Tzitzis: The Key to Seeing G-d
Taste of Halacha
When a person is the Chazzan or when he does Hagbaha or Gelilah, he should wear a Tallis to give honor to the Mitzvah that he is carrying out. Many people do not make a blessing when they put the Tallis on to carry out these honors. Is there a Halachic basis for this or should a blessing be said prior to donning the Tallis for any occasion? The Biur Halacha explains this custom with the words of the Shaarei Efraim on the verse in Deuteronomy (22:12) that says, “Fringes you shall make for yourself on the four corners of your garment that you cover yourself with”. The Shaarei Efraim extrapolates from here that you only make a blessing when wearing a Tallis if you cover yourself with it. This means that you must cover your head with the Tallis in order to be obligated to make a blessing. Therefore, if you would merely throw a Tallis over your shoulder to perform an honor during the prayers you do not make a blessing upon putting on that Tallis. The Biur Halacha disagrees with this understanding of this verse and quotes a number of commentaries who rule that one does fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzis by merely putting the Tallis on his shoulders. However, the Biur Halacha concurs with the practice of not saying a blessing if a Tallis is put on without intent to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzis. He explains that this is because you must intend to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzis in order to fulfill be obligated to make a blessing on it. Therefore, when a person puts on a Tallis solely for the purpose of giving honor to a synagogue function, no blessing should be made if he thinks to himself that he is not doing this to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzis.
Taste of Parasha
Moshe Rabbeinu prayed to G-d to save Yehoshua from the plot of the spies (Rashi to Num. 13:16). The question is: If Moshe Rabbeinu was aware that something was amiss, why did he send the spies? The Sfas Emes (Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, the second Gerrer Rebbe, 1847–1905) uses an idea learned from the end of the Parasha to answer this question. The Medrash brings out an important lesson from the words, “And it shall be for them as Tzitzis and they will see Him” (Num. 15:39). The Medrash says that from here we learn the great reward that awaits one who is careful with the Mitzvah of Tzitzis. You will see Him: G-d. Indeed the Shulchan Aruch concludes his remarks on the laws of Tzitzis by saying, “One who is careful with the Mitzvah of Tzitzis will merit seeing the Sh’china (divine presence). The Sfas Emes explains the secret that lies within Tzitzis.
Everything in this world has an element of G-d in it that gives it its existence. By doing Mitzvos, a Jew connects to these sparks of G-d and brings them to the fore. This means that as a person goes through his day of involvement in this world, he or she can be connecting to G-d through his or her activities. You do this through having pure intentions to conduct your daily routine as per the command of G-d, as delineated in the Shulchan Aruch. Therefore it was possible for the spies to take their desire to see the land and do so in a proper way. All they needed was to be able to connect their personal desire to the spark of G-d that was inherent in the land. By giving them a Mitzvah to see the land, they all had the ability to turn their journey into an opportunity for connecting to G-d in the land. Perhaps we can postulate that by changing Yehoshua’s name into a name that was reminiscent of G-d’s name, Moshe Rabbeinu had hoped to provide a constant reminder to all of the Spies of their true mission: To see G-d in the land as opposed to rebelling against Him.
Taste of Talmud
“You shall not wear wool and linen together. Fringes you shall make for yourself on the four corners of your garment that you cover yourself with.” (Deut. 22: 12 and 13) From here the Talmud derives that the Torah allows us to mix wool and linen to make Tzitzis. This was done when the woolen T’cheiles (blue string) was used in a garment which was linen. The commentaries discuss whether or not this leniency also applies in a situation where the person is only fulfilling the Mitzvah of Tzitzis in a Rabbinical manner. Two examples of this are: When a woman wears Tzitzis, or when they are donned at night. Rabbeinu Tam, one of the great Tosafists, in his commentary to the Talmud in Tractate Menachos 40b says, “The Torah is permitting wool and linen to be mixed at any time and by anyone wearing Tzitzis”. In support of this, he cites a Talmudic passage that
says, “After thirty days a borrowed Tallis is obligated in Tzitzis”. [This is another situation where the Mitzvah of Tzitzis is only Rabbinic because according to the Torah you only have an obligation to place Tzitzis on, “your garment”.] Even so the Talmud says that after thirty days you must put Tzitzis on it. This includes putting woolen T’cheiles on a borrowed linen garment. From here we see that even when fulfilling the Mitzvah of Tzitzis in a Rabbinical manner, such as when a woman wears them or when a man wears them at night, you may still put on the T’cheiles string and thereby mix wool with linen. It seems to me that this fits very nicely with the concept that the Mitzvah of Tzitzis allows us to see G-d in everything in life. That is why there is no contradiction between different elements in the world which we usually keep separate: wool and linen; because when you live in accordance with Halacha you are able to bring holy sparks out of everything.