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Parshas Shlach - Fashion that is ALWAYS in Style     22 Sivan 5784

06/28/2024 10:19:26 AM


History always has the last laugh. Often times, my children will sit around looking at old pictures happily making comments about the style of clothing everyone was wearing.  Typical comments are, “Check out those huge glasses!”, “You could land an airplane on the brim of that hat!”, or ”Those pants are so baggy you could use them as a flotation device during a rainstorm!”, I caution them by saying, “just wait. These will be back in style one day.”. At that comment, they begin to chuckle, laugh and say, ”No way! Never in a million years!”. Lo and behold, it doesn’t take a million years for old styles to come back.

In fact, fashion trends historically tend to repeat every 20–30 years, a concept known as the "20-year rule", based on the idea that fashion can evoke feelings of nostalgia, and that young adults may lean towards styles that feel "new" and "retro". Designers also  draw inspiration from the styles their parents wore, or from generational changes. According to Forbes, due to the rise of social media, this  20-year trend cycle has become extremely condensed. Social media has the power to raise a trend to extreme popularity, then drop it into obsolescence overnight. Fast-fashion companies can remain congruent with this expedited trend cycle by producing merchandise that sells as quickly as the trend is created. 

Trends originate from a myriad of sources with inspiration drawn  from many different artistic avenues including museums, art galleries, vintage archives, films, music, social movements, and architecture.  At times, trends are an unpredictable phenomenon, but every trend can be dissected into five stages.  Stage One: The Introduction, Stage Two: The Rise, Stage Three: The Peak, Stage Four: The Decline,  Stage Five: The Obsolescence.  Every major trend has a way of being reinvented or reintroduced in some way, shape, or form. Subscribe to trends that appeal to you, even if they are not “in style” right now; it is guaranteed that eventually, they will be back.

Jewish fashion also shares a place but limited to a smaller clientele. There is one garment known by one name, comes in a few different sizes and materials. It is worn differently by each individual. This garment, a mitzva for boys and men to wear, is  called “Tzitzis”. The mitzvah of tzitzis is a positive commandment in the Torah that requires men to wear garments with tassels (tzitzis) attached to the four corners of a garment, at least during the day. The purpose of the mitzvah is to remind us of all of the Torah's commandments and to motivate us to perform mitzvos. The Talmud says that the mitzvah of tzitzis is equal to all other mitzvos in the Torah, and that those who observe it meticulously are worthy of seeing the Divine Presence.

Truth be told, tzitzis are necessary on any four cornered garments; it is not the tzitzis that we refer to today. Nevertheless, the Rabbis mandated to wear a special, dedicated garment with four corners to affix tzitzis so that we will not forget this Mitzva. Nevertheless, the tallis gadol (large) or the tallis kattan (small) are garments that have been worn for centuries and have never been influenced by society. Truth be told, there have been occasional attempts to change or ‘revise’ this tradition, but by and large, Ashkenazim, Sepharadim, and Chassidim adhere to the general look with some minor differences, but the design and tradition has not changed over time.

 The Torah in this week’s Parshas Shelach Bamidbar 15:38 states "דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם ועשו להם ציצת על כנפי בגדיהם לדרתם, ונתנו על ציצת הכנף פתיל תכלת. ......וראיתם אתו וזכרתם את כל מצוות ה'..."  “Speak to the Israelites and have them make tassels on the corners of their garments for all generations. They shall include a twist of sky-blue wool in the corner tassels. These shall be your tassels, and when you see them, you shall remember all of God’s commandments to keep them”. The question is, what part of the tzitzis is supposed to remind us of all the 613 commandments?

Rashi writes that the reason why tzitzis have this power of reminding one of all the commandments is because the total numerical value of the letters of the [Scriptural] word tzitzis is six hundred, and together with the eight threads and five knots, you have six hundred thirteen [corresponding to taryag, the six hundred and thirteen commandments]. The Ramban reacts to Rashi’s explanation, writing that he does not understand this, for the word tzitzis in the Torah is written without a [second] yud, so the total numerical value is only five hundred and ninety! Moreover, the number of threads to be used for each of the fringes according to Beis Hillel is only three, which, when passed through the hole at the corner form six threads – not eight as Rashi mentioned. Rather, the Ramban says the remembrance of the all the mitzvos is through the Techeiles, the blue thread, which alludes to the all-inclusive attribute which is bakol and which is the aim of All.

Whichever pshat you appreciate more, there is an underlying message regarding this garment. The law of tzitzis has both white and blue threads. The two aspects of the corner are the knots and the strings. The knots represent the tying together and unifying the Jewish people while the individual strings teach about every individual’s purpose and contribution to the Klal- the community. This is the ultimate purpose of the Tzitzis and reminds us of all the commandments that are fulfilled by the individuals making up the Klal of Yisrael.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Fri, July 19 2024 13 Tammuz 5784