The Power of Tzitzis


rav-moshe-meir-weissBy Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss

As summer approaches, many people are careless about their tzitzis responsibilities.  There are those who play ball without them; others don’t bother to wear them when they go to the swimming pool.  This being the case, we need to brush up on the many benefits that one gets from wearing tzitzis.


The Kaf HaChaim states that wearing tzitzis saves a person from tooth pain.  This is because there are thirty-two threads in the tzitzis and there are thirty-two teeth in a person’s mouth.  Furthermore, the blessing that we say on the tallis is L’hisahtef BaTzitzis.  The abbreviation of these two words are lamed and beis which equals in gematria thirty-two, also the number of teeth in a person’s mouth.  A hint to this segula can be found in the famous Talmudic dictum, “Shnayim ochazin b’tallis,” which can be rendered, “If there is need in the teeth, grab hold of the tallis.”


The Mishnah Berurah says that when one passes the tzitzis in front of his eyes during Krias Shema, it is a segula to be protected from blindness.  The Tuvcha Yabi’u suggests a reason for this segula.  He cites the Chida who says that the Egyptians were punished with the plague of choshech, darkness, because they conveniently forgot and denied to themselves the kindness that Yaakov and Yosef showed them years earlier.  In Hebrew, the word for forgot is shachach (Shin-kof-ches) , and the Hebrew word for to deny is kicheish (kof-ches-shin).  Both are anagrams of the word choshech and therefore, as a result of their forgetfulness and denial they were punished with choshech.  Conversely, concludes the Tuvcha Yabi’u, we pass the tzitzis over our eyes and reflect that we do not forget the kindness of the six hundred and thirteen mitzvos which the tzitzis represent (In gematria, the word tzitzis equals 600.  This amount plus the eight threads and five knots give the total of 613.) and how Hashem miraculously saved us from Egypt.  Therefore, because we don’t forget and we don’t deny, our eyes will not be darkened by blindness.


The Toras Chessed says a woman who makes a tallis for her husband increases her chances of having children.  This is based on the verse of “V’nasnu tzitzis al kanfei bigdeihem l’dorosom – And you should put tzitzis on the corner of your garments for generations.”  Thus we see that tzitzis grants a person the blessing of generations.  For this reason, the kallah gives a tallis as a gift to her chosen when they get married.


Many people have the praiseworthy custom of not engaging in sichas chulin, casual talk, while wearing there tefillin.  (My mispallel, Mendy Huss, of blessed memory, had such a custom, may he be a meilitz yosher for his wonderful family.)  Years ago, a special young man became a chosen.  When he went into the Belzer Rebbe for a blessing for his upcoming nuptials, the Rebbe asked him whether he would be ready to accept a special kabala, commitment, upon himself.  When the young man answered affirmatively, the Rebbe asked him to accept upon himself not to engage in sichas chulin while wearing his tallis godol, the tallis worn by a married man in the morning when davening.  This is a huge commitment for it encompasses the long stretches of Shabbos and Yom Tov prayers.  The chosen, with dedication and determination, fulfilled this challenge.  One time the Rebbe met him and told him, “Let me tell you a great benefit that you gleaned from this exalted custom.  After 120 years, you will be buried in your tallis godol and you will be wearing it when you face Hashem for your final reckoning.  Hashem will want to ask you about your mundane affairs.  You will be able to say truthfully, ‘Please Hashem, I never engaged in mundane chatter while I wore my tallis.  I’d rather not start now if that’s okay.’  You will thus be excused from having to give an accounting for your ordinary affairs.”


This brings to mind another fascinating story regarding the great Taz.  The Taz had a much worn-out tallis godol, so the dedicated women’s auxiliary of Lvov pulled together its resources and purchased for the venerable Taz a very expensive and beautiful Turkish tallis.  With great joy they presented it to him.  The Taz informed them while he was deeply moved by their extraordinary gift, he would have to turn them down.  He explained that his old, worn-out tallis was very precious to him for, after 120 years, it will testify on his behalf that he never had a foreign thought while saying the Shemone Esrei.


When seeing this story, I thought wryly that this is a reason for us to buy a new tallis every week!  I then had another thought:  So many of our young men, when getting their first tallis, are consumed with the details of their atara, the silver decoration on the tallis’s crest.  How many rows?  What shape?  What should be underneath, white or black velvet.  Upon hearing this story we must realize that the main thing about the tallis is not what’ on top of the tallis but what’s in our heads underneath the tallis.


In the merit of the glorious mitzvah of tzitzis, may we be granted all of its many protections.

Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.

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  1. A tallis is like a gift seen eternally for humility.

    Torah is found in the fingertips of those who wear one.

    But of course, we must not forget the terror of a Ba’al Teshuvah who first dons his first tallis katan in public. The greater fear is not the stares from the gentiles but the gawks of the non-religious jew.

    G-d protects talleism. The enemy often has no idea that it keeps our people holy.

    Gifts are more than special.