Our parsha concludes with the unique mitzvah of tzitzit- the ritual fringes worn on a four cornered garment. The talmud teaches that this mitzvah is the equivalent of all the mitzvot combined (Menachot 43b.)
The Torah states that with respect to tzitzit, you shall “look at it and recall all the commandments of Hashem and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge. Thus you shall be reminded to observe all My commandments and to be holy to your God.”
The sages share a story (which you might have heard before) about this concept of tzitzit as a tool to remind us to be more meticulous and conscious Jews:
There was once a man who was meticulous in the observance of the mitzvah of tzitzit. He heard that there was a harlot in a faraway city who charged four hundred gold talents for her services. He sent her the exorbitant fee and set an appointed time to meet her. When he arrived at the appointed time … she prepared for him seven beds, one atop the other — six of silver and the highest one was made of gold. Six silver ladders led to the six silver beds, and a golden ladder led to the uppermost one. The prostitute unclothed herself and sat on the uppermost bed, and he, too, joined her. As he was unclothing himself, the four fringes of his tzitzit slapped him in his face and he immediately jumped off the bed on to the floor, where he was quickly joined by the woman.
“I swear by the Roman Caesar,” the harlot exclaimed, “I will not leave you until you reveal to me what flaw you have found in me!”
“I swear,” the Jew replied, “that I have never seen a woman as beautiful as you. However, there is one mitzvah which we were commanded by our G d, and tzitzit is its name. Concerning this mitzvah it is twice stated in the Torah ‘I am the L-rd your G d’ — ‘I am the one who will seek retribution, and I am the one who will reward.’ Now the four tzitzit appeared to me as four witnesses, testifying to this truth.”
“I still will not leave you,” the prostitute said, “until you provide me with your name, the names of your city, rabbi and the school in which you study Torah.” He wrote down all the information and handed it to her.
The woman sold all her possessions. A third of the money she gave to the government (as a payoff so that they would allow her to convert to Judaism), a third she handed out to the poor, and the remaining third she took with her — along with the silver and gold beds — and she proceeded to the school which the man had named, the study hall of Rabbi Chiya.
“Rabbi,” she said to Rabbi Chiya, “I would like to convert to Judaism.” “Perhaps,” Rabbi Chiya responded, “you desire to convert because you have taken a liking to a Jewish man?” The woman pulled out the piece of paper with the information and related to the rabbi the miracle which transpired with the tzitzit. “You may go and claim that which is rightfully yours [i.e. the right to convert],” the rabbi proclaimed.
She ended up marrying the man. Those very beds which she originally prepared for him illicitly, she now prepared for him lawfully.
What helps you be more mindful of Judaism? What helps you be a more meticulous and conscious Jew?
P.S. Here’s a bonus trivia question- Why do we recite this paragraph about tzitzit as part of the Shema?
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