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Thinking Jews

Friday, 24 June, 2022 - 8:02 am

Have you ever tried tying a string around your finger to remember something? This age-old method has proven helpful to many people.

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The mitzvah of Tzitzis, wearing fringes on a four-cornered garment, is taught in this week’s Torah portion of Shelach.  The Torah tells us the significance of this mitzvah, as follows:

“This shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord to perform them, and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray.”

So if we are looking for a foolproof way to always do right and never do wrong – just look at the Tzitzis.

Why then – many ask – is it that so many people still make mistakes, or even deliberately sin while wearing Tzitzis?

The great scholar and Torah commentary Rabbi Moshe Alshich points out that the answer is hidden in the opening words of the verse.

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Yes, writes Rabbi Alshich, if you put a string on your finger to remember your to-do task, it is unlikely you will forget.  But what if you put a bandage on your finger because you’ve got a cut?  Will that serve as a sufficient reminder for your task?

Probably not. Most likely you’ll forget about it because the bandage is there already serving its own purpose. It’s not additional. It does not play the unique role of aide memoire.

Similarly, the Tallis Katan or Tallis Gadol will not achieve their maximal effect unless we wear them with distinct purposefulness.  This is the meaning of the opening words, “This shall be fringes for you.”  Only after consideration and emphasis on the purpose of wearing the Tzitzis do they offer the Torah’s guarantee of preserving our moral and spiritual aptitude.

If Tzitzis is symbolic of all the commandments, then this approach is one we must learn to implement in all the mitzvos we do.

We often complain that “I lit the Shabbat candles, but I didn’t feel anything special,” or “I went to synagogue and did not feel uplifted,” or “I helped my neighbor with yard work, but got no appreciation.” 

Let’s focus on the meaning of a mitzvah beforehand. We’ll certainly increase our chances of personal growth if we are thinking Jews.

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