What’s With Tzitzit?
Many observant male Jews wear tzitzit –– the white fringes often seen hanging out over their pants — as a reminder of the Torah’s commandments. We learn this from Numbers 15:37-41, which is also the third paragraph of the Shema.
One only needs tzitzit attached to four-cornered garments, which were traditional garb in biblical times. Today, since most people don’t wear four-cornered garments (shirts tend to be round at the bottom), these Jewish men place tzitzit on a four-cornered piece of cloth, which they put under (or in some societies over) their shirts. This cloth or garment is called a talit katan.
Originally, all tzitzit had a blue thread among the other fringes. Today, however, there is debate as to the source of the original blue dye and whether it can be properly replicated. As a result, most people use only white strings.
Any four-cornered garment requires tzitzit, even if it is not the designated talit katan. When putting on tzitzit in the morning, one says a blessing: “Baruch Ata HaShem Elokeinu Melech Haolam Asher Kidishanu B’Misvotav V’tzivanu Al Mitzvat Tzitzit.”
When saying the Shema, pull the tzitzit together, designating the four corners of the world and that God has dominion over all of them.
— Maayan Jaffe