Weekly Drash - Shelach
Compliments of First Fruits of Zion
Thread of Blue
Shelach - שלח : “Send thou”
Thought for the Week:
The Torah says that the tassels (tzit-tzit) on the four corners of the a garment are supposed to remind us of “all the commandments of the LORD” (Numbers 15:39).The sages explain that the numeric value of the Hebrew word tzit-tzit, when added to the number of knots and windings, adds up to 613: the traditional number of the Torah’s commandments.
Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. (Numbers 15:38)
God commanded the Israelites to affix tassels (tzit-tzit, צצץ) on the four corners of their garments. This commandment made more sense in the ancient world than it does today. For one thing, modern garments are typically not four cornered. In the ancient world, a person’s main outer garment was a large, rectangular, poncho-like robe or tunic. In Hebrew, each corner of such a garment is called a canaph (כנף). Canaph also means “wing.” In the days of Moses and the days of the Apostles, people did not wear ritual garments like prayer shawls or tallit because their common garments had four corners. When four-cornered garments ceased to be the norm, Judaism developed four-cornered ritual garments in order to keep the commandment of wearing tzit-tzit. Picturing Moses or Yeshua draped in a prayer shawl is anachronistic.
In the ancient world, the hem that terminated at the corners of the garment was often lavishly embroidered. The tassels were natural, decorative extensions of the threads used in the hem.
God commanded Israel to attach a single thread of blue to each of the four corners of their garments. The blue thread is not just any shade of blue. The Torah uses the Hebrew word techelet (טחלת), the same precious blue dye used to color the weavings of the Tabernacle and the high priest’s robe. The high priest’s robe, with its bells and pomegranates hanging like tzitzit (tassels) from its hem, was made completely of wool dyed blue. “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue (techelet)” (Exodus 28:31).
The thread of blue on the corner of every Israelite’s garment represents how every Israelite is, in a small way, like a priest in the “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). It represents his connection to the Tabernacle and the priesthood. The high priest, in his robe of blue, may be considered a spiritual root source to which the thread of blue on every garment symbolically connects.
Shavuah Tov! Have a Good Week!
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