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How to tie Tzitzit

By Rakhem Haokip

The Shulchan Aruch in siman 11:14 is as follows:

One should take 4 strings from one side of the corner and another 4 strings from the other side of the corner, and tie them twice, one on the top of the other. After that, he should take a string(which he designated at the beginning as the Shamash) and then wind the string over the rest of the strings 5 times and then tie the two groups of 4 strings twice once again. (In order to know which strings belongs to which group, the custom is to tie the end of one group a simple know so as not to get confuse when he winds the whole thing together) and after that do another set of 10 windings and tie them again following the same rule until he gets 5 double knots and 4 sets of windings.(It is worthwhile to note that the form of winding of the sephardim differs from that of the ashkenazim) The number of windings in the 4 sets should be as follows, 5,10,11,13.(see below that this is not the final ruling)

The Mishna Berura explains that for the number of windings and also [regarding] the number of sets of windings (ie. the sections between the knots) and knots, [having more than what the Shulchan aruch described] does not imply the validity of the tzitzit according to halacha, except that it's the best way to do the mitzvah, because the five knots are a hint that through it one will remember the five books of the Torah; and the doubling of the five knots which adds up to ten is a hint to the ten sefirot of the Holy One Blessed Be He.

The Kaf HaChaim brings amazing intentions that a person must have at the time of tying of the tzitzit according to the arizal in Shaar HaKavanot, see there.

Length of the Tzitzit.

The mishna berura proceeds by saying as follows: Chazal agreed that Tzitzit require a Gdil, the knots and windings as it says "you shall make for yourself Gdillim (tassels)", and also it needs to have individual strings, However, Biblically, there is no measurement regarding the length of the Gdil, rather even if one only winds three windings and tied a knot above that, it is considered as one fulfills with it the name Gdil, this is a Halacha lemoshe MiSinai.

But on a Rabbinic level, one must make a third [of the total length of the tzitzit - the Gdil, and two thirds - the פתיל/loose spun threads.

Thus, since the length of the strings is twelve thumb-widths, one should make four thumb-widths - as the Gdil, which are the windings, and leave over eight thumb-widths of separate strings, for that is the beauty of the ציצית. And therefore, if one made [only] one set of windings on Erev Shabbos before nightfall, he must complete it immediately after Shabbos.

Because if not, he is transgressing on the words of the Rabbis. And there are those who stumble regarding this. The Kaf HaChaim 42 and Halacha Berura 267 agrees.

The Halacha Berura on pg. 268 writes 12 thumb-widths is 24 cms as one thumb-width is 2 cm. Thus it is correct to have the knots and winding of length 4 thumb-widths which is 8 cm and the length of the free hanging threads 8 thumb-widths which is 16 cm. All this is the exact rule how is should be but if someone does not have the required length for 12 thumb-widths, one have to reduce the amount of windings of the Tzitzit as will be explained later.

The number of windings

The Shulchan Aruch says, "The number of windings in the 4 sets should be as follows, 5,10,11,13."

The Kav Hachaim, Halacha Berura, Yalkut Yosef, The Ben Ish Chai holds like the mishna berura and says that even though the Shulchan aruch says the number of windings should be 10 in the second set, the custom is to do 9 windings i.e. 5,9,11,13 for kabbalistic reasons.

A person whose tzitzit falls short he can tie the tzitziyot in the order 10,5,6,5 because there are those who hold that if it is shorter than the initial measurement of the tzitziyot, it can become pasul derabbanan.

Cutting the Tzitziyot.

The Halacha berura 272 writes if the strings of the tzitziyot gets too long, then one can cut it short and will not fall into the problem of "Do it but not after it is done".

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