What do the Spies have to do with Tzit Zits לְצִיצִת?
The beauty of a cycle: each time around you see something different. As we change, the world around us changes, the Word is ineffable and at its essence unchanging…..yet at the same time it is alive, active, transformative, renewing.
Why read the Torah over and over again every year? For one reason, to be a part of that “one mind” deliberating in the world today….to get back on His calendar, observe His appointed times, follow His commandments and being on the Torah cycle is a part of that. How do I know? I see, witness, world events….current events, lining up with the portions of texts which we read and meditate in. I testify that my own life events coincide with sometimes striking connection to the Torah events. Undeniably and un-ignorable.
A few days ago I started to make myself a set of tzit zits. This is a commandment given to the Children of Israel and we are instructed to bind them to the four corners of our garments as a reminder of HaShem’s commandments. There are a group of four times eight threads, there are different ways of tying them but the Torah does not explain what to make them out of or how to tie them. The only thing explicit is that there is to be a thread of techelet ( a blue die make from a teeming sea creature) and that this is a “dor va dor” generation to generational commandment which doesn’t expire. I’ve had people describe them as a ‘wedding ring’. It is an outward symbol of the covenantal relationship one has with HaShem and expresses a desire to display fidelity.
I have heard midrash (stories which teach a lesson about Scripture and can help obtain a deeper understanding of the text) describing them more as a ‘tie’ to morality. In one story there is a young man who decides to visit a prostitute, at the last minute he sees his tzit zit and stops himself from sinning against her and the Lord. She is so impressed with his devotion that she ends up finding him, converting and they marry. The Torah itself describes….”seeing, and remembering all the commandments to perform them.” This scripture is what I pray with my son when I help him put his on…..”to be holy for Your God”. This week, while making my new set I had no idea we’d be reading this portion in the text. The entire Torah portion of Shelach opened up to me and I hope and pray by His will and Spirit I can with even a fraction of the experience…..relate here why I will never look at the commandment of Tzit zit again!
It is always useful to bear in mind how the previous Torah portion has ended. Last week ended with the punishment of Miriam after having used her tongue to offend Moshe, at least in the sight of HaShem. The ‘slander’ against Moses was enough to exact punishment from above. We see there was a challenge regarding the special place Moshe has over the assembly, appointed purposefully by HaShem. We also see Aaron taking responsibility and admitting the sin in a confession directly to Moshe. We see God’s justice, that although Moshe may have forgiven Miriam….there still was an example which must be made. So that no matter how great the person may be or feel he or she is, there still is a price to pay for transgression. As we will see in Shelach….the great ones of the people did not learn the lesson imposed upon their great Matriarch Miriam. They use their tongue to slander….they challenge Moshe again…..and they continue to test and disobey the Lord. The abundant grace of HaShem finds its intersection with His righteous judgment and the people are left, as Miriam, outside the ‘camp’ the Land of Israel for forty years of wandering.
Numbers 12; 6 He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. 7 “Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” 9 So the anger of the Lord burned against them and He departed. 10 But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous. 11 Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned. 12 Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb!” 13 Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!” 14 But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.” 15 So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.
The first part of the Shelach text includes the sending out ( שְׁלַח- Sh’lach means to send away, for, or out) of the twelve princes of the peoples. These were 12 representatives for each tribe who are commonly known as the spies. Although there was clearly an element of uncovering military position and intelligence in the mission of these men (אֲנָשִׁם- anashim meaning a mortal, a man in general) the text never actually calls them spies. They are sent to “spy” out the land. This is the word that I found tying together the threads of insight I never expected to find. First of all let us search out the word typically translated as to spy: תֻר tuwr (interestingly the sound of the word is more similar to the actually meaning if likened to the English ‘ tour’). תֻר tuwr is defined as- to meander (causative- guide) about, especially for trade or reconnoitering. The context we will be digging into makes it evident that in the Torah it means to find, seek out, look for…..and depending on the context, something for the good. Finding shelter, finding a place, finding a home. Although תֻר tuwr is used many times in the Bemidbar (Numbers) Torah portion of Shelach….it is found only two other places in the Torah which clue us into its true meaning. Let us start with the incident at hand….the sending out of the leaders of the men of Israel in order to reconnoiter the cities and find out about the goodness of the Land of Promise the people were poised to enter.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 13; 1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, 2 “Send out for yourself men so that they may וְיָתֻרוּ spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.”
There is great responsibility which comes a long with power. Our government leaders today have seemingly forgotten this ideal. The men whom were sent out by Moshe were men that were trusted by the people, the report that they would bring back could be counted on and would be believed. These men didn’t take this into consideration when they eventually did bring back their slander about the Promised Land….or perhaps they did. Perhaps they knew that they had that power to form the perception of the people and they seized their chance….even going so far as to deign to usurp authority and leadership from Moshe. How!? Why!? How could it be that these heads and leaders could become so corrupted so quickly? A forty day tour and all becomes lost. What really happened here?
Bemidbar (Numbers) 13; 17 When Moses sent them to לָתוּר spy out the land of Canaan, he said to them, “Go up there into the Negev; then go up into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many. 19 How is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are they like open camps or with fortifications? 20 How is the land, is it fat or lean? Are there trees in it or not? Make an effort then to get some of the fruit of the land.” Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.
This is a mission with several goals. Firstly, to establish….(seeking out to the end in good) what the Land was like! Secondary, to form some plan of attack. There are several things to consider, IF this is a ‘secret’ mission for ‘spies’ to go ‘undercover’ why is their plan exposed before the congregation? [ are we as citizens privy to the operations of the military (generally)?] Furthermore, how are they going to bring back samples of the produce of the Land? They certainly wouldn’t be stealing it, and if the cluster is as huge as it is described in the text I’d think this is something very noticeable. Additionally, there are 12 grown men here. From the Haftarah (the portion of the Prophets and writings read in union with the Torah portion) we read about the secret mission of the two spies sent out by Joshua (Joshua chapter 2) from which we can glean insight about the differences between the nature of these two “assignments”. The large group of would certainly draw attention! Another thing to consider is that they may have had a need to ‘purchase’ water and thus would have had the need to communicate with some of the people of the Land.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 13; 25 When they returned from מִתּוּר spying out the land, at the end of forty days, 26 they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.”
The men bidden to find out about the Land of Promise return….they, like anyone poisoned by the deceptive spirit of the evil one (who is always and ever against the Land and the People, foremost opposed to the King of the people), begin their report with an element of truth. [ 2 Corinthians 11;14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.]
Bemidbar (Numbers) 13; 28 Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 Amalek is living in the land of the Negev….
There is a very direct and precise reason that the men bring up Amalek at this point. They are intentionally trying to frighten the people. Amalek attacked the Hebrews at the former point when they took that ‘leap of faith’ to follow HaShem into the Wilderness. Now as He is beckoning them onward into the Promised Land (yes, another Leap of Faith) they are being reminded of what happened to them last time. Amalek….who represents a spirit of doubt, the spirit of denial that HaShem’s presence can be REALIZED in this earth and within His people and within a destined and designated place- the Land of Israel…Amalek, the doubt which will destroy them from within. See what happens in the Shemot (Exodus) text below…..as soon as the people doubt (“Is HaShem with us or not?”) Amalek attacks.
Shemot (Exodus) 17; 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” 8 Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.
Even the mention of Amalek at this point seems to be a direct slap in the face of HaShem. Amalek will be blotted out completely, God said it….He will perform it yet they incite the people to panic by invoking ‘his’ name and ‘his’ evil spirit. Interesting similarities in wording within our Torah portion and the passages above- in the sight of the elders, Moshe instructing Joshua to “choose men to go out”, more testing of the Lord.
Shemot (Exodus) 17; 13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; 16 and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”
This is bad, very bad. The “bad report” of the Land which ten of the 12 heads of the tribes bring back is דִּבַּת slander (dibbah). It is a slanderous report of the Land. The people of HaShem, living and thriving in the Land is the central goal since the fall (restoration)….it is the microcosm of what God has intended with Adam in the garden. A place where He would settle His presence and place His name and PLANT His people forever, not to be uprooted.
Not a day passes without hearing a clear overt and outrageous evil slanderous reports about Israel, the Land and the people. Today. The world is currently in the process of refuting the Holy City of Jerusalem as even being ‘part of Israel’, and is seeking the means to ‘put that in writing’. Did I say outrageous!! Now consider the progressively outrageous report from the ‘spies’. ‘The land has great produce- the people there are strong- the Land devours all who go there- let’s go back to Egypt!’
Bemidbar (Numbers) 13; 30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” 32 So they gave out to the sons of Israel a דִּבַּת bad report of the land which they had תָרוּ spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in לָתוּר spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. 33 There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
Caleb and Joshua mourn, they mourn for the דִּבַּת slander in their midst. [Ezekiel 9;4 The LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”] They caution them not to rebel- תִמְרֹדוּ (Marad), against the Lord, not to fear the inhabitants of the Land while they explain that their shade- צִלָּם- their cover, their protection has been turned off. If God, in keeping a covenant to bless the Land directly….even while inhabited by these current residents, allowed them a temporary grace period in which they were allotted certain benefits while enjoying the blessings of being tenants of Canaan….their lease is up, their security is now void. “HaShem is with us!” What better re-assurance could anyone receive? This is the very assurance that we ourselves have if we consider and trust in it, hearing, believing and walking according to the Good report. [John 10; 27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.]
Bemidbar 14; 6 Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” 10 But all the congregation said to stone them with stones.
By now you may be wondering how the title of this entry applies to the content. The concept of Tzit zits will be bound to all of this but at this point focus your energy on investing all your imagination and concentration on relating your life, your identity into these people. Which people? That is the question. Are there areas in your life (whether something large like an addiction to drugs or seemingly small such as an inclination to over eat) where you tend to be rebellious? Is this rebellion at the ‘stone throwing’ level or is it more mild? Are you more like the people who tended to heed their leadership regardless of their report and ignoring the voices of truth however in the minority? Perhaps you might connect more to the observer: imagine you are the child of one of the adults, imagine your parents were not a part of this rebellion, imagine if they were. What would you hear, see, feel? If you relate more to being a leader, think about Moshe’s experience in all of this….invest your identity into their identities. This is what I did this week, this is why I came out of this Torah portion changed. The accounts of the bible are not remote….not obscure….believe it or not, these are our revelations, wanderings, trials and joys…..this is our life! Loneliness, rebellion, family struggle, falling, war, enlightenment, hate and heights….the bible, especially the Torah….is black and white. Moshe didn’t pretty anything up, it is the good, the bad, the ugly and the magnificent!
Bemidbar (Numbers) 14; 36 As for the men whom Moses sent to לָתוּר spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land, 37 even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died by a plague before the Lord. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to לָתוּר spy out the land. 39 When Moses spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people mourned greatly. 40 In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, “Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised.”
The text above is the reaction from the decree that the people will indeed not be permitted (one way or the other) to enter into the Promised Land. Little do the people know that this decree is merciful being that HaShem had ‘intended’ to wipe them all out with a plague and start fresh (as He had once before suggested at the Sin of the golden calf) with Moshe, making him into a great nation .
Bemidbar (Numbers) 14; 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? 12 I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.”
Again, Moshe intercedes in a very familiar way, calling to mind the perception of the pagan nations would be that HaShem had evil intent for His people all along, and that HaShem would be called incapable of salvation for them.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 14; 15 Now if You slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Your fame will say, 16 ‘Because the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’
Again, Moshe relates the 13 attributes of divine mercy before HaShem and skillfully pleads on behalf of those who sought his own destruction, certainly to impeach him. [ Bemidbar (Numbers) 14; 4 So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”]
Bemidbar (Numbers) 14;18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear ,visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth.’ 19 Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
They will wander in the wilderness for forty years but their children will enter. Joshua and Caleb will enter, the sages say that many of the women who were not a part of this would enter…..but this stiff-necked, rebellious, evil generation would not enter the Land. This is the verse that broke my heart and rent my composure:
Bemidbar (Numbers) 14; 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys; turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the Sea of Reeds.”
I broke down into tears thinking about this verse and much much more. Despite everything that HaShem had done for them, beyond all the efforts of the just who were included in the midst of the rabble, even the concept of such great people (these ‘spies’ weren’t bad or evil, why would Moshe have chosen thus…but they fell victim to the ideas of their hearts and the images which entered unfiltered by a pure heart….into their eyes) coming to such a terrible end….after all the work and effort that the people and above all HaShem had invested into this ‘walk’ together in the wilderness…here at its appointed end, at the peak of all these expenditures there is total collapse and it is heart breaking. The people are to turn around and go right back to the starting line. The Sea of Reeds. Square One. I can feel the Father’s deep ‘sigh’ and remorse….you can read about the people’s despair.
As a wife, I feel like this too often….when progress is made with a spouse and something happens to make a gap between your closeness, a sigh of discouragement. As a mother, when hours and days and weeks….years are invested into a child teaching them right from wrong and they do something to endanger themselves, a sigh of downheartedness. As a Daughter…..when I sin and ignore what the Spirit is moving me to do or not to do and I step into disaster, a sigh of desperation. Back to square one. It is a difficult challenge to overcome. Perhaps the more difficult….for having made some progress, reached a height….it is a longer drop, a steeper decent and it hurts more. This is where HaShem and the people have come. And yet there is mercy, there is compassion and despite this ‘low’ we, like the people, can be assured that He is with us and will go back there with us and then at the time of restoration when the just punishment of the decrees against us have been ‘paid’ we will be back on track, where He had wanted us to be and the Promised Land will yet be there before us.
The word לָתוּר Tuwr- to explore or seek out is found about TWELVE times in this Torah portion and within the context of the incident of this slander of the Promised Land (and honestly of HaShem and Moshe too). Aside from this context it is only found 3 other places.
One- Bemidbar (Numbers) 10;33 Thus they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord journeying in front of them for the three days, לָתוּר to seek out a resting place for them. 34 The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp. 35 Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, “Rise up, O Lord! And let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.” 36 When it came to rest, he said, “Return, O Lord, the myriad thousands of Israel.”
This is fascinating! We find the word לָתוּר appearing in a portion of text which describes the Ark of the Covenant (which “housed” the Tablets of Testimony and the Book of the Torah along with the omer of Manna…) going forth with the Kohathites bearing it, as the agent for good…seeking out לָתוּר a place for His people to settle. This word is beautiful- מִנוּחָה Menuchah– repose or peacefully; figuratively- consolation; specifically- matrimony, hence an abode. This is what the Lord does, sends forth His word to seek out a place where He and His beloved can reside in peace. Like a husband readying a homestead where he and his bride can make their life, raise their family. What’s most interesting to me is that tzit zit are meant to make us remember we are to live adorned with the splendor which is living a life in service to HaShem. When we wear them it reminds us that He has sent out His word before us and wherever we will go that day, that week….that hour matters to HaShem and whats more….what we do with ourselves during the day’s we are graced with matters. Wearing tzit zit should remind us….its not about us, it is about being Holy for HIS use. Therefore the portion of text we found the Ark “seeking out” לָתוּר a place for the people to camp is directly related (in my mind) to the Torah portion Shelach because here too the Ark is mentioned. Only this time the people are sternly warned by Moshe….he is not going with them HaShem is not going with them, the Ark is not going where they are headed. The Ark will not seek out the victory for them them in battle, the Ark is staying right where it is. With a high hand they have decided to go in and wage the war which initially was to be Headed by HaShem….but now they are going in uncovered, in direct rebellion to the verdict against them.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 14; 41 But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the Lord, when it will not succeed? 42 Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. 43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the Lord. And the Lord will not be with you.” 44 But they went up heedlessly to the ridge of the hill country; neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses left the camp.
This is the tragedy we all tend to fall victim to. When HaShem has made the decision and we think that there is something we can do to ‘change the outcome’, the people repent but it is too late….and -in all honesty- is this really repentance? They continue to disobey, they aren’t accepting of their punishment, they think they can get right back to the finish line and pick up where they left off but if this were to be allowed to happen….God would not be just and there would never be a sense of payment for transgressing in the world, nor among the people. The way that the Torah continues related (to me) a very cut and dry reality of what can happen if we stubbornly charge our own ideals of rectification. This is what was done….there is payment and punishment for crime and sin….if the reparations and sentence are not filled and completed there are consequences. [Bemidbar (Numbers) 14;45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah.] The following is the most beautiful section in light of how swiftly the Torah transitions from the reality of the rebellion and consequences….and it shone off the pages this week for me. I have read year after year, chapter after chapter of the offerings and Temple service (which I love), but this time it was different.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 15; 1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land where you are to live, which I am giving you, 3 then make an offering by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering or a sacrifice to fulfill a special vow, or as a freewill offering or in your appointed times, to make a soothing aroma to the Lord, from the herd or from the flock. 4 The one who presents his offering shall present to the Lord……
It is as if God continues without a blink, knowing that the people who perished doomed themselves even though he warned them…knowing that those left behind would wonder about their status with HaShem and being vulnerable not really knowing where to ‘go from here’. HaShem tells them…..they WILL still carry out the mission to reach the promised Land and they WILL come to His Holy abode with His Holy Presence resting in it and they WILL bring the offerings which will draw them near unto Him. My gracious King swiftly transitions from the pain and sorrow of a 40 year sentence to wander and a slaughter for the obstinate (yet still….kin to the people left) with the statement “WHEN you enter the land where you are to live, which I am giving you”.He is telling them not to loose heart, yet the following text including Tzit zit which end our Portion….will be instructing them how to USE their hearts in the proper way. They will enter the Land and when they do He understands that there will be a need to come close again, thus the Olah offering….these texts also include over and over and over again the use of the term “unintentional”. There will be falling. There will be messing up. He KNOWS we are human and he KNOWS our nature….He will always make the way to COME BACK and make it right IF the sin is not with a High Hand such as those who went down into Canaan that fateful day.
Bemidbar (Numbers ) 15; 29 You shall have one law for him who does שְׁגָגָה unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30 But the person who does defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people.31 Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt on him.’”
שְׁגָגָה- shgagah- a mistake or inadvertent transgression. Now the Torah continues and we read the portion of text about the man who was ‘gathering wood’ on the Sabbath and is stoned as a punishment. There is no glossing over or picking and choosing one here one there with this text. If you read it as a whole unit you will clearly see the masterful progression and exposition of these series of events! The men sent out to “seek out” for the good (just like the Ark had gone forth to do….to FIND a camp for the people) to bring back the lush fruit and report it back to the people, the slander and punishment, the intercession of Moshe [which hearkened back to the last “communal sin” which was the golden calf….just before Moshe would bring down the Tablets of Testimony to them, their marriage contract….they blow it! Now once again, just before they are about to enter the land where ALL these commandments can be fully realized and acted upon….they blow it again! ], mercy of HaShem and a 40 year sentence to wander versus the eradication of a rebellious nation, we have the high handed ill advised campaign to enter the land after all and fight the armed inhabitants and the slaughter which in-sued, then comes the reassurance that the next generation will be given the chance to make things right….to enter the Land and to worship HaShem HIS WAY, and finally the reassurance that anyone who is not overtly and purposefully even directly opposed to HaShem and His commandments will always be given the avenue to restore the space which such transgression causes. Immediately we meet this man…. highhandedly spitting on the Sabbath commands with no intention of living in accordance with HaShem’s precious rulings and He is punished. This is not just a guy who made a simple mistake or who needed to kindle a fire to make some food for his family or to warm his home for a sick child….he IS the prime example of the destructive forces which rage against what is near and dear to HaShem and if anyone of you have taken any time in the Word I know you can perceive the far reaching importance of the Sabbath of HaShem and how He “feels” about it.
Can I give you an example which I will humble myself enough to admit to, one which you may not understand or relate to: when I am wearing my tzit zits on Shabbat, if I have not properly prepared for the Sabbath in some way, perhaps I didn’t schedule my time correctly or perhaps there was an emergency need that had to be filled….if I have to shop or do some kind of work on the Sabbath and notice I have my tzit zits on I will tuck them in or take them off. NOT because I think of them as some charm that I can take off and on or that they themselves in ANY way have any meaning or power in material. I take them off or tuck them in because to me they mean….I am a servant of the Most High God and I am a small tiny representative out in this big and bustling world making it known that ALL of His commandments are beautiful and special and tie me to Him, therefore although I know HE does not condemn me for buying NyQuil on Saturday evening when my sick husband needs to sleep….I do not want to shame in any way shape or form….what those tzit zits represent. His Great Name declared upon me. This example may not mean a thing to you or may seem totally twisted in purpose but look at it this way….every day they are donned, I feel the same thing….if I was inclined to curse in the car, or shout at my child, or ignore a needy hand out held….knowing I am wearing the tzit zits which label me (willingly!) as a representative of everything He stands for….I WILL be more inclined to overcome that evil inclination and listen to His voice when making such decisions.
So I do not think it is a coincidence that our All Knowing, Merciful, Understanding, Compassionate, and Sympathetic King grants us at the end of this Torah portion….DIRECTLY after the high handed desecrator of the Sabbath is executed gives us the gift of an outward representation of this whole series of Rebellions and remembrances of their consequences….in the donning of Tzit zits. This portion of text is a part of a prayer said by observant believers every day (and night) known as the Shema. It is a beautiful reminder to us that He has charged us to keep all of His commandments, just as Yeshua charged us to be perfect….it is a lofty goal that a just King would not prescribe could it not be grasped for.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 15; 37 The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves לְצִיצִת tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of תכלת blue.
ציצת- tsiytsith– a floral or wing-like projection, i.e. a forelock of hair, a tassel.
צִיץ- Tzitz is the root of this word and it means glistening, i.e. a burnished plate; also a flower (as bright-colored); a wing (as gleaming in the air).
We first find it as the description for the piece of the High priestly garments which was to be worn (always) over the forehead on top of the turban and it was inscribed with the words “HOLY to Adonai” קֹדֶשׁ לַיהוָה. No coincidence, it was to be “tied” there with a chord of blue תכלת- tkeleth- the cerulean mussel, i.e. the color (violet) obtained therefrom or stuff dyed therewith. This is the same word for “blue” in the Tzit zits verse above. [Shemot (Exodus) 28; 36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to theLord.’ 37 You shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban.38 It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.]
I believe HaShem is not only calling to mind the sins of the fathers and the reality of the communal punishment, reassuring the people that their offerings will be acceptable to Him and that He will keep His promises to them….but also charging them, that in doing the commandments with the right heart….not bowing down and submitting to what the eyes might perceive the situation to appear to be [Bemidbar (Numbers) 13;33 and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.] that they will find that closeness….even as He had first intended that they all be Kohanim, a nation of Priests, once more and bear the banner and title and identity “Kadosh L’YaHweH”….Holy to HaShem.
Bemidbar (Numbers ) 13; 39 It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God.
Look again at that verse….here we find the word תַתֻרוּ Tuwr again. 12 times in connection with the “spying out” the Land and then here regarding the function of Tzit zits (which are a “throughout your generations” command)- “That you may see it, and remember ALL the commandments of HaShem and PERFORM them, and not EXPLORE (תַתֻרוּ) after your own heart and after your eyes after which you stray.” The word stray in the text is זֹנִים zanah- to commit adultery/to commit idolatry. We are to see them and remember that slander and evil report against the Land. The Land. The ONLY place where ALL of HaShem’s commandments can be realized and executed. Remember the evil report about the Land and never go that route. To go ‘there’ when HaShem says ‘it’s time’ and to be motivated and intentional in your observance of His precious and meaningful commandments and statutes and judgments and ordinances. To continually and perpetually strive to quiet the people opposed to HaShem and to do so by shining His light and bringing His great Name honor IN THIS WORLD, and at the same time to look at the chord of blue and remain connected to the heaven…the sky….the Most High and His Kingdom, here and now……and yet to come.
The last place in the Torah where לָתוּר Tuwr- to explore, seek out, find….is found is in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 1. This is where Moshe summarizes the history of the Israelites up to his death, Joshua’s appointment as leader and their entry into the Land (finally). The passage in this chapter is recounting the incident we have been discussing, the ‘spies’ and the evil report:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 1; 29 Then I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked, nor fear them. 30 The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’ 32 But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God, 33 who goes before you on your way, to לָתוּר seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.
As beautiful as I always thought the commandment of Tzit zits was, and is, before this Sabbath reading….I will never again fail to recall all that comes along with it. It is not only the wonderful reminder that we too are desired enough by God that He requires of us the Holy living and striving so as to be likened to Priests, not only that He will bring us to that PLACE where ALL of His commandments and promises will be realized (this distinction has never changed and has always been Israel- without the borders and barriers men have implaced) and we don’t have to wander in the wilderness, not only that we do bear His name and His covenantal promises and responsibilities as if we are wearing His wedding ring, not only that how we behave is not a matter of ‘only hurting myself’ but a reality of profaning OR to the contrary sanctifying HIS Name with our every decision, not only these very important aspects….but I will always remember to beware of the report I bring with my lips and my life. I will remember that if my heart is centered around His desire for this world….restoration, justice, righteousness, peace, Torah, Truth….if I follow after it, I will not run into ruin but victory. I will not become polluted by the majority opinion and I will know that beyond what my own eyes perceive, what He seeks out for my life is ONLY for the GOOD….He is with me. That is what the tzit zits say to me now. Perhaps that is most important of all….HE IS WITH ME, what can the giants do to me?
Blessed are You Lord my God Creator and King of the universe
You have blessed us with Your Torah of Truth
You have blessed us with the entire counsel of Your Living word
You alone have planted among us Life Eternal
Blessed are You Gracious Giver of the Torah
B’Shem Yeshua HaMashiac
* The spiritual significance of this entry is the most important thing, however IF you would like to make the commitment to wearing tzit zits and do not have any I would be happy to make a set and send them to you no charge. Just as a blessing to you and your progressing walk. However, please don’t request a set just to have as a trinket or something “free”.