A tallit makes a great, practical, and long-lasting gift that would be appropriate for many Jewish occasions. Receiving a tallit is an important event in a Jewish person’s life, as the tallit is a sacred symbol and allows the wearer to perform the mitzvah (commandment) of wearing tzitzit.
While there are many situations in which tallitot are given as gifts, the most common event is a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. In this case, it would not be appropriate for guests to the ceremony to give a tallit as a gift, because the Bar Mitzvah boy or Bat Mitzvah girl typically receives a tallit as part of the Bar/Bat mitzvah ceremony itself. The ceremony of presenting the tallit to the Bar Mitzvah boy or Bat Mitzvah girl has, in some synagogues, even become a small ceremony of its own, in which the parents or other family members giving the tallit speak about the significance of receiving and wearing a tallit.
As the family member who is giving the tallit, it may be a good idea not to pick the tallit on your own, but instead to ask for the future recipient’s input or even for his or her direct participation in choosing an appropriate tallit. This is because there are simply so many different types, styles, and sizes of tallitot that searching for a suitable tallit is much like shopping for clothes, and the wearer’s personal tastes (in color, fabric, size, and style) will lead you in the right direction.
Besides Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, there are many other occasions for which tallitot would make a suitable gift. Weddings are also a popular time to give and receive tallitot. Even if the bride or groom already owns a tallit – most likely from his or her Bar/Bat Mitzvah – a wedding is a great time to give another one. Chances are that a tallit that has lasted from a Bar/Bat Mitzvah until a wedding is becoming fairly aged, and the bride or groom most likely has grown taller and developed different tastes since receiving a first tallit.
Regardless of the occasion of the gift, it is important to know the height of the wearer as well as the style (traditional or shawl) in which the wearer intends to wear the tallit, so that you can choose the correct size. Knowing the intended wearer’s favorite colors and themes as well as preferred fabric would also help you make a wise decision to ensure that the recipient loves the tallit and will wear it for years to come!