Last week we visited a Judaica shop in New Jersey where there was a large selection of girls’ and women’s tallits. It is my first time seeing such a selection. I’ve seen a pink tallit or two for sale in the past but never so many tallits all in one place.
The store owner explained that they are a big seller and very popular with the Jewish conservative communities. Most girls will come in and get a tallit for their bat mitzvah.
I grew up in an orthodox community and never saw a women or girl wearing a tallit.
So it got me thinking is it okay for a female to wear a tallit? Is there any halachic problem with this?
Many ancient authorities permitted the wearing of tallit by women. In fact, I’ve read that Rashi’s daughters wore tallit and tefillin. Other famous rabbis like Rabbeinu Tam and the Rambam also permitted it. It was only in medieval times that the Maharam pushed that women not wear tallit. The Rema also stated that it’s an act of arrogance for a woman to wear a tallit. The Maharil and the Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel both state that the tallit is a “male garment” and so a woman shouldn’t wear it.
Today whether or not women should wear tallit is still being debated. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik has said that the woman’s intention is what makes the difference. If the woman is wearing the tallit to bring her closer to G-d, then it’s perfectly alright. However, some women wear tallit just to make a political point, usually about traditional gender status and roles (that they can be “just like men”) – in this case, it is not permitted. I guess you could ask yourself if you’re still wearing the tallit to pray even when there is nobody around to see you. There are still some orthodox rabbis who say that women should not wear tallit. However, in modern orthodoxy today it is generally accepted that women are wearing tallit for the right reasons, especially since it’s become more common and a woman is less likely to stand out for doing so.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, another contemporary orthodox rabbi, has said that any woman who wants to do a mitzvah can do it and be rewarded for it, even if she’s not obligated to do it. Although he does say that if she’s wearing a four-cornered garment it should have tzitzit and that it should be different from a man’s garment. I think by looking at the photos here, you can tell that women’s tallit are different from men’s. Other rabbis, such as Rabbi Yomtob ben Yisrael Alghazi and Rabbi Yisrael Yaaqob Alghazi, have encouraged and admired women who wear tallit because they inspire men to be even more strict in their mitzvot.
Anyway if you are looking for a beautiful women’s or girl’s tallit I can send you the details to the shop. I looked around online for girls’ tallits and the ones we saw in the shop were nicer.
Have a great day!