James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Kippah and tzitzit.

with 2 comments

One week ago today, I began wearing tzizit. Jewish men (as well as women who accept the mitzvot or Jewish laws) are required to wear garments with fringes on the corners. The fringes are the tzitzit and the garment is a tallit katan, or small prayer shawl. It is really just a rectangular piece of cloth with a hole that can serve as a collar. Mine are mesh fabric and are extremely breathable.

When I wear my tzitzit, I tuck them into my pants in the custom of the Sephardim. I don’t like to wear my piety outwardly because I do not pretend that my observance is at the level it ought to be.

I do not, however, always wear a kippah, or yarmulke, the small hat that observant Jews wear. If I have cause to wear one in public I do not remove it quickly, but I do not wear one for its own sake.

What many do not know is that, unlike the requirement of tzitzit, there is no general command in Jewish law, or halacha, to wear the kippah. One must wear it when praying or making a blessing, but it is not commanded at other times.

For me, the core issue is that I do not like public piety. Wearing a kippah is easy. Wearing tzitzit is easy. Following all the other mitzvot is not easy. Most people know that I am Jewish. If they think I am a good Jew, I want it to be because they see me perform mitzvot that are not easy. I don’t want it to be because of the outward symbols of piety.


Written by JamesEJ

Friday, August 6, 2010 at 9:46 am

Posted in judaism

2 Responses

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  1. Awesome James! May I ask, where’d you buy the mesh tallit katan? I’ve been interested in wearing tzitzit, as I’ve indicated in previous conversations. I think I’d likely follow the Sephardi rite and tuck in the tzitzit, as well.

    Anyhow, you have a good Shabbos!

    Nathan Kieso

    Friday, August 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm

  2. So sorry to offer such a late comment here. I go back and forth on wearing my tzitzis in or out, especially at work, and especially since I don’t want to be identified with elements of the “Religious Right.” I have found that tzitzis are a wonderful conversation starter, and they really do remind me to practice mitzvot more often. In that sense, my dangling tzitzis are not only a mitzvah, they’re meyuchad.

    Glad to have found your blog. I look forward to reading more.


    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 1:04 am

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