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Thought for the Day: Surprising Ways That HaShem's Name Appears in Halacha

I am already, of course, making an assumption when I say "surprising".  I really should say, "surprising to me"; but I won't, which shouldn't surprise anyone.  In any case, I was surprised and amused at the subtle way that concern for HaShem's name comes into hilchos ציצית and תפילין.  In order to follow the dictum of going up in k'dusha and not down, we shall begin with ציצית.

The biblically mandated requirement of ציצית is really just to tie one permanent knot in the threads that comprise the ציצית.  Not at all surprisingly, we make all sorts of knots and windings.  I mean, why not?  It's an easy and fun enhancement.  The gematria of ציצית is 600 (when spelled out fully, as I have here), then we have eight threads and five knots... adds up to one of our favorite numbers: 613.  But we are not done, oh no.  Five knots on top of eachother just looks messy, so we need to space them out, which we do with windings (which also improves our fulfillment of making tassels).  There are different customs, but they are all variations of <7>.  That's a cool sequence.  Note that 7+8 = 15, which is the gematria of the short form of HaShem's name that indicates His greatness is not fully realized now.  7+8+11 = 26; which is the gematria of the tetragrammaton (isn't that a cool word?) -- aka HaShem's ineffable four letter name; which is how we, the Jewish people, always relate to HaShem, recognizing His omniscience and omnipresence.  13 is the gematria of אחד/one.  So our ציצית spell out in gematria השם אחד/HaShem is One.

That's the not what surprised me.  Maybe it did the first couple of times I learned it, but I am jaded now.  No, what surprised me this time around was that that poskim discuss if you are allowed to untie your ציצית.  What's the issue?  There are a few, you are nullifying a mitzvah, for one.  But let's say you have brand new ציצית and you want to upgrade your garment, so you tie them on first and then prepare to untie the old ones.  You don't want to cut them off, because you intend to put them on another garment; they were used for one mitzvah, let them continue that on a different garment.  One more issue: the windings "spell out" HaShem's name in gematria code... the poskim discuss whether undoing those windings is tantamount to erasing HaShem's name.  Isn't that utterly surprising.  They conclude that you are permitted, but I was struck by the logical necessity of the question.

What about תפילין?  The parchments of תפילין need to be made from skin of kosher animal, because the Torah says we wear תפילין so that the words of HaShem should be in your mouth.  In halacha, that means that parts of the תפילין that have writing on them must be made of a material that comes from a species of animal we would be allowed to eat.  What about the תפילין boxes?  Nothing written on them, so you can make them from pig skin, right?  Nope... because there is a ש on the head box.  What about the straps?  Nope.  There is a ד made from the straps on the back of the head, and a י made at the hand box.  Moreover, since the writing of תפילין must be done in order, the knots should also be made in order.  That is, first the straps are put through the head box and tied to make a ד that will rest at the back of the next,  Then the strap is put through the arm box and secured with a knot that makes the י.  Even better... you should be careful when adjusting the head strap to not undo the knot, as that would mean having the letters made out of order.  (Though after the fact they are still kosher.)

Even the tiniest detail of every thing we do is made to be consistent across the entire spectrum of halacha and custom.  That is beautiful beyond compare.


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