Rav Moshe Aberman
Former Rosh Kollel in Chicago
Wearing a Talit for Slichot
On this Saturday night the Ashkenazim begin saying Slichot, which will be said until Yom Kipur (the Sfaradim began with the onset of Elul). Ideally Slichot are to be said before dawn and if that is not possible then any time after midnight. The custom in many communities, for several generations, has been to say slichot after sunrise, though some authorities are of the opinion that if one can not say the slichot after midnight then nighttime is preferable to daytime.
The Tashbetz as quoted by the Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 18) and the Levush cited by the Magen Avraham, are of the opinion that the Shliach Tzibur (Cantor) should wear a talit while Slichot are said. The source of this is a Gemara in Rosh Hashana 17b, which states that God wrapped himself in a talit as a Shliach Tzibur when teaching Moshe the secret of the 13 midot. Since, as would appear from the Gemara, the Thirteen Midot are the heart of the Slichot, it is only appropriate the human Shliach Tzibur wrap himself with a Talit.
When a Talit is worn at night should a bracha be recited?
The answer is dependent on the opinions of the Rambam and Rosh. According to the Rambam when wearing a Talit during the day a bracha is recited, while at night a bracha is not called for. The Rosh is of the opinion that we determine whether or not to recite a bracha according to the purpose for which the garment is used. A garment meant for day use requires a bracha even when worn at night, while a night garment needs no Tzitzit, and so definitely no bracha is recited even if worn with Tzitzit. Since a Talit is viewed as a day garment, a bracha should be recited even when worn at night. The Rama writes “in such situations we should be stringent and refrain from reciteing a bracha”. This, precisely, is the opinion of the Levush: a Talit should be worn for Slichot but no Bracha should be recited.
The Taz is bothered by the Levush’s view as it ignores the Rosh completely. He therefore suggests that one ought not wear his own Talit, or even a public one, but rather borrow a talit from a friend. Since only a garment that belongs to a person requires a bracha, borrowing a talit from someone else would allow the wearing of a talit without the need to recite a bracha. If a talit of another person is not available then a public or a personal talit may be worn but no bracha recited (Shaar Hatziyun note 5).