As a high school and Division I college basketball player, I always wore my kippah while playing ball, but I was told that it was not desirable to wear tzitzis during athletics because the perspiration and wear and tear that the tzitzis would be exposed to could degrade the holiness of the garment.
At age twenty, I was recruited by European powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv to play professional basketball in Israel. Shortly after my arrival, a coach asked me why I did not wear tzitzis while playing. I reiterated the answer that I had been taught, but this exchange spurred me to think more deeply about the mitzvah of tzitzis.
After doing some research, I decided to wear tzitzis on the court while taking all measures to prevent degrading the garment. While this decision felt right to me, turning it into actual practice was more complicated than I expected. First, since the Israeli Basketball League prohibits players from wearing anything under the team jersey, I needed to obtain special permission from the League to wear my tzitzis. I soon discovered, however, that the materials, fit and design of the many styles of tzitzis I tried were not conducive to performing at a high intensity level. Finally, the tzitzis did not hold up well against all the sweat and washing, requiring me to purchase seemingly endless pairs.
After retiring from professional basketball in 2009 due to several severe injuries, I began focusing on coaching. I repeatedly encountered Jewish athletes who did not wear tzitzis during athletics because the garments were not comfortable or fashionable, and considered by many as unnecessary during sport. I learned that it says, "V’asu lahem (for them)" tzitzis" (Bamidbar 15:38) and was inspired by the plural usage to create a line of tzitzis that appealed to a modern aesthetic and that could withstand rigorous activity so Jews everywhere could adhere to the mitzvah of wearing tzitzis in comfort and style, without needing to worry about damaging the garment.
After an extended process of devising a design, locating a manufacturer, developing the prototype, ensuring the tzitzis were halachically kosher while simultaneously enhancing, rather than impeding, athletic performance, and finally, working with the OK to secure kosher certification, Sport Strings tzitzis become a reality.
Sport Strings is unique because the garment is created out of high-performance athletic materials, offers a compression fit, UV protection, and anti-odor and anti-microbial properties while strictly adhering to the halachos regarding tzitzis. The garment is constructed of two attached lightweight layers with the inner compression layer consisting of the high-performance materials, while the outer layer fulfills the halachic requirements by being a four cornered garment with the majority of the sides open, and consisting of material that is fifty-one percent cotton.
I learned that it says, “V’asu lahem tzitzis” (Bamidbar 15:38) and was inspired by the plural usage to create a line of tzitzis that appealed to a modern aesthetic and that could withstand rigorous activity…
OK Kosher Certification examined four main aspects of the garment to ensure the tzitzis were kosher: the fabric used for the outer garment (the use of synthetic fabrics is questionable for the tzitzis garment); the halachic status of the inner, wicking garment; the openness on the sides to render it a four-cornered garment; and, finally, that the tzitzis were tied according to halacha and that they were placed properly on the corners of the garment.
While Sport Strings are clearly advantageous to athletes, they are also a great option for those less inclined towards athletics. The compression design of Sport Strings fits sleekly under casual and dress clothes contributing to a neater looking appearance. Whether worn during athletics, at school, camp, or at the office, it is my hope that outfitting the Biblical commandment with modern materials and design will help others perform the mitzvah of tzitzis with increased enthusiasm.
Sport Strings can be customized with graphics and individualized and team logos. For more information about Sport Strings, please go to tamirgoodman.com