Photo Credit: Michael Giladi/Flash90

Question: Is it proper to look at tzitzit and kiss them during the recitation of the Keriat Shema?

M. Stern
Via email



Synopsis: We cited Rivash, who validated our custom of gazing at the tzitzit; we also noted the mitzvah to touch the tzitzit and tefillin at appropriate mention in the Keriat Shema. We noted that there are numerous gematria, numerical representations, that connect to the 613 mitzvot, the Holy Name of Hashem, the love of the mitzvah, al levav’chem, all relating to the number of the strings and the knots. We also noted the various views in this regard. What was clear is that we are to hold and kiss the tzitzit during the Keriat Shema recitation.

Some years ago, my grandson, Rabbi Aharon Dovid Heisler, who is now creating a Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva community [a kollel and Yeshiva Ketana] in Tucson, Arizona, was a talmid at Yeshiva Tiferes Yisrael in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. He asked a question, similar to yours, in the name of his Rebbe, Rabbi Aufrichtig, who was challenging his talmidim to answer his question.


Kissing The Tzitzit at Baruch She’amar

Question: The Magen Avraham, the Ba’er Heitev and Shulchan Aruch HaRav, all commenting on Orach Chayyim 51, state that we take the two front tzitzit in hand during the recital of Baruch She’amar at the beginning of Pesukei DeZimra in the Shacharit prayer. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (14:2) and the Mishna Berura (Orach Chayyim 51:1) add that we kiss them at the conclusion of the berachaMehullal Batishbachot.” What is the reason that we do this?

Aharon Dovid Heisler
Yeshiva Tiferes Yisrael
Brooklyn, NY


Answer: In his commentary on the first verse of the Torah (Genesis 1:1), “Bereishit bara Elokim... – In the beginning of G-d’s creating [the heavens and the earth],” Rashi explains, citing the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 1:6), that the world was created at the outset for “reishit – the first,” meaning the Torah. Thus, the entire reason for Creation is the Torah, which the nation of Israel will accept and fulfill.

It is clear why we take the tzitzit in hand when we recite the Shema, as the Shema concludes with the parsha of tzitzit (Numbers 15:37-41).

It states that we wear the tzitzit in order to remember and perform all the 613 mitzvot commanded by Hashem. Rashi (Numbers 15:39) explains that the gematria, the numerical value, of tzitzit – tzadi, yud, tzadi, yud, tav – is 600, and the eight strings and five knots on the tzitzit bring the total to 613, the number of biblical commandments. Thus, it is only proper to kiss the tzitziyot we gather from the four corners of the tallit at every reference to “tzitzit.

If we were to only take in hand one tzitzit from one corner, this would surely be incorrect, since the command is to wear four tzitziyot, one on each of the four corners, as the Torah states (Deuteronomy 22:12), “Gedilim ta’aseh lecha al arba kanfot kesut’cha asher techaseh bah – Fringes shall you make on the four corners of your garment with which you shall cover yourself.” Rashi (Numbers 15:39, end of Parshat Shelach) essentially citing the Gemara in Zevachim (18b) – where both verses (Numbers 15:39 and Deuteronomy 22:12) are mentioned – which rules that only a four-cornered garment with four tzitziyot is valid, but not one with three corners or five corners.

Now that we have established that the tzitzit remind us of the 613 mitzvot, let us seek to understand why we only take the two tzitziyot which are in front of us, “keneged panav” (opposite one’s face), at Baruch She’amar.

The text of “Baruch she’amar vehaya ha’olam – Praised is He who said and created the world” is consistent with the Rashi commentary on the first verse in Chumash: this opening prayer to Pesukei DeZimra is a praise of Hashem for creating the world for the Torah.

Thus, when we recite this praise, it is appropriate to hold the tzitzit just as we do at Keriat Shema. However, as we stated, we only hold and kiss the tzitziyot that are in the front. Why is there a difference between Baruch She’amar and the Shema?

Let us again view the text of Baruch She’amar, which conclusively shows that this is a praise of Hashem for creating the world. At Creation, Hashem did not immediately give the 613 mitzvot but rather only the seven mitzvot Bnei Noach (the Noahide Laws).

Though our Sages tell us that the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, kept all 613 mitzvot (see Yoma 28b and Maharsha, who extends this practice to Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron), they only did so in a manner of “Eino metzuveh ve’oseh – One who is not commanded but does it nevertheless.” It was only when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah that it became incumbent to perform the 613 mitzvot.

Therefore, at Baruch She’amar, which praises Hashem for the Creation – whose purpose was the 613 mitzvot of the Torah which had not yet been given – we take only the front tzitziyot, which we can see, to illustrate that at the beginning, Creation was not yet complete.

Another explanation we may offer is that since Baruch She’amar is recited shortly after Birchat HaShachar, when we put on our tzitzit, we wish to show the proper manner to don them (Orach Chayyim 8:4), which is two tzitziyot in the front and two tzitziyot in the back (for both the tallit gadol and the tallit katan). This is in contrast to those who improperly wrap the tallit around their neck like a scarf, with all four tzitziyot in front.

There is yet another explanation that my dear grandson Aron Dovid told me in the name of one of his classmates, Sruli Klaristenfeld, who heard it from one of the Rebbeim of Yeshiva and Mesivta Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin.

Baruch She’amar refers to Hashem, the Creator. The two tzitziyot in front appear to be 16 when the strings are folded over, and there are 10 knots. Thus, the sum of strings and knots is 26, which is the gematria of Shem Havaya, the Holy Name – yud, keh, vav, keh. Therefore we hold these two tzitziyot when we recite the praise.

As to why we kiss the tzitzit – that is obviously because of chavivut hamitzva, our love for the mitzvah. We find at the conclusion of Tractate Ketubbot (112a) that R. Abba used to kiss the cliffs of Acco, a city close to the border of Eretz Yisrael, because of his love for Eretz Yisrael and for settling the Land of Israel.

In the instance of Eretz Yisrael, tzitzit, tefillin and mezuzah, the way we demonstrate this love is by kissing the object of the mitzvah.

In the merit of this mitzvah among the other 613, may we witness the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days, so that we may fulfill the mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael.

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleDear Dr. Yael
Next articleThe Proud And The Prejudiced (Part VI)
Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.