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There is a widespread custom to have a tallit designated exclusively for Shabbat use.1 In order to distinguish between the weekday tallit and the Shabbat tallit, the Shabbat tallit is often more beautiful, of higher quality, or perhaps more mehudar in its halachic specifications. The idea of having a Shabbat tallit likely originated in the Talmudic teaching that one should have a separate set of clothes for Shabbat.2 The custom is also mentioned in the Yerushalmi,3 as well as in the works of the Gaonim, which illustrates how ancient the custom of having a separate Shabbat tallit actually is.4

There is also a widespread custom not to fold one’s tallit on Shabbat.5 Those who follow this custom generally fold their tallitot following the recitation of Havdalah in order to begin the new week with the performance of a mitzvah.6 Others fold it immediately upon the conclusion of Shabbat (or immediately upon returning home from the synagogue), even before reciting Havdalah. There is also a custom to fold one’s tallit while reciting v’hi noam at Ma’ariv, in order to demonstrate that until this time weekday activities were forbidden and are now permissible once more.7

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The rush to fold one’s tallit soon after Shabbat has ended is based on the Kabbalistic teaching that an unfolded tallit attracts klippot, impure spiritual forces. One who has unnecessarily delayed folding one’s Shabbat tallit should first shake it vigorously before folding it in order to expel these klippot.8 One should never leave a tallit unfolded overnight.9 Folding one’s tallit promptly following the conclusion of Shabbat is said to be a segula for one’s wife to live a long life.10 It is also said to be a segula for shalom bayit. It is taught that one should always fold one’s tallit oneself, as allowing someone else to fold it is said to affect one’s mazal.11

It is likely that all the Motzaei Shabbat tallit-folding folklore developed out of a concern that folding a tallit is a forbidden Shabbat activity. As the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata states: “One must not fold a garment or cloth back into already existing creases.… Consequently, one should not fold a tallit or a tablecloth into its previous creases.… Any article may be folded if one takes care not to fold it into its original creases but one should refold it into its normal creases after Shabbat.”12

There is also a concern that folding a tallit on Shabbat might be a violation of hachana, the prohibition of doing something on Shabbat in preparation for another day, even for the next Shabbat. Since one does not use one’s Shabbat tallit once the morning services have concluded, folding away the tallit is essentially in preparation for the next Shabbat. This would be a violation of hachana. Nevertheless, as one will note from the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata citation, it is completely permissible to fold one’s tallit on Shabbat in a manner that does not follow the original creases of the garment.13

It might just be that the original ban against folding on Shabbat no longer applies and therefore one could, and maybe even should, fold one’s tallit Shabbat morning. This is because the folding of the Talmudic era was a different, more professional form of folding than is commonly done today.14 The routine folding that we do today is merely for neatness and is likely not included in the original prohibition. As such, a number of authorities permit folding on Shabbat in general, and folding one’s tallit on Shabbat in particular, in the same manner that one does on any other day.15 Rabbi Moshe Feinstein permits one to fold one’s tallit on Shabbat and to put it away in its bag even if one does not intend to wear it again that day. Among the reasons for Rabbi Feinstein’s leniency is that most people do not want others to use their tallitot without permission, and folding away one’s tallit ensures that this does not happen. Similarly, there may also be concerns for theft that warrant folding one’s tallit and returning it to its bag.16

Based on the above, folding one’s tallit and taking it home after the Shabbat morning services can be considered an act of storage and security and not one of hachana. He also defends the practice by noting that a folded tallit is simply easier and more convenient to carry home. There are also a number of authorities who permit folding a tallit on Shabbat based on the consideration that leaving a tallit unfolded for the duration of Shabbat is unbecoming and disrespectful to the mitzvah of tzitzit.17

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  1. Maharil, cited in Magen Avraham, OC 300; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 300:4.
  2. Shabbat 113a. See Yesodei Yeshurun, vol. 1, p. 78.
  3. Peah 8:7.
  4. Sheiltot 1.
  5. Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 300:4.
  6. Derech Hachaim 97:12. Folding one’s tallit or otherwise tending to ritual objects is considered to be “a mitzvah” for this purpose.
  7. Kitzur Shla, Motzaei Shabbat.
  8. Midrash Talpiot, Havdalah, p. 159, cited in Chikrei Minhagim, vol. 1, p. 138.
  9. Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 300:9; Piskei Teshuvot 299:5; Ben Ish Chai, Noach.
  10. Ta’amei Haminhagim 947; Minhagei Yeshurun 25:2.
  11. Yafeh L’lev, OC 3:18.
  12. Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 15:44:46.
  13. Aruch HaShulchan, OC 302:12.
  14. Shabbat 113a.
  15. Kol Bo, cited in Beit Yosef, OC 302; Aruch HaShulchan, OC 302:12; Yechave Da’at 2:40; Or Yitzchak 130.
  16. Igrot Moshe, OC 5:20. For much more on this see Rivevot Ephraim 1:229, 2:106.
  17. Kaf Hachaim, OC 14:24, 32; Devar Chevron 2:285. See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch – Toledano 170:10; Emek Yehoshua 1:13, 42.
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Rabbi Ari Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He teaches halacha, including semicha, one-on-one to people all over the world, online. He is also the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (9 volumes), the rabbinic director of United with Israel, and a rebbe at a number of yeshivot and seminaries. Questions and feedback are welcomed: rabbiari@hotmail.com.