I have seen many (Ashkenazi) people put on tallis in a particular way: they bring the back half of the tallis to the front of their body and then put the entire tallis over their left shoulder. Is this the correct thing to do… an obligation or just a praiseworthy action? What is the reason for such an action? Thanks
This is the correct thing to do. The reaon why this is done is because the bracha on the tallis is “l’hisatef” to wrap oneself with the tzitzis.There is controversy if the wrapping should be done in a way called “Atifas Yismaelim”, or if this does not have to be done. Atifas Yishmaeli ( according to the Ashkenazi minhag) is done by covering the head until one’s mouth, and then bringing all four corners of the tallis and placing over the left shoulder,(and to keep this position for 1-2 seconds). The halacha is that we are not obligated to do this, however the widespread minhag brought in the Shulchan Aruch O:CH 8-2 is to do it. The reason for this is kabbalistic as brought in Magen Avrohom 8-3. PIschei Teshuva 8 ftnt. 61 brings from the Sfas Emes that the idea of the tzitzis is to remember to have yiras shomayim, and when we wrap ourselves and surround ourselves with the tallis it is showing what the tzitzis stand for- to be attached to yiras shomayim without any separations and chatizitzos.