For many years, Camp Ramah, where I work, has given out T-Shirts to its staff and campers. On a very simple level, these shirts help identify us. They identify our roles within and outside the camp. As a staff member, it functions as my work uniform. But when we go outside of camp, it is so much more. It lets me and others know that I represent something greater than myself. I am part of a Jewish community that believes in striving for holiness. One could ask, “you are getting all of this from a bright neon shirt?!?”
Of course we know that clothing tells us something about the person who wears it. However, we usually think of those as superficial traits. We likely think that material objects, especially clothing, have very little to say about our essence. I certainly think that is true for many of the clothes that I own. My jeans do not tell you a whole lot about me. I like the way they look. But that’s about it.
Yet we Jews have been gifted with an amazing garment that allows us to access so much more than mere externalities when we wear it. Towards the end of this week’s Parsha, Shlach Lecha, we are given the mitzvah of wearing fringes/tzitzit. This is the third paragraph of the Shema that we recite twice daily.
“Light is sown for the righteous/אוֹר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק;” (Ps. 97:11--which we say on Friday nights). The midrash teaches us that The Holy Blessed One planted Torah and commandments/Mitzvot in order to bestow them upon Israel. Divine light is planted in this world so that we can make our lives holy. The Sfas Emes understands the Divine light to be planted not just in the world, but within each and every one of us. And when we fulfill a mitzvah we allow that light to shine through to those around us. Our bodies are essentially a garment for Divine light. And when we wear a tallit and tzitzit, that reminds us that we are each special creatures endowed with divine light and purpose.
The tzitzit gives us a tangible opportunity to acknowledge the potential greatness that we have inside of us. May this week be a week where we can turn our potential into a reality.
Have a Sweet and Peaceful Week.
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.