Parshas Shelach.


The laws of Tzitzis.


1. The commandment of Tzitzis is of such great importance that it is compared to all the mitzvos of the Torah. (In general there are a few commandments that are so crucial that are not viewed only as independent mitzvos but rather enhance the observance of all other commandments. For example, Tzitzis reminds us that we have to keep 613 commandments. Similarly, the learning of Torah makes it possible to keep all other mitzvos properly.)


2.  The Torah obligates the Jewish men to make Tzitzis on the garments that have four corners. This way a cloth that has five or six corners requires Tzitzis but if it has three corners or its corners are round the Tzitzis is not attached. Most types of clothes that we wear today do not have four corners and therefore we don’t make Tzitzis on them. However in order not to miss this crucial mitzvah we wear a special four cornered garment under our clothes – Talis Katan. In the synagogues we also wrap ourselves with a Talis Gadol – a large four cornered garment.


3. There is a minimal size for the cloth to require Tzitzis. It has to be large enough to cover the head and most of the body of a nine year old boy and the owner has to not be ashamed to walk outside wearing it. In our day many Rabbis require that the Talis should be almost two feet by two feet in the front and also as big in the back. It is preferable to wear a woolen Talis but if this is too difficult one can wear a cotton one. The Talis should only be bought from a God fearing individual for there are many complicated laws that have to be observed in order to make the Tzitzis kosher.


4. Before putting on the Talis we have to check the Tzitzis to make sure they did not get ripped. In some cases the ripped Tzitzis make the entire Talis non-kosher and therefore if any of Tzitzis got damaged, one should ask a Rabbi what to do.


5. The Mitzvah of Tzitzis applies only to the day time. However according to some opinions the clothes that are normally warn during the day require Tzitzis even at night. This way some people even sleep in Talis Katan.


6. Some types of modern clothing might actually have four corners and still the need for Tzitzis on them is not clear. For example, the shirts and suits may have two corners on the bottom and two on the top where the collar is. However since all four corners end up in the front after the cloth is put on there is an uncertainty if the Tzitzis is required. The best advice is to make one of the corners round. It is also preferable to make a round corner on one’s blanket for sometimes he might sleep under it during day time.


The laws of separating the challah.


1. The Torah obligates us to separate challah from the dough containing any one of the five grains: wheat, barley, spelt, oat or rye. As we mentioned in Parshas Emor, in our day the challah is not given to a cohen but is burned. We therefore separate only a small challah, as large as the size of an olive. Nevertheless, Ben Ish Chai writes that according to the teachings of Arizal even in our day it is necessary to separate 1/48 from the dough and it is therefore desirable to do this at least once a year. The Vilna Gaon also held that even if the challah is burned it is necessary to separate the same portion of the dough as when it was given to cohanim.


2. The Torah obligates us to take off challah only from the dough that is at least as large as 43 1/5 eggs. It is interesting that the Gematria of the word "challah" is 43, and the last letter of this word has numerical value 5, specifying one fifth. Since in our day there is an uncertainty regarding the sizes of eggs of Biblical times it is necessary to separate the challah without a blessing from the dough that weights 1200 grams and if the dough weighs more than 2487 grams, the challah is separated with a blessing. Note that this is the general law – whenever there is uncertainty whether it is necessary to fulfill any mitzvah we do it without blessing. It is interesting to note that when our ancestors were eating Manna in the desert, they ate the volume of 43 1/5 eggs every day. The Talmud teaches us that now also this is the ideal quantity food for an average healthy person per day.


3. The challah is separated from any dough we bake whether it is the dough for bread or for pie. There are different opinions whether it is necessary to separate a challah from the dough which we do not bake but rather fry or cook. Therefore in such cases it is necessary to separate the challah without a blessing. Nevertheless, if even part of the dough will be baked it is necessary to separate a challah with a blessing. There is no need to separate the challah from the liquid dough. However when liquid dough is baked in an oven in deep vessels there may be a need to separate challah. If there is no water or milk in the dough, for example, the dough is made only with apple juice or eggs, it is necessary to separate challah without a brocha. However, it is preferable to add some water to the dough and then the challah can be taken off with a blessing.


4. If the challah was not taken from the dough it should be separated from the baked bread. All the baked breads are put into one big basket and challah is taken from one of them to exempt them all.