And it will be to you for Tzitzis (fringes) and you will look upon it and you will remember all the Mitzvos (Commandments) of HASHEM and you will perform them and you will not stray after your hearts and after your eyes which you go straying after them. (Bamidbar 15:39)
And you will remember all the Mitzvos of HASHEM: The numerical value of the word Tzitzis is 600 and then there are 8 strings and 5 knots and that makes a total of 613 (equal to the number of Mitzvos) (Rashi)
You will not stray after you hearts: The heart and eyes are the spies of the body, seeking out sins for it. The eye sees and the heart desires and the body commits the sin. (Rashi)
How does looking at the Tzitzis remind us of the Mitzvos of HASHEM? Rashi explains (above) the numbers work to add up to 613. Surely there are many other features of the Tzitzis that could be counted that would not lead us to the magic number 613. It can’t be that this is a proof that the Tzitzis are a reminder of all the Mitzvos HASHEM. What is it then about seeing the Tzitzis that is to remind us to be cognizant about the Mitzvos? How does it work? Why do we need such a mechanism?
A woman entered a grocery store and promptly strapped her little daughter into a wagon seat. In the cookie isle the child started to cry out for cookies. The mother looked down at the piece of paper with her shopping list and then calmly declared, “Chani, we just came here for these few items and it’s home we go, for dinner!” When they went passed the drink department the child ranted and reached for soda while her mother glided by while studying her shopping list and saying again ever so firmly and calmly, “Chani, we already have plenty to drink at home! We’ll be home soon enough.” When they entered the candy department the poor little girl was attempting to climb out of the wagon and would have had it not been for the restraining belt. The mother once again referred to her shopping list and repeated her mantra, “Chani, another few minutes. We have a few items yet to get and then we can go home and make a delicious dinner for Abba.”
When they were already checking out of the grocery store and there within reach was the that maddening impulse buying section with candy bars, magazines and eye glass fixers, the biggest outburst and display of desperation was ready to erupt and it did. Her mom calm and cool now folded her little shopping list and placed it into her pocket book and took out the money to pay for the few chosen items she came into the store to get. She spoke out loud again and clearly stated, “Chani, we’ll be home soon and a healthy, tasty dinner will be served.”
Outside the store, in the parking lot, the mother was putting the grocery bags into the trunk and her daughter was being strapped into her car seat when a man approached her. He said admiringly, “I must tell you how impressed I am. From the moment you came into the store I noticed how badly your daughter wanted this and that and I was amazed how you handled yourself with such composure. It was really something educational to witness how calmly and sweetly you spoke to your little daughter Chani!” The young woman glared at him with a wrinkled brow and a look of incredulity and said, “My daughter Chani? I’m Chani!”
There’s a big lesson about shopping and everything else, included in the matter of the Tzitzis. The Torah does not want us to repeat the essential mistake of the spies that caused the Jewish Nation to be detoured in the desert for forty years. We cannot allow what we see to inform us about how we feel, unless we enjoy being anxious and frustrated all the time. Like a little child in a grocery store with twenty dollars we are presumed to be at constant risk of misappropriating our limited resources, time and money, without a clear “needs evaluation”.
The general rule is not to go shopping with your eyes. That can easily happen when you go out while you are hungry. Without a sober and objective assessment about what’s needed before entering the subjective world of the marketplace our eyes can become our worst enemy. Hence the need for the shopping list. The Tzitsis function for us like our shopping list. It’s there to remind us, not just kids, at every turn of life what we came here for…
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.