Small Tallit (Tallit katan)

Some Orthodox Jews wear a small Tallit (Tallit Katan) beneath their everyday clothes. A Tallit Katan differs from a conventional Tallit insofar that it is worn the entire day and not only for specific prayers. A Tallit Katan is usually made from a simple light, rectangular piece of cotton, open on both sides and worn like an undershirt. On its four corners, fringes, or tassels (Tzitzit), are attached, serving the same purpose as those attached to the regular prayer shawls: Their sight is supposed to remind the wearer to observe the Jewish commandments (Numbers 15:39).
Wearing a Tallit Katan is no religious obligation, but a custom. By wearing it, a pious Jew can demonstrate that he sees life as a prayer and endeavors to obey all the religious commandments.

Title: Tallit Katan
Date: First half of the 19thcentury
Material: unbleached linen
Dimensions: 69 x 20 cm (27’’ x 7.9’’)
Creator: unknown
Sponsor: unknown

The textile finds contain more than forty small Tallitot (pl. of Tallit) made of linen, cotton, and recycled garments, some of them crocheted, others knitted. The simple ritual garment shown here consists of two L-shaped counterparts sewn together. All small Tallitot found in the Genizah lack their fringes. Since a Genizah is, in a manner of speaking, a resting place for worn-out Jewish ritual objects, it has been speculated that this was done following the style of burial rites – where the deceased is buried in a Tallit where the fringes have been cut off, to symbolize that the deceased is unable to obey the commandments anymore.

Further Reading:
Wiesner, Linda. “Der Textilfund”. Zeugnisse Jüdischen Lebens In Niederzissen. Genisa-Funde In Der Ehemaligen Synagoge, Falk Wiesemann, Kultur- Und Heimatverein Niederzissen, Niederzissen, 2012.