I’m reading reports from Israel that soldiers are snapping up tzitzit and their commanders are requesting hundreds more. They’ve even had to mobilize people to fill all the orders coming in, since the tzitzit have to be tied by hand!

Is it just about showing Jewish pride, or is there more to it?

The Short Answer

Aside from being a very important mitzvah, wearing tzitzit is strongly associated with the protection and redemption of the Jewish people. So, yes, these soldiers are onto something.

Tzitzit Correspond to All Mitzvot

The mitzvah to tie tzitzit to the corners of one’s clothing is unique. Strictly speaking, you are only required to tie tzitzit to garments that have four corners. Nevertheless, the sages emphasize the importance of going out of one’s way to fulfill the mitzvah, since it corresponds to all 613 mitzvot.1

This is evident in the word itself: The numeric value of the word tzitzit (ציצית) is 600. Add the five knots and eight strands tied to each corner, and you have 613—the total number of mitzvot in the Torah.2

Wearing tzitzit is also one of the only mitzvot that wraps around and envelops the person, and one of the very few that you can perform all day, every day of the year—even while being occupied with other tasks.3

Tzitzit Provide Spiritual Protection

Of course, mitzvot are done primarily to fulfill and connect to the Divine will. But at the same time, every mitzvah has its own special properties.

Our sages tell us that the mitzvah of tzitzit, along with tefillin and mezuzah, serves as protection from negative spiritual forces:4

Anyone who has tefillin on his head, tefillin on his arm, tzitzit on his garment, and a mezuzah on his doorway, is strengthened from all sides so that he will not sin, as it is stated in the verse: “And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”5

And the verse states: “The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him, and delivers them.”6

This extends to protection from physical harm as well. The Zohar7 and Midrash8 both promise that wearing tzitzit protects from injury and destruction, as well as from the evil eye.9

For this reason, the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (16th century Safed, Israel), advised his followers to wear tzitzit at night. Technically, it is a daytime-only mitzvah, but due to the protection it affords, many Jews wear tzitzit over their pajamas as well.

In the same vein, the Lubavitcher Rebbe occasionally advised those needing extra protection to be sure to wear tzitzit (this is of course in addition to putting on tefillin every day, which not only also protects, but is an obligatory mitzvah).

Tzitzit Can Vanquish Enemies

Very relevant to our present circumstances, the Midrash10 advises:

In the merit of the mitzvah of the tzitzit, the enemies of Israel will be destroyed.

As it says “To grasp the corners of the earth so that the wicked shall be shaken from it.”11 This is a reference to the mitzvah of tzitzit, which is grasped on the four corners of our garments.

Resurrection of the Dead

Commentaries explain that the four corners of the tzitzit garment allude to the ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the world, while the tzitzit themselves allude to the resurrection of the dead, all of which will happen as part of the Final Redemption.12

No wonder the people of Israel—soldiers and civilians alike—are snapping up tzitzit! And there’s nothing stopping us outside of Israel, too. The effect of mitzvot is non-local—a mitzvah you do on one side of the world helps every Jew across the globe, and especially our brothers and sisters in Israel.

With prayers that there finally be peace in the Holy Land and the entire world, with the coming of Moshiach and the resurrection of the dead, very soon in our days!