KNOT SO OBVIOUS
Numbers seem to hold a strange place in Jewish tradition. Our sages had a fascination with taking different number combinations and showing their correlation to deep meaningful aspects of Judaism.
Numbers seem to hold a strange place in Jewish tradition. Our sages had a fascination with taking different number combinations and showing their correlation to deep meaningful aspects of Judaism. For example, there are 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commandments in the Torah, adding up to a total of 613 mitzvot. The tzitzit (fringes worn on four-cornered garments) that Jewish men wear remind us of these mitzvot. How? The numerical value of the Hebrew word tzitzit amounts to 600 and if you add the five knots and eight threads in each fringe it totals 613. This is very nice, but it leads one to ask what kind of game were the sages playing? Were they simply trying to explain things in a "cool" way that even children could understand?
The truth is that the sages were teaching us the very essence of Judaism. A man does not merely think his religion or feel it; he lives his religion. Judaism is the actions, the doings, the everyday life. The Torah defines our very existence, and it requires total involvement from every aspect of a person's life. It creates a link between Man and G-d that can never be broken. This is why we pray three times a day at predefined times; not just to pray, but to be involved and to recognize that we are one with G-d in our lives, everywhere, everyday, in everyplace.
When we look at this week's double Torah portion it is hard to see the ways in which we are to bring these aspects of the Torah into our own lives. Tzaraat (a physical representation of a spiritual ailment) on bodies, clothing, and houses, as well as other spiritual impurities seem so foreign in our modern, technologically advanced society. The Torah is really teaching us that by infusing the Torah and mitzvot into Man, then Man and his environment can become G-dlike. Even the metzorah (one who is affected with tzaraat), the house, or the garment can all become pure with the introduction of the Torah. The Torah creates a Divine purpose for every part of this world, and through its observance we can all see that purpose defined.
In the opening of Parshat Tazria we find the laws relating to childbirth. The Torah does not call the children "sons or daughters" but rather "male and female" until after "the days of purity are completed" (Leviticus 12:1-6). When a home is void of spiritual purity, it is lacking relationships and all that remains is merely "male and female." In homes where there is purity and holiness, prayer and charity, learning and involvement, there can be found the sons and daughters who learn about the relationship to not only their parents, but to G-d as well.
Rachi Messing, who is married to Devorah Estriecher of Atlanta, writes from Baltimore.
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