Tallit - Women
On the issue of women wearing a tallit, I understand that women don't generally wear them because they are not required to attend synagogue services 3 times a day. But is there a law forbidding this?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
A tallit is an embellished form of the mitzvah of tzitzit, which are special tassels placed on a four-cornered garment as prescribed by the Torah.
The primary intention of this commandment was to address a particular failing principally found in men - the inclination toward licentious behavior. Physiologists attribute this to many reasons, yet it's obvious to anyone who reads the news that this is the case.
It was to curb this natural drive that God commanded men to wear tzitzit. As the verses tell us, "And you should see them [the tzitzit] and remember not to follow after one's heart and one's eyes" (Numbers 15:39).
Being that this mitzvah was tailored for man's negative inclination, women have traditionally not worn a tallit.
Nevertheless, from a strictly technical standpoint, women may fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit. Ashkenazi women may even recite the blessing.
However, this is discouraged for a few reasons:
Firstly, the Torah forbids women to wear garments that are made specifically for a man, as it is written, "A man's garment shall not be worn by a woman." (Deut. 22:5) The Talmudic Sage, Yonatan Ben Uziel, explains the verse as actually referring to tefillin and tzitzit. Therefore if a woman wore Tefillin and Tzitzit which are men's garments, she would be breaking a Torah commandment.
The great Kabbalist the Arizal wrote that the mitzvah of tzitzit is only and specifically for men. (see Kaf HaChaim 17:5)
Additionally, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein states that in many instances where women do wear Tzitzit, it is political statement of women's rights, as opposed to the desire to fulfill G-d's commands. Since the motivation is fundamentally a complaint against the Sages, and not a truthful desire to serve G-d, these actions do not constitute a mitzvah.
To learn more, read:
• “Halichos Bas Yisrael” by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaacov Fuchs
• "Tzitzith" by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan