Thursday, June 14, 2007
I wanted to post this before I went out of town.
Last week's Parsha ( weekly Torah portion that is read ), is pretty full. We start off with God telling Moshe to send spies to check out the land which they've been promised. We know how that story ends...
After that, there's the directive that pertains to Challah.
Then, almost as an interlude, we read about the man who gathered wood on Shabbos, thereby breaking the laws of Shabbos.
The portion ends off with the directive of Tzitzit.
Now, we know that the juxtaposition of the story of the spies and the events at the end of the Parsha that preceded it ( Miriam's discussion with Aharon about Moshe, and her subsequent punishment ) is meant to teach us the importance - and gravity - of the sin of Lashon HaRah ( Rashi explains that if Miriam, who was only speaking out of concern for her brother, and she was as righteous as they come was afflicted, then certainly those who are lesser and are slandering shouldn't speak of others).
Also, according to the Ohr HaChaim, Tzitzis immediately follows the story of the "wood gatherer" ( which is how it's referred to) for a good reason. He quotes the Tana D'Bei Eliyahu: After the story of the "wood gatherer", Moshe spoke to God, saying that during the week, the Jews have tefillin to remind them of all the mitzvot. But what about Shabbos? On Shabbos, tefillin are considered muktzah, and can't be worn on Shabbos. What will remind them, then? To which God replied that He would give them Tzitzit, which are always worn, and will serve as a reminder of all 613 mitzvot, even on Shabbos ( see Rashi for a nifty gematria).
This is all very nice, but the entire shabbos, I kept wondering whether there was any connection between the story of the spies, and the fact that Tzitzit is written here ( the bookends, so to speak ), in the same portion. I looked everywhere, but couldn't find any correlation, and I was dismayed. Obviously, there's no coincidence, right?
A few days ago, I was listening to a speech from R' Yissochar Frand, and he dropped the answer in my lap.
The mitzvah of Tzitzit is a fundamental of Judaism, not unlike Shabbos, or prayer. However, unlike those other two, Tzitizit are not obligatory; one doesn't have to wear Tzitzit unless he is wearing a four cornered garnment. But if he doesn't wear a four cornered garment, he is not neglecful. Why is this? If Tzitzit are indeed fundamental, why did God make it optional?
Here's the answer: Twice in this Parsha we see an interseting choice of words. At the beginning, God tells Moshe to send spies "LaSur Es Ha'Aretz". By Tzitzit, God tells us "V'Lo SaSuru Acharei L'Vavechem". The connection is as follows: The spies was something that neither God nor Moshe wanted. The nation came to Moshe and told him that they wanted to send spies. God said, "Fine. I'm giving you this option. Send for yourself men..." This was something optional that became an unmitigated disaster.
God is telling us with the mitzvah of Tzitzit - which are optional - that there are two ways to go about doing something that is optional. The right way, and the wrong way. You want to do something? Fine, go ahead. But do it right. The mitzvah of Tzitzit are meant to be a tikkun for the last option we had, and messed up on.
I'd like to add that the same could be said here. Blogging is an option. It's free, and most folks do it for free. But there's a right way, and a wrong way to do it. You can use the power, the influence, the near infinite reach of the internet to do much good, or much harm. Sadly, many use the internet and the blogosphere as a way to perpetuate their own unhappiness, be it with themselves, their religion, or whatever. A small few have dedicated themselves to making sure to use their option, their choice, in the right way, spreading positivity all around. Those folks are warriors, and they should be blessed...