This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Shlach (5764)
There are six hundred and thirteen commandments in the Torah. Our section this week ends with the commandment of TZI'TZIS:
Tzizis are specially-made, usually woolen strings that, if a male adult Jew decides to wear a garment that has four corners, must be tied on each corner of the garment.
There are many details determining how they are to be made, how they are to be tied, what type of garment is obligated and more.
But most interesting is that the Torah gives this commandment unique importance over all the others.
"And you will see it (Tzitzis) and remember all the commandments of G-d and do them and not turn after your hearts and your eyes after which you prostitute yourselves." (Num 15:39)
In other words, somehow this commandment has some magical power to not only remind a Jew of all the other 612, but also to also keep him from sin!
What is so special about Tzitzis?
To understand this… here is a story.
Some forty years ago in a small city called Bellgrade Australia not far from Melbourne lived a wealthy Australian family with a thirteen year old daughter whom we will call Sally.
Sally lacked nothing. She had the nicest clothes, home, friends, personal room with her own T.V. and everything a young girl could ask for. Her mother and father were clean-living, Church-going Protestants and they all lived the happiest of lives….until Sally saw that holocaust book.
She was browsing in the school library when she came across it. It was a large book with a green cover featuring a picture of gaunt and skinny people behind barbed wire. The title was "The holocaust; the extermination of European Jewry 1939 -1945"
She opened it to a picture of a huge pit filled with thousands of dead, naked bodies and her mouth opened in horror. She couldn't believe what she was seeing, trying to make out one body from the other. Did they have faces? These were people! Who would do such a thing? Who would film such a thing? Why were they killed? Murdered!! What did they do? These were Jews! What did so many Jews do to get killed?
She sat down and read. It told about the Jews in Germany, in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Hungary, the list went on and on; who was killed, when they were killed, how they were killed, how many were killed…...
But it didn't explain WHY they were killed.
After an hour she closed the book and walked home in a daze.
She told her mother that she had seen a horrible book but her mother just said something about, yes she had also heard, changed the subject and that was the end of it.
Sally lost her joy in life.
She hid it from her parents and acted the same as always but from that day on it was different, she couldn't get it off her mind.
Several weeks later she happened to see an article in a local paper about some 'Lubavitcher Rebbe' that receives thousands of letters a day from Jews throughout the world seeking help and guidance. Encouraged, she copied the address given in the article and that night wrote a letter to the Rebbe.
She introduced herself, explained that although she wasn't Jewish the holocaust book she saw was simply too much for her to handle and since she read it she became depressed. She apologized for taking the Rebbe's time but hoped that he could calm her troubled soul.
Two weeks later she received a reply in the mail! The Rebbe wrote that he was happy to receive her letter and told her to turn to Rabbi Chiam Gutnick in Melbourne for help.
That day she found Rabbi Gutnick's number in the phone book, called him and set a meeting for the next day.
When they met she was pleasantly surprised. The Rabbi was such a kind and enjoyable person. They spoke for a while, the Rabbi explained a bit about how the holocaust really was beyond human understanding but really he was puzzled as to why would a Protestant girl be so deeply affected by it. He was certain that there must be someone Jewish in her family.
He asked her a lot of questions on her background. But nothing came of it. She wasn't Jewish. In fact the first time she ever even saw a Jew was in that holocaust book!
Sally, instead of being comforted, left the Rabbi's house even more confused than when she entered and needless to say Rabbi Gutnick also could not figure out why the Rebbe sent the girl to him. But poor Sally just went home and became more depressed while he, being a busy man, forgot the entire matter…. Almost.
Three weeks later Rabbi Gutnick received a totally unexpected letter from the Rebbe… inquiring about the JEWISH girl from Bellgrade!
Without delay Rabbi Gutnick looked through his papers for the girl's address, jumped in his car and traveled to her house.
When he got there only her parents were home. He cordially introduced himself, told them of their daughter's visit to his home as a result of the letter she wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and said he was worried about her health.
Her parents agreed that for the last few weeks she seemed severely depressed but they had no idea how and why such a thing as the holocaust would set it off.
Rabbi Gutnick asked if perhaps she had been adopted. The answer was a definite no. Then perhaps her maternal grandmother was Jewish? "Certainly not" they replied and asked the reason for his strange questions.
He told them about the letter he just received from the Rebbe but they just shrugged their shoulders in bewilderment. After several silent moments with nothing more to say he bade them goodbye and left.
Over a month later Rabbi Gutnick heard that Sally had suffered some sort of stroke… was in the hospital in intensive care and the doctors themselves weren't sure.
Without hesitation he rushed to the hospital and when he arrived saw her laying there unconscious, joined to all sorts of monitoring machines, her mother and father standing by her side, red-eyed from crying.
They were glad to see him. Sally's father shook the Rabbi's hand, he was obviously crushed. The doctors had said there was nothing more they could do. Sally's mother motioned to the Rabbi that she wanted to speak to him in private outside.
They left the room and as soon as the door closed behind them she turned to him and said, "You were right. I am Jewish. I was born in England to Jewish parents but when I was in my teens I left home, changed my religion and came to Australia. I guess that I'm still really Jewish."
"Then, why don't you just tell your daughter" asked Rabbi Gutnick. "It might even heal her, you have nothing to lose!"
"It's not so simple" she answered. "I'm worried about what my husband will say. I mean, he knows nothing about it. I can't tell her when he is around."
But Rabbi Gutnick calmed her down. "Listen, this is your only chance. If the Lubavitcher Rebbe took an interest it's a sign that there is hope. Please, send your husband out here and I'll have a talk with him. And while I'm talking to him you can tell your daughter. It just may save her life."
Sally's mother shook her head in agreement. She entered, seconds later her husband came out and Rabbi Gutnick had a warm and open talk with him. Surprisingly he was very understanding, even supportive. He said he loved his wife and daughter and was willing to do everything and anything he could for them.
But when they re-entered the room they were in for even a bigger surprise. Sally was sitting up in bed completely conscious and her mother was hugging her and weeping in joy!
The doctors were called and minutes later they took her off of the monitors and removed the infusion!
The Rebbe knew that only revealing her secret; that she was a Jew, would bring her back to life!
This is the message of Tzitzis.
The Torah law is that these strings, the Tzitzis, must be made of the same material as the garment they are tied to.
This seemingly simple law really has deep mystical implications.
According to Kabalistic thought the entire creation, both spiritual and physical, is something like thin 'strings' of reality constantly coming from G-d's Infinite Being.
[Like G-d's 'speech' ("Let there be light" "Let there be a firmament" etc.) comes from G-d's ONE-ness].
But the Tzitzis remind us that ….. it's all ONE: these 'strings' (i.e. the entire creation both physical and spiritual) is of the same 'stuff' as the CREATOR:
In other words; G-d alone creates all being CONSTANTLY. He is infinitely close and infinitely far, infinitely good and infinitely powerful….. there is nothing but Him and ONLY He must be worshiped by mankind.
To reveal this is the job of the Jews: for this we were 'Chosen'.
But the only way the Jews can reveal G-d's ONEness and perfect the world is through the commandments.
That is the message of Tzitzis: The commandments are 'connectors' (the word for commandment 'Mitzva' also means 'connection' in Hebrew) that 'join' and 'draw down' G-d's ONEness to the apparently separate world.
This is the "Jewish feeling" that the Rebbe revealed in Sally: Her life (spiritual soul) was like a 'strand' that had to be unified to the Creator …… and once connected she became PHYSICALLY alive.
This is why we so await the arrival of Moshiach. He, like the Lubavitcher Rebbe and those before him began to do, will awaken all the Jews and enliven not just Sally but the entire world with the joyous truth that G-d is ONE!
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