– Author: Rav Doron Podlashuk

It is an almost daily occurrence that a chazan uses a tallit belonging to the shul when leading the Mincha service. In Israel, where the kohanim recite birkat kohanim daily, many unmarried Ashkenazi kohanim borrow a tallit from their Sephardic friends to recite the birkat kohanim. Should one recite a beracha over the tallit in such cases? This seemingly simple question is actually very complicated and provides new insight into the nature of the mitzva of tzitzit in general.

The Gemara[1] states: “Rav Yehuda says that concerning a borrowed tallit, for the first thirty days one does not need to place tzitzit on it, but from then onwards one does.” What is unique about thirty days, and why should it make a difference whether one owns the garment or not?

Rav Yehuda’s statement is based upon an interpretation of a pasuk given by the Gemara in Chullin.[2] The Torah states: “You shall make yourself twisted cords upon the four corners of your garment [kesutecha]” (Devarim 22:12). The Gemara infers that the emphasis upon “your garment” indicates that one is obligated to attach tzitzit to the garment only if one owns the garment, but if it is borrowed, one is exempt.

Tosafot[3] explain that mide’oraita, one is exempt from putting tzitzit on a borrowed garment. Rav Yehuda’s ruling that after thirty days one is obligated is due to rabbinic decree, as people will assume that after having the garment for thirty days, it actually belongs to him.[4]

A Borrowed Garment That Already Has Tzitzit on It

Although the Gemara is quite clear as to the halacha regarding a borrowed garment that has no tzitzit on it, the Rishonim debate the halacha where one borrows a tallit that already has tzitzit on it. May or should one recite a beracha on such a tallit? Rav Shimshon[5] holds that if one borrows a tallit with tzitzit on it, one may not recite a beracha for the first thirty days.[6] Similarly, Tosafot[7] state that one should not recite a beracha for the first thirty days. They reason that although in general regarding non- obligatory mitzvot, the ruling of Rabbeinu Tam is accepted that women are permitted to recite a beracha on mitzvot asei shehazeman gerama (time-bound mitzvot) even though they are exempt, this case is not comparable.

לא דמי לטלית שאולה דהתם אדם אחר היה חייב שאינו סומא או שאינה אשה, אבל הכא כל אדם פטור כשאינו שלו ואעפ”כ המברך לא הפסיד.

It [the case of time-bound mitzvot] is not comparable to a borrowed tallit, for there, others who are not blind or women are obligated, but here every person is exempt if it is not his. Even so, one who does recite a beracha has not lost out.

Thus, according to Tosafot, one should not recite a beracha, yet if one did, one has not lost out. Tosafot’s answer needs further clarification.

The Ritva has a radically different understanding of the sugya. He writes:

ולי נראה דלא פטר הכתוב מטעם כסותך אלא בשאינה מצוייצת דכתיב גדילים תעשה לך על כנפי כסותך.

“It seems to me that the exemption based on the verse kesutecha (your garment) only refers to where the garment does not have tzitzit on it, as the verse states: “Tassels shall you make on your cornered garment.”

We find a similar opinion held by the Baal Ha’Ittur. He states:

כסותך למעוטי שאולה, ואף על גב דפטורה, מיהו אטלית בציצת כיון דבת חיובא מברך עלי’ ואיהו נמי חייב ציצת ומחייב לברוכי.

“Your garment,” as opposed to a borrowed garment.  Even though one is exempt, however, regarding a garment that already has tzitzit upon it, since it is a garment that necessitated tzitzit, one can recite a beracha on it, and since the person himself is also obligated in the mitzva, therefore he is obligated to recite a beracha.

According to the Ritva and the Baal Ha’ittur, the need to own the garment is a condition in the making of the cheftza (object), as the pasuk explicitly talks about making the tzitzit; but once it is made, it is a cheftza shel mitzva and anyone can fulfill their obligation with this tallit. Tosafot, on the other hand, understand that the need to own the garment is a condition in the actual performance of the mitzva. Just as if one does not own the garment, one does not need to put tzitzit on it, so too one is not obligated in the mitzva even when wearing a four cornered garment if it does not belong to him.

Rabbeinu Yechiel[8] takes a third approach. He holds that one is not obligated to recite a  beracha on a borrowed tallit but may do so should he desire. He compares this halacha to that of women reciting a beracha on time-bound mitzvot. Just as women may recite a beracha on, e.g., shaking a lulav and etrog, and fulfill the mitzva even though they are not obligated (according to the approach of Rabbeinu Tam), so too, one fulfills a mitzva by wearing a borrowed garment and may recite a beracha.

Let us return to the conclusion of Tosafot that “one who does recite a beracha does not lose out,” which partially accepts the approach of the other Rishonim mentioned here as well. The Ma’adanei Yom Tov[9] explains that Tosafot were unsure of their distinction between a mitzvat asei shehazeman gerama (where they agree a woman may recite a beracha) and a borrowed tallit. Hence, one who relies upon the approach of Rabbeinu Yechiel that there is no distinction and recites a beracha has not lost out, similar to the rule that women may recite berachot on mitzvot asei shehazeman gerama.

The Opinion of the Rosh

The Rosh seems to contradict himself in two different discussions of this issue. In his commentary on Chullin, the Rosh[10] states:

אבל השואל טלית מצוייצת, אדעתא דהכי השאילה לו שיברך עליה. ואם אי אפשר לו לברך אא”כ תהיה שלו הוי כאילו נותנה לו במתנה ע”מ להחזיר.

However if one borrows a garment with tzitzit, then [one may assume that the owner] gave it to him with the assumption that he recite a beracha. Thus, if he cannot recite a beracha unless it belongs to him, it is as if he gave it as a matana al menat l’hachzir – a present on condition to return it.

The Rosh then takes this rationale one step further and states that even if one found someone’s tallit and they are not around, one may use it and recite a beracha, as we assume that the owner would give it to him based on the principle that a person does not mind having his possessions used for a mitzva.[11] The Rosh here agrees with Tosafot in principle that ownership is critical in order to fulfill the mitzva. However, he makes an assumption that one lending the tallit transfers ownership to the borrower in order that he can fulfill the mitzva.

On the other hand, the Rosh writes in his Hilchot Tzitzit[12] that one who borrows a tallit that already has tzitzit must recite a beracha immediately. Here, he does not mention that we assume that the owner gave it to him as a matana al menat l’hachzir. Furthermore, he writes[13] that in Ashkenaz when they would don a tallit for selichot during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva while it was still nighttime, one would borrow the tallit of someone else in order to avoid the safeik of whether one recites a beracha on tzitzit at night. The Rosh states that this solution is erroneous, as since this tallit already has tzitzit upon it, one must recite a beracha on it.[14] He concludes that he found that the Ba’al Ha’Ittur also holds this way. From these halachot, it seems that the Rosh feels that ownership is not a prerequisite for reciting a beracha upon the tallit, but only a condition in making the actual tzitzit.

In summary thus far, we have seen three basic opinions in the Rishonim concerning reciting a beracha upon a borrowed tallit. Some understand that ownership is a required condition in the fashioning of the object. However, once the object is made, one fulfils one’s obligation even if the tallit is borrowed. The Ritva and Ba’al Ha’Ittur, who subscribe to this school, hold that the requirement that the garment belong to the one wearing it only refers to the obligation to place tzitzit strings on the garment – it is a condition for making the object, but not in performing the mitzva. If the garment already has tzitzit, one definitely fulfills the mitzva and is obligated to recite a beracha.

A second school holds that the condition of ownership is critical for the actual performance of the mitzva. This is the approach of Rav Shimshon that since the tallit with tzitzit does not belong to the borrower, he cannot recite a beracha. Tosafot agree to a large extent as well, and rule that one should not recite the beracha lechatchila, but if one did so, one does not lose out. These opinions (Rav Shimshon and Tosafot’s initial opinion) assume that the condition of ownership is critical for performing the mitzva and is not just the making of the cheftza.

A third approach, taken by Rabbeinu Yechiel, holds that although one is exempt from the mitzva, one may recite a beracha, similar to women who recite berachot on mitzvat asei shehazeman gerama.

The Rosh in Chullin adopts the position of the second school, namely, Tosafot and Rav Shimshon. He states there that ownership is critical but adds a halachic assumption that the owner would transfer ownership in order that the borrower be able to fulfill the mitzva. Yet, in his Hilchot Tzitzit, the Rosh does not mention this as a prerequisite and seems to argue the exact opposite, in accordance with the first approach.[15]

The Ruling of the Shulchan Aruch

The Shulchan Aruch[16] rules that if one borrows a garment, one does not need to put tzitzit on it for the first thirty days. However, if one borrowed a tallit that already has tzitzit on it, one recites a beracha on it whenever one wears it.

The Taz[17] understands the Shulchan Aruch to be ruling in accordance with the opinion of the Rosh, that it can be assumed that the owner gave it to him as a matana al menat l’hachzir. This is also the understanding of the Gra. The Taz suggests (based upon the Maharshal) that according to the Shulchan Aruch, if it is clear that one did not lend it for the sake of the mitzva, such as where a person borrowed a tallit to receive an aliya to the Torah and he wears a tallit for purposes of kavod hatzibbur (honor to the congregation), we do not assume that the owner had intent to give it as a matana al menat l’hachzir and he would not recite a beracha in such a case.

The Eliya Rabba[18] argues that the main reason of the Rosh is that once the garment already has tzitzit, one fulfills the mitzva, even if it is borrowed. He understands that this is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch as well, and therefore even if one borrows a tallit just to get an aliya, one would recite a beracha over it.

Comparison Between Tzitzit and Arba Minim

We mentioned that the Taz reasons that according to the Shulchan Aruch, a beracha may be recited on a borrowed tallit based upon the principle of matana al menat l’hachzir. The Taz questions though why this principle is not applied to the case of the arba minim. There, the Rema[19] rules, based upon the Terumat HaDeshen, that one may borrow the lulav of another even without asking only from the second day onwards, as we apply the principle of nicha lei l’adam d’avid mitzva b’mammono, a person is willing to allow his possessions be used to perform a mitzva. However, borrowing in this manner is not permitted on the first day of Sukkot. The Torah states, “ulekachtem lachem bayom harishon,” “you shall take for yourselves on the first day,” which is interpreted to mean that a person must own it to fulfill the mitzva. The Rema holds that concerning the first day, one cannot assume that when taking the lulav of another, the other gives it as a matana al menat l’hachzir and that the borrower actually owns it.

The Taz thus asks that if the requirement of ownership applies both on the first day of Sukkot (for the arba minim) and regarding a tallit, why did the Rema rule that it is permitted to borrow a tallit without permission (due to the assumption that the owner gives it to him al menat l’hachzir), whereas regarding the arba minim we do not make such a distinction?

The Taz distinguishes that in the case of the lulav, there is more of a chance of it getting ruined by the borrower. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that the owner would allow him to take it and acquire as his own (specifically on the first day, where the obligation is de’oraita and people are more pedantic). But regarding a tallit, there is less chance that it would get ruined.

The Magen Avraham[20] also grapples with this difficulty of why one is permitted to recite a beracha on a borrowed tallit (shelo mida’at) due to matana al menat l’hachzir but in the parallel case of arba minim, one may not take it on the first day. He answers that in truth, the reason one may recite a beracha on tzitzit is in accordance with the concluding statement of Tosafot that that one does not lose out if one recites a beracha, similar to mitzvot asei shehazeman gerama (as the Ma’adanei Yom tov explains). It thus seems that the Magen Avraham understands that the Shulchan Aruch does not rule like the Rosh (as the Taz explained), but rather in accordance with the opinion of Tosafot.

In addition to the question raised above, the Taz also presents a second challenge. He asks that if one requests from another to borrow arba minim on the first day of Sukkot and the person gives it him, why do the Shulchan Aruch and Rema rule that one does not fulfill one’s obligation? Surely, one could make the same assumption as regarding tzitzit that although the person asked to borrow it, the owner presumably gave it to him as a matana al menat l’hachzir, since that is the only way he can fulfill his obligation? The Taz leaves this question as a tzarich iyun gadol (it needs a great deal of analysis), and actually rejects the opinion of the Rosh and Shulchan Aruch (as he understands it) in favor of the opinion of the Maharshal, who holds that one should never recite a beracha on a borrowed tallit.

Rav Natan Gestetner[21] offers a different answer. He explains that the nature of the obligation of ownership is different concerning tzitzit and the arba minim. Regarding tzitzit, the main obligation is created when a person wears a four cornered garment. The Torah simply made a clause that the garment must belong to the person for the obligation to be activated. However, regarding arba minim, the Torah states “lachem,” indicating that ownership is a critical part of the mitzva and not just a side clause.

However according to the Eliya Rabba, the question does not even begin. In his opinion, since the requirement of ownership is not critical if the garment already has tzitzit, there is no comparison to the laws of arba minim, where the Torah requires that it belongs to the person shaking it on the first day.

Halacha L’ma’aseh

The Mishna Berura[22] rules that if one borrows a tallit to receive an aliya to the Torah or to be a chazan, or recite birkat kohanim, since one is not borrowing it in order to fulfill  the mitzva of tzitzit, but in order to honor the Torah or the community, one does not recite a beracha. This is because we do not assume that the lender gave it to the borrower in order to fulfill the mitzva, and therefore there is no matana al menat l’hachzir. But the Mishna Berura also quotes other Acharonim that argue and therefore rules like the Derech HaChaim that one should have intention not to fulfill the mitzva,[23] thereby removing the obligation to recite a beracha according to all.

However, if one uses a tallit that belongs to the shul, the Mishna Berura rules that one should recite the beracha. He explains that they were initially purchased with the intent that anyone who wears it, even just to lead the tefilla, should be considered as owning it during that time.

In contrast to the Mishna Berura, the Piskei Teshuvot[24] cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and the Chazon Ish, among others, who hold that the common practice is not to recite a beracha even on a tallit that belongs to the shul.[25]

[1] Menachot 44a.

[2] Chullin 136a.

[3] Tosafot, Chullin 136a, s.v. tallit she’ula.

[4] Cf. Shiurei HaGrid, Hilchot Stam, siman 31, where Rav Soloveitchik understands that according to the Rambam, the obligation is actually mide’oraita after thirty days.

[5] Quoted in Ritva, Chullin 136a, s.v. tallit.

[6] The Chatan Sofer, Sha’ar Gedilim 20:1, clarifies the reason that a beracha is recited after thirty days in this case. Although we do not usually recite a beracha on actions performed due to marit ayin, which is the reason for putting on tzitzit after thirty days; nevertheless in our case he claims that one recites a beracha. He explains that it is similar to reciting a beracha of shechita on a ben pakua, which is also only done due to marit ayin (see Shulchan Aruch, Y.D. 15:1). He differentiates between these cases, where the situation is unusual and would not be easily explained by others (had there been no requirement for tzitzit after thirty days or of shechita for the ben pakua), and other halachot of marit ayin, such as the requirement to light a Chanuka menora at a second entrance, where others could have easily explained the person’s actions even had he not lit there. Concerning an unusual action, it would be understandable for even a righteous person to question why a person is doing such an action (e.g., it is unusual to wear someone else’s garment for more than thirty days, and it is unusual that an animal is a ben pakua), and therefore a beracha is recited to demonstrate that the person’s actions are justified. But concerning more understandable cases of marit ayin, such as the halacha to light a Chanuka menorah at a second entrance, since reasonable people will assume that the owner lit at the other entrance, one does not recite a beracha.

[7] Tosafot, Chullin 136a, s.v. tallit she’ula.

[8] Piskei Rabbeinu Yechiel MiParis, siman 89

[9] Ma’adanei Yom Tov, Chullin 8:26:20; see also Machatzit HaShekel O.C. 14:3.

[10] Rosh, Chullin 8:26.

[11] Pesachim 4b.

[12] Rosh, Hilchot Tzitzit, siman 10.

[13] Rosh, Hilchot Tzitzit, siman 2.

[14] The Machatzit HaShekel (O.C. 14:6) questions why the Rosh felt that it was an erroneous solution. If the entire reason they borrowed a tallit was to avoid the question of safeik beracha, the owner surely had no intention of giving it as a matana al menat l’hachzir and the borrower had no intention of taking it in such a manner. One can resolve the difficulty by responding that the Rosh here is following a different opinion than the one he suggested in Masechet Chullin, which relies on the notion of matana al menat l’hachzir.

[15] See Bi’urim L’sefer Piskei Rekanati, Hilchot Tzitzit 2, where he clarifies the seeming contradiction in the Rosh.

[16] Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 14:3.

[17] Taz, O.C. 14:3.

[18] Eliya Rabba, O.C. 14:6

[19] Rema, O.C. 649:5

[20] Magen Avraham, O.C. 14:7.

[21] Responsa L’horot Natan 10:4, who discusses further distinctions between these mitzvot.

[22] Mishna Berura, O.C. 14:11.

[23] See Responsa Teshuvot V’hanhagot 2:85, who questions why this would be permitted, as the Bi’ur Halacha (O.C. 60) holds that if one wears tzitzit with intention not to fulfil the mitzva, one is violating a prohibition of wearing a four cornered garment without tzitzit.

[24] Piskei Teshuvot, O.C. 14:7.

[25] He explains that according to these poskim, it is not considered “asher techaseh ba.”

– Length: