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Ki Saytzay - Maintenance to Healthy Living

09/06/12 19:47:40


This week's Dvar Torah is sponsored by Susan and Lonnie Adelman in memory of Susan's father, Pesach Ben Moshe HaLevi Green, on his Yarhzeit this Tuesday, the 17th of Elul.

What do a computer, an air conditioner/heating system, a car engine, a liver, a swimming pool, and a kitchen sink all have in common? They, along with many other items in the world, have filters. The basic function of a filter is to retain that which is good and keep out the bad. Until a self-cleaning filter is invented, a person must either clean or change a filter when the dirt accumulates. The more a filter is changed the better the system will run. If a filter is not cleaned or changed often enough, the system will not run properly, potentially harming the unit.

God created the human body with different kinds of filters. Body hair keeps away dirt which would otherwise penetrate the skin and cause infection. Our ability to close our mouths and breathe through our noses help us filter out particles which are not beneficial to the body. Despite the fact the body has its own very efficient filtration system there are times when additional filters are needed. Some of these additional filters are found in this week's parsha, Ki Saytzay.

In Parshas Ki Saytzay there is a noticeable juxtaposition of two verses dealing with Tzitzis. In Devarim 22:11,12 it states "Lo Silbash Shaatnez Tzemer U'Pishtim Yachdav Yombined : You shall not wear fibers, wool and linen together". " G'Dilim Taaseh Lach, Al Arba Kanfos Kisuscha asher T'chaseh Bah: Twisted threads you shall make for yourselves on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself". Rashi is quick to note that the reason Tzitzis is mentioned is to teach us that despite the wool garment and linen strings, it is an exception to the rule of Shaatnez and is not only permissible but obligatory.

There are many reasons given as to why the combination of wool and linen is prohibited. The Rosh, Rabbeinu Asher suggests that since the curtain that hung in front of the Aron was made of Shesh (linen) and Techeiles (wool), Hashem didn't want us to mimic the 'garb' of the Ark by wearing something with the identical fibers. A second reason mentioned by the Rosh was that the killing of Hevel by his brother Kayin came about through wool and linen. In Bereishis we read how Kayin offered flax (linen comes from flax) as a sacrifice to God while Hevel brought from the best of his flocks, which was a kind of wool. Therefore, Hashem prohibits us from combining these two together as they were the cause of separation of brothers.

The Zohar explains the word Shaatnez itself is a cross between Satan and Oz which means strength to Satan. If a person wears this combination, it awakens the evil spirits, and it comes to affect a person's spiritual quest. There is a verse in Vayikra 19 which also mentions this Mitzva of Shaatnez: "And Clothing made of Shaatnez shall not come upon you". The message is do not bring impurity and the evils of the Satan upon you. The confusion created by the altercation of Kayin and Hevel through the combining of wool and linen created a destructive capacity within the world. The Mitzva of Tzitzis, which does consist of this combination, reinforces the notion of separating these two fibers when told to do so, and to specifically combine them when commanded to do so. In the same manner that a person must be careful not to mix the two kinds and to watch and guard them separately, so too a Jew must clearly show that when we are commanded to do something that appears forbidden, we will do it openly. By placing the Tzitzis on the wool garment and openly displaying them, we are showing the world our desire to fulfill the Mitzvos with a love and fear of Hashem.

I would like to suggest that Tzitzis and Shatnez are filters for the Jew, both physically and spiritually. The Tzitzis act as a powerful barrier, protecting a person from outside evil forces. At the same time, the evil spirit is blocked from entering by the otherwise- prohibited combination of the linen and the wool. Being careful not to wear Shaatnez protects an individual from the mixing of forbidden things within the body. Shaatnez is not only about the prohibition of the mixing of wool and linen; it also protects us against producing devastating effects upon our Neshamas.

The month of Elul is the time designated for self-introspection and spiritual improvement. It is brought down in Halacha that it is the time of year for checking our mezuzos and tefillin. The blowing of the shofar after davening and the daily recitation of selichos (Sephardim the entire month, Ashkenazim a week before Rosh Hashana) are physical ways we prepare for the Yomim Noraim, the Days of Awe. In addition, we also need to clean out the filtration systems within us. If we are lacking these filters, we need to install them, recognizing the filth around us, which, if left unfiltered, we ingest on a daily basis. Our environment is polluted with debris that is harmful and destructive for our souls. In order for the machine to work properly, in this case the body and soul, we must use the symbols of Shaatnez to filter out the bad and protect and nurture the good.

As we approach the new-year, we should make sure to service our physical and spiritual systems. Obviously, it is more beneficial to provide ourselves with steady maintenance throughout the year, but at least during this month of Elul we should make sure we do a thorough annual cleaning and keep all the fibers in check.

Ah Gut Shabbos Rabbi Avram Bogopulsky
Sat, August 8 2020 18 Av 5780