Saturday, October 4, 2008

What's them strings hangin' out, Rabbi?

So one of my regular reads, Casey ( wrote about Mormon undergarments, and it made me think of the number of times my DH has been asked about his "garment". So, here I am to de-mystify the underwear of the Orthodox man (at least kind of).
All OJ's wear a 4 cornered garment of some kind with strings/tassels/friendship-bracelet-looking-things attached to each corner. Here's a picture:

The main part is called a Tallit Katan, and the strings are called tzit-tzit. The cloth can be anything other than linen. My husband prefers traditional wool, but many men wear t-shirt like material or even the kind of nylon net that football jerzees are made from. The strings are made from tightly wound wool. Some people wear all white, some add in a blue string. All white is most common, the blue thing is kind of controversial, but too big of an argument to get into here. The strings are tied in a prescribed manner, which differs by community. As the garment is holy, it is not worn next to the skin, but over a t-shirt, or completely outside your regular clothes. Also, most men pull the strings to hang outside their pants if their shirt is tucked in, as having the strings (which are tied in a way that numerically represents the Holy Name) by your underwear isn't the best idea.
All that being said, the garment itself is believed to have given rise to the rumor that OJ's can't see each other in *ahem* intimate moments. The idea of trying to reproduce through a hole in a sheet is kind of funny to me, but when gentiles see this big piece of fabric with a hole in the middle (hello, it looks like a poncho!) hanging from the laundry line of their Jewish neighbors, I guess there was some speculation. Actually, the opposite is true. Nothing can be in the way, not even socks. So there you go. Mystery solved.

I'm thinking about doing a series of these, so if you've always wondered something about Jews, send me an email or leave a comment and I'll try to address it. I know you all have questions...I see the way folks in America look at us in the grocery store....


moosh in indy. said...

Amen Sister (Or, uh, Mazel tov?) Jewish people fascinate me too. So much history and tradition. Yet the closest I've gotten to learning everything?
Fiddler on the Roof.
I know.

Rhea said...

How interesting! I had no idea everyone was going around with these special undergarments, such as OJ's and Mormons. I'm learning a lot between Moosh in Indy and you!

The contradictions between the two religions is interesting...Mormons needing to wear it next to their skin, Jews not. Weird.

the rabbi's wife said...

Casey-Amen started with us, you stole it! here's the funniest thing: I just told my DH last week that it's been a year since I heard anyone compare Jews to Fiddler. *sigh* now you can say you know a bit more and have an OJ FOTI.

rhea-Jews are very careful with anything that represents the Name of G-d, because according to scripture, He and His name are one. By us, even the worn out Strings get buried in a respectful way rather than just tossed in the trash. My LDS friend once told me that they used their worn out Garments for cleaning rags (they must have worn the cotton kind), which would never happen with a Tallit Katan.

White Hot Magik said...

Hi, stopping by via Casey's. What an interesting blog you have. I love how blogging gives me glimpses of life around the world into the lives of people and cultures not found out here in the deserts of New Mexico.

Angel said...

Very interesting! I am looking forward to more of this "series".=)

Pooh said...

I just wanted to say that there are symbolic parts of the LDS garment (they are embroidered into the fabric), just as the tzit tzit are symbolic. Before any Mormon would use their garments for cleaning rags, the garment is destroyed by removing the symbols, and those parts are rendered unrecognizable so that they cannot be desecrated. Once the garment is thus destroyed, the remaining fabric is no longer sacred, sort of like when a church has been decommissioned and is used for another purpose.

I'm another LDS girl who finds Jewish culture fascinating. I've learned a lot by reading Chaim Potok novels. I hope they are as accurate as they seem to be!

the rabbi's wife said...

That's interesting. My friend never told me what they did before, just that that's how they ended up. Her mom was also WAY thrifty. When ours are worn out, they are buried respectfully with other worn out religious articles.
Chaim Potok novels are great literature...but not so accurate about what life inside our community is like. He actually has a pretty strong anti-orthodox viewpoint.