Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How We Were Zocheh to Tzitzis

9:23. Vayikach Sheim voYefes.

Rashi from Sanhedrin 70— because of the chesed and kibud av of this simlah, Sheim was zocheh to the tallis of tzitzis.

The Mizrachi here asks from here to the gemara Chulin 89 that says we were zocheh to chut shel tzitzis and retzu’ah shel tefillin because of the “michut ve’ad sroch na’al in Lech Lecho 14:23— so, which zechus was essential for bringing us the mitvah? Was it Avrom’s refusal of Melech Sdom’s money, or Sheim’s concern for his father’s dignity?

The Mizrachi says that one was for the white threads and the other for the tcheiles.

The Kli Yokor says that one was for the tallis shel mitzvah and the other for the chut of tzitzis (this teretz is shver, because the beged of tzitzis is just a machshir and has no intrinsic chashivus– you have to put them somewhere. (Someone showed me a likut called Yakro D’Orayso that brings someone who, not mentioning the Kli Yokor, wants to bring rayos that the beged is part of the mitzvoh; his rayos are weak. One is the Rashi on Hiddur that says Tallis no’eh (I thought it was the Gemorah) besides tzitzis no’im, so you see that the beged is part of the mitzvoh. Another is the fact that we say “l’his’ateif batzitzis,” and if the beged is not part of the mitzvoh, why mention the ittuf part. Poor rayos. I think he also brings some irrelevant Netziv from a Mechiltah.)

But then the Kli Yokor adds a very good thing: that tzitzis protects from two things-- arayos and poverty, so the story of Sheim, with the beged to cover Noach, gave tzitzis the sgula of protection from arayos, it covers the ervoh, and the story of Avrohom, where he refused bad money, he refused money that wasn’t kosher, brought the sgula of protection from poverty.)

The Kli Yokor says that tzitzis protect from arayos based on the story of the man and the zonah in Menachos 44, and they protect from poverty because a person that is involved in arayos becomes poor. His ‘poverty’ point seems weak.

However, I found that the Gemorah in Menochos 43a says that Rav Moni was very makpid to get good tcheiles, and ‘hahu sabbo’ told him that the ancient ones were also makpid like that and they were successful in their businesses. This is something you will never forget: Rav Moni– lot’s of money.

One must realize, however, that tzitzis are not magical amulets; we wear them because of Hashem’s mitzvah. But they do assist a person who is trying to do Hashem’s will to earn an honest living and avoid arayos.

This Kli Yokor should give us a greater appreciation of what the mitzvos of the Torah mean, where they come from, and their deeper meanings. Every mitzvoh is like this, but when we are lucky enough to make the occasional discovery about one or the other, we should get chizuk out of it. So next time you put on your tzitzis, or buy a pair of tzitzis, remember that this mitzvah stems from the most ancient times and appreciate and celebrate it as it deserves.

However, I later wondered, what do these Gemoros mean when they say we were zocheh to particular mitzvos because of a maiseh ovos. Since when do we have mitzvos because of the zchus of something we did? Weren’t the mitzvos given because Hashem wants us to have the taryag? And does this mean that all of our mitzvos stem from something we did? And if not, what distinguishes these two mitzvos, in the sense that all other mitzvos are gzeiras melech, and these two stem from a maiseh ovos?

Maybe the answer is that tzitzis is one of the rare mitzvos that, the Bach says, should be done with specific kavonoh. Where there is a din of specific kavonoh, it is important to remember the story behind the mitzvoh. In the case of tzitzis, when a person puts on the tzitzis, he should remember the shame and disgrace of arayos, and the schar of the strength of character one should have in rising above it; and he should remember Avrom Ovinu’s refusal to take money he was entitled to because it was not clean money, and how important it is to trust in Hashem and not accept money or gifts that are not honorable.

However, I later looked at the Gemora in Chullin 89a, and I saw that the Gemora really says a very interesting thing that people don’t realize. The gemora says b’zchus michut etc. Then, the Gemora asks, bishlemo tefillin, it says v’ro’u kol amei ho’oretz...v’yor’u mimeko. But what is there about tzitzis. Rashi there explains, by tefillin we know what hano’oh there is from doing the mizvoh. So it is clear as day that the gemora doesn’t mean that we were zocheh to the mitzvos because of ma’aseh ovos. The Gemora means that we were zocheh to have a specific hano’oh or schar that is generated from doing the mitzvoh.

Another point: the gemora then answers that the hano’oh from tzitzis is that the color of tcheiles is... like the kisei hakovod. Normally, you learn that this means that we look at the tcheiles and we are reminded of all the mitzvos in the Torah. Rashi says this is not correct. Rashi says that the result of the color is that Hashem looks at His kisei hakovod and He remembers the mitzvoh of tcheiles! This is the hano’oh of the mitzvoh, that one who wears tcheiles will be remembered by Hashem, because Hashem is reminded about the mitzvoh when He looks at His kisei hakovod.

It is worth noting that a similar Chazal, in Sotah 17a, says as above regarding tefillin and tzitzis, and also that we were zocheh to Eifer Poroh Adumoh and Afar Sotah from Avrohom’s saying “v’onochi ofor vo’eifer” in Vayeiro 18:27. If you will look at the Torah Temimoh there, you will see that he is completely off the tracks, and didn’t remember the idea that the “zochu” refers to a tangential benefit.

Now, back to the original question the Mizrochi asked, why does the Gemora have two reasons we were zocheh to tzitzis:
R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz says that one was the seed and the other was the earth and water to make it grow, and the Levush Ho’Orah in the same sefer as the Mizrachi says that the brocho to Sheim could have gone to any of his descendants, and it was Avrohom’s act that brought it to us. This teretz, although it sounds most logical, is shver because we don’t find that other nations have any mitzvos at all. Does he mean that we would have had 612 and the Indians would have the mitzvah of tzitzis? R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz’s teretz, however, fits into the Levush Ho’orah’s pshat, because although the seed was given to Sheim, only one of his descendants, Avrohom, made it sprout.

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