והיה לכם לציצת וראיתם אותו וזכרתם את כל מצות ד’ ועשיתם אותם
It shall be for you Tzitzis [fringes], and you shall see it,
and you shall remember all of God’s commandments, and you shall do them.
God instructs Moshe to convey the Mitzvah of Tzitzis to the Israelites. “Speak to the Israelites and say to them that they shall make themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations”. “They shall place upon the fringes of each corner a Techeiles thread”, God continues, “and it shall be for you Tzitzit [fringes], and you shall see it, and you shall remember all of God’s commandments”.
Now how’s that for a fringe benefit? See your tzitzis, and you’ll remember the Mitzvos! Sounds great!
But how does that happen? What is it about Tzitzis that will cause us to remember all of God’s commandments?
Rashi provides the answer. The numerical value of the word “Tzitzis”, he explains, equals 600. Here’s the math: Tzadik=90, Yud=10, Tzadik=90, Yud=10, Tuv=400, Total=600. Add to that the eight strings and five knots, and you’ve got 613, which equals the number of commandments in the Torah.
Tied up in knots by all that math? Just wait, because here’s where it really begins to unravel!
Tzitzis, if you look carefully in the actual verse, is actually spelled here with one “Yud”, not two. Hence, the very verse which tells us to do the math and remember the 613 Mitzvos, seems to be ten Mitzvos short! And while Tzitzis can, and indeed should, be spelled with two “Yud”s, thus bringing the total up to 613, the fact that it is not spelled that way here, seems to leave us hanging high and dry like a pair of Tzitzis on a Jerusalem clothesline! (Or alternatively, jumbled like a pair accidently thrown into the dryer by a well-meaning, uninitiated, newlywed wife!)
Apparently, the missing ten are to be remembered with no strings attached. But why? Who are they? And why would the Torah intentionally leave them out?
The fact that the Ten Commandments were singled out for divine delivery at Sinai, is indicative of their centrality to the whole of Torah. Indeed, they are the very foundation of the entire body of commandments, the seed from which the other 603 Mitzvos sprout forth. It is thus quite likely that it is these Ten Commandments which are deemed not requiring of a reminder, with the message being as follows: The only possible hope one can have of recalling all that his value system asks of him, is by having that system’s core values so deeply ingrained in his consciousness, that he could never forget them to begin with. If we have 10 embedded in our very D.N.A., then the other 603 will find their way back into our genetic thread as well (via our threads, of course). But if even the basics are not part and parcel of who we are, then reminders won’t remind, and arithmetic won’t do the trick. (So basically, you can’t cut corners, especially on Tzitzis).
And it’s like that with everything. We can’t “remember” what to do, if we need to “remember” who we are. We must retain an indestructible nucleus of values, to ensure that our entire molecular structure doesn’t mutate at the first sign of energy dissipation (so now you know I flunked math and science).
Because without a core, the apple does fall very far from the tree, and life can be the pits.