It is always more comforting to
have visual proofs, along with logical proofs of our inherited Torah.
I decided to join Sherlock Holmes’ fraternity of detectives to see how far back I could go to find photos, then paintings, of men performing the Mitzva of wearing Tzitzis. Since photography only recently began in the early nineteenth century, my research would involve, primarily finding and reviewing fine works of art.
Before I began this ambitious project, I realized that I should brush up, and expand my knowledge of the laws pertaining to the Mitzva of Tzitzis. Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch, in his Horeb writes in chapter thirty nine:
“And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations, fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner, a thread of blue. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that you may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that you go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to go astray; that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be
your God: I am the Lord your God’.” (Num. XV, 37-41) “Thou shall make thee twisted cords upon the four corners of thy covering, wherewith thou coverest thyself. (Deut. XXII, 12)
Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch writes:
“But God does not wish you to follow the course prompted by your heart or your
eye, and so He has given you a means whereby in the present, visible world you
will always have a visible reminder of God – Himself invisible – a present
reminder of His law given in the past. It will remind you also, that the animal
within you strives only to find gratification in things invisible and
material. This means is Tzitzis. God commanded that Tzitzis be entwined in the corners of your four-cornered garment – fringes instituted by Him for the physical eye to behold as a reminder of His
commandments. The fringes will help you to raise yourself above the world envisaged by the senses and to dedicate your material senses to the service of Him. The Tzitzis remind us of God and his law, and that ‘you go not about after your own heart and your own eyes’.”
Just before I started to type in
the web site address for my first search for “Antique Jewish Paintings”, the
saying, “One picture is worth a thousand words” popped into my head. That’s
what I was trying to accomplish: find the earliest paintings of Jews wearing
Tzitzis as a visually “comforting” proof of this law’s antiquity and
authenticity. Then it occurred to me that the converse is really true: “One
word (of Torah) is worth a thousand pictures”…meaning, all the world’s
“proof-positive” in paintings do not equate to even one word of our precious
Torah. Pictures cannot validate what reason tells us, that the Torah is
authentic and its reasons are undeniable and beyond reproach. My initial notion
was incorrect: images should not play any role in assessing Torah truths.
Well, I just completed studying Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch’s commentary on Tzitzis in his all-encompassing Horeb. I had the proof, the Torah’s proof. Look how much time I saved. Who needs pictures?
Time to shut my PC down, and take Sherlock’s pipe out of my mouth. I hope its not too late to run down to Tuvia’s bookstore. I hope he has my Tzitzis size in stock.