The Golden Seal

מרן הגאב"ד שליט"א
  • הדפסה

  

ויאמר ה' אל משה לאמר: דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם ועשו להם ציצת על כנפי בגדיהם לדרתם ונתנו על ציצת הכנף פתיל תכלת. והיה לכם לציצת וראיתם אתו וזכרתם את כל מצות ה' ועשיתם אתם ולא תתרו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם אשר אתם זנים אחריהם. למען תזכרו ועשיתם את כל מצותי והייתם קדשים לאלקיכם.

Hashem spoke to Moshe and said: Speak to Bnei Yisrael and tell them to make for themselves tzitzis on the corners of their garments throughout the generations, and they shall place on their tzitzis a thread of techeiles.  They shall be for you tzitzis that you shall see and be reminded of all Hashem’s mitzvos to perform them, and you shall not stray after your hearts and your eyes, which lead you towards unfaithfulness.  Thereby you shall remember and heed all My mitzvos and become holy to your G‑d.[1]

The mitzva of tzitzis is comprised of two separate components: white strings and blue.  Nevertheless, the Mishna states that if a person wears only white strings, or only blue, he still fulfills his mitzva.[2]  Such is the case today, when we have lost the tradition of how to identify the chilazon fish that produces techeiles, and thus must suffice with white strings alone.

In the time of the Gemara, techeiles was still available, although it was rare and expensive.  Accordingly, the Gemara states that if a person fails to wear expensive techeiles strings, his punishment is less severe than that of a person who fails to wear relatively cheap white strings, since the latter has no excuse:

תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר גדול עונשו של לבן יותר מעונשו של תכלת. משל למה הדבר דומה, למלך בשר ודם שאמר לשני עבדיו. לאחד אמר הבא לי חותם של טיט, ולאחד אמר הבא לי חותם של זהב, ופשעו שניהם ולא הביאו. איזה מהן עונשו מרובה?  הוי אומר זה שאמר לו הבא לי חותם של טיט ולא הביא.

Rebbe Meir taught: the punishment for failing to wear white strings of tzitzis, is greater than the punishment for failing to wear techeiles.  This is comparable to a mortal king who issued orders to two slaves.  One slave was told to bring a seal of clay.  The other slave was told to bring a seal of gold.  Both slaves failed in their assignments.  Which slave was punished more severely?  The one who failed to bring a seal of clay.[3]

Tosefos explains the comparison between tzitzis and a seal by noting that it was once customary for slaves to wear a medallion made of clay or metal, bearing the seal of their masters.[4]  Thereby, they publicized their allegiance to their masters.  Tzitzis is our medallion, by which we publicize that we are Hashem’s slaves.

This sign of servitude is not only to inform the world of our ideologies, but also to remind ourselves of our responsibilities as the Chosen Nation.  The Gemara tells the story of a person who was about to commit a terrible sin when his tzitzis slapped him in the face.  He imagined that they were like four witnesses who would testify against him in the Heavenly Court.  At the last minute he overcame his passions and fled from sin.[5]  This episode is a perfect illustration of the segulah of tzitzis to remind us of our responsibilities and guard us from sin, as the verse in this week’s parsha states: “And they shall be for you tzitzis that you shall see and be reminded of all Hashem’s mitzvos to perform them, and you shall not stray after your hearts and your eyes, which lead you towards unfaithfulness.”

The word ציצית equals 600 in gematria, which together with the 8 strings on each corner and the five knots on each sting equals 613, corresponding to all the 613 mitzvos.[6]  Since tzitzis is the one mitzva that ensures our performance of all the others, it is considered equivalent to all other mitzvos.[7]

The Midrash describes the segulah of tzitzis to protect us from sin by the following parable:

"למען תזכרו ועשיתם את כל מצותי" משל לאחד מושלך לתוך המים הושיט הקברניט את החבל ואמר לו תפוש חבל זה בידך ואל תניחהו שאם תניחהו אין לך חיים אף כך אמר לו הקב"ה לישראל כל זמן שאתם מדובקין במצות "ואתם הדבקים בה' אלהיכם חיים כולכם היום" וכן הוא אומר "החזק במוסר אל תרף נצרה כי היא חייך."

 “Thereby you shall remember and heed all My mitzvos.”  This is comparable to a person who was drowning in the sea until a sailor came and threw him a lifeline.  “Hold on tightly to the rope!” the sailor said.  “Don’t let go of it, because if you let go your life is gone!”

So too, HaKadosh Baruch Hu tells Bnei Yisrael that as along as they hold on tightly to the mitzvos, [they are attached to Hashem Himself], as the verse states, “And you who are attached to Hashem your G‑d are all alive today[8]”, and similarly, “Hold on tightly to mussar.  Don’t let go of it.  Guard it, for it is your life.[9][10]

This parable is especially fitting for tzitzis.  By reminding us to refrain from sin, tzitzis strings are the very lifeline by which are drawn into the proverbial ark of Torah observance, to be rescued from the flood of forbidden desires that threatens to drown the world in decadence.

*

Another aspect of the seal of gold to which the techeiles strings are compared is the element of royalty inherent in every Jew.  Although we are slaves to Hashem on one hand, we are also a “ממלכת כהנים – a nation of noblemen,”[11] as Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai taught, “All Jews are children of kings.”[12]

Traditionally, only kings were allowed to wear clothes dyed in the color of techeiles, as the Ramban writes regarding the coat of techeiles worn by the Kohen Gadol:

לכבוד ולתפארת - שיהיה נכבד ומפואר במלבושים נכבדים ומפוארים ... כי אלה הבגדים לבושי מלכות הן, כדמותן ילבשו המלכים בזמן התורה ... והתכלת גם היום לא ירים איש את ידו ללבוש חוץ ממלך גוים, וכתיב "ומרדכי יצא מלפני המלך בלבוש מלכות תכלת."

“[You shall make sacred garments for your brother Aharon] for glory and splendor.”[13]  Aharon was glorified with splendid regal garments… These garments were clothes of kingship, resembling the clothes worn by kings in the time of the Torah … Even until this day, no one dares to wear techeiles except for the king of a nation, as it is written, “And Mordechai went out from before the king in a regal garment of techeiles.”[14]

As members of the royal family, we wear clothes of nobility which display us in the proper light as the representatives of Hashem’s holy Torah in the world.  Techeiles represents not only the kingship of men, but the Kingship of Hashem Himself, as the Gemara states:

תניא היה ר' מאיר אומר מה נשתנה תכלת מכל מיני צבעונין מפני שהתכלת דומה לים וים דומה לרקיע ורקיע לכסא הכבוד שנאמר  "ותחת רגליו כמעשה לבנת הספיר וכעצם השמים לטהר" וכתיב "כמראה אבן ספיר דמות כסא."

Rebbe Meir taught: Why was techeiles chosen from among all colors (to be used in tzitzis)?  Techeiles resembles the sea, while the sea resembles the Heavens, and the Heavens resemble the Throne of Glory, as it is written, “Under His feet was the likeness of sapphire brickwork, and it was like the essence of the Heaven in purity,”[15] and elsewhere, “The appearance of the Throne was like a sapphire stone. [16][17]

Rashi explains that it is only fitting that Bnei Yisrael wear the likeness of the Throne of Glory.[18]  Thereby, we are reminded of our true importance, and the magnitude of our role in this world.  Just as Hashem is seated in Heaven on His Throne of Glory, from which He rules all creation, so too He is “seated”, so to speak, in this lowermost world upon Bnei Yisrael, who publicize His Kingship through our Torah, prayer and mitzvos.

May we merit to exhibit the holy royalty that was endowed upon us on Har Sinai, by speaking, dressing and acting in accordance with the Torah, in fulfillment of the verse, “Thereby you shall remember and heed all My mitzvos and become holy to your G‑d.[19]


[1] Bamidbar 15:37-40

[2] Menachos 38a

[3] Menachos 43b.  See Rashi and Shita Mekubetzes.

[4] See Shabbos 57b.

[5] Menachos 44a

[6] Sefer HaChinuch 386

[7] Nedarim 25a

[8] Devarim 4:4

[9] Mishlei 4:13

[10] Bamidbar Rabbah 17:6

[11] Shemos 19:6

[12] Shabbos 67a

[13] Shemos 28:2

[14] Esther 8:15

[15] Shemos 24:10

[16] Yechezkel 1:26

[17] Menachos 43b

[18] Rashi s.v. V’rakiah.  See Shita Mekubetzes.

[19] Bamidbar 15:37-40