This week’s Torah portion starts at one end with the story of the sin of the scouts and ends at the other end with the mitzva of tzitzit. Many great and wise men discussed the special link between these two seemingly unrelated topics. For example, some saw the mitzva of tzitzit as a way to compensate for the sin of the scouts.
It is in fact quite easy to see a close link between the sin of the scouts, which stemmed from looking at Eretz Yisrael through an evil eye, and the mitzva of tzitzit, which comes among other things to mend the way we see with our eyes. In addition, the mission of the scouts – “to tour the land” [Bamidbar 13:16] – is parallel to the command associated with tzitzit – “do not follow your heart and your eyes” [15:39].
We can add another “thread” that links between these two passages.
The Hope of the Scarlet Thread
Just as in this week’s Torah portion, so right before the entry into Eretz Yisrael in the book of Yehoshua, scouts are sent to check out the territory before the military conquest. Yehoshua’s messengers want to repay Rachav for her help in avoiding the King’s soldiers. They promise to guard over her and her family in the coming war. As a precondition, they ask her to hang a scarlet thread outside of her window, as a signal that this house is off limits for the army of Yisrael.
This thread then becomes the great hope of Rachav and her family, in their desire to survive the difficult war that was threatening them. The word which the prophet uses to denote this thread is ‘tikva’ – which can mean a line but also a hope. “Tie this line of scarlet thread in the window” [Yehoshua 2:18].
The Hope of the Distance
It is no accident that a thread was chosen to signify the hopes of Rachav and her family for a peaceful life. The purpose of a thread in the world is to tie two elements together. A thread can be viewed as a long line which links two items that are far apart. This illustrates the semantic link between “a thread” and “a hope” (in the word “tikvah,” which includes the two-letter word, “kav,” a line).
Hope gives a person the strength to maintain his position in a difficult situation. Hope can often be the “light at the end of the tunnel” which gives a person the ability to take the next step. Hope can be viewed as a thread which links man in his current difficult situation to a better and more beautiful future which he yearns for and hopes to attain.
Make Fringes for You
The essence of the mitzva of tzitzit is to create a thread which links and makes contact with our physical existence here on the earth and reaches all the way up to the Throne of Glory in heaven. The techelet – blue wool – in the tzitzit is like the sea, which is like the sky, and which reaches out to the Throne of Glory. In this way, man is like a tree that grows here on earth while its roots find their way deep into the heavens.
The threads of the tzitzit are symbolic of the importance of this link between the reality of the visible present and the future and upper and hidden worlds to which we are connected, even if we usually are not aware of the link. The threads of the tzitzit demand that we look into the depths of things, to create a system of aspiration and hope that will lead us to much higher spiritual levels than we usually experience and to maintain the link and the connection between heaven and earth. This, after all, is the only hope for man in this earth.
One Who Anticipates Hope
Perhaps the sin of the scouts stemmed from a lack of being connected by the proper threads, from a loss of hope.
The scouts looked at the discouraging reality that appeared before their eyes, and they kept this image with them, without developing threads of hope and anticipation towards the promised land. They did not allow the threads of hope and aspiration to reach the land to awaken within them the faith and the link to heaven. They remained in shock in view of the strength and the size of the people living on the land. They did not allow the threads of the tzitzit to link them to a deeper and higher-level world, which can give a person a feeling of anticipation and hope.
And therefore the mitzva of tzitzit comes, and it demands of us to make threads, fringes and more fringes – in order to develop the hope, the link to the Throne of Glory, where everything remains good forever, the source of power and strength and heavenly light.
“Wait for G-d and maintain His way, and He will lift you up to take possession of the land” [Tehillim 37:34].