Shir Shel Shavua : Issue 8

June 9, 2023

Parasha Shelach Lecha - June 17, 2023

The last paragraph of this week’s Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, discusses the biblical commandment of Tzitzit. According to the Torah (Bemidbar 15:37-41) all four-cornered garments required the attachment of a uniquely tied set of strings which were intended to remind us of the 613 commandments in the Torah.

This week, Hashem commands the Jewish people to affix fringes to the corners of their clothing so that they would constantly remember Him and His commandments. At that time, the common garment was a simple sheet of cloth, and the mitzvah was to affix fringes to each of its four corners. But styles changed over the centuries, and the simple garments of biblical times were replaced with robes, jackets, trousers, and shirts. So, as styles developed, so too did our approach to Jewish fashion! Jewish people began to fulfill this mitzvah in the following two ways: During prayer, we drape ourselves in a Tallit Gadol (“big tallit”), which has essentially remained the same since ancient times. Alternatively, some wear a smaller poncho-like undershirt called Tallit Katan (“small tallit”) or Arba Kanfot (“four corners”). For most of us, it fits neatly under a shirt.

The eight strings and five knots on each corner are a physical representation of the Torah's 613 commandments. It works like this: Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a corresponding numerical value called gematria. The numerical values of the five letters that comprise the Hebrew word tzitzit add up to 600. Add the eight strings and five knots of each tassel, and the total is 613!

Come to shul this Shabbat and learn more about the amazing different traditions surrounding the Tallit and Tzitzit!

And in the meantime, for fun, check out this hip-hop modern musical video which reminds us to “let them hang low!”

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