Commentary for Shlach Lecha

1 Jul

This week’s parshah ends with two passages that seem to have nothing in common. The first, Numbers 15:32-36, is the story of a man who goes out to collect wood on Shabbat in direct violation of God’s commandments. He is arrested and thrown in jail until Moses can ask God what should be done with him. God tells Moses that this person should be stoned to death, and so he is. The second passage, Numbers 15:37-41, is the third paragraph of the Shema, instructing us to wear tzitzit to remind us to observe the commandments and remind ourselves that God brought us out of Egypt.


These two passages might appear completely unrelated, but their placement next to each other teaches us an important lesson. Numbers 15:39-40 explain the rational for tzitzit as follows: “and you shall see them and you shall remember all the commandments of the Lord and you shall perform them, not straying after your heart and after your eyes, following your own sinful desires. Thus you shall remember and perform all of My commandments and be holy to your God.” Wearing tzitzit makes one conscious of them at every moment, and through them we are conscious of God. When we are about to sin, our tzitzit will cause us to ask, “is this really what God wants me to do?” and once we have identified something as being contrary to God’s desires, doing it becomes much more difficult because there will always be that voice in our heads reminding us that what we are doing is wrong.


The mitzvah of tzitzit is given immediately after the story of the man who gathers wood on Shabbat to illustrate to us that perhaps if he had been wearing tzitzit he would not have transgressed. God has given us the mitzvah of tzitzit not as a pointless burden, but as a tool to help us live better, more holy lives. God has created a world for us that is full of challenges, but God also makes sure to give us the tools we need to overcome those challenges.

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