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W5. Wearing Fringes on Our Garments    [Make a Comment]

We are to wear Fringes with a thread of blue on our garments.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Numbers 15:38-40 (Maimonides RP14; Meir MP10; Chinuch C386)
Speak to the people of Isra'el, instructing them to make, through all their generations, tzitziyot1 on the corners of their garments, and to put with the tzitzit on each corner a blue thread. It is to be a tzitzit for you to look at and thereby remember all of ADONAI's mitzvot and obey them, so that you won't go around wherever your own heart and eyes lead you to prostitute yourselves; but it will help you remember and obey all my mitzvot and be holy for your God.

Matthew 23:5
Everything they do is done to be seen by others; for they make their t'fillin broad and their tzitziyot long ...

Mark 6:56
Wherever he went, in towns, cities or country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the tzitzit on his robe, and all who touched it were healed.

I address the wearing of tzitziyot at some length in Mitzvah # W2, but some of what I say there bears repeating here as well.

Wearing tzitziyot containing a thread of blue is clearly intended to be applied literally, and is consistent with the simple four-cornered style of garments worn during the time of Moses and later. Yeshua apparently wore them (Matthew 9:20, 14:36; Luke 8:44) as did other Jewish men of his day, but the question for modern Jews is whether God intends for fringes to be worn today as well, given that the type and style of clothing is not as before. In Orthodox Jewish communities all men wear tzitziyot, and there is discussion about whether they are also appropriate for women; Orthodox women normally do not wear them. In communities that have not adopted policies regarding tzitziyot, each individual must make his own decision about whether to wear them as described in Scripture, or substitute some other article of clothing or accessory that will accomplish the same thing - reminding anyone seeing it of the commandments of God.

What fringes are is self-evident, so our decisions (other than whether to wear them at all) are what to make them of, whether and how to knot them, what the color and origin of the dye for the blue thread should be, and to what articles of clothing they should be attached. Since the only requirement in Scripture is that they be placed on the corners of garments, unless one's community defines the particulars of acceptable tzitziyot, the wearer can use his own judgment on all of these. The orthodox Jewish community has adopted detailed rules for the construction of tzitziyot, which their male members attach to a special four-cornered garment called a tallit katan, and wear under their shirts or vests. Tzitziyot are also worn on the traditional rectangular prayer shawl, the tallit gadol, and are often lacking the blue thread.2

It is important to not to get so involved in the details of how to make tzitziyot, that we forget what they are supposed to remind us of, which are the commandments of God. We are not only to be reminded, but to be made continually aware of God's commandments as we proceed through each day.

I believe that the commandment to wear tzitziyot is meant to be literal for both Jewish men and Jewish women, notwithstanding the prevailing modern practice of their only being worn by men. The principle of wearing tzitziyot is also applicable to Gentiles, but there is greater liberty for them and, in fact, it is preferable that Gentiles (other than k'rovei Yisrael) not wear fringes because the wearing of fringes today has become almost completely associated with being a Jew. Here is a case where some kind of substitution to accomplish the same purpose is preferable.

Dan Juster: Wearing of the fringe is unquestionably meant to be literal. Also, a blue fringe is symbolic of royalty, so it reminds the Jewish wearer of God's Word in the context of Israel being a royal priesthood.

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch interpret Numbers 15:38-40 literally, and most of what they have to say consists of details of the tzitzit's construction and use.

See also Matthew 9:20, 14:36; Luke 8:44

1. "Tzitziyot" means "fringes;" "tzitzit" is singular.

2. The practice among some to not include the blue thread has its origin in the scarcity of the chilazon - a sea creature from which the blue dye was originally extracted.


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