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A Blessing On Yourk Neck

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Topic: Tallit, Writing around Neck

[Name and e-mail withheld] from Alabama wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Would you please tell me what the writing is around the neck of the tallit (prayer shawl)? Could you please write it in English and in Hebrew/English? I'm not sure I worded that correctly, but what I mean is that I can't read the Hebrew writing too well. Thanks!

Dear [Name and email withheld],

Before putting on a tallit, we say the following blessing: "Baruch Ata Ado-noi Elo-heiynu Melech ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hitatef batzitzit" which means "Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe, Who made us holy with His commandments and commanded us to wrap ourselves in a tallit."

Recently, some people began writing this blessing on the neck of the tallit. This has a practical advantage for someone who doesn't know the blessings by heart: He can hold up the tallit, read the blessing and then put it on. Traditionally, however, the tallit has no writing on it. Indeed, Maimonides in one of his letters maintains that it is forbidden to embroider verses from the Torah and blessings on a tallit. One reason he gives is that a person may inadvertently wear the tallit in a place like a bathroom, where it is forbidden to bring written words of Torah.

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