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Cutting Tzitzit Strings

I just tied my own tzitzit, but some of the strings came out much too long. Is there anything wrong with just cutting them down with a pair of scissors?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

There is actually a custom not to cut tzitzit strings with metal. There is a very interesting basis for this. The Torah states regarding an altar that it must be made out of whole stones – ones which iron was never “waved on” (Deuteronomy 27:5-6). The reason, as the Talmud explains, is because iron is used to shorten the life of man (through war), while an altar lengthens the life of man – by granting him atonement before God (Mishna Middot 3:4).

Based on this, we do not use metal to cut tzitzit strings, since fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzit may also potentially lengthen a person’s life.

On top of this, there are Kabbalistic reasons that the tzitzit should only be cut with one’s teeth. Thus, ideally, you should shorten them by biting off the ends. If this is difficult, however, it’s fine to cut them via other methods – such as burning the ends or cutting them with any non-metallic instrument, such as a ceramic knife.

(Note that however they’re cut, they should not be shortened down beneath the required length – preferably about 11.5 inches).

(Sources: Rema to Shulchan Aruch O.C. 11:4, Magen Avraham 18 with Machatzis HaShekel, Ta’amei HaMinhagim 19, Shulchan Aruch HaRav 11:24, Kaf HaChaim 11:17, Mishna Berurah 11:61.)

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