Sunday, November 01, 2009

Tzitzith - A Thread Of Light

I recently finished reading a book, a jewish book written by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan a multi-faceted, creative and well known scholar. Kaplan had unique perception into Torah and was inducted in the Who's Who of Physics. He died in 1983 at a young age of 48 and is known to have a brilliant mind that contained libraries of books that were yet to be produced by his genius.

Anyway, this book gave me a unique insight on the Tzitzith. You may ask what is a Tzitzith for those not knowledgeable in Jewish or Hebrew culture, it is the tassels hanging on each of the four corners of a Tallith or Tallith Katan. Which then brings up the question as to what is a tallith and a Tallith Katan. A Tallith is covering a jewish man or a messianic jew may wear around his shoulders and head while attending a service in the synagogue. A Tallith Katan is the garment worn underneath the shirt with the Tzitzith hanging on the four corners of this garment. Interesting isn't it?

What are these strange tassels on these strange garments. Many of the Jewish and orthodox Jewry were a spectacle of mystery and weirdness when encountered by other cultures as they often lived differently, wore clothing differently and had strange religious customs and traditions. Nevertheless their difference was marked by a deep relationship between the God of Israel and the Jewish people. The mitzvah of the Tzitzith is very fascinating and worth discussing.

Numbers 15:38 mentions "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them that they make Tzitzith on the corners of their garments for all generations; and they shall place on the Corner Tzitzith a twist (Pethil) of blue [wool]." Deuteronomy 22:11,12 says "You shall make tassels (Gedilim) on the four corners of your garments, with which you cover yourself."

The author goes on to explain in the book the number of threads and knots and how the Tzitzith is made; (which I will delve in my next post) but what captured my attention was the threads were reminders of God's commandments. The Exodus and events surrounding it make Judaism unique among all other religions. Other faiths began with a single individual, but Judaism begins with God. A unique bond was forged at the Exodus between the children of Israel and Yahweh. The Exodus thus placed a very special responsibility on the Jew. God rescued us from slavery , and in a very special sense, became our Master. In the Torah He says, "The children of Israel are My servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt - I am God your Lord" (Leviticus 25:25). Therefore, in a sense the Tzitzith was an insgnia that a Hebrew wears, proclaiming that we are God's subjects. The Torah alludes to this in telling us to wear the Tzitzith to be "holy to your God". The word "holy" means two things: First that we are close to God because of His saving and secondly that we are separated from things that are ungodly. The wearing of the Tzitzith is a sign of that relationship of the who has accepted His Torah. God reiterates the concept of this relationship when He says " You shall be holy to Me, for I God, am Holy, and I have set you apart from all other peoples, that you should be Mine" (Leviticus 20:26).

When wearing the Tallith in the synagogue, the following blessing is pronounced "Barukh Atah Adonnoy Elohenu Melekh holam asher kid'sha-nu be-mitzov-thav vertziva-nu al Mitvah Tzitzith" which means:

"Blessed are You God, our Lord, King of the worldwho has made us holy with His commandments and gave us the Mitzvah of Tzitzith.


1 comment:

Rachel Dawn Kornfield said...

Praise God! :)