Is it proper to keep the Tzitzit of one’s Tallit Katan inside his clothing, or should he expose them?
Twice in his presentation of the laws of Tzitzit (8:11, 24:1), the Shulchan Aruch writes that the Tallit Katan should be worn over one’s clothing, so that he sees the Tzitzit at all times and thereby be reminded of the Mitzvot. According to the Shulchan Aruch, the entire garment of the Tallit Katan should be worn over one’s outermost garments (like many Chasidim do today).
The Mishna Berura (8:26; commentary to the Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, the “Chafetz Chayim,” Lithuania, 1835-1933) strongly condemns the practice of those who tuck the Tzitzit inside their pants, rather than leave them exposed (listen to audio for precise citation). He writes that doing so not only undermines the purpose of Tzitzit – “you shall see them and remember all the commandments of God” (Bamidbar 15:39) – but also denigrates the Mitzva. The Mishna Berura adds that a person who received a garment as a gift from a king would proudly expose it for all to see; all the more so, then, should one make a point of exposing the Tzitzit. Those who conceal them, the Mishna Berura writes, will one day make an accounting for this shameful practice.
However, the view of the Arizal (famed Kabbalist, Israel, 1534-1572), as recorded and understood by his student, Rabbi Chayim Vital (Israel-Syria, 1542-1620), and by the Chid”a (Rabbi Chayim Yosef David Azulai, Israel, 1724-1806), was that the Tallit Katan – both the garment and the Tzitzit strings – should not be exposed. Chacham Ovadia Hadaya (Israel, 1890-1969), in his work Yaskil Avdi, cites other Kabbalists who followed this view, as well.
Therefore, Sepharadim, who generally follow the laws and customs of the Kabbalists, should keep their Tzitzit tucked into their garments. Chacham Bentzion Abba Shaul Z”L (Jerusalem, 1924-1998) cited his mentor, Chacham Ezra Attia Z”L (head of the renowned Yeshivat Porat Yosef in Jerusalem), as remarking that any Sepharadi that exposes his Tzitzit denigrates and casts aspersions on the previous generations of Sepharadim, who followed the practice of keeping the Tzitzit concealed. Rabbi Yehuda Tzadka Z”L (who served as Rosh Yeshiva along with Chacham Ezra Attia Z”L) testified that the esteemed Rabbi Yaakov Chaim Sofer (1870-1939), author of Kaf Ha’chayim Sofer, likewise kept his Tzitzit inside his clothing. The same is said about the prominent Kabbalist Rabbi Efrayim Cohen Z”L, and this is the ruling of Chacham Ovadia Yosef, in his work Yechaveh Da’at (2:1).
Thus, in the spirit of the rule “Al Titosh Torat Imecha” (“Do not abandon your mother’s teaching” – Mishlei 1:8, 6:20), Sepharadim should follow the time-honored tradition to wear their Tallit Katan and the Tzitzit strings inside their clothing, rather than expose them. It should be noted that Halacha permits allowing the Tzitzit strings to come in contact with one’s skin, and one is thus not required to keep them in his pockets or tie them in such a way that they would not touch his skin.
Please consult your Local Rabbi.
Adopted from the class of Rabbi Eli Mansour