Women’s Tallit – Reexamining the Tradition

Although many Jewish women today wear women’s tallit, it is not a practice that is approved by everyone in the Jewish community. Women are not required to keep time bound commandments and therefore they are not required to wear the tallit. However many non-Orthodox and Reformed synagogues allow both men and women to read from the Torah as well as lead prayer services. Girls are also allowed to celebrate bat mitzvah for which her parents usually gives her a tallit. With all this modern day egalitarianism, why is it still frowned upon for women to wear tallitot?

There are several reasons why many Orthodox Jews feel women should not wear tallitot. Some feel that the tallit is a man’s garment. With the law that states men and women should not wear clothing of the opposite sex, they feel that a woman who wears tallit is violating that law. Others feel that when women wear the prayer shawl that they are, in fact, protesting against the perceived inequality between the sexes. While it is true that some women do wear women’s tallit because only men are allowed to read from Torah and lead prayer service, thus invalidating the purpose of the tallit, not all women do so.

Still some Jewish folk don’t like the attention women draw to themselves when they wear tallit. There is even an argument that because tallit is required of men and not women that the blessings do not work for women. Therefore, the wearing of tallit is pointless. While some of these are valid arguments, the fact remains that more and more women are choosing to wear tallitot. To combat some of the points raised, most women make sure and wear women’s tallit or prayer shawls designed specifically for females. This negates the argument that they are wearing men’s clothing as well as the argument that they do so out of spite.

The question of whether the tallit works for women probably comes down to the reason why she is wearing it in the first place. If a Jewish woman is wearing women’s tallit out of spite then it is probably true that she will not receive the blessing from the prayers. On the other hand, if she wears it out of her devotion to God and her commitment to keeping the commandments then there really is no reason she would not receive the blessings. After all even the Jewish bible puts no restrictions on who can wear the tassels, only that all who follow the commandments should.

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