Ibn Ezra

Ibn Ezra: Tallit Time (Shelach Lecha)

The Torah Text

In this parashah, the Torah outlines the rules for tzitzit, the fringes that we now attach to the shawl known as a tallit.

Ibn Ezra’s Teaching

והיה לכם לציצת. והנה ישוב הפתיל להיותו בקצה כמו הציצית. והפירוש השני כאשר העתיקו חז”ל ובעבור שיש עדים נאמנים על הפירוש השני בטל הראשון והם העתיקו כי זאת המצוה עם בגד שיש לו ארבע כנפים והציצית הם הגדילים ועוד אפרשנו. והנה מצוה על כל מי שיש לו בגד בארבע כנפים שיתכסה בו ביום תמיד ולא יסירנו מעליו למען יזכרו והמתפללים בטלית בשעת התפלה יעשו זה בעבור שיקראו בקריאת שמע והיה לכם לציצית ועשו להם ציצית רק לפי דעתי יותר הוא חייב להתעטף בציצית בשאר השעות משעת התפלה למען יזכור ולא ישגה ולא יעשה עבירה בכל שעה כי בשעת התפלה לא יעשה עבירה

Numbers 15:39 AND IT SHALL BE UNTO YOU FOR A FRINGE. … Now this commandment states that everyone who has a four-cornered garment shall always cover himself with it during the day. He shall not remove it so that he remembers the commandments. Those who pray with a tallit during the time of prayers do so because they read in the shema, And it shall be unto you for a fringe (Numbers 15:39) and that they make them throughout their generations fringes (Numbers 15:30).

However, I believe that one is more obligated to enwrap oneself in fringes when he is not at prayer than during the time of prayer, so that he remembers the commandments and does not err and trespass during the other hours of the day, for in the hour of prayer he will not sin. (Tranlsation Strickman and Silver).

Reflections for the Path

There are times, spaces, and activities in which we feel fully aligned with our values and aspirations. Then there is the rest of life. Ibn Ezra teaches us that we need to have reminders of those values and aspirations specifically in the moments where we are least likely to be paying attention to them. Although the tallit is a ritual item for prayer, it should be particularly useful to wear it in other settings, to remember what our deepest yearnings and priorities truly are.

For more on Abraham ibn Ezra:
1. Read my introduction.
2. Listen to ibn Ezra’s opening prayer poem for his Torah commentary.
3. Explore the five paths, ibn Ezra’s introduction to his Torah commentary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.