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Who is obligated in the mitzvah of ‘tzitzis’?
MBY 17:1-3 Regarding the mitzvah of tzitzis, the Torah states (Bamidbar 15:39 ), ‘…ur’isem oso, uz’chartem…’ (“…that you may see it and remember…”) Question: What is implied by the phrase “you may see”: Is it that one who cannot see (i.e. a blind person) is exempt? Is it that one is exempt during the night, when it is too dark to see? Answer: If you answered yes to both… sorry. No to both… sorry again. Yes to one and no to the other… correct! Now, which is which? (Please think before reading on….)

The blind man is obligated; tzitzis at night is not! [Ed: If you have been saving your own archives, please refer to MBY 8:16-17 The halachos of Tzitzis and its wrapping (part d) for more on the nighttime exemption.] Why is the blind man’s situation any more “sight-ful” than in the nighttime, that he should be obligated while the night-wearer is exempt? Because with the former, everyone around him can see his tzitzis; at night, no one can see them!

Women and Tzitzis
Based upon the fact that the mitzvah of tzitzis is obligatory only during the day, it is classified as a time-bound positive mitzvah, from which women are exempt. Question: May a woman wear ‘tzitzis’ and make a bracha, if she wants to, in the same way she may perform and make a bracha over other time-bound mitzvos (e.g. lulav and esrog)?
Answer: Technically, she may; however, the halacha bids her not to, based upon the concept of ‘mechzi ke-yuhara’ (i.e. it looks like haughtiness.) The Mishnah Berura explains why this mitzvah is considered more haughty for a women to do than to shake a lulav: Lulav is a ‘chovas gavra’ (lit. an obligation upon the person), meaning that it does not arise from circumstance; rather, a person must see to it that he obtains a lulav and esrog and waves it on Sukkos. Tzitzis, on the other hand, is a mitzvah based upon circumstance – i.e. if you have a four-cornered garment, you are obligated to place tzitzis on it (Heb. ‘chovas chaftza’ – an obligation generated by the object/situation.) That we go out of our way to purchase a special four-cornered garment in order to create the circumstance is purely because we want the great merit of the mitzvah and its protective “power” (both physically and spiritually); not because we are actually obligated to do so. Based upon this distinction between different kinds of mitzvos, we can answer our question: For a woman to go out of her way to perform a mitzvah that is a ‘chovas gavra’ is fine; whereas to perform one that is not a ‘chovas gavra’ borders on ‘yu-hara’. Is this clear?
Children and Tzitzis
Question: When does a minor (i.e. child) become obligated in the mitzvah of tzitzis?
Answer: Never! A child has no obligation to wear a ‘talis katan’… but his father has an obligation to see to it that his son wears one! This obligation begins as soon as the boy is “old enough to wrap”. What does that mean? It means that he is old enough to keep the four fringes basically surrounding his body – i.e. two in front and two in back. (Ed: You wouldn’t believe how many other combinations these boys come up with…!) He should also be able to hold his tzitzis while reciting Krias Shema!

[Ed: Funny – I thought we learned that a minor is exempt from reciting Krias Shema, even when he has reached the age of ‘chinuch’. So why would holding the tzitzis during Shema be a criterion for tzitzis??? See MBY 70:2-3 Who is exempt from ‘Krias Shema’ (Part 3)]

Question: We learned in our last lesson how big a man’s ‘talis katan’ (i.e. small talis worn under the clothing) should be. What about a ‘talis katan’ for a ‘katan’ (minor)?
Answer: It should be large enough to cover his torso. Naturally this varies from child to child.

Question: Why do most Ashkenazic Jewish men not wear a ‘talis gadol’ (large talis worn on top of clothing during tefila) until marriage?
Answer: Technically, there is no exemption from the mitzvah of tzitzis for one who is not married. Remember, however, what we learned above, that we are not naturally obligated in this mitzvah – we have to make ourselves obligated by wearing the ‘talis katan’. Indeed, every male should wear a talis katan. The custom is only not to wear a second garment - the ‘talis gadol’ until marriage. This custom is (almost comically) hinted to in the Torah: Devarim (22:12) states: “You shall make for yourselves twisted threads on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself.” What is written immediately following that pasuk? “If a man marries a wife…” See the connection?!

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