The mitzvah of tying tzitzit is written in the torah and commands bnei yisroel for eternal generations to see these tzitzit and thereby remember all of the mitzvot that hashem commanded us — not to veer and stray after our eyes and hearts to work for foriegn diety’s, — aka ‘avodah zarah’ — but to remember hashem’s mitzvot and actively do them;
דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם: וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת עַל כַּנְפֵי בִגְדֵיהֶם לְדֹרֹתָם, וְנָתְנוּ עַל צִיצִת הַכָּנָף פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת: וְהָיָה לָכֶם לְצִיצִת וּרְאִיתֶם אֹתוֹ, וּזְכַרְתֶּם אֶת כָּל מִצְוֹת ה’, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם וְלֹא תָתוּרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם.
In chumash dvarim the mitzvah is repeated for a second and final time; “לֹא תִלְבַּשׁ שַׁעַטְנֵז צֶמֶר וּפִשְׁתִּים יַחְדָּו, גְּדִלִים תַּעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ עַל אַרְבַּע כַּנְפוֹת כְּסוּתְךָ אֲשֶׁר תְּכַסֶּה בָּהּ” translated “you should not wear shatnez — wool and linen together, strands you should make for yourself on the four corners of your garment that you cloth yourself with”. In line with simuchin (finding parralels between mitzvot written next to each other) Targum yonatan explains “ ‘ברם לאצטולי כיתן חוטי ציציית מן עמר תהון מרשן למעבד לכון על ארבע כנפי גולייתכון דתתעטפון בה ביממא”, “..but with a shawl of linen you are permitted to place tzitzith of wool on its four corners of that garment that you wrap with during the day”. Likewise, Rashi explains the words גדילים תעשה לך –אף מן הכלאים; you may make those gdillim (strands) using kilayim (i.e. wool and linen), this “permit” is actually written in the talmud (see nazir 42a).
Thus, permission is granted to “transgress” the usually strict prohibition of kilayim i.e. shatnez and make one’s tzitzit using that actual formula; a linen shawl (comfy during those hot summer monthes) with strings of wool (colored with תכלת of course1)1). Granted this isn’t a formula to create an actual garment or even individual string woven of wool and linen together — but nontheless close enough to real shatnez (especially if tying the tzitzit with a double knot as we will explain below).
Not only permitted but encouraged?
Plausibly, the wording of the torah גדילים תעשה לך imply an assertive tone to this possitive mitzvah; couple this affirmative wording with the סימוכין — the neighboring words — of the prohibition of kilayim, leads to the drush of chazal that tzitzit may (and even should) override kilayim — is this a formula for kosher kilayim?.
Indeed, the zohar hakadosh (vol. 3 p. 86b) introduces an interesting concept where it is understood that one’s tzitzit should be crafted in this manner of using a linen tallit with both wool and linen strings affixed, let’s see;
בציצית אמאי שרי? הא אוקמוה. אבל התם הוא ההוא לבושא בתקונוי באשלמות עובדא כדקא חזי.. אימתי שרייא? בשעתא דאיהו באשלמותא דכתיב (דָּרְשָׁה צֶמֶר וּפִשְׁתִּים) וַתַּעַשׂ בְּחֵפֶץ כַּפֶּיהָ. וציצית הא אוקימנא דהתם בההוא כללא דשלימותא אשתכח ולא עביד מידי
Concerning tzitzit, why is it permitted? it has been discussed. But there, it is that garment in its complete state as is befitting for it ..when is it permitted? at the time when he is in a wholesome state at is written ותעש בחפץ כפיה, in regards to tzitzit we have established that it is in a state of wholesomeness and completeness and he does (trangsresses) nothing.
These words are quite vague without the explanative wording of Rabbi Menachem Azarya of Fano (מאמרי הרמ“ע מפאנו ח“ג, מאמר צבאות ה’ חלק ו, ד’ לו);
In the zohar it is evident that — in the womb of their mother chava — kayin and hevel where kilayim one with another and thus had no success (with each other). Whereas we, by way of using kilayim in tzitzit, purify the servants of the sphere of kayin so that they may serve the befitting ones of the sphere of hevel, as per the inner meaning of the verse ורב יעבוד צעיר –the gematria of 671, as all is for the sake of betterment of the shichina and her honor
The malbim understood Rabbi Menachem’s discourse as implying that this is indeed the intrinsic meaning of tzitzit — i.e. to bring closer those who are of the sphere of kayin up a notch and into kedusha — in a kosher manner of course, which is accomplished through this great mitzvah of tzitzit.2)2
Chazal, Geonim and poskim
This has all been said kabalically speaking, what about chazal, geonim and poskim, do they agree?
The gemara quotes the drush of simuchin that tzitzit should be fashioned using wool and linen — apparently this formula is only applicable where authentic תכלת is in fact present. Along these lines is an interesting discussion in sefer agudah;
Research is need to determine the halacha regarding if one has two strands of white linen and two strands of white wool, as to whether he is permitted to affix those to a tallit of of linen or of wool; as perhaps affixing two strands of white is permitted only when תכלת is available, or — on the flip side — there is no actual difference since it is permitted to affix the two strands of linen to a tallit of wool even though the two strands of תכלת don’t make it kalyim
Rabbi Alexandri HaKohen concludes;
For this reason we put tzitzit of silk on a tallit of silk since perhaps the meaning of the talmudic passage “wool and linen exempt of their kind and of not of their kind” mean only when תכלת is present
But, the Rabbi continues by quote of R“y Baal HaTosfot;
“תכלת does not create an issue of kilayim”, the R“y explains that to mean both during the day and by night, both to a man and a woman it is okay to donn a tallit of kilayim — since scripture permitted it, and the enaction forbidding it due to donning at night3)4 is applicable only to a garment used exclusively for night-time
A noted posek, Mahar“i Abuhav explains in his glosses to shulchan aruch that it is indeed permitted to wear tzitizt at night and — when תכלת is available — even if they contain kilayim, as since this specific tallit carries תכלת in a halachically permitted manner and the tallit is created for personal use as a garment thus anytime he wishes to don it he may, thus Mahari Abuhav understands the talmuds relaying how Rav Yehuda would place תכלת on the “parzuma” of his household members, where the meaning of “parzuma” is in fact a tallit of linen.4)5
There are those that add that בית שמאי’s concern that תכלת should not be place on a סדין (a sheet) is that the סדין is in fact a garment created for exclusive night-time use, whereas Rabbenu Eliyahu of Paris would place tzitzit on his סדין since it is used during the morning as well (see הגהות מיימוניות to tzitzit 3 7–8), whereas a סדין created for exclusive night-time use but not to one that is used during the daytime. Additionally, perhaps this was the intent of the חכמים as per the writings of Rabbi Shmuel ben Chofni gaon, in his treatise on tzitzit.
One may query, why shouldnt the positive mitzvah of tzitzit override that of kilayim which is a negative mitzvah not punishable by כרת? the response is that this is indeed true only when there is a mitzvah of tzitzit ..but night-time absolves the mitzvah and thus at that time it would be deemed kilayim
The famed malbim also wrote a lengthy treatise on hilchot tzitzit and argues there that tzitzit fall under a different category then bigdei kehuna, since the torah says גדילים תעשה לך which is essentially a superfulous verse since the mitzvah had been prior stated (in vayikra; אֶת חֻקֹּתַי תִּשְׁמֹרוּ בְּהֶמְתְּךָ לֹא תַרְבִּיעַ כִּלְאַיִם שָׂדְךָ לֹא תִזְרַע כִּלְאָיִם וּבֶגֶד כִּלְאַיִם שַׁעַטְנֵז לֹא יַעֲלֶה עָלֶיךָ), this extra verse comes to teach that kilayim is entirely permitted with tzitzit, thus the law of tzitzit is different then that tosafist opinion (menachot that in regards to bigdei kehuna, the prohibtion of shatnez is merely דחוייה — pushed aside — and not הותרה — entirely permitted — whereas according to the school of Rabbi Yishmael there is no need to have that סימוכין drush to permit kilayim by tzitzit since the torah explicitly writes על כנפי בגדיהם and the generation of יציאת מצרים (the exodus) all commonly wore garments of linen (duh, like who would wear wool in the sinai summer), and everyone agrees that תכלת is affixed exclusively to wool.
Thus — continues the malbim, without the סימוכין we’d give the kilayim permit with tzitzit a mere דחויה status, but with that סימוכין (which isn’t needed as mentioned above), we infer that the kilayim permit is הותרה — thereby entirely definite.
Is this real klayim anyway?
Another interesting spin on the topic is whether this is in fact real kilayim in terms of wearing a garment that is woven from wool and linen, since here the actual tallit is pure linen while only some of its strings are wool –and those strings can be easily untied at will. All the moreso if they are tied with only one knot (by surprise, tying a linen string with a wool string creates a firm knot even with one knot — apparantly the wool has barbs that “stick” to the linen and hold it in place).
For the mitzvah’s sake
For those seeking to fulfil the mitzvah of tzitzit on its intrinsic level as discussed in this article, the תכלת used today has recieved wide acclaim as being the genuine תכלת the torah writed about. So, for those bold jews out there who want to get out there with this tzitzit formula, proven comfort can be drawn from Rav Adda bar Ahva’s quote of Rabbi Yossi regarding one who performs a ברית מילה on an infant on shabbos (when it is a safek); “אפילו דבר שאין בעשייתן מצוה הואיל וטועה בו לשם מצוה פטור” - even with an act that in its doing is not in fact a mitzvah, if one does it for the intent of doing a mitzvah he is exempt,5)6 that at least takes care of the heavenly punishment aspect ח“ו for those going it alone, but in regards to seeing this formula implemented mainstream? this may take a generation or more.
And, what’s this got to do with kohanim?
As per sifrei kabbala, there is alot said about kohanim hailing from the sphere of chesed/hevel, while the rest of shevet levi — the levi’im — hailing from the polar-opposite of gvurah/kayin, whereas in the future era, this will reverse with the kohanim being upgraded to גבורות ממותקות while the levi’im will be upgraded to chesed, in any event, the unification of both spheres — in a kosher manner — is indeed a grand spiritual achievement with definitively revealed positive effects in this and all worlds.
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