A tallit is an item that can last a lifetime! For many girls, their tallit is a fond reminder of their Bat Mitzvah day, where they first fulfilled the mitzvah of wearing a tallit.
With the progression of women’s rights in the liberal Jewish sectors in the last few decades, it has now become more prevalent and accepted – in some communities, the norm – for 13 year-old girls to receive and wear tallitot at their Bat Mitzvah ceremonies and continue wearing them during prayer for as long as they choose.
However, this practice is not accepted in all Jewish communities. In the Orthodox sects, the few women who choose to wear tallitot are often met with resistance; the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit (the strings that hang from the bottom of a tallit) is neither forbidden nor encouraged for women to perform. However, as with many other time-bound mitzvot (like wearing tefillin) women have traditionally not been obligated to perform them, and therefore have not.
Only recently has it become common practice for women in liberal Jewish communities to wear tallitot. However, a generation of young Jewish women now receive tallitot at the age of 13, like their male equivalent. In liberal Ashkenazi communities especially, it is a tradition to give a girl her first tallit at her Bat Mitzvah ceremony. The tallit is presented to the girl usually by parents or other close family members. This sometimes has become a fairly long presentation, involving explanations of the mitzvah of wearing the tallit and personal remarks. The girl then drapes the tallit over her shoulders and reads the blessing for wearing a tallit: “Blessed are you, Lord our God, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to wrap ourselves in the tzitzit.”
Because of the amount of tallit options on the market, it may be overwhelming for a Bat Mitzvah girl to choose her first tallit. She can choose based on her favorite color or the tallit’s visual fit with her Bat Mitzvah dress, as there are tallitot made for women with all types of color combinations. However, the fabric of the tallit makes just as significant of an impression as the color. Popular options for girls are painted silk, raw silk, and organza.