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Thought for the Day: ציצית -- The Tie That Binds

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 הלכות ציצית סימן יא
סעיף יג, סוף ס''ק סד, שער ציון (*): עיין בא''ע סימן קכה ס''ד בט''ז סק''י דמחמיר שם, ואולי לענין תולמ''ה כל שהוא עושה מעשה הצריכה לעצם ההכשר. ועיין סוכה יא

I know, I know... brings tears to your eyes, right?  What's that?  You want some context?  Ah; good point.  Allow me to elaborate.

You would think that hilchos ציצית would be simple to the point of being nearly boring.  Ho-hum, four cornered garment, ho-hum eight threads, ho-hum five knots, ho-hum some windings between the knots.  I mean, we don't even have תכלת any more  (despite the blue threads you see intermingled in some people's ציצית; not really forbidden, but also not really תכלת). Sure there are some details in how big the garment needs to be, how long the threads need to be, what materials are good, etc.  Normal stuff.

Here's the complication: תעשה ולא מן העשוי (affectionately known by its abbreviation: תולמ''ה)/threads must be transformed into ציצית on the garment; it is no good to have ציצית just appear fully made on the corner of a garment.  For example, imagine tying a beautiful set of tassels on a tiny square of  wool (they are not ציצית because they aren't attached to a garment large enough to require ציצית ), then sewing that square onto a regular sized tallis.  You would have to actually untie them are start again because of תולמ''ה.  Another example: You tie your threads onto the very edge of a tallis  (not "one the corner" but halichically under the corner), then sew more edging on the tallis to make those tassells at the regulation distance from the edge.  Again, you would have to actually untie them are start again because of תולמ''ה.

Before the next case, please note that even though we make five knots and lots of windings, but to fulfill the Torah obligation one only need make one set of windings and one knot to hold them in place.  Ok, here we go: you take one really, really long thread and run it four times through a hole in corner of a tallis, then you take the end and make one set of windings, but still haven't tied a knot after the winding (so they will unwind if you let go).  With me?  Now technically, this is probably not a halachic ציצית, but it's uncomfortably close.  Now you decide to cut where the threads are doubled back to the garment -- transforming, presto chango -- one thread into eight (ie, four doubled through the hole).  So... can you continue tying those threads into ציצית, or have you already crossed a line and need to start all over again because of תולמ''ה?

The Mishna Brura (סעיף יג, סוף ס''ק סד) is lenient, but nervously refers you to many who are stringent.  I don't want to ruin your surprise, but upon following the references in that footnote, you will find a discussion of writing a get (if a drop of ink falls on the parchment, then you dip your quill in to draw it into a letter -- is that called an act or writing, or do you have to start over?), a pit in a public thoroughfare (if one person digs the pit and leaves it uncovered, then another uses it and also leaves it uncovered -- who is responsible for damages: does the act of using it make it a new pit and the second guy is responsible, or is the first guy still responsible since he started it?), and a sukkah (if you schach is too high, then you lower it or raise the floor -- does that work or do you have to start over?)

Two things. (1) If you even learn hilchos ציצית correctly, you are going to be learning כל התורה כולו/the entire Torah.  (2) The Mishna Brura did just that... which is why the Mishna Brura has the exalted status that it does.

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