Rav Hillel van-Leeuwen
Head of Leadership Development, the Mizrachi World Movement

 
The mitzvah of Tzitzit, at the end of our Parasha, is an innately complex mitzvah.
 
On the one hand – this mitzvah is included as an integral paragraph of tefila, recited twice daily as part of Kriat Shema. It is also considered “as important as all other commandments”, for when one sees the Tzitzit, one immediately fulfils the commandment of “and you shall remember all of my commandments”. This is hinted at in the gematria: ציצית = 600 + 8 threads and 5 knots = 613.
 
But on the other hand – unlike tefillin, and as surprising as this sounds – Tzitzit is not even necessarily mandatory, but conditional: only those who wear a garment with four corners must actually place fringes on the garment, as Maimonides wrote: “What is the obligation of the commandment of Tzitzit? Any person who is included in the commandment (males above the age of 13, as it is a time-related commandment from which women are exempt) – if he were to cover himself with a garment fit for Tzitzit – he must first add fringes on it and only then cover up with it”.
 
And another unusual thing: this mitzvah, apparently, is observed in two different ways.
1. We have a “large tallit”, in which we wrap ourselves during tefila, over our clothes. The bracha on the tallit is “Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to wrap ourselves in Tzitzit”.
2. Then there is also the “small tallit”, which is worn all day long, under our clothes. Its bracha is “Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us with the commandment of Tzitzit.”
 
What might this duality suggest?
 
There are, generally, two types of clothing.
 
1. A garment designed to impress others by displaying authority or demonstrating a rank – such as a king’s royal cape, a judge’s black robe, a policeman’s uniform, a doctor’s white robe, a youth movement counselor’s shirt, or a prisoner’s striped pajamas. Such a garment may be, at times, misleading – as in “the Prince and the Pauper”, or when it gives off an air of confidence despite the lack of confidence the person wearing the garment might experience. Essentially, this type of garment is a costume of sorts: a garment in Hebrew is ‘begged‘, from the word bogged – a traitor. Examples in Genesis: Tamar wears a veil, Jacob wears Esau’s clothes, Joseph’s coat is brought to Jacob, Potiphar’s wife uses Joseph’s garment to incriminate him.
 
2. A practical garment that reflects a person’s true essence, the type of garment which is worn even when no one is looking. Its purpose is not that others think I am like this, but rather because I really am like that. Examples: the artist’s apron in the workshop, the gardener’s clothes in the garden, a surgeon’s green suit.
 
And now, back to Tzitzit:
During tefila, we try to create a partially external impression for G-d, and wrap ourselves in a tallit gadol to show that even the poorest in deeds is actually a son of a king. I ask G-d to judge me not as I really am now, but as I would like to eventually become.
 
However, during the rest of the time there is no such public-external aspect, and then the tallit katan is worn privately, hidden under our clothing.
And this perpetual mitzvah will affect the person most, if he voluntarily undertakes to wear a four-cornered garment.
 
Shabbat shalom

comments: ravhillel@mizrachi.org