Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Metaphor of the Tzitzis and the Mezuzah

The midrash brings down two complaints to Moshe. One is related by Rashi:
What did he do? He went and assembled two hundred and fifty men, heads of Sanhedrin, most of them from the tribe of Reuben, his neighbors. These were Elitzur the son of Shedeur and his colleagues, and others like him, as it says, “chieftains of the congregation, those called to the assembly.” And further it states, “These were the chosen ones of the congregation” (1:16). He dressed them with cloaks made entirely of blue wool. They came and stood before Moses and asked him, “Does a cloak made entirely of blue wool require fringes [’tzitzith’], or is it exempt?” He replied, “ It does require [fringes].” They began laughing at him [saying], "Is it possible that a cloak of another [colored] material, one string of blue wool exempts it [from the obligation of techeleth], and this one, which is made entirely of blue wool, should not exempt itself? - [Midrash Tanchuma Korach 2, Num. Rabbah 18:3]
Another is that he asked whether a room filled with sefarim required a mezuzah.

The meaning of the midrash seems fairly clear. The tzitzit and mezuzah are stand-ins for the leadership, and the beged and the room full of sefarim are stand-ins for the Bnei Yisrael. As we read their complaint in the beginning of parshat Korach:
ג וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב-לָכֶם--כִּי כָל-הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים, וּבְתוֹכָם ה; וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ, עַל-קְהַל ה. 3 and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them: 'Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?'
And indeed, so does Rabbenu Bachya explain it (see right).

But kabbalists give a kabbalistic explanation to these two midrashim. I saw the following in Maggid Meisharim. It appears in other kabbalistic works, but I would guess that it first occurs there.

According to Rav Yosef Karo's maggid, Korach was debating with Moshe about how Bnei Yisrael should relate to the Sefirot, and which to unify with.

According to Korach's first complaint about the tallis made entirely of techeiles, the techeiles represents Malchus, and Malchus {Shechina} is how Hashem relates to and interacts with the world. In the mashal, the entire tallis was made of techelet, and Korach argued that there is no need for white strings. In the nimshal, Korach is saying that one does not require yichud with the seven Sefirot above Malchut. Moshe's reply was that one does need those seven sefirot as well. Thus, the fringes consist of seven white strings and one string of techelet, representing Malchut together with the seven sefirot above.

Korach's second complaint was about the house filled with sefarim, which he claimed did not require a mezuzah. Maggid Meisharim explains this as a continuation of the previous dispute. If the seven Sefirot above are in charge of Malchut, then perhaps one should only attempt to unify with those upper Sefirot. Just as a house is filled with sefarim, does one need the mezuzah (which in this case represents Malchut)? Here, Moshe says that it is required.

I understand the connection of techeilet to Hashem (and one can see Ramban who I cite a bit below for an elaboration). Still, I do not believe that this was the intent of these midrashim about Korach's arguments, but rather this is the usual kabbalistic exercise of reinterpreting earlier sources to bolster their beliefs.

If I wished to, I could challenge this interpretation on the details. In the first mashal, the 7 white strings and 1 blue string represented the seven upper Sefirot and Malchut. But that only works according to the position of Rambam, that the techelet is half a string. Then, only one string of 8 would be blue, and the white ones would number seven. But according to Raavad, that it is a whole string, it would be 2 blue and 6 white. How are 6 white supposed to represent the 7 Sefirot. And according to Tosafot, that it is two full strings of blue, then there are 4 blue and 4 white. How can this interpretation work according to Tosafot? It can't.

And my tzitzit are in accordance with Tosafot, in terms of blue vs. white. Bet Yosef, who is Rav Yosef Karo, cites both Rambam and Tosafot in his commentary on Tur, and does not rule in favor of one. As far as I can tell, in Shulchan Aruch he brings down nothing, since he did not have techelet in his day. But Mishnah Berurah only brings down the position of Tosafot. Vilna Gaon is sure Tosafot is wrong, but is unsure whether Rambam or Raavad is correct.

Can we do such a nitpick? I have precedent for such a nitpick, as Ramban does the same to reject Rashi's interpretation of the mnemonic of tzitzit, in parshat Shelach:

כתב רש"י:
מפני המנין של ציצית בגימטריא שש מאות, ושמונה חוטין וחמשה קשרים הרי תרי"ג.
ולא הבינותי זה, שהציצית בתורה חסר יו"ד ואין מנינם אלא חמש מאות ותשעים.

ועוד, שהחוטין לדעת בית הלל אינם אלא שלושה (מנחות מא ב), והקשרים מן התורה אינם אלא שנים, כמו שאמרו (שם לט א):
שמע מינה קשר העליון דאורייתא דאי סלקא דעתך לאו דאורייתא כלאים בציצית דשרא רחמנא למה לי הא קיימא לן התוכף תכיפה אחת אינו חבור:
אבל הזיכרון הוא בחוט התכלת, שרומז למדה הכוללת הכל שהיא בכל והיא תכלית הכל.
ולכן אמר: וזכרתם את כל -
שהיא מצוות השם.

וזהו שאמרו (שם מג ב):
מפני שהתכלת דומה לים וים דומה לרקיע ורקיע דומה לכסא הכבוד וכו'.
והדמיון בשם גם הגוון תכלית המראות, כי ברחוקם יראו כולם כגוון ההוא, ולפיכך נקרא תכלת:

Thus, the halachic details of tzitzit, that only two knots are required deOrayta, is used to reject Rashi's explanation.

(Read the first part of Rabbenu Bachya, though, about Korach's wife, and chut echad shel techelet.)

I would add that we can read Rav Yosef Karo's interpretation into the pasuk which is the source (or one of the sources at least) of the midrash. Thus, the pasuk in the beginning of parshat Korach read:
ג וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב-לָכֶם--כִּי כָל-הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים, וּבְתוֹכָם ה; וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ, עַל-קְהַל ה. 3 and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them: 'Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?'
It can center on וּבְתוֹכָם ה. We can read the pasuk in a way roughly approximating the following, taking kahal and edah to refer to the seven Sefirot:

רַב-לָכֶם: You have something which is over you -- Malchut.
כִּי כָל-הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים, וּבְתוֹכָם ה: The entire "Congregation" of Sefirot are holy, and within them is be Hashem = Shechina, Malchut.
וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ, עַל-קְהַל ה -- Taking the other tack, why do you elevate it over the kahal of Hashem -- rather, one should just focus on the kahal.

There are all sorts of variants of this parsing one can give. This, along with the identity of techelet, might be what influences this kabbalistic interpretation of the midrash.

2 comments:

Abraham said...

techelet alternatively represent binah too,
so u can have malchut-ze'er-binah, 1 blue, 6 white, 1 blue

But the zohar seems to lay more emphasis on the wraps that the strings.

Funny that the zohar only mentions seven BLUE chulyot (or 13) which would contradict the concept of starting with white and ending with white.

Rentsy said...

Presumably the Zohar holds like Rambam on the chulyot, which only have one wind of white at the beginning and end.

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin