At the end of this week’s parsha, we read about the mitzvah of tzitzis. We are commanded not to follow our hearts and our eyes, which can lead us astray. Tzitzis are supposed to remind us to always follow the Torah.
How do tzitzis remind us to do that?
The Gemara (Chullin 89, Menachos 43, and Sotah 17) says that the Torah commanded us to put techeiles on tzitzis because the blue of techeiles reminds us of the sea, which in turn reminds us of the blue sky, which in turn reminds us of a sapphire stone, which in turn reminds us of the Keisei Hakavod, which sapphire is compared to.
Additionally, Chazal tell us that tzitzis has in its name the numerical value of many wonderful things. In fact, the mitzvah of tzitzis is stated to be equivalent to all the mitzvos in the Torah! Each section of wraps and tied strings represents different lofty concepts. Tzitzis is indeed a most powerful and esoteric mitzvah.
Rav Moshe notes, however, that many sinners who wear tzitzis and look at them are not inspired by any feelings of teshuvah in their hearts and are not brought closer to Hashem. How can this be? Why are tzitzis not having the proper effect on these people?
Rav Moshe answers that tzitzis can only affect a person when he realizes that he needs a rebbe, a teacher, someone to show him the right way. For on our own, we can err even in the things we think we know. Such is our nature. As the Gemara (Yoma 72b) says: The Torah can be life for one person and poison for another. If a person has a rebbe to teach him how to learn properly, the Torah will be life for him. If he does not, it will be a death pill for him for he will misinterpret it based on his human desires.
When a person understands that he needs a rebbe and that he must learn everything from him, he will be able to learn from his tzitzis as well. He will learn from their color and from every other aspect of them.
Rav Moshe asks another question about the effect of tzitzis. Why did Hashem command us to don something that will remind us of the sea, then the sky, etc., etc. until we arrive at the Keisei Hakavod? Why didn’t He just command us to tie something that will remind us of the Keisei Hakavod directly?
Rav Moshe answers that we learn a great and important lesson from the progression of reminders: One cannot jump to the highest level of yiras shamayim overnight. It is a long process and one must follow through and work on each level until one reaches the next level. It does not come easy or without toil. (As the saying goes, the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.) Something obtained through toil and hard work will remain with a person in his time of need, whereas something learned overnight will be easily lost.
Rav Moshe adds that perhaps this principle explains why the Navi Yeshaya writes that the final geulah will not come in haste (Yeshaya 52:12). It will be a process that will continuously build our emunah in Hashem until that great day arrives when all inhabitants of the world will recognize the one true King. This process is now thankfully nearing fruition. May we all become worthy to see that great day. Amen.