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October 3, 2010 / howgood1

Vayomer – The Third Paragraph of the Sh’ma

The third and final paragraph of the Sh’ma comes from Numbers 15:37-41 and deals with the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit.  For those who are not Jewish, you may have seen Orthodox Jewish men with strings, or fringes, hanging out from under their shirts.  Tzitzit are the undergarments that contain these fringes.  Tzizit act as constant reminder to perform G-d’s commandments (mitzvot).

“The Hebrew word tzitzis has the numerical value of 600, and the five knots and eight strings or fringes add up to thirteen. By wearing a tallis or tallis kattan (a small tallis generally worn under the shirt), we wrap ourselves in all 613 Mitzvot“.  – themitzvahproject.org

As you may note in Numbers 15:38 below, there is an instruction to add a string of “sky blue” to the fringes according to the translation below.  The Hebrew word in the Torah for this color is “t’chelet” whose source is no longer available.  See here and here for more info.

37. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: לז. וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:
38. Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue [wool] on the fringe of each corner. לח. דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת עַל כַּנְפֵי בִגְדֵיהֶם לְדֹרֹתָם וְנָתְנוּ עַל צִיצִת הַכָּנָף פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת:
39. This shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord to perform them, and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray. לט. וְהָיָה לָכֶם לְצִיצִת וּרְאִיתֶם אֹתוֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם אֶת כָּל מִצְוֹת יְ־הֹוָ־ה וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם וְלֹא תָתֻרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם:
40. So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments and you shall be holy to your God. מ. לְמַעַן תִּזְכְּרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֶת כָּל מִצְוֹתָי וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים לֵאלֹהֵיכֶם:
41. I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord, your God. מא. אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:

As we leave the Sh’ma for the next set of prayers, I leave you with the song Sh’ma Israel by Israeli pop star Sarit Hadad.  The song reminds us that not only is the Sh’ma a declaration of our belief that there is a G-d, but it is also a cry for help when we are afraid and alone, a cry that we believe will be answered.

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