TZITZIT

       

The Lord said to Moses as follows: Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes (Tzitzit) on the corners (Kanphei) of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner. That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the Lord and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge. Thus you shall be reminded to observe all my commandments and to be holy to your God. I the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I, the Lord your God (Numbers 15:37-41)

You shall make tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself. (Deuteronomy 22:12)

REASONS FOR EXPLORING TZITZIT

 

Fringes challenge Reform Jews because they represent the observance of the commandments and because Reform Jews are frequently confused about whether or not we have an obligation to observe the commandments. We need to explore the meaning of mitzvot, both as individuals and as a group. There are Orthodox and Conservative guides to mitzvot, but no universally recognized and followed Reform guides. (Wertheimer, p. 9)

In order to understand what tzitzit mean to us today, it is necessary to look at the history of how they were used in ancient times and during the early Reform period. Questions include:

Leo Baeck: "Each age must search in it what is most relevant and peculiar to itself. Each generation heard in the Bible's word its own wishes, hopes and thoughts, each individual his heart's desire....With each conquest of human thought the Bible took on a different meaning....It is not a heritage to be accepted passively but rather a heritage that has to be won through study." (Quoted in Jospe,  "On the meaning of Jewish culture in our time," in: Jospe, ed. TRADITION AND CONTEMPORARY EXPERIENCE, p. 45.)

Reuven Hammer, in referring to tzitzit in his ENTERING JEWISH PRAYER said:

"Words and music are the basic ways we use to express our devotion to God. There are, however, nonverbal means of communication that can be no less meaningful or important." (pp. 250-254)

TZITZIT TODAY

     
  • Remind us not only of the commandments, but of the many attempts over the ages to reform the commandments to make them more relevant to each age
  • Remind us of our obligation as reform Jews to commit to continue the practice of turning over the commandments and all of Torah to see how it can help us lead better lives.

Continue to remember tzitzit and see where they lead you.

 


GENERAL REFERENCES

Hammer, Reuven, ENTERING JEWISH PRAYER: A GUIDE TO PERSONAL DEVOTION AND THE WORSHIP SERVICE. NY: Schocken Books, 1994.

Jospe, Alfred, ed., TRADITION AND CONTEMPORARY EXPERIENCE: ESSAYS ON JEWISH THOUGHT AND LIFE, Schocken Books, 1970.

Wertheimer, Jack, A PEOPLE DIVIDED: JUDAISM IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICA, HarperCollins, 1993.


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11/29/97

© 1997, Rosemarie E. Falanga, Cy H. Silver