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In Uniform

Friday, 15 June, 2012 - 5:00 pm

Traveling to New York last week reminded me how much I must stick out like a sore thumb in Idaho. In Brooklyn, I am just “one of the guys.” But in Boise I am THE Chassid – in full regalia.

In fact, just the other day, I was asked, “Why the need for such overt Jewishness?” Can’t you just fit in with everyone else? Do you need to flaunt your religiosity and “wear it on your sleeves?”

***

In New York, driving through Manhattan, my children were amazed to see an entire section with Chinese people, Chinese writing and Chinese food. “This is Chinatown,” I explained. The store signs were in Chinese and unique Chinese fare was sold in the streets. Tourists abounded, catching a glimpse of this Asian oasis in the heart of America.

***

At the end of this week’s Parsha Shelach, G-d commands the Jewish people about the mitzvah of tzitzit:

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.

The Talmud explains the reason for the mitzvah of tzitzit: Sight brings on memory, and memory brings deed.

By viewing the fringes we are reminded of the Torah and Mitzvos that Hashem has charged us with.

Imagine if the Chinese simply “blended in with society” in New York. What chance is there that their culture would be maintained in America’s melting pot? If we are concerned about our allegiance to the Torah, external markings do indeed carry weight. For some it might be traditional garb. But at the minimum, every Jew – children, women and men – can benefit from a Jewish uniform.

In an age of Times Square billboards drawing the attention of our eyes, it’s high time we focus our vision on the articles of our tradition. Maybe, just maybe, it will lead to another mitzvah.

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