Tallit – From What Age?

Beginning at what age does one wear a large Tallit for prayers?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

There are several different customs regarding this. Sephardic Jews generally wear a tallit starting as soon as a child is old enough to know how to wrap himself in one. This would imply somewhere in the range of 3-7 (several different suggested ages appear in the literature), although a common practice is to begin when the child is old enough to participate in synagogue services (Halacha Berurah 17:3).

Among Ashkenazi Jews, the most common custom is to wear one when one marries (and to continue doing so even if a person God forbid becomes widowed or divorced). One early authority sees an allusion to this in Deuteronomy 22:12-13 - which mentions the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit and then immediately jumps to the topic of marriage. Some, however, have questioned this custom and see no reason why boys from the age of Bar Mitzvah should refrain from fulfilling this mitzvah until they marry (see Mishna Berurah 17:10, Tzitz Eliezer XX 8). (I have even seen the suggestion that it was the grinding poverty in Eastern Europe which hindered people from buy tallit’s for their children at younger ages, and so they settled for the wedding.)

Jews from Germany generally begin wearing a tallit as soon as a child is old enough, as the Sephardic practice. This was the custom of several other parts of Central Europe as well – Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and parts of Hungary (“Oberlander” Jews).

Thus, if your father has an established family custom, you should follow that. If not, you should follow the prevalent practice in your community (if it's homogeneous), or the customs of the teacher who most influenced you to become religious. (See Teshuvos V'Hanhagos I 354.)

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