“For G-d’s sake!”
The Torah states: “Gedilim ta’aseh lach…’ - (“Tzitzis-fringes shall you make for yourself”) The rabbis expound from this verse that, in addition to the ‘kavana’ (intent) that one must have when wearing the tzitzis (see siman 8), even the making of the tzitzis strings should be done with proper intent - that of a mitzvah (Heb: ‘lishmah’ – lit. for its sake). Practically speaking, this means that at the beginning of the tzitzis-string-making process, a person must verbally declare: “I am hereby making these tzitzis for the sake of the mitzvah” - Heb: ‘L’sheim mitzvas tzitzis!’ (Note: Once a process is started ‘lishmah’, it is not necessary for the person to verbalize it continuously, as it is assumed that he continues as he began.) This requirement is so important that if it were lacking, the tzitzis may, in fact be invalid!
Question: Which are the particular processes that require this declared intent?
Answer: It begins with the combing of the wool (or other material), called ‘nifutz’. Actually, the requirement for ‘nifutz’ to be ‘lishmah’ is only advised; failure to do so does not invalidate the tzitzis. The real crucial next step is the spinning of the wool into thread – Heb: ‘t’viya’. After a one-ply thread is produced through spinning, it undergoes a process called ‘shezira’ – twisting – where it is doubled at least into two-ply, and maybe more. (Note: Today, most tzitzis on the market are actually ‘kaful l’shemona’ – twisted to eight-ply!) Although the halacha rules that ‘shezira’ must be done ‘lishmah’, a leniency is granted where the declaration was not made, because of the assumption that his intent remained the same since the declaration of the ‘t’viya’, as mentioned above (i.e. if both processes were done by the same person.) (Note: In a future lesson we will discuss, iy”H, whether the tying of the tzitzis onto the garment must be ‘lishmah’ as well.)
Question: What kinds of people are qualified to prepare the strings, considering the fact that this religious – not merely technical – expertise and certification is required?
1) Any Torah-observant adult man or woman is qualified to make the strings.
2) A non-Jew can certainly not be relied upon for his intent without supervision. Even with supervision, a non-Jew should not be used to make the strings, except as a last resort. If a Jew assists in the process, in addition to his supervision, then a non-Jew is acceptable.
3) Halacha, in general, recognizes a class of individuals who do not possess the requisite level of competence for religious matters. They are the child (‘katan’), the deaf-mute (‘katan’) and the mentally challenged (‘shoteh’). As a last resort only, if a competent Jewish adult supervises their activities, and attests to their ability to follow instruction to make the strings ‘lishmah’, they may be relied upon.
4) A non-observant Jew who does not act out of spite, but out of “convenience”, is qualified to make tzitzis strings!