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Vertluch: Parshas Shelach

At the end of this weeks parsha, the Torah relates to us the incident of the Mikoshesh. The Mikoshesh was an individual who was mechalel Shabbos , the second Shabbos after the bnei Yisroel received the Torah. The pasuk tells us that he went out and was mechalel Shabbos in public. Bnei Yisroel didn’t know how to respond. They knew he deserved to be punished by death, but were unsure of what type. Moreover, Moshe himself didn’t know what to do. Therefore, Moshe asks Hashem how to proceed and is told to stone him. Immediately following this, the Torah discusses the parsha of tzitzes. What seems to be the connection between the episode of the Mikoshesh and the parsha of tzitzes? Why the juxtaposition of the two?

Daas Z’keinim M’baalei haTosfos says, that Moshe told Hashem that had this yid been wearing tefillin, they would have prevented him from sinning. How so? The inside of tefillin have parshiyos that say, ‘And it shall be to you as a sign upon your hand and as a remembrance between your eyes, in order that the law of the Lord shall be in your mouth, for with a mighty hand the Lord took you out of Egypt.’ (Shemos 13; 9) But Hashem, said Moshe, you commanded klal Yisroel not to wear tefillin on Shabbos, so what defense do the yidden have to prevent them from chillul Shabbos? Hashem answered Moshe and said, you are correct; therefore I am going to give them the mitzvah of tzitzes, where it says ‘So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments and you shall be holy to your God.’ (15; 40) These tzitzes will be able to be worn on Shabbos too and will serve as a shmira for all of bnei Yisroel in preventing them from desecrating Shabbos in the future.

The Tur, which is strictly a halacha sefer, when discussing the mitzvos of tefillin, tzitzes and succah not only tells us the laws of these mitzvos but also gives us the reasoning behind each of them. By tzitzes and tefillin he gives the same reason as the aforementioned; ‘it shall be to you as a sign upon your hand and as a remembrance between your eyes, in order that the law of the Lord shall be in your mouth.’ By succah, he says, because of ‘so that your generations will know…’

Bach asks, why is Tur giving reasons behind the mitzvos specifically here and nowhere else? He answers, if a person doesn’t understand the reasoning behind these three mitzvos they have not fulfilled the mitzvah; because the Torah went out of its way to say the reasoning. According to Bach one must fully understand the reasoning for these mitzvos prior to performing them.

Rashi (15; 39) adds and says, that the numerical value of the word tzitzes adds up to six hundred and thirteen: ‘because the numerical value of the word tzites is six hundred plus eight threads and five knots, and we have a total of six hundred and thirteen [the number of commandments in the Torah.’

Asks the Alshich, is it really so, that one will see their tzitzes and not perform the aveira because of its identical numerical value? History has proven many people who have worn tzitzes and still, unfortunately, succumbed to sinning. There must be a deeper meaning.

He answers, back in the day when a person wanted to remind himself something he would tie a string around his finger to act as a reminder; and it worked. Says the Alshich, there was once a person who woke up and the first thing he did was tie a string around his finger. Anytime he needed to remind himself something he would just look at his finger and say ‘oh, I have a string.’ Surprisingly enough, it didn’t work. This man brought his concern to the chachamim and when asked, he explained that when he woke up the first thing he did was tie a string around his finger for all of that days reminders. They responded to him that he can’t just expect a general reminder. It has to be done towards a specific fixation. You have to have something specific in mind when doing so, otherwise it won’t work.

The same is true by tzitzes. You can’t just put them on and expect to be protected from all attractions every day. When putting on the tzitzes one has to have in mind to be protected from aveiros and to constantly remember that Hashem took us out from being slaves in Egypt. Through these constant reminders, being given by our tzitzes, we can then be protected from nisyonos that come our way.
According to Bach the reason why these three mitzvos need additional kavanah is because it is the essence of the mitzvah. Without the kavanah, it’s purposeless. It isn’t two separate mitzvos; first a commandment and later the reasoning. Without the proper concentration and understanding-by these three mitzvos-you’re lacking the actual mitzvah. (The opposite of the mitzvah of matzah. Albeit you didn’t remember that we were taken out of Egypt as you ate the matzah, you has still fulfilled your obligation)

We all have to have reminders. It’s not just with these mitzvos, it’s with everything. We must always be on alert and set ourselves up for success. We can’t expect that we will overcome every single challenge. But we have to take preventative measures to get to the challenge-before it presents itself to us. We need to be prepared before the nisayon finds us.

With Hashems help may we be zoche that all of klal Yisroel keeps this Shabbos together, which will ultimately be our second complete Shabbos where we will then be zoche to greet Moshiach, speedily in our days.


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