Prologue: The Talmud (Erchin 16a) notes that there are 7 things that bring on Tzaraas. The extensive list leads one to the conclusion that he who receives the Makka of Tzaraas is actually a grave sinner – hence the extreme punishment.
However, it should be pointed out that although the sin is extreme and the punishment harsh, through Tzoraas Hashem shows the sinner the error of his ways. This merit, that of Hashem “bothering” to show sin to a person presupposes Hashem’s recognition that the person is worthy of such divine inspiration.
Ramban (Vayikra 13:47) notes that this supernatural experience – that where a house or a body or clothes actually physically change property in order to demonstrate sin, is indication of Hashem’s departure from the source of the sin. That experience, he says, is only possible in the spiritual world of Eretz Yisroel and only on white clothes, not colored.
Rav Alexander Bechor Shor noted that this strange concept – concerning colored clothes – perhaps can explain a strange gemara (Shabbos 145b): The Talmud notes that Talmidei Chachamim in Bavel are Mitzuyanim because they Bnei Torah. Talmidei Chachamim there, wore colored clothes. This, explains the Bechor Shor, is because they recognized that they would not be able to merit the divine awareness with the white clothes. Therefore, rather than get into difficulty they wore colored clothes for distinction.
In contrast, the divine providence clearly follows Talmidei Chachamim especially when they are in Eretz Yisroel. The Hashpaah (influence) of Hashem on the land is apparent wherever you go therein (Tamid Einei Hashem Elokeicha Bah). This week’s Chaburah examines a different aspect of white marks of distinction as they apply to Chayalei Tzahal, to whom we pay homage this week with the chaburah entitled:
These Colors Don’t Run
(dedicated in honor of Chayalei Tzahal and in memory of those who passed before them)
In defining the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, the Torah warns us to make sure that the corner should have a thread of Techeles on it. The Talmud (Yevamos 4b) cites Rava who notes that the strings of the Tzitzis should be like those on the corner: If the corner is wool, so should the strings. The Rishonim differ as to whether this applies to color as well (that the strings should be the same color as the Beged).
Elsewhere (Menachos, 38b) the Gemara notes that the colors don’t make a difference. Still, the Raavad (225) notes that the Tzitzis should be the same color as the Beged to which they are attached. The Rashba (Shut HaRashba III: 280) argues with the Raavad on this point.
When the matter is brought up in Shulchan Aruch, the Michaber (O.C. 9:5) notes that it is a difference of opinion, but that the scrupulous Mitzva observers will make Tzitzis from the same color as the Begged. The Rema cites the Terumas HaDeshen who establishes Ashkenazic custom to only wear white Tzitzis even when the garment is a dark one. Mogen Avraham advocates only using a white Begged so that the Tzitzis will always be white according to all opinions. The Machatzis Hashekel adds another reason, namely that Hashem’s Tallis is white and we should have ours look like his. Yam Shel Shlomo (Reish Yevamos) too, insists that even a Shabbos Tallis be white. Darkei Moshe goes so far as to note that he has never actually seen a Tallis in any other color other than white.
All this is fine when one has a choice. What is a Chayal who is supposed to wear green allowed to do? Should he wear green Tzitzis or not?
The Eliyahu Zuta (4 commenting to Levush 9) notes that his father used to make a blue Begged and white Tzitzis as a Zecher for the lost Techeles. But in the Army, sometimes the insistence on all green could include the Tzitzis as well. What is a Chayal to do?
Rav Rabinovich (Rosh Yeshivat Maaleh Adumim Shut Milumdie Milchama 113) notes that the Bach takes exception to the Rema’s comments and limits the Ashkenazic demand on white only to a situation where the Tzitzis are visible. Therefore, where impossible otherwise, Rav Rabinovich permits the coloring of the Begged and the Tzitzis (except in Techeles Blue) as long as the soldier wears the garment under his clothes.