The Mitzvah of Tzitzis: History and Application

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The Mitzvah of Tzitzis:[1]

The Torah[2] commands every male Jew to tie fringes onto the corners of four cornered garments that he wears. It is forbidden to wear any garment that is obligated in Tzitzis and does not have Kosher Tzitzis placed on all of its four corners.[3] One who wears such a garment transgresses a positive command, as he has nullified the Mitzvah of Tzitzis. [The Gemara[4] states that one who does so transgresses five positive commands.[5]]

How many Mitzvos are fulfilled by wearing Tzitzis?[6] One who wears a four-cornered garment with Tzitzis on each corner fulfills a single Biblical positive command.

The History-When were the Jewish people commanded the Mitzvah of Tzitzis?[7]

The Jewish people were commanded the Mitzvah of Tzitzis after the incident of “Mikosheish Eitzim[8]” occurred on Shabbos. After this incident, Moshe said to Hashem “During the week they have Tefillin which they wear to remind them of the Mitzvos; on Shabbos however, when Tefillin is not worn, what will remind them of the Mitzvos?” Hashem replied, “I am giving you the Mitzvah of Tzitzis through which you will remember [the commands]”. This is why the Parsha of Tzitzis begins with “Vayomer Hashem El Moshe” and not the standard wording of “Vayidaber Hashem El Moshe”, as Vayomer implies that Hashem is answering a request that was made by Moshe.[9]

Does one perform a Mitzvah at every moment that he wears Tzitzis, or only at the initial wearing?

From some sources[10] it is implied that the Mitzvah is fulfilled every moment that one wears Tzitzis.[11]

Is there a Mitzvah to look at the Tzitzis?

Coming up tomorrow!

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[1] Admur 8:28; Michaber 8:17

[2] Admur Parshas Shelach 15:38; Ki Seitzei verse 12

[3] Admur 13:1; Michaber 13:1; Mishneh Menachos 28a; See P”M 13 M”Z 5 that this applies even according to Rebbe Yishmael who holds each corner is a separate positive command

The reason: All four corners of Tzitzis are considered a single Mitzvah, and therefore so long as a Tallis does not have all four Tzitzis attached to it, it is not Kosher. [ibid] 

[4] Menachos 44a

[5] As the Torah states the command of wearing Tzitzis on five different occasions; 1) Veasu Lahem Tzitzis; 2) Venasnu Pesil Techeiles; 3) Vehaya Lachem Letzitzis; 4) Ureisem Oso Uzechartem; 5) Gedilim Taaseh Lecha. [Rashi ibid]

[6] Admur 13:1; Michaber 13:1; Mishneh Menachos 28a

The reason: As all four corners of Tzitzis are considered a single Mitzvah. [ibid]

Other opinions: Rebbe Yishmael in Mishneh Menachos 28a is of the opinion that each of the four corners is a separate Mitzvah, and one hence fulfills four positive commands in wearing Tzitzis. We rule like Chachamim. 

[7] Tana Dvei Eliyahu Rabah 26; Or Hachaim Hakadosh Shelach 15:38 in name of Yalkut

[8] This refers to the Jew who was caught chopping wood on Shabbos in the times of Moshe, when the Jews were in the desert. The Jew was later stoned to death for his transgression.

[9] Or Hachaim ibid

[10] Piskeiy Dinim 2:6; Rabbeinu Yonah brought in Gra 24:1

[11] Igros Kodesh 8:360 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 1:17]; Vetzaruch Iyun from Admur 592:7 which omits Tzitzis from the list of Mitzvos that are fulfilled at every moment, such as Tefillin and Sukkah.

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