May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of Torah be a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

This week we learned Menachot 38. These are some highlights.

He placed his blue tzitzit strings onto the garment before the white strings and he has yet to tie them. Should he take them out to put in the white first and then the blue?

Ideally, our tzitzit should have blue and white strings. Some feel that they know what the dye for the techeilet is. They put into their tzitzit garments both the white and the blue strings. For them this discussion is a matter of practical halacha. Our Gemara teaches that there is a mitzvah to put in the white strings of tzitzit first and the techeilet strings of tzitzit second. What should a person who makes a mistake do? He put in his blue strings first and then he put in the white strings but he has not yet tied the strings. Should he take them all out and redo them in the correct order of white and then blue? Rav Zilberstein argues that a careful reading of Rashi on our Gemara teaches that he is not to redo the strings.

Our Gemara introduces the idea that the white strings need to go in first and the blue strings second. Rashi explains that the source for this law is the verse in the Torah, which first mentions hakanaf, the corner. This word teaches that the strings of tzitzit should be white just as the corner of the garment is white. After mentioning the white strings, the Torah mentions the obligation to add blue strings, petil techeilet. Since white is mentioned in the Torah first, putting the white in first expresses respect and regard for the mitzvah. This is not an absolute requirement. If you put in the blue first and then the white the tzitzit are kosher; you would merely have missed out on the chance to give added honor to the mitzvah. Based on this understanding, in our scenario one should not remove the strings that have been already placed into the garment. Removing strings that have begun to be used in the holy garment is an insult to the strings and the mitzvah. The objective of white and then blue is to show respect for the mitzvah item; therefore we certainly should not insult strings that have begun to be used for the mitzvah by taking them out of the garment. A careful reading of Rashi indicates that he interprets our Gemara as teaching that the strings should not be taken out in order to put them back in the correct way. Rashi (s.v. Ela) states, “And if he put the blue strings in before the white strings, it will not make the tzitzit disqualified; he does not need to cut out the blue strings. Rather, he can put the white strings in after what he has already put in.” Rashi seems to be explaining our Gemara that we are dealing with in a case in which the blue was put in and the white has not yet been put in when he realizes the mistake. Rashi did not say that the man should remove the blue that he put in and restart. It is insulting to the mitzvah to start with it and then stop with it. Once the blue strings were put in we are not to take them out in order to again put them in the right way.

This is similar to a ruling of the Shevut Ya’akov (quoted in Sha’arei Teshuvah Siman 673:1) in regard to Chanukah lights. Ideally we are to use olive oil for Chanukah lights. What is the law if a person has put wax candles into his Chanukah menorah and then someone brings him olive oil? Should he take out the wax candles and replace them with olive oil? Shevut Ya’akov rules that he should use the wax candles. Once the wax candles have been put in place to be used for the mitzvah it is not right to insult them by taking them out and replacing them with olive oil, even though olive oil is better for the mitzvah of Chanukah lights.

Rav Zilberstein suggests that another example in which we would apply this principle is when there is a Torah scholar and a simple person entering a doorway. Normally, when both a Torah scholar and a regular person are about to enter a doorway the regular person should step aside for the Torah scholar and give him honor by having him enter first. However, in light of our analysis, if the regular person has already entered the doorway and then the Torah scholar shows up, there is no need for the regular person to back out and now allow the Torah scholar to go first. Once the regular person has started entering it is like blue strings that have already been put into a garment first and wax candles that have already been put into the Chanukah menorah; we do not require a retracing of steps and a reversal of what has already begun. (Chashukei Chemed)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman


Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

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