) know where that MB is? – YDK Dec 9 '10 at 3:46
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    I see where MB 9:16 and Beur Halachah 11 (s.v. לא יטיל) mention the custom to have blue stripes at the ends of the tallis, but not the idea that these are to remember the techeles. – Alex Dec 9 '10 at 4:29
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    The closest I got was an Elya Zuta on the Levush (9:4) who says "zekeni" (my father? grandfather?) would wear a blue beged with white strings and his impression was that it was to recall the techeiles. – YDK Dec 9 '10 at 5:26
  • I'm surprised R' Shachter has bought into such a foolish answer that doesn't have any basis... – Yehoshua Jun 13 '16 at 5:46

To answer your first question, apparently the stripes (like in a barcode) contain information if one knows how to read them, like place of origin and manufacturer. See page 2 of this interview, which mentions this fact in passing.

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    While that's true, it doesn't seem from the interview that that is the reason for the stripes. – YDK Dec 9 '10 at 3:51

The Minhag Yisroel Torah mentions that we currently use black stripes based on the Rambam's opinion that the colr of T'cheiles is actually closer to black.

  • Did he mean Rashi's opinion? – YDK Dec 9 '10 at 5:27
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    Rambam says the same thing (Hil. Tzitzis 2:8). – Alex Dec 9 '10 at 18:05
  • @Alex I don't think that's what he meant. I think he was stating as a general rule that black can be confused with blue. Bear in mind that when you dye something black, it generally has a tinge of green or blue, especially when it fades. And it may well be that blue was the base for black dye in his day. Here is he discussing whether you can dye the "white" (ie., non-Techeileth) strings black when you have a Techeileth-colored garment. He is saying no, because the Techeileth and the black will be hard to distinguish and the TECHEILETH string (in his opinion only 1 of 8) will not stand out. – Seth J Jun 17 '11 at 17:12
  • @Seth: could be. Earlier (2:2) he says that the blood of the chilazon is שחור כדיו, black like ink, but that the tzitzis strings are dyed to look כעין הרקיע, like the color of the sky. So you're right, it may well be that black, once it starts fading, could be confused with tzitzis strings. – Alex Jun 19 '11 at 6:39
  • Belzer chassidim wear dark blue. – Adám Feb 17 '14 at 15:18

The stripes of color are a rememberance for the lost blue techeles string. I heard on a tape from R' Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik that the differences in black/blue really come from a machlokes Rambam and Rashi. The Gemara in Menachos says that Techeilis is " Techeiles Domeh Le'Yam, V'hayam Dome Le'Rakiya" that the blue techeiles string is the color of the sky. Seemingly that would imply a light blue. However, depending on the time one is looking at the sky, the color can be drastically different.

The Rambam learns that it is towards evening, which would mean that the blue would be a very deep dark blue, however dying techniques were not exact and therefore black was used. However, Rashi learns that it's the middle of the day, thus a bright blue used.

  • @DoubleAA, another example of "I don't really know, but I have something to add" masquerading as an answer? – Seth J Jun 16 '14 at 17:46
  • why is this called not really knowing? I quote a source IE. Rav Soloveitchik, I explain it very succinctly and authoritatively? – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 16 '14 at 20:44
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    Well, now that you've edited out the part where you said you didn't know the reason for the difference, it's a much stronger answer. Making that statement essentially turned a decent answer into relevant, but ultimately unhelpful, information. – Seth J Jun 16 '14 at 20:50
  • Heh ... I thought the stripes on the tallit were "racing stripes", like what they use for drag racing! I figured that this was a metaphor for people to "race" through davening. Boy, was I wrong :-) – DanF Jun 18 '14 at 18:20

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