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The Mitzvah of Tzitzit: Fringe Benefits

06/22/2022 10:43:32 AM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin

Adonai said to Moses:  Speak to the Israelite people and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, placing within the fringes a cord of royal blue.  When you see the fringes, you will remember all of HaShem's Mitzvot to do them and you will not stray after your hearts or eyes which you are prone to stray after. 

 So that you shall remember and do all of My Mitzvot and be holy your G-d.  I am Adonai your G-d who took you out of the Land of Egypt to be your G-d.  I am Adonai, Your G-d.

What are we to make of this strange commandment, coming at the very end of this week's Torah portion which tells the tragic story of how the Jewish people, surrendering to fear, reject their destiny and try to return to the security of Egyptian Slavery.  Instead, they are doomed to wander the deserts forever until their children, born in freedom, are ready to enter the Land and resume the Covenant.  

Students of the Torah have struggled for many years to understand why the Commandment of Tzitzit (fringes) comes davka at this moment.  Most speculate that the Mitzvah of Tzitzit is given to prevent disasters like the mass defection and abandonment of the Covenant and the Jewish destiny.  But how could a fringed tunic prevent the nation, on the very shores of the Jordan and about to enter the Promised Land, from losing its faith and choosing vile slavery over freedom?  

Because, say our Rabbis, the Mitzvah is not merely to place fringes.  The fringes are knotted and twist and turn this way and that to form a sacred macrame containing symbols and signs that form a spiritual hyperlink to our stories and experiences.  To wear Tzitzit consciously is to be connected- literally "tied in" to ourselves not as individuals but as an ancient collective entity that has walked with G-d over the millennia, that has borne witness to G-d's Presence in the world and the human heart.  The Tzitzit reveal to us who we really are: not Chaim Yankel or Rivka Sora only but Yisrael- the People of Israel.  How can someone who has seen G-d's Revelation at Sinai, through all of our history, a history of sharing a message about love and justice, a message about the Oneness of G-d and humanity, who has seen seas split and the oppressors overwhelmed and, despite the tragic sacrifice, our people overcome evil again and again to continue to bear witness, ever fall for the snares of despair and surrender?  

So let us wear our Tzitzit with love, faith, loyalty and above all else, consciously.  Let us be aware that every cell in our body, all of the blood in our veins and even our very DNA is witness to generations who have come through the depths to ascend, to work each generation in its own way, to bring the fulfillment of G-d's Promise of a world where all life flowers and the greatness locked in the human soul is freed at last.

The holy Zohar, the Root of Kabbalah, teaches that every Mitzvah we do adds a thread of light to the Tallit of the Neshama, the spiritual garment that we weave throughout our lives. The Tallit and Tzitzit are the expression in this world of that higher truth: we create our eternity and the destiny of the world not through lofty proclamations and grand gestures, but by the next word and act of kindness that we are inspired to perform.  Shabbat Shalom- and don't forget to don your Tallit whenever you can!

Thu, February 22 2024 13 Adar I 5784