Sunday, September 9, 2012

Seeing - #BlogElul 22

This morning at minyan I had the privilege of leading Shacharit, as I usually do on Sundays. I was thinking about the commandment to wear the tzitzit, the ritual fringes that give the tallit its meaning - otherwise it is just a four-cornered shawl.

We remind ourselves of this commandment every morning in the third paragraph of the Sh'ma, the most basic of Jewish blessings.

When we think of the Sh'ma,  we think mostly of the iconic first line, the one we hear whenever we take the Torah out of the ark, the one we are supposed to say on our deathbeds:

Hear, O Israel, HaShem is our G-d, HaShem is One.

But that line is embedded in a series of other blessings and commandments, and the third paragraph of that series tells us, quoting Numbers 15 37-39:
לז  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. 37 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
לח  דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם, וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת עַל-כַּנְפֵי בִגְדֵיהֶם, לְדֹרֹתָם; וְנָתְנוּ עַל-צִיצִת הַכָּנָף, פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת. 38 'Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue.
לט  וְהָיָה לָכֶם, לְצִיצִת, וּרְאִיתֶם אֹתוֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם אֶת-כָּל-מִצְו‍ֹת יְהוָה, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם; וְלֹא-תָתוּרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם, וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר-אַתֶּם זֹנִים, אַחֲרֵיהֶם. 39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray;

The purpose of the fringe is to protect our eyes from the temptations that will lead us astray from loving G-d with all our hearts and all our souls and all our might (which is what the first paragraph after the Sh'ma tells us to do). We will see it and be reminded, just like tying a knot in your handkerchief to remind you to do something. Seeing is remembering.

eli's hands

How are you going to remember to avoid going astray this year?

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