Bat Mitzvah Tallit

While in Orthodox Judaism, it is generally not acceptable for women and girls to don tallitot (Jewish prayer shawls), the reconstructionist, reform, and conservative branches of Judaism have in the past years seen an increasing amount of girls and women choosing to wear tallitot during prayer.

According to halakhah (Jewish law), women are neither expressly forbidden nor commanded to fulfill the mitzvah (commandment) of wearing a tallit. As this mitzvah is time-bound (tallitot are to be worn during the day-time) woman are not commanded to fulfill it. However, neither are they prohibited from fulfilling it. This ambiguity has encouraged many rabbis to allow or even promote the wearing of tallitot during prayer by women and girls.

In many liberal Ashkenazi communities, 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.”

With the recent growth of the women’s tallit market, girls don’t have to wear tallitot designed for men, and have the option of picking a tallit designed in their favorite color scheme and with their favorite decorations. A popular option for Bat Mitzvah-aged girls is silk tallitot. These dyed or painted tallitot are great for girls who love a certain color or are looking for a specific color combination to match their Bat Mitzvah dress. Many silk tallitot are dyed a color such as pink or turquoise and then decorated with Jewish symbols or a landscape of Jerusalem. Like all tallitot, tallitot designed from girls and women include an atara, the area that rests behind the neck, and tzitzit, the knotted strings that hang from the body of the tallit.

When choosing a tallit with or for a Bat Mitzvah girl, remember that tallitot can last a lifetime, so make sure your tallit will age well with time and be equally suitable for an adult woman.