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When we put on a tallit, we say a blessing (copied from here)

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam

Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe

asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu l'hit'ateif ba-tzitzit

Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to wrap ourselves in the Tzitzit.

I know that there is a commandment to attach the fringes to the proper garment (as the jewfaq site lists in its enumeration of the 613 mitzvot according to the Rambam, "To put tzitzit on the corners of clothing (Num. 15:38)") but what is the source for the idea that there is a specific commandment to wrap ourselves in the tzitzit? The text of the bracha seems to reflect an explicit command -- but what command?

This answer indicates "In Ashkenazic practice, the optimal blessing for a tallit -- to wrap oneself in tzitzit -- is said only on a talit gadol. For a *tallit katan", we're not sure it's quite up to that level, so it gets a lesser blessing, regarding the mitzva of tzitzit. " I'm not sure what any of this really means -- is there an extant commandment to wrap that is on a higher level than simply "asu lahem tzitzit"?

Additional notes -- the Shulchan Aruch (O"C 8:1) says, "One should wrap himself in the ציצית and make a blessing on them while standing" -- " יתעטף בציצית ויברך מעומד". But (8:3) "the טלית קטן (small Talit) garments that we have the custom to wear, even though there is no concept of wrapping (היתעטף) by them, one is יוצא his obligation of ציצית." So we fulfill the obligation without wrapping.

So, if so, where is there any additional textual obligation to wrap that would be reflected in the bracha?

  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/60935/8775. – mevaqesh Mar 2 '17 at 6:28
  • rosends did you also feel my post didn't answer your question? I'm surprised since I was actually pretty satisfied with it. Now there is a bounty seeking more – Double AA May 20 at 16:01
  • I upvoted it but I wanted to wait before deciding it was best until I saw any other responses. Then, I never got back to it. – rosends May 20 at 16:12
  • @DoubleAA The person who offered the bonus (me) does not think your answer is a sufficient reply (actually not at all responsive). – Yehuda W May 20 at 17:09
  • @YehudaW yes I know, it says that in your bounty message. Good luck! – Double AA May 20 at 17:11
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(As background, know that there is an argument (see Tur OC 8) if a formal "Arab-style" wrapping is the only method of wearing a four-cornered garment which qualifies for the biblical command of Tzitzit. This is just a question of what the Torah commanded. Wearing four-cornered socks, for instance, or a four cornered scarf is not included in the Mitzva according to everyone and you'd be exempt from putting Tzitzit on them.)

So we have a blessing which uses what appears to be a very particular word describing the method of wearing clothing in its formulation. You can take this in 4 main ways:

  1. This shows that the opinion limiting the Mitzva to the formal Arab-style wrap is correct. (See Or Zarua quoted in Terumat HaDeshen #45.) We only find this limiting because our sartorial styles have changed in the last few millennia. According to this you have to wear any garment with Tzitzit in the formal Arab-style wrap fashion always if you want to fulfill the Mitzva. (Some are stringent for this opinion when not doing so would be a leniency such as to avoid a possibly invalid blessing said before donning a Talit.)

  2. The wording of the blessing is not intended to be fixed and when wearing Tzitzit not in the old fashioned formal Arab-wrap style you should say a different blessing like "LeHitlabbesh BaTzitzit" or maybe "Al Mitzvat Tzitzit". (See Maharam of Rothenberg quoted in Terumat HaDeshen ibid.) According to this there is no need ever to do the formal Arab-style wrapping, as long as you pay attention to the wording of your blessing.

  3. The wording of the blessing is fixed but just indicates the most common usage when it was composed, namely, the formal Arab-style wrapping. This is not unlike other Mitzvot where (at least according to this school of thought) we use the standard text even when in non-standard circumstances (eg. washing hands for bread by dipping in a Mikva gets an "Al Netilat Yadayim"). This is just a fixture of our liturgical system sans a Sanhedrin. (See Beiur HaGra to OC 8:6.) According to this there is [most likely] no need ever to do the formal Arab-style wrapping.

  4. This shows that the word "LeHit'ateif" isn't such a specific action and it doesn't have to mean formal Arab-style wrapping, but rather any type of wearing/wrapping. That which the Talmud (MK 24a) defines that word as a formal Arab-style wrap is either not how we rule (Beit Yosef OC 8) or was only intended for the laws of mourning (Mahari Abuhov cited ibid.). According to this there is no question from the language of the blessing and formal Arab-style wrapping isn't necessary for Tzitzit.

One way or another, the blessing is just describing the process of putting on the clothing with Tzitzit, and while the word it chose may seem very particular, the Mitzva is just what we always thought it was which is wearing a garment with Tzitzit in accordance with various legal details, whatever they may be; tying Tzitzit onto clothing is not strictly speaking a complete Mitzva (more of a Hekhsher Mitzva or the beginning of a Mitzva, however we decide to define that).

You are correct that the verb in the verses is related to making the fringes, but blessings don't always follow the verse exactly (eg. "Lehaniach Tefillin" not "Likshor Tefillin", "Likboa Mezuza" not "Likhtov Mezuza", or "Lehafrish Challah" not "Leharim Challah"). We apparently allow a bit of Oral Torah interpretation to frame exactly what Mitzva action we are performing when formulating the blessing.

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Looking at the Semag, Aseh 26, it says that there are two posukim that obligate the mitzvah of tzitzit. One is BaMidbar 15:38 and the other is Devarim 22:12 which says:

גדילים תעשה לך על ארבע כנפות כסותך אשר תכסה בה

This means that there are two parts to this mitzvah. The first part is the placing of the g'dilim, meaning the four threads which are doubled over to make eight strings, on the four corners of the garment (גדילים תעשה לך על ארבע כנפות כסותך). And the second part of the mitzvah is to be covered, meaning enwrapped, by them (אשר תכסה בה).

This follows the statement found in the Kol Bo, Din Hilchot Tzitzit which says:

והעושה ציצית לעצמו מברך אקב״ו על מצות ציצית ושהחיינו. והרמבם ז״ל כתב שאין מברכים על הציצית בשעת עשיה לפי שאין המצוה אלא להתעטף בו כו׳ וה״ר יצחק כתב בטלית קטן יברך על מצות ציצית ובטלית של עטוף להתעטף.

One who makes tzitzit for himself makes the blessing, "who has sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the commandment of tzitzit" and the blessing of Shehechiyanu. And the Rambam z"l wrote that we don't make a blessing on the tzitzit at the time of making it because there is no commandment except to be wrapped in it. Etc. And our teacher, Rabbi Yitzchok wrote in regard to the tallit katan, one will bless, "al Mitzvah tzitzit and on a tallit capable of wrapping (של עטוף) one will bless l'hitatef.

This idea is explained further in HaIttur, Chelek 2, Sha'ar HaTzitzit, Sha'ar 3: Sha'ar Adam, Chelek 2, which says that this is a disagreement among the Sages as to whether there is a mitzvah concerning the garment or only in regard to the wrapping.

The first opinion is that if you have a four cornered garment which is large enough to require tzitzit, you are obligated to make tzitzit on it whether you are using it at that moment or not. And this is the source for the text of the blessing, "al mitzvat tzitzit. This first opinion says that the blessing of l'hitatef is said at the actual time of being enwrapped in the garment, but if you didn't need that particular garment when you made the tzitzit, you don't say l'hitatef.

The second opinion is that you only make a blessing when the Mitzvah is completed and that is specifically when you wrap in the garment which has tzitzit on it.

The Ittur points out that his tradition follows the view of Rav Chisda, that any mitzvah where making something is the completion of the act, you are required to make the blessing. And any mitzvah where making something does not complete the act, meaning something else is done in regard to it, does not require a blessing in regard to making it.

The Ittur points out that this view maintains both opinions, that there is a Mitzvah in regard to the garment itself even though no blessing is required to be said at the time the tzitzit are placed on the garment and in regard to the second view that the blessing must be said when the person wraps in the tallit.

It is worth noting from the Kol Bo that with a tallit that is too small for atifah one falls back to the blessing of making the tzitzit on ones four cornered garment.

The Semag goes on to explain from Menachot 40b which says in the name of Shmuel:

אמר שמואל תכלת אין בה משום כלאים ואפי' בטלית פטורה מאי טלית פטורה אילימא דלית בה שיעורא והתניא טלית שהקטן מתכסה בו ראשו ורובו

that the minimum measure of the four cornered garment that is obligated to tzitzit is:

טלית שהקטן מתכסה בה ראשו ורובו והגדול יוצא בה עראי חייבת בציצית, אין הקטן תכסה בה ראשו ורובו אף על פי שהגדול יוצא בה עראי פטורה

It must be large enough to cover the head and the majority of the body of the child. (טלית שהקטן מתכסה בה ראשו ורובו...חייבת בציצית)

It also distinguishes here between the child and the adult. With the child, if it is large enough to cover him completely, then the tallit requires tzitzit and the child fulfills completely by making the blessing of l'hitatef b'tzitzit.

That same size tallit, which is large enough for the child to fulfill the mitzvah completely is not large enough for an adult to fulfill completely. But in a temporary situation, (in the language of some sources it is called בשעת דחק, in others אקראי) the adult can rely upon it to fulfill in a minimal way (והגדול יוצא בה עראי). The adult cannot do atifah, which is the complete way of fulfilling, but he can have tzitzit on a four cornered garment.

If the garment doesn't have the size required for the child to fulfill properly, then the garment is not required to have tzitzit at all. This would be considered like a scarf.

The Semag goes on to emphasize that the size for covering sufficiently is dependent upon the size of the person wearing the garment. That means the size required for the katan, the child, is smaller than the size required for the adult.

The Semag clarifies more about the katan and what his physical size will be from Sukkah 42a:

קטן שיודע להתעטף בציצית חייב בציצית.

That it's not any size child, meaning for example, like a child of five or six, but one who knows how to be enwrapped. It also introduces the word atifah (עטיפה) here as a synonym for being covered (תכסה) around the head and the majority of the torso. This also follows the language of the Ittur cited above, Sha'ar 2: Sha'ar Tallit, Chellek 3 which says:

אע״ג דמברכינין להתעטף בציצית לשון כסות היא כדכתיב אשר תכסה בה

And this distinction of Atifah (עטיפה) is based upon Moed Katan 24a which says in the name of Shmuel:

וכל עטיפה שאינה כעטיפת ישמעאלים אינה עטיפה

That the wrapping practiced by the Yishmaelim is around the head with the face showing and around the shoulders down to the chest as described by the Alter Rebbe in Siddur Tehillat HaShem, page 11 in conjunction with the blessings for tzitzit.

This same reference to Moed Katan is also said in the name of the Gaonim in Tur, Orach Chaim, Hilchot Tzitzit, Siman 8.

This same expression is brought in Sefer Orchot Chaim, Hilchot Tzitzit, sief 21 which clarifies further:

ושמעתי שהקטן רוצה לומר קטן שהגיע לחינוך כדאמרינן קטן היודע להתעטף חייב בציצית

This means that the katan is Bar Mitzvah age like is understood from Avot 5:22. That also has implications about the minimum size of the tallit katan and when a garment is required to have tzitzit. Something that could cover a younger child isn't really required to have tzitzit at all.

The Sefer Orchot Chaim goes on to say in sief 22:

והעושה ציצית לעצמו מברך על מצות ציצית ושהחיינו והרמב״ם ז״ל כתב שאין מברכים על הציצית בשעת עשייה לפי שאין מצוה אלא להתעטף בו.

Two ideas are brought out here. The first is that the blessing of al mitzvah tzitzit pertains to the placing of tzitzit on a garment that requires them. And the second idea according to Rambam is that the primary aspect of the mitzvah and its completion is the being wrapped in them. This is like is understood from the posuk cited above from Devarim 22:12.

The Sefer Orchot Chaim goes further in sief 23 to say:

המתעטף בטלית מצויצת מברך להתעטף בציצית והרב יהודה חסיד כתב בטלית קטן יברך על מצות ובטלית של עטוף להתעטף. ואם לא שח בין טלית קטן לתליט גדול כתב רבינו מאיר נ״ע שאין צריך לברך לגדול.

So it appears from Sukkah 42a that atifah is a synonym for being completely covered and concealed by the garment which is defined as covering your head and the majority of your body.

And this would be the basis for the language of the blessing to be wrapped (or completely covered) by the tzitzit.

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    Devarim 22:12 is definitely an important source, but it's not at all clear that the verse means "there are two parts to this mitzvah...the second part of the mitzvah is to be covered, meaning enwrapped, by them (אשר תכסה בה)". The inclusion of "Asher" means this is simply describing which clothing is required, namely, that which you cover yourself with. There doesn't appear to be a second aspect of the Mitzva to cover oneself with Tzitzit. The only Mitzva mentioned in the verse is to attach strings to clothes that you wear. – Double AA Mar 2 '17 at 21:11
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Isaac Moses Mar 3 '17 at 15:01
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    This answer has grown tremendously since first being written. Consider paring down parts of it which don't actually help address the question, in order to better focus the post on the relevant details. – Double AA Mar 5 '17 at 23:03
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    Every detail is apparently important and necessary because someone questioned and wanted proof of what my original relatively short answer was. That individual has also publicly accused me of lying multiple times on other answers and warned other people to be on guard to what I wrote. So, please bear with the extremely detailed answer. Wouldn't want anyone to be misled. – Yaacov Deane Mar 6 '17 at 0:44
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    Your original answer was lacking. So you added stuff. But you never took out the parts which aren't necessary. Please go back and remove the extra parts so you focus on the good stuff. Editing out old things and reorganizing new things is a normal part of writing and revising. The current answer isn't detailed; it's rambling and hard to follow. Bigger isn't always better. – Double AA Mar 6 '17 at 1:40

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