We begin this week’s heylige Toirah with a special mazel tov shout out to our very near and dear friends Aliza and Shlomie Liechtung who will be walking their son David down to the chuppah this coming Sunday afternoon. After looking in all the wrong places, David found his bashert on his own block, just a few houses away from his. May they enjoy lots of and only yiddishe nachas.The Oisvorfer will avada be in attendance; maybe even a brocho under the chuppah?
If you thought the Yiddin were in trouble last week, brace yourself for another adventure, or efsher a misadventure is a better descriptor of the Yiddin just over one year after they left Mitzrayim and not too long after they received the heylige Toirah. The cycle of bad behavior and complaining continues, and in Shelach we’ll encounter some of the most complex stories in the gantze Toirah, mamish. This week’s trouble is brought to us by the meraglim (spies) and the wood gatherer, who violated the heylige shabbis. Sandwiching these two incidents, we’ll hear something about challah and the special mitzvah of tzitzis which many of you nebech stopped wearing many, many years ago.
It’s in this week’s heylige parsha, also called Shelach Lecho by many, where Loshoin Horo (badmouthing), this time not about an individual but about a country, is the root cause of a 39 year delay by decree, and many dead, nebech. Just a year and change ago, the Yiddin left Mitzrayim and were on their way to the Promised Land. Slavery was over, it was time to bake the matzos, enjoy the gold, silver, gather some bluish colored thread, and other goodies the Yiddin permanently borrowed on their way out. Blue colored thread or string? Who needed that? Nu, this week at the very end of the Parsha, we’ll be introduced to the mitzvah of tzitzis (fringes) and the blue thread will avada come in handy. The Yiddin are on the march, they’re approaching Eretz Yisroel ober as we learn in Shelach, their plans are derailed; the midbar will become designated a mass graveyard and also their home for the next 38-39 years. When will the Yiddin learn not to anger the RBSO? When will you?
So that you have a shtikel something to discuss at the Shabbis tish besides the usual loshoin horo, here’s some information on the mitzvah of challah that the RBSO stuck into the Parsha just after the entire meraglim spy caper. Because all you do is eat challah and likely way too much of it, it’s more than likely you never knew that its preparation has certain requirements and they’re found right here in our Parsha. Hafroshas challah (literally: the separating of a small part of kneaded dough before it is baked into bread, and donating it to the kohanim (priest) is these days accomplished by separating and symbolically burning a small piece of it). The part of the dough which is removed is called ‘challah’. Though we have lost over half the mitzvois since churban beis hamikdash (destruction of the 2nd temple), this challah mitzvah still applies today whenever we bake bread, and all bread and matzah which is baked under kashrus supervision has challah separated by the bakeries.
This shabbis we’ll also meet the wood collector who was mechallel (violating) the holy shabbis and stoned, and as I said earlier, we’ll look at tzitzis which are introduced for the very first time. Is that emes? Some say that the Yiddin wore four cornered garments while still slaves in Mitzrayim, who knows? Last year we covered the wood caper and also exposed the meraglim for what they were, basically good guys who ended up being the fall guys in the RBSO’s master plan to keep the Yiddin in the midbar for an extended stay and avada you can read more at www.oisvorfer.com. Check out the archives, it won’t kill you to learn and chazir (review) last year’s givaldige Toirah.
Lommer unfangin (let’s begin) with tzitzis and see where we go and how far, why not? The final paragraph of the parsha contains the mitzvah to attach tzitzis (fringes) to the corners of one’s clothing. Avada many of you have questions about tzitzis including why some wear them out of their hoizen (pants), why some come in all white while others feature one blue fringe and why in general we are commanded to wear tzitzis. How many times did your parents ask you to put them on and how many times were you sent home or suspended from Yeshiva after an unexpected tzitzis check where the Rebbe chapped you all over and then sent you home to get your tzitzis? Nu, let’s see. Says the heylige Toirah: “Speak to the children of Israel,” says G-d to Moishe, “and tell to them that they make themselves fringes (tzitzit) in the corners of their garments throughout their generations.” And they shall put upon the fringe of each corner a thread of blue. And it shall be to you as fringes; and you shall see it, and remember all the commandments of G-d, and do them; and that you seek not after your heart and your eyes, after which you go astray. That you may remember, and do all My commandments, and be holy to your G-d. I am G-d your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your G-d: I am G-d your God.
Seeing the tzitzis seems to be a critical component of this mitzvah. And wearing them is avada a mitzvah but also a symbol for remembering the RBSO. Why must we remember? Nu, says the posik (15:39 ): “look at it and recall all the commandments of the RBSO and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge.” Is the RBSO suggesting that without tzitzis we would epes give into our lustful urges? You bet He is and so we learn in the heylige Gemora (Menochois 44a) which tells us this more than amazing mayseh (story).
Says the heylige Gemora: There was once a man who was meticulous and scrupulous in the observance of all mitzvois including avada, the mitzvah of tzitzis. Ober notwithstanding his otherwise exemplary behavior, nevertheless, when word reached him of a beautiful zoina (prostitute) who had come to a town nearby, his interest and desire became overwhelming. Her going and coming rate, if you chap was 400 talents of gold (and efsher klerring (thinking) that anyone that charged such exorbitant fees, also had special talents, if you chap,) he sent her the 400 talents and scheduled a date to meet. Basically, he prepaid and efsher we can kler that he expected or negotiated a steep discount for prepayment.
Nu, when he arrived at the appointed time … she had prepared seven beds for hims, one atop the other — six of silver and the highest one was made of gold. Six silver ladders led to the six silver beds, and a golden ladder led to the uppermost one. The prostitute unclothed herself and sat on the uppermost bed, and he, too, joined her. Yes, this is all found in the Gemora, where else? As he was unclothing himself, (a shtikel miracle took place) his four tzitzis (fringes) suddenly and mysteriously slapped him in the face (efsher he was shokeling too hard). Next: He slid off the bed onto the floor, where he was quickly joined by the woman. What happened next? The woman came and sat beside him on the ground. She asked what was wrong with her that he had lost his desire. He explained, that it was not that his desire had gone, but rather that the sight of the tzitzis had reminded him of the RBSO’s role in his life and the obligation to be holy. Seemingly his tzitzis helped him overcome the lust of his heart and eyes. The tzitzis, according to this mayseh, inspired not only him, but also the woman – who became a convert, and later his wife, to live according to the ideals of the heylige Toirah, and here’s how it went down.
Said the zoina: “I swear by the Roman Caesar, I will not leave you until you reveal to me what flaw you have found in me.” Said the good Jew “I swear, that I have never seen a woman as beautiful as you. However, there is one mitzvah which we were commanded by the RBSO, and tzitzis is its name. Concerning this mitzvah it is twice stated in the Toirah ‘I am the L-rd your G‑d’ — ‘I am the one who will seek retribution, and I am the one who will reward.’ Now the four tzitzis appeared to me as four witnesses, testifying to this truth.”
Said she “I still will not leave you until you provide me with your name, the names of your city, rabbi and the school in which you study Toirah.” He wrote down all the information and handed it to her. The woman sold all her possessions except her linens – chap nisht- soon you’ll hear why. A third of the money she gave to the government (as a payoff so that they would allow her to convert to Judaism), a third she handed out to the poor, and the remaining third she took with her — along with the silver and gold beds — and she proceeded to the school which the man had named, the study hall of Rabbi Chiya. “Rebbe,” she said to Reb Chiya, “I would like to convert to Judaism.”
“Perhaps,” Rabbi Chiya responded, “you desire to convert because you have taken a liking to a Jewish man?” The woman pulled out the piece of paper with the information and related to the rabbi the miracle which transpired with the tzitzis. “You may go and claim that which is rightfully yours [i.e. the right to convert],” the rabbi proclaimed.
She ended up marrying the man. And the linens from her many beds? Well, those very beds which she originally prepared for him illicitly, she now prepared for him lawfully. Such was his reward for meticulously observing the mitzvah of tzitzis.
In the end, he got his tzitzis reward, came into gold, silver and much more, if you chap and they lived happily ever after. One can only imagine what reward awaits those donning tzitzis upon arrival to Oilom Haboh (the World to Come), but it the previous story is emes and an indication, it can’t be bad. And certainly worth a try, no? Gishmak mamish!
And the lessons from this mayseh? Seemingly from this givaldige story and other rabbinic teachings on tzitzis, we learn the importance and power of having visual reminders of the Toirah’s commandments and ideals in our lives. Efsher that’s also the reason we wear a kippa on our heads and a mizuza on the doorpost? Seemingly the Yiddin need symbols and objects to remind us of our obligations to the RBSO and to inspire us to live a life of holiness. Ver veyst?
What else can we learn from this story? Seemingly for the tzitzis to come to the rescue in case one has wandered and followed his lustful heart, one must wear them outside his pants so that they can magically slap him in the face just in the nick of time. On the other hand we can kler that the tzitzis will jump into action and to the rescue even if they were hidden from view inside the pants, because we have to assume that the pants will come off, if you chap. And avada all this begs the question: what is the proper way to wear tzitzis?
It appears that when it comes to the donning of tzitzis there are many minhogim and alternatives, let’s examine a few.
a- Shirt tucked in and tzitzis neatly tucked into pants-
b- Shirt in but tzitzis out – with 2 of the 4 tzitzis lined up on either side of front pockets- we call this the Yeshiva look-
c- Shirt in but all tzitzis out- each hanging on a corner- 4 on 4 corners-
d- Shirt out- tzitzis out-we call this the post Israel Yeshiva look and this lasts for about 3 months to a lifetime-
e- Shirt in and tzitzis wrapped around the belt-
f- T- shirt only- white preferable + shorts and tzitzis on top- good summer camp look for those just back from a year in Israel-
g- Shorts only, no shirt at all and, of course tzitzis on top-
Of course size matters and the longer the tzitzis, the frummer one is or at least looks. A medium length pair of tzitzis is typically more associated with all black: black pants and jacket, black collar and white shirt. More recently the Oisvorfer has noticed that just like the frummer girls’ hemlines are getting longer and now extend below the knee, tzitzis too are getting longer. Tzitzis used to be just long enough to cause a shtikel discomfort on hot days ober the newer models can also be used as dusters. Avada we’ve just mentioned a few, zicher there are many other minhogim and of course tzitzis are now available in different materials, stripes and now also colors. And let’s not forget that tzitzis now also come with characters from Disney, Men In Black and other household names. Look for Madonna to be wearing them any day now instead of a roite bendel (red string) sold by marketers all over the world and especially in Jerusalem.
Nu, while on tzitzis, let’s spend a minute chapping why some wear tzitzis with one or more blue fringes, otherwise known as techeiles. Why? Because that’s mamish what the RBSO commanded in this week’s Parsha. “Speak to the Children of Israel, saying to them that they should make tzitzis for themselves on the corners of their garments, for all generations, and they shall place a thread of techeiles on the tzitzis of each corner.” (Bamidbar 15:38)
Asks and answers the heylige Gemora (Soitah 17a): Why is blue specified from all the varieties of colors? Because blue resembles the sea, and the sea resembles heaven, and heaven resembles the Divine throne, as it is written (Shmois 24:10): “And they saw the G-d of Israel, and His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, as the very heaven for clearness.” Efsher you’re wondering where the Yiddin found Techeiles in the Midbar, so is the Oisvorfer. Then again, as we’ve said on many an occasion: the Midbar was a magical place and if the RBSO said to use techeiles while constructing the Mishkan and in other areas, you can rest assured that somehow, just like the Munn the Yiddin ate, techeiles also magically appeared. You just go to believe.
Says the heylige Gemora (Menachos 38b-44a) azoy: Abaye inquired of Rebbi Shmuel ben Rav Yehuda: How do you dye the blue thread? He replied: We take the blood of the chillazon (some sea creature) together with other ingredients and put them all in a pot and boil them together. Our Rabbis taught: The chillazon resembles the sea in its color, and in shape it resembles a fish; it comes up from the sea once in seventy years, and with its blood one dyes the blue thread. Shoin. Avada the Oisvorfer can write at least 25 pages about tzitzis and techeiles ober time and space dictate that we move on ober just to tie up the loose strings if you will, here’s the bottom line of why you may want to consider trying on a pair.
Says the Sefer Hachinuch: the gematria (numeric value) of the Hebrew word tzitzis is 600. Now add the sum of the eight strings and five knots which make up each of the tzitzis and shoin, that all comes to 613, incidentally and amazingly also the total number of mitzvois in the gantze Toirah. And so….? Nu, some say that by wearing tzitzis, one is like being enveloped in all 613 mitzvois of the entire Toirah. Nu, is life beautiful or what? And says Chazal (our sages) in the heylige Gemora (Nedorim 25a): “The mitzva of tzitzis is considered equal to all the mitzvois in the Toirah” Says the heylige Gemora: Rav Ketina purposely wore garments that did not require tzitzis on them. One day he encountered an angel who told him that he was not doing the proper thing. Indeed, the angel told him that although one who does not wear a garment with tzitzis has technically not transgressed the mitzvah and therefore, is not punished directly by the RBSO; nevertheless, when the Heavenly wrath is forthcoming he becomes more vulnerable to it, as he is lacking the extra protection that the mitzvah of tzitzis would afford. Shoin: if you need protection, if you chap, one can always wrap himself in a good pair of absorbent tzitzis. A second Gemora relates that one who is conscientious in performing the mitzvah of tzitzis will receive the great reward of being able to greet the countenance of the Divine Presence at the end of his days. Avada that could be a nice thing.
And the last word on tzitzis is this: Wearing them is not absolutely obligatory. It’s not? It is avada possible to avoid the command of tzitzis altogether by never wearing a garment of four or more corners. Ober say the RambaM and so rules: “Even though one is not obligated to acquire a [four-cornered] robe and wrap oneself in it in order to [fulfill the command of] tzitzis, it is not fitting for a pious individual to exempt himself from this command” (Hilchois Tzitzis, 3:11). And oisvorfs who need every mitzvah they can get their hands on in order to tip the scales back in their favor, should zicher not pass up the opportunity to chap this mitzvah. Hec, it’s a freebie, not terribly inconvenient, a good counterbalance for other chapping and avada you all know that they can come off in a flash when the moment so dictates, if you chap. Bottom line: tzitzis are seemingly vitally important and praiseworthy, but not categorical. The mitzvah is conditional: if your garment has four corners, you must put fringes on it. Settled and case closed.
We can klerr that efsher the RBSO gave the Yiddin the tzitzis mitzvah as an aid to help the next generation fare better in the tests where the previous one failed in so many areas. The principal aim of the tzitzis is to remind a person at all times of the RBSO and His commandments, and thereby to avoid the symptoms of lack of faith that arise from forgetting. Had the Yiddin worn tzitzis while in the Midbar, perhaps the meraglim would have looked at them and not spoken loshoin horo and the Yiddin could have avoided a total of 40 years in the midbar and tens of thousands of deaths by decree and also natural causes. Ver veyst. Instead they unraveled, and went into a downward spiral with few upticks as we will be reading in the coming weeks, stay tuned.
And as to the meraglim (spies) who are the featured sinners of the week, here’s a quick chazoro (review) of what went down. With the RBSO’s permission (or, as we will learn later this summer – at the insistence of the BNY), Moishe sends 12 Miraglim (spies or scouts), one from each Sheyvait (tribe), to check out the Promised Land of Canaan. Prophetically sensing trouble, he, Moishe, changes Hoshea’s name to Yehoshua, expressing a prayer that the RBSO not let him fail in his mission. 40 days later they return carrying very little but unusually large fruit. 10 of the 12 spies state that the people in Canaan are as formidable as the fruit they just smuggled over the border. In other words: best we don’t fight them, and the Yiddin quickly lose faith in the RBSO and begin crying like little children. They’re mamish depressed. Colev and Yehoshua, the two good guys, try but fail to bolster the people’s spirit. Too late! The Yiddin are petrified and nervous about war against the Land’s inhabitants and demand a return to Mitzrayim where they had shelter, an expanded menu, hot shiksa Mitzri women and other good times; hey, didn’t we learn that the yiddin had sunk to the 48th of the 49 levels of Tumah (impurity and shmutz)? Yes we did! Mistama they didn’t get there by laying just bricks, if you chap. Seemingly it’s not so easy to break out of that slave mentality after 210 years. The RBSO is, avada fed up with His people and tells Moishe that He would like to wipe them out and start all over again (not the first time this has been suggested) using Moishe as the master seed. Ober Moishe davens and through his fervent prayers, saves the nation once again from annihilation. Though their lives are saved, the RBSO does not give the BNY a free pass and instead decrees that they must remain in the Midbar (desert) for 40 years in total, one year for each day of the spy mission (where they will commit many many more transgressions) and until the men who wept at the scouts’ false report pass away. A renegade and remorseful group rashly begins an invasion of the Land based on the RBSO’s original command. Moishe warns them not to proceed, but they are Yiddin who avada don’t like to take orders (hey- how many listen weekly when the Rabbi asks them not to remove their Taleisim until after Adoin Oilom); they act impetuously, ignore him and are massacred by the Amalekites and Canaanites. There are dead Jews all over the place. All this for some loshoin horo (bad mouthing). And the rest is, as they say, part of our illustrious history which the RBSO laid out for us in the heylige Toirah in order that we learn valuable lessons. Do we? A nechtiger tug (fugggetaboutit)!
A gitten shabbis-