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Cutting Off Tzitzis Strings

When one needs to replace tzitzit on a garment – is one allowed to cut them off with a shard of glass?

Answer:

There is a custom not to cut tzitzis strings with a metal blade, but rather to bite them off with one’s teeth. However, this custom applies specifically to the preparation of the tzitzis strings, or possibly even to their shortening, and would not appear to apply to cutting them off in order to replace the tzitzis.

In any event, the custom refers specifically to metal, and using a shard of glass would be fine.

Sources:

The custom is mentioned by Maharshal (glosses to Tur 11), Mateh Moshe, Shelah, Magen Avraham, Mishnah Berurah (11:61), and others. As Leket Hakemach Hachadash (11:23) points out, the custom does not have any source in the Talmud or any other writings of Chazal, and is based on a verse that prohibits raising an iron tool to hew the altar, which has no connection to tzitzis strings. Nonetheless, the custom, as noted, is mentioned by poskim, and should be adhered to.

Yet, Beis Baruch (11:161) writes that the custom applies specifically to preparing the tzitzis strings, because these are strings that will be used for the mitzvah, and not to strings after they have already been tied. Kaf Hachaim (11:17) extends the application of the custom to shortening strings. Yet, it would appear that the custom does not apply to cutting off stings entirely.

Although the custom mentions not using iron, and rather using teeth, the main objection would appear to be iron/metal, and using teeth tends to fray the strings, which is not practical. A shard of glass, or a flame, would be good alternatives. See also Ozer Yisrael, 11 note 38.

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