Achieving renewal through the mitzvah of tzitzit

18th Mar 2023

In the Shulchan Aruch we learn that the proper intention, when fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzis, is to keep in mind that we are commanded to wrap ourselves in a garment with tzitzis in order to remember all of the mitzvahs and fulfill them (Orech Chaim 8, 8).

And here the Vilna Gaon has a surprising take, explaining that the mitzvah of tzitzis teaches us that we shouldn’t do mitzvahs by rote, but rather should imbue them with a spirit of newness (Biur HaGra 16).

Tzitzis is a very common, day-to-day mitzvah, often inculcated in boys from the tender age of three, so it might appear to be one of the least likely ways to achieve a spirit of newness, yet the Vilna Gaon says we should leverage the mitzvah of tzitzit to rejuvenate our approach to doing mitzvahs.

Coming from a tzitzit seller, you might think I’m hinting that you should go out and buy some new tzitzit. But really one of the primary ways to achieve renewal through tzitzit is to deepen our understanding of the mitzvah, primarily by studying the halacha of tzitzit and related material. And of course the month of Nissan is prime-time for rejuvenation (Shemos 12, 2).

In Kovetz Iggeros (Iggeres 10), the Chazon Ish writes:

כשתזכה לקיים מצוות ציצית תרגיש שמחה מופרזה ברגשי קודש לקשר קשר של קיימא עם התורה והמצווה ועם הברית עולמית

I’m unable to do justice to the above quote, but the gist of it is that when you fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit properly, you feel a sense of holy joy that binds you with the Torah and the mitzvahs.

At the very end of Shemiras HaLashon, the Chafetz Chaim quotes the Gemara, which teaches us that seeing tzitzit induces us to remember the mitzvahs, and in turn, remembering the mitzvahs brings us to fulfill them (Menachos 43b).

He explains that the above teaching of Chazal only applies if one studies and acquires knowledge of the mitzvahs, but is worried he could forget. He compares this to someone who jots down a list of merchandise he plans to buy, and reviews the list repeatedly. But if he is unfamiliar with the merchandise, it goes without saying that the list won’t help him.


The above is based largely on a talk given by HaRav Reuven Hechster, given in late Adar 5783.