Parasha Inspiration – Sh’lach

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר: דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם וְעָשׂ֨וּ לָהֶ֥ם צִיצִ֛ת עַל־כַּנְפֵ֥י בִגְדֵיהֶ֖ם לְדֹֽרֹתָ֑ם וְנָֽתְנ֛וּ עַל־צִיצִ֥ת הַכָּנָ֖ף פְּתִ֥יל תְּכֵֽלֶת:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue on the fringe of each corner.

Numbers 15:37-38

וִידֵ֣י אָדָ֗ם מִתַּ֙חַת֙ כַּנְפֵיהֶ֔ם עַ֖ל אַרְבַּ֣עַת רִבְעֵיהֶ֑ם וּפְנֵיהֶ֥ם וְכַנְפֵיהֶ֖ם לְאַרְבַּעְתָּֽם:

And human hands were beneath their wings on their four sides, and their faces and their wings were [the same] to all four of them.

Ezekiel 1:8

This week’s Torah portion contains the commandment for Tzitzit. The children of Israel observe this commandment in a very specific way. A four cornered garment is worn and the Tzitzit are tied into each corner. Some minhagim include the thread of techelet blue, and some minhagim uses only undyed wool. The Halacha, however, maintains that the Tzitzit are only worn in a four cornered garment that goes over the shoulders.

One reason the sages instructed us to wear the Tzitzit in this fashion is because of the quotation we see here in Ezekiel 1. The understanding surrounds the word כנפ kanaf, which can really mean two different things. It can mean corner, as in Numbers 15:38, and it can also mean wing, as in Ezekiel 1:8. Although the meaning of the word can largely be determined by context, it is important to perform a mitzvah of this magnitude as precisely as possible. Consequently, when we see that the hands are under the kanaf, the wing, we may also understand that the hands must be under the corner, kanaf. Therefore, Tzitzit must be worn in a garment that has four corners, kanaf, that must be worn over the arms or hands. For our purposes, this must mean over the shoulders.

Some groups attempt to tie Tzitzit on their belt loop or clip them to their pants. My bride, Roni, calls them lunatic fringe. This is obviously an ignorant misunderstanding of the commandment. The groups that adopt this casual usage of Hashem’s name are trying to disassociate themselves from Israel, and Israel’s understanding of the commandments. They are following after their own eyes and own heart, prostituting themselves. They completely miss the point of the mitzvah, which is to remind ourselves to follow all of Hashem’s commandments, together as a nation. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.