Monday, August 18, 2008


Tzitzits (Fringes)

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Except for a three-year-old boy who puts on his first pair of tzitzits, who really gets excited about this mitzvah? The commandment to wear tzitzits applies only when we are wearing a four-cornered garment. There is no requirement to put on such a garment, so when we put on tzitzits we are actually “volunteering” to do this mitzvah. And what are we volunteering for? When you join the King’s service, the King gives you a garment to identify yourself with him. This garment also protects you because it reminds you of the King’s commandments, and this keeps you from straying.[i] If you remember this when you wear your tzitzis, you will wear them with great joy. You are a servant of the Holy One Whose service you have joined by putting them on.

The Torah tells us to wear tzitzits so we will see them and remember the commandments and “…not go after your heart and your eyes after which you stray.”[ii]

But even if we do see the tzitzits, and even if we are able to remember the commandments at that time, how can we possibly turn from what our eyes and heart want? Our eyes see that delicious thing and it looks very good. It looks so good, in fact, that the desire for it enters our heart. Now we want it even more. It pulls us to it. How can we possibly turn from such a craving?

Once you recognize the huge difference between you and your desires, controlling them can become surprisingly easy.

Try this exercise. Say, “I am going to try to look and see the wall over there.” Now, do that. Without analysis this entire process seems to be a single event, a flash, like a photo. But see how many individual stages are actually involved in this one act. Each of these functions is entirely different.

I - The I is unique and distinct from the things that the I does.

Am going to try - Going to try is not yet trying.

Try - Trying to look is not looking.

Look - Looking goes out from our eyes toward the object we are looking at.

Seeing - Seeing comes back from the object, enters through our eyes and goes into our brain. Looking and seeing are two entirely different actions.

The wall over there – You are not seeing the wall over there. We see the wall over here in our head, somewhere deep in our brain. We never see anything outside of our mind. The light brings a reflection of the object we are looking at to our eyes. Really, we should say, “I am going to look at the wall that is over there, over here (in my mind).

When an object of lust has grabbed your attention, stop and take a quick look at the stages that are involved in that lust. Ask such questions as: What part of my body really wants that thing? Where does the lust reach me? Where do I feel it? On my tongue? My stomach? My mind? What is the difference between these lusts that I am craving and me, the one who is experiencing them? After all, I am not my thoughts. I experience my thoughts. My thoughts are mine, but they are not me.

Trying to understand the players in our emotional experiences allows us to “step back” from the immediate sensual pull and see where that pull is coming from. That desire does not come from the object we lust. It comes from within our mind as we quickly fantasize what we might be able to experience by taking that object.

When we look objectively at our actual experience we can see where the desire affects us. Then we can choose whether to relax our resistance to that desire and simply slide into that lust, or instead, to turn and say, “I do not like where I will end up if I let that lust take me away. Even at these times of great desire, we can look away from that attraction and go on to something else.

Once you learn to do this, each time you do, it becomes easier. After all, you want what is best for you.

[i] Numbers 15:39
[ii] Numbers 15:39

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  1. Thank you, this was so interesting. I am a wife and mother keeping track of many pairs of tzitzis. Any practical thoughts on their care and repair? The strings are constantly being broken and unknotted and I do not know how to retie them. Once my husband took a class and did a great job retying, but now he has forgotten. Is there a youtube video on tzitzis tying? If not, does mpaths want to make one?

    PS - ours our Chabad style, if that makes any difference.

  2. Tying and repairing tzitzits has to be done by a knowing person. It is not difficult but it is very specific. Even one extra wrap of a single string (or one too few) is wrong and should be changed right away. When a strand breaks off one may not simply retie the broken piece back on. Such rules as how much of a thread or how many threads can be broken and the garment can still be worn are fixed. Also attaching or fixing them requires more than just tying the knots. One must have the proper intention to be fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzit. There are quite a number of laws that have to be followed so it sounds like your husband should take a refresher course.

    One big help is, if you use a washing machine for the many pair of tzitzits that you have been blessed to have in your home, put the fringes (not the garment) in a white sock (all four in one sock). Secure the sock on tightly perhaps with a rubber band. This will greatly extend the life of the fringes and keep them from getting so tangled up in the machine.

    Yes Chabad does have a specific system of tying them. In fact there are a number of different customs, all of them kosher and all of them a joy to see.

  3. Boker Tov, for Dugmachaya, above:

    In response to your question, if you would tie tzitzis, there is one good work with illustrations. Rebbe Aryeh Kaplan, obm, wrote a treatise on Tzitzit. It can be found on its own or in an anthological collection (he wrote two volumes). The treatise explains everything from gematria to the techelet (and omission thereof). It guides you step by step to do it. Buy the anthology...well worth it for the children. (He wrote two volumes with subjects ranging from Shabbos to Tefillin). Hope this helps. Also, for Reb Locks, very nice piece/article: kol tuv.
    Shalom v'l'chayyim,
    Yeshayahu Galluzzo

  4. The ptil techelet, the site for blue tzitzit string, has step by step tying instructions. They're focused on blue, but the Radzyner method is the Chabad method for white.

  5. I found a good video for tying tzitzit at this page I found that tying my own tzitzit adds a lot to the experience of wearing it. Thanks for the above well written information.



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