A Tallit is a Jewish prayer shawl worn during prayer. Before a Tallit can be worn a special blessing must first be recited. An Atara is a piece of fabric placed on the edge of a Tallit that is embroidered with detailed designs as well as the blessing recited before putting on a Tallit.
The Atara is a ribbon typically 24 inches in length and anywhere between 2 and 6 inches in width. The Atara, which is a Hebrew word for a tiara or crown, is sewn onto the Tallit like a neckband closest to where the head is when the Tallit is being worn. The Atara is normally woven or embroidered with Spania (gold or silver threads). The Atara can also be woven or embroidered with a variety of colors to match the designs of the Tallit.
The Atara was not a part of the original design of the Tallit and as such not all Tallitot have Atarot. Many choose a Tallit with an Atara already attached, while others prefer to purchase their Tallit without an Atara so that a separate and often highly detailed Atara of their choosing can be added later. In Exodus 15:2 we are told to beautify G-d, the Atara adds detail and beauty to the Tallit, thus beautifying G-d by preforming His commandments in a beautiful fashion.
Before Morning Prayers, during the recitation of the blessing before putting on the Tallit, the wearer of the Tallit kisses the last word of the blessing embroidered on the Atara followed by kissing the beginning word of the blessing embroidered on the Atara. This is done as a gesture to demonstrate the importance of the Atara and the blessing embroidered on it.
Traditionally the Atara will be embroidered with the blessing recited before wearing the Tallit; however other Atarot will only feature detailed designs and patterns to add beauty of the Tallit. Common designs on the Atara include vines and leaves, floral patterns, geometric shapes and scenes of the old city of Jerusalem. Today there are many decorative and artfully designed Atarot available that are Halachically acceptable. Atarot can be purchased in most stores where Tallitot are sold and online.