Light and Weight of Fringes

Rabbi Nathan’s story of the tzitzit and the prostitute is introduced to illustrate the reward of a “light” commandment.(Menachot 44b; see also yesterday’s “Power of Tzitzit“). This post continues exploring the intersection of “light” commandments and tzitzit.
Continue reading Light and Weight of Fringes

The Power of Tzitzit

“Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” posted last week, mentions a 30-day grace period before a four-cornered garment requires tzitzit [ritual fringes].

This ruling is attributed to Rav Judah. It appears in his name in tractate Chullin (110a-110b) within a story that appears to be challenging strictures that serve as barriers to observance. The same ruling is mentioned following a very different story:

It was taught: R. Nathan said, There is not a single precept in the Torah, even the lightest, whose reward is not enjoyed in this world; and as to its reward in the future world I know not how great it is. Go and learn this from the precept of zizith.

[There follows the story of a pious man visiting a prostitute: he is stopped from sin when his four tzitzit stand up and strike him in the face. As a result of the encounter, the prostitute seeks out the pious man’s teacher and converts to Judaism. Eventually, the pious man and the woman wed.]

Those very bed-clothes which she had spread for him for an illicit purpose she now spread out for him lawfully. This is the reward [of the precept] in this world; and as for its reward in the future world I know not how great it is. Rab Judah said, A borrowed garment is exempt from zizith for the first thirty days, thereafter it is subject to it.
— B. Talmud, Menachot 44a

This is followed by brief mention of a similar 30-day grace period for affixing a mezuzah to a new residence. The grace-period comments are apropos of nothing apparent to me in the prostitute-convert story, and I’ve never studied this. But the stated context is the reward of “light” commandments and, more broadly, the relationship of effort to commandment and reward.

The concept of “reward in this world and… in the future world” is one I generally steer around. But I have been interested in this idea of “light” commandments ever since Gerry Serotta introduced me to it some years ago.
Continue reading The Power of Tzitzit