11 Jun 2015 Blue & White
At the end of this week’s Parsha, Parshas Shlach, we are commanded regarding the mitzvah of tzitzis. “Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves tzitzis on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and that they shall affix a thread of techeles on the fringe of each corner” (Num.15:38).
R’ Menachem Posner (on chabad.org) explains: “The above verse contains two commandments. One is to affix (white) fringes on the corners of a four-cornered garment, and the other is to add a thread of techeles to each corner. These two commandments are independent of each other. When techeles is available, we are enjoined to add a techeles fringe to the tzitzis; when unavailable, we fulfill the mitzvah with plain white fringes.”
From where do we extract the turquoise colored techeles dye? The dye came from a certain sea fish called the chilazon, which was so rare that the Sages note (Menachos 44a) that this fish surfaced only once every seventy years!
And why do we use the dye from the chilazon, which was blue-green in hue? The Sages teach (Menachos 43b) that the techeles resembles the sea, the sea resembles the firmament and the firmament reminds us of the Kisei Ha’Kavod, the Throne of Glory.
Why, however, do the Sages teach that the techeles reminds us of the sea, the sea of the firmament (sky), and the sky of the Throne of Glory? Why not just tell us that seeing the blue-green hue of techeles reminds us of G-d’s Throne? Why do we need all the in-between steps?
Someone once shared a beautiful insight with me. She explained that when it comes to our avodas Hashem – when we want to do better, be better, improve ourselves, and come closer to our Creator – we must work in stages.
It is impossible to metaphorically go from the depths of the sea to the heights of Heaven in one fell swoop. If we believe we can do so, we will have set ourselves up for failure. Nothing in life is accomplished in one leap. Learning, growing, succeeding, and striving forward all take time, patience and determination.
Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt’l, previous Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim, once revealed that he had taken upon himself a kabbalah (resolution) not to eat taffies. He explained that people tend to make resolutions on a grand scale, accepting things upon themselves that are hard to keep. A few months after making such a kabbalah, a person may become despondent when he realizes that he is unable to keep his resolution. The person will begin to feel like a failure and give up entirely on making resolutions to improve himself! “I accepted this kabbalah of not eating taffies,” explained R’ Nosson Tzvi, “because I knew that it was easy for me to keep. This way, I prove to myself that I can keep my kabbalos, and that gives me the confidence to accept bigger kabbalos upon myself” (Rav Nosson Tzvi, Artscroll, p.417).
A small resolution can lead to great success. And when we prove success to ourselves – and to Hashem – then the sky’s the limit!
For the blue-green techeles resembles the sea, the sea resembles the sky, and the sky reminds us of the Throne of Glory.
Wishing you all a beautiful Shabos Kodesh,