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A Fitting Antidote

A Fitting Antidote

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How do we take religion out of the once-a-week class? How does one acquire a feeling of (and for) religion? Where does one derive the strength to live by religious ideals, even in moments of weakness? How can one develop a sense of closeness, an awareness of G‑d?

Among the mitzvahs that suffer from neglect bordering on repudiation, tzitzit ranks high. Simple, unobtrusive, yet highly potent in its effect on the observant, tzitzit is probably closer to legend than reality to most Jews. How many know what the word means? They are the fringes placed on four-cornered garments (tallit for instance), and one such garment, called arba kanfot, is generally worn under the shirt.

Men's weaknesses and temptations frequently are of a physical nature. Is it not logical that the antidote likewise be physical?"You will see it (the tzitzit) and remember all the commandments of G‑d and do them; and not stray after your heart and eyes..." (Numbers 15:39). Men's weaknesses and temptations, his little vagaries, frequently are of a physical nature, of the flesh. Is it not logical that the antidote likewise be physical? A physical thing, or an act, can often be more effective spiritually than a sophisticated theology. Putting on the arba kanfot in the morning and wearing it all day, is an active affirmation of G‑d's presence. It is a personal reminder of what the Jew is expected to be and do. Being literally covered with a mitzvah helps keep one from "forgetting" and succumbing to unworthy weakness.

Could this mitzvah be a test of our readiness to do something Jewish? Does it involve economic hardship, excessive exertion, or inordinate outlay of time? Perhaps we are so accustomed not to perform mitzvahs, that we don't bother thinking about them? Or is it possible that people simply don't know about these things, and are eager to learn and do…

Rabbi Zalman I. Posner (1927-2014) was a noted author and lecturer. He was rabbi of Congregation Sherith Israel of Nashville, Tennessee, for 53 years and co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Nashville.
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Anonymous Highland Park, IL June 8, 2007

RE on article What about women? How do we apply religion to our lives? Reply

This is no fringe mitzvah! The tallit and tzitzit serves as constant reminders of our obligations to G-d and our fellows.
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