The Tallit Project

Braiding the Generations: Tying-the-Tzitzit Ritual

"That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of Adonai….Thus you shall be reminded to observe all My commandments and to be holy to your God."
Numbers 15:39-40

Tying tzitzit with your grandchild can be a beautiful and meaningful experience, a way of weaving together the generations. Even if you decide not to tie tzitzit, you can easily adapt the ritual and readings below to mark your grandchild trying on their tallit in anticipation of their B-Mitzvah. Together, consider the significance of the tzitzit as a way to connect with each other and to Jewish tradition.    

Performing the mitzvah of wearing a tallit for the first time is a significant moment for a B-Mitzvah. The mitzvah of the tzitzit, the strings at the four corners of the tallit, is at the heart of the tallit’s importance. The tallit can be imbued with even more meaning if the B-Mitzvah joins with grandparents and parents in tying the tzitzit onto the tallit’s four corners, enhancing the physical act with a spiritual dimension: braiding the generations together.

The mitzvah of tzitzit is as ancient as the Torah itself, but rituals around tying the tzitzit are relatively new. In the book Inventing Jewish Ritual, Vanessa L. Ochs writes: 

“A tallit service, there’s no such thing,” I hear my grandfather say. . . [But] Torah is not in heaven alone, not with my grandparents, and not even with God. When we proceed to innovate Jewish rituals with the best intentions: love, respect, learning, integrity, and responsibility for Jewish communities, Torah is here, with us."

In that spirit, we invite you to try out the ritual below. Modify it for your family’s needs and imbue it with your own personal intentions. Tying the tzitzit can be an intimate, bonding experience in which family members work together to create an heirloom that will last for generations. 

Preparing for the Ritual

  1. Purchase or make a tallit. With your B-Mitzvah grandchild, choose a tallit whose design or colors represent the teen and your family. If you purchase the tallit from a store or online, request that the tzitzit be included but untied. If you make the tallit yourself, you can purchase the tzitzit strings separately online or from a Judaica shop. 
  2. Consider who will partner with the B-Mitzvah to tie the tzitzit on each corner. Consider whether you want to tie the tzitzit on one, two, three, or all four corners. The B-Mitzvah can tie the tzitzit with parents, grandparents, siblings, other family members, or friends. Tying tzitzit together can be a special way to include parents or grandparents of a different faith in the B-Mitzvah rituals.
  3. Learn how to tie tzitzit. Tying tzitzit can be complicated and requires concentration. Review instructions together before the day of the ritual. This video offers step-by-step instructions. You may also want to consult this blog post
  4. Plan the timing and participants. The tzitzit-tying ritual can take place at any time that works for the family—weeks or even months before the B-Mitzvah ceremony. Make this a small, private ritual including only the B-Mitzvah teen, grandparent(s), parent(s), siblings, or whomever the B-Mitzvah feels closest to.
  5. Setup. On the day of the ritual, spread out the tallit and sets of strings on a table. The longest thread of the tzitzit is called the shamash, which means “helper” or “attendant” (just like the candle in the hanukkiyah!). Designate one person to be the instructor to ensure that everyone understands the process. Keep the link to the instructional video on hand to watch together during the ritual.

Ritual Steps

All of the readings referred to in “Before Tying Tzitzit” and “Tying Tzitzit” below appear in a special “Readings” section at the end.

Before Tying Tzitzit

  1. Participants may begin by holding hands around the table or standing close together, taking a moment to breathe deeply and silently concentrate on the meaning of the ritual for themselves. The B-Mitzvah may focus on counting: how they have progressed to this moment in their lives. The person holding the shamash thread might think about what it means to be a helper, or more metaphorically, the strand that holds the family together. 
  2. Depending on the number of participants, each individual or small group holds one corner of the tallit. 
  3. Before beginning the tzitzit tying, the grandparent holds up one of the shamash threads (the longest thread, which may be blue) and recites the “Tzitzit-Tying Kavanah [Intention] for a Grandparent” below. Feel free to personalize the readings for your family.
  4. The B-Mitzvah then recites the “Tzitzit-Tying Kavanah [Intention] for a B-Mitzvah” below.
  5. Participants may choose to recite the “Traditional Kavanah [Intention] for Tying Tzitzit”  below. 

Tying Tzitzit

  1. Follow the instructions for tying tzitzit. Enjoy the intimacy of the experience. Use it as a meditative time, a time to come together in the midst of B-Mitzvah-planning stress. As you count the windings together, cherish this time of bonding and focus.
  2. After the tying is complete, invite all participants to take turns reciting the stanzas of “Holiness at the Edges” by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat.
  3. Grandparent(s) and parent(s) spread open the tallit above the head of the B-Mitzvah and together recite the priestly blessing.
  4. Grandparent(s) and parent(s) wrap the tallit around the teen’s shoulders.

    With hands on the teen’s shoulders, recite “Wrapped in Love: A Grandparent’s Tallit Blessing for a Grandchild,” by Hila Ratzabi. You might also choose to prepare in advance your own personal blessings to recite at this point. You might use some of the refrains from “Wrapped in Love” as starting points (for example, “We hold you…,” “May this tallit remind you…,” “May you remember…”).

    Consider choosing from these prompts:

    1. What am I passing on to my grandchild today?
    2. What images come to mind when I think of wrapping the tallit around my grandchild?
    3. What blessings do I want to offer my grandchild?
    4. The purpose of tzitzit is to serve as reminders of the mitzvot. What do I want my grandchild to remember from this experience of donning the tallit for the first time? What do I wish my grandchild as they move forward into their Jewish adulthood?

  1. The B-Mitzvah recites the traditional blessing upon donning a tallit.
  2. Wrapped in the tallit, the B-Mitzvah takes a few steps forward, preparing to enter life as a Jewish adult.
  3. Grandparent(s) and/or parent(s) recite “Tomorrow,” by Steve Pollack. This is another place in the ritual where it would be appropriate to add personal blessings for the B-Mitzvah teen.
  4. Optional: After the ritual is complete, the grandparent(s) can share stories about their own B-Mitzvah, if they had one. Some prompts for the grandparent: How did you feel on the day of your B-mitzvah? Who was with you? Do you remember what you wore? What stood out to you on that day? Did things go exactly as planned or were there any surprises? What was the celebration like? What did your tallit look like? If you tied your own tzitzit, how did you feel while doing so?


Tzitzit-Tying Kavanah [Intention] for a Grandparent

Today we are braiding the generations together. The longest thread of the tzitzit is called the shamash, which means “helper” or “attendant.” Like the shamash candle that offers its light to the other Hanukkah candles, this thread symbolizes the responsibility of each generation to nurture, care for, and teach the next generation.

As I hold this thread in my hand, I feel the sacred honor of passing on Jewish traditions, knowledge, culture, and values l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation. As I wrap this thread around the rest, I feel my ancestors here with us today, their light and blessings weaving through us all. May my child [children] and grandchild [grandchildren] always feel tied close to our family, our ancestors, and our traditions. May we be braided together in this sacred ritual.

Tzitzit-Tying Kavanah [Intention] for a B-Mitzvah

By Hila Ratzabi

I am taking up these threads
with the holy intention
of tying tzitzit
which will remind me
of God and of my traditions.

Traditional Kavanah [Intention] for Tying Tzitzit

L’shem mitzvat tzitzit. In the name of the mitzvah of tzitzit.

Holiness at the Edges

by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Torah instructs us
to tie tzitzit on the corners of our garment
so that we may look upon them
and remember the mitzvot.

Mitzvot are connections
which link us with Torah
and link us with God
and link us with our ancestors.

Tzitzit adorn the edges
of our prayer shawls
as mezuzot adorn the edges
of our doorways.

We find holiness at the edges
between day and night
between inside and outside
between childhood and adulthood.

When you wrap yourself in this tallit
may you feel enfolded
in the loving embrace
of the Divine.

When you notice your tzitzit
may you be reminded
to lead a life of mitzvot
and awareness.

Priestly Blessing

Masculine language

יְבָרֶכְךָ יְיָ וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ

Y’varechcha Adonai v’yishm’recha.

May God bless you and keep you.

יָאֵר יְיָ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ

Ya’eir Adonai panav eilecha vichuneka

May God make God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

יִשָׂא יְיָ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם.

Yisa Adonai panav eilecha v’yaseim l’cha shalom.

May God cause God’s face to be always before you and bring you peace.

Feminine language

יְבָרֶכְךְ ײַ וְיִשְׁמְרֶךְ

Yvarechech Adonai v’yishmarech

May God bless you and keep you.

יָאֵר ײַ פָּנָיו אֵלַיִךְ וִיחֻנֶּךְ

Ya’eir Adonai panav eilayich vichunech

May God make God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

יִשָּׂא ײַ פָּנָיו אֵלַיִךְ וְיָשֵׂם לָךְ שָׁלוֹם

Yisa Adonai panav eilayich v’yasem lach shalom

May God cause God’s face to be always before you and bring you peace.

And let us say: Amen.

Non-binary language

יְבָרֶכְךֶ ײַ וְיִשְׁמְרֶךֶ

Yivarecheche Adonai v’yishmareche 

May God bless you and keep you.

יָאֵר ײַ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךֶ וִיחֻנֶּךֶּ

Ya’eir Adonai panav eileche vichuneke 

May God make God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

יִשָּׂא ײַ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךֶ וְיָשֵׂם לְךֶ שָׁלוֹם

Yisa Adonai panav eileche v’yasem leche shalom

May God cause God’s face to be always before you and bring you peace.

Wrapped in Love: A Grandparent’s Tallit Blessing for a Grandchild

by Hila Ratzabi

Today we wrap this tallit around you for the first time
Passing on this mitzvah from generation to generation
Tying the knots in an unbreakable chain of tradition.
But once you become a B-Mitzvah this ritual will be yours
You will add to it your own flair, your own prayers
Making it your own.
Today, though, before you take one step closer to your adult self
We hold you in this moment
In the tallit’s embrace.
We hold the memory of cradling you as a baby
We hold you in the glow of childhood
And the wonder of what comes next.
May this tallit remind you that you are always wrapped in love
Safe under the protective wings of the Shechinah
May you remember this moment.
Remember, when you wrap yourself in the tallit,
That we will always be there, holding you,
And you will always be wrapped in our love.

Blessing on Donning a Tallit

.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ, מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּֽנוּ לְהִתְעַטֵּף בַּצִּיצִת

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, 

Melech ha’olam,
kid’shanu b’mitzvotav
V’tzivanu l’hitateif batzitzit.

Praised are you, Adonai our God,
Ruler of the universe,
Who has sanctified us with your mitzvot
And commanded us to wrap ourselves in tzitzit.


by Steve Pollack

Look back only for as long as you must,
Then go forward into the history you will make.
—Alberto Rios

No need to dwell in the past those sights and sounds those stories behind you, collected memories of a thousand generations are within you, inscribed in blood and in bone, inspiration in your ears.

Your birthright renews every breath: the song of Miriam at the Red Sea, the voice of thunder atop Mount Sinai

Only good passes through history’s intricate sieve, the most fine. Yesterday’s remembered wrongs must cease, so, do good this day and tomorrow, for at this moment, you are why those who came before ever lived.

Go forward with all the strength you need, with a passionate light with a message that reaches for stars.

Go with the hope of heaven with applause of ancestors with radiant joy of grandchildren.