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Thought for the Day: When You Are Doing a Mitzvah, You Are Doing the Lord's Work

While I do not go out of my way to make a point of going to pray in the middle of the day, I also do not avoid mentioning it.  (By the way, that is a huge step forward for me.)  That is, if someone makes note of me wearing a tie/jacket/hat in the afternoon, I will volunteer that I am going to (or returning from) afternoon prayers.  This once happened while I was putting on my tie; since this particular coworker is Jewish (not yet frum) I volunteered a bit more info: that I only have one tie at work because it is important to be dressed properly for prayer, but I don't think G-d cares that it is the same tie every day.  Her response was to question if G-d cares about me wearing a tie at all. To her I just said, "Yes, because I would wear a tie to an important meeting, so it speaks to my attitude about prayer."  To you, my dear reader, I have a bit more to say on that topic.

Film (remember that?) was basically a plastic substrate smeared with a substance that contained minute amounts of silver.  People made businesses, in fact, in reclaiming the silver from the chemicals that had been used to develop the film.  One might think to apply a similar principle to making tzitzis.  One could, for example, go into a field where sheep graze (with the permission of the owner, of course) to collect up the little bits of wool that has been snagged by thistles, thorns, fences, etc.  Before he starts, our entrepreneur would even declare, "Behold!  I stand ready and prepared to collect tufts of wool from thorns, thistles, and what have you; all with the intent that those tufts be used to make tzitzis!"  Or, a garment factory owner could declare, "Behold!  All wool that is used in the manufacture of garments that is cut off as part of finishing the garment shall be used to make tzitzis!"

The technical name for such declarations is "declaration l'vatala".  The Shulchan Aruch (OC 11:5) says not to do that.  The Mishna Brura (sk 25) explains that this is not just good advice; even after the fact such wool is pasul to be used in the manufacture of tzitzis.  Why?  Because of "bi'zu'i mitzvah"... because it is not treating the performance of a mitzvah with proper respect.

Think about that.  You can't tell the source of the wool by looking at the tzitzis, nor can you discern the kavanos of the workers.  Yet, if one acquired such tzitzis and attached them to a garment, he would be met with a very rude surprise when he gets to the Olam shel Emes.  Not only was he m'vatel a mitzvas asei m'di'oraisa for years, he also have thousands of brachos l'vatala added to his balance sheet.  Talk about "oops".

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