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The Parasha concludes with the positive commandment that any four cornered garment must have tzitzit - fringes:
"You shall see them, and remember to observe G-d's commandments. You shall not stray after your heart and after your eyes" (15:39). The words ureitem oto has been loosely translated "you shall see them". Literally, this refers to the tzitzit (plural) which together make up the entire entity of the suitably-fringed four-cornered garment. However, the Talmud (Menachot 43b) translates that phrase literally, meaning "you shall see Him" - meaning G-d. By looking at the tzitzit you are reminded of G-d, and the important of observing His commandments. And the Torah links this with: "You shall not stray after your heart and after your eyes", meaning that you should not devote your lifestyle to doing what you want, when you want, and how you want, without asking whether it is indeed what you should be doing.
However, the words ureitem oto implies that a person is of spiritually high level, spiritually refined. To one person the tzitzit are mere pieces of string tied in a particular way, but to the more informed, their colors - ocean-turquoise and white - instantly create spiritual associations: the sea, the heavens, and the Throne of Glory. Indeed, psychologists today use associated ideas as a means of enquiry. To get to know how a person really sees things, the investigator gives a list of nouns and asks the patient to say the first idea he/she comes up with. For example, on hearing the word "tree", one person will say "green", another "fruit" and a third "dangerous falling branches". The individual's responses say a great deal about the personality and experiences of the individual behind them.
That is what the Torah is saying with the words: ureitem oto: your experience of G-d and outlook on life should be such a nature that the mere observance of the tzitzit is enough to keep you on the rails. However, such spiritual levels are not taken for granted: implied in ureitem oto is that it is your responsibility to get yourself on such a spiritual level that the tzitzit instantly carry that association for you, without even having to think about it. The text implies that a person must get on that spiritual level. This may well be achieved by regular and purposeful Torah study, doing one's best to keep the mitzvot, and when possible listening to the "still, small voice" of G-d's involvement on one's very own life…
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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