Could the silk tallet make a comeback?

da-costa-tallet.jpg

Tallet corner with the arms of the da Costa family

Historically the tallet was most commonly made of wool or linen, and to this day in many orthodox Ashkenazi and Eastern Sephardi communities, wool remains the fabric of choice, mainly due to an opinion that only these two materials fulfill the original Torah command (others being only a rabbinical addition).

However, in Western Sephardi and Italian communities with access to the silk route luxuriant, lightweight silk tallets became the tradition, as a way of honouring and beautifying the mitzvah.

These silk tallets were often personalized for their owners with elaborately decorated squares at each corner, emphasizing the four fringes.

 

tallet_cropped (2)

Silk tallets worn at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London

As silk became prohibitively expensive and rayon and other artificial fibers were created, a split occurred:
1) Some authorities pointed out that so-called “artificial fibers” were technically not “fibers” at all, and therefore that fabrics made with them could not be used for a tallet.
2) Others, taken with the similarity of the new fabric to silk, adopted it anyway.

Today “art silk” tallets are used in many modern orthodox communities while in other orthodox circles the woolen tallet has been re-adopted.

With this change has also come a change in the proportions of the tallet (the woolen versions tend to be more square than oblong), resulting in a change in the way the tallet is worn (flipped back over each shoulder rather than shawl-like as in the above engraving). For more details about this change see my article here.

Recently, in part due to social media connecting like-minded people from around the globe, and in part due to a greater awareness of halacha, there has been a renewed interest in obtaining tallets made with genuine – rather than artificial – silk.

There are currently two options that I am aware of, described below.

1) The Pavoncello-Piperno Talled di Seta

italian tallet with arms

Talled di Seta Macrame fringes, and corner customized with a family crest

I have had the pleasure of being in contact with Celeste Pavoncello-Piperno and her daughters Sofia and Dora, who have been producing what I can only describe as utterly magnificent genuine silk tallets in Italy for the last few years.

The Pavoncello-Piperno family is steeped in a tradition of hiddur mitzvah, owning a number of family ketubot of great historical and artistic value that are on display in the Jewish Museum of Rome.

They showed me not only the two sizes of tallet that they manufacture, but also examples of beautifully embroidered corners and tallet cases that they can supply.

See a video (in Italian) about the manufacturing process here.

Sizes: The talled di seta comes in two sizes:
Classic: 80 x 200 cm (this is the size of my great-uncle’s silk tallet, which we have)
Large: 160 x 200 cm

20171105_102316.jpg

The edges of the tallet are hemmed by hand

Hemmed: The edges of the tallet are meticulously hemmed all around by hand (see photo). I believe this is necessary because the fabric is woven on a wide loom and cut to size, while the old tallets were woven on a loom the width of the tallet.

Macramé tassles: The impressive Macramé fringes (see photo above) are hand tied in Italy and represent a significant part of the cost.

Silk Tsitsit: A limited supply of pure silk tsitsit, made under the supervision of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, are available at an extra cost. These are really special, since although woolen tsitsit are allowed on a silk tallet, silk tsitsit take the hiddur mitzvah to another level.

Colours: The standard Talled di Seta has medium blue stripes, but they have recently added a choice of six colours: a lighter blue, two greens, and two reds.

tallet colours2

Customisation: Talled di Seta are happy to personalise your tallet in a number of ways, for an extra charge:

  • Custom embroidery on the back of the tallet – following the Italian custom
  • No “collar” (atara) – following the S&P custom (described here)
  • Custom embroidered corners with your initials, family crest or elaborate monogram – I supplied my own design
  • Initials or custom embroidery on the case (the case itself comes in limited choice of fabrics and is included in the price)
  • Custom width – This is available for bulk orders only. I requested 110 x 200 cm, as although I’m not a big chap  (5’4″) I sometimes need to wear my tallet over a top hat for Birkat Kohanim and blowing the Shofar. For me the standard size was a bit smll but the bigger size too bulky.

The overall finish is nothing short of exquisite. Smooth and – well silky, with a classic tight weave. Lightweight and cool. A real pleasure to wear.

Prices: This is definitely a luxury item and the prices are not for the faint of heart:
Classic (80 x 200 cm): €450
Large (160 x 200 cm): €850
Silk tzitsit €250 extra

For those who can afford it this is a wonderful way to fulfill genuine hiddur mitzvah.

Telled di Seta website: https://www.talleddiseta.com/tallit
Contact Talled di Seta: info@talleddiseta.com

2) The Ziontalis Silk Tallet

pics012-e1498222882819

Revd. Isaac Lopez of Kingston, Jamaica, 18th Century

The famous tallet manufacturers Ziontalis recently expressed interest in producing a lower cost pure silk tallet, joining in discussions on interested Facebook groups, and even starting their own Facebook page on the subject here.

They did some market research and arrived at four sizes of tallet, although at this stage there is no final decision as to which of the sizes they will be producing.

For now there are also no photos of an actual product, though they say the tallet will be high quality silk with no atara and with hand Macramé edging. The corners will be plain white.

The estimated sizing and pricing supplied by Steven Yaroslawitz of Ziontalis is as follows (I have converted inches and dollars to facilitate comparison):

S1: 24″ x 72″ (61 x 183 cm) $225 (~€193)
L1: 52″ x 72″ (132 x 183 cm) $300 (~€257)

S2: 38″ x 81″ (96 x 206 cm) $250 (~€214)
L2: 60″ x 81″ (152 x 206 cm) $350 (~€300)

Steve also says he is investigating the possibility of producing silk tsistiot.

Ziontalis website: http://www.ziontalis.com/PURE_SILK_TALETS.html
Contact Ziontalis: steven@ziontalis.com

3) Other options

As far as I know there are currently no other options available for tight-weave genuine silk tallets. Loose-weave tallets – which have an altogether different texture – are available from some outlets for cottage crafts in Israel, but that is not the subject of this post.

 

Advertisements

One thought on “Could the silk tallet make a comeback?

  1. Steven Yaroslawitz

    Hello, this is Steven Yaroslawitz of ZionTalis mfg company established in 1920. The update is as follows: Within the last few weeks due to our social networking and direct emails to several S&P Synagogues we have obtained significant orders to start the process of weaving the high quality Pure Silk to be used for our Talits. Our prices will be less than half of the aforementioned competitors from Italy. Our quality & design has been inspired by the original Talets in the museum & worn by Rabbi Lopez of Kingston Jamaica back in the 1700’s. We can afford to keep the cost reasonable due to the fact that we own the mill & production facilities. We as well want to offer the Talets at a price where they are affordable. Our Pure Silk Talet will be of the highest quality & too have hand Macreme decorative fringe. The Tzizit will be tied according to the S&P tradition. Please check out FaceBook page or contact me at steven@ziontalis.com – Thank you

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s