Ever Wonder Why we wear tzitzit?
The mitzvah of
tzitzit is a unique one. The Torah commands us to attach tzitzit to any
four cornered garment that we wear yet it never once commands us to
wear one. Moreover, since this is the case, why then do we
specifically make it a point to wear a tallit during tefila and a
tallit katan all day long, both of these being four cornered garments
As we know from the pesukim of Shema, the Torah
clearly states the reason for this mitzvah. Regarding the tzitzit
it says, “. . . and you will see it and you will remember all the
mitzvot and you will do them”. The Sefer Hachinuch explains how tzitzit
has the power to be a reminder. Wearing tzitzit is much like a person
wearing the badge of a king on his clothing. As long as that badge is
worn, it stands as a reminder to that person that he is a servant of
the king and that thought stays with him all day long.
In a more esoteric way, the Sefer Hachinuch relates
how the numeric value of the Hebrew word tzitzit, which is 600, plus
the sum of the eight strings and five knots which make up each tzitzit,
equal the total number of mitzvot in the Torah, 613. Thus, wearing a
garment with tzitzit is like being enveloped in all 613 mitzvot, the
An additional aspect to this is found in Halacha. In
order to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit properly, a person should keep
two tzitzit in front of himself and the other two in back at all times.
This is in order to always be surrounded by mitzvot. Parenthetically,
this is the reason we have an atara, a “crown” or “collar”, on our
tallit. The tzitzit that are in the front have more holiness, as they
serve the front of the body. Therefore, in order to know which side of
the tallit is the front, the atara is sewn along one side, usually
consisting of a decorated strip of fabric or several rows of small
silver ornaments in order to beautify the mitzvah.
There are two quotes in the Gemara that really drive
home the reason to wear a garment with tzitzit at all times. In the
first, the Gemara tells of a certain Rav Ketina who purposely wore
garments that did not require tzitzit on them. He encountered an angel
who told him that he was not doing the proper thing. Indeed, the angel
told him that although one who does not wear a garment with tzitzit has
technically not transgressed the mitzvah and therefore, is not punished
directly; nevertheless, when Heavenly Wrath is forthcoming he becomes
more vulnerable to it, as he is lacking the extra protection that the
mitzvah of tzitzit would afford. The second Gemara relates that one who
is conscientious in performing the mitzvah of tzitzit will receive the
great reward of being able to greet the countenance of the Divine
Presence at the end of his days.
May we all strive to embrace the message inherent in
the mitzvah of tzitzit: to always remember Hashem at every moment
and to always keep His mitzvot foremost in our hearts and minds.
Rabbi Eliezer Kessler