In Num 15.17-21 we have the Law of the Challah. It says, “When you enter the land” and again it was said to bring the people hope. They would be going into the land eventually, despite the Ten Scouts incident and the judgments that were given as a result. Before they have defeated their enemies and settle down, they were to give a “Terumah” (contribution) when they eat the bread of the land (m’lechem ha eretz), the first of their dough will be lifted up as a “cake” (challah).
Num 15.22-28 discusses the sin offering (Korban Chata) for an unintentional sin. This is a sin done in error, not willful defiance. A sabbath breaker is dealt with in Num 15.32-36. He has gathered wood, probably for a work fire. Exo 35.1-3 talks about the Sabbath and then says they were not to “kindle a fire.” The chapter then goes on to talk about building the Mishkan. To “kindle a fire” can mean several things depending on the context, not necessarily “work.” The people are being told not to make “work fires” in their dwellings for the Mishkan. There were no factories or “Home Depots” around. Everything that needed to be forged in fires for the Mishkan had to done in their homes. The person in our verse was going to work and needed a fire. He was brought before the elders. This law was known, but not the method of execution (Lev 24.12). The Lord said that stoning was the proper mode of execution.
Now we come to the Law of the Tzitzit in Num 15.37-41. In Ezek 8.3 the word “tzitzit” denotes a lock of hair, but in this case, it is the fringes or tassels that were to be placed on the four corners of a garment. These fringes were to have a cord of blue (techelet) in it. The tzitzit were given by the Lord to remind the wearer of the commandments (v 39) and to do them. They were not to follow their own heart and eyes (replacement theology). The word “kanaf” means “corner” and we see this concept in Mal 4.2 where it says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness (Messiah) will rise with healing in his wings (kanaf/corners where the tzitzit hung). We see that the woman who had an issue in Mark 5.25-29 touched the tzitzit in response to the Scripture in Mal 4.2. Later on in the chapter Yeshua wrapped a dead girl in his talit with the tzitzit and raised her from the dead (Mark 5.41). Mark 6.56 says that wherever Yeshua went, the sick wanted to touch “the fringe of his cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.” We see this concept in 1 Sam 24.5 when David cut the tzitzit off of Saul’s garment to show him that his authority to rule as king has been cut off by the Lord. It was also to show Saul that David did not want to kill him because he could have.
The techelet (blue) cord is a reminder of the kohanim (priests) and heaven (Exo 24.110-11). The tzitzit today are put on what is called a “Talit” which basically means a “Little Tent” and it alludes to the Mishkan. Before this, the tzitzit hung on an outer garment. The garment that Yeshua wore and was gambled for had the tzitzit on it. The Torah does not command the wearing of what is called a “prayer shawl” or “talit.”
Our passages here do not specify how to tie the tzitzit or the number of knots. The current customs are post-biblical and rabbinic in origin. The Karaite Jews have their own method concerning the making and tying of tzitzit and it is quite different than the Rabbanites. But the Torah does give the reasons for the tzitzit, as we have mentioned. The tzitzit hang “free” because the Torah is “the Law of Liberty” and is not burdensome (Jam 1.25; John 8.32; Psa 119.45; 2 Cor 3.17; Rom 2.13; Jam 2.20; Luke 11.2-8; Luke 6.46-47; Jam 2.12; Exo 32.16). They were designed to help us believe by looking at what they represent (Torah, authority) and remembering.
The Torah separates us from the world. If we don’t know what that means, just start going out and obeying the Torah and the world will rise up against you in contempt, and they will separate from you. The Lord will give us the desire to keep the commandments according to Jer 31.33, Ezek 11.19 and Heb 8.10.
The word “heart” is understood as “desire.” That is what a new heart is, new desires. This story is about slaves who are learning to become free men. In order to be free, they need the Torah. A true believer will be drawn to the Torah. It may not happen at first, but it will manifest eventually. A true believe will be drawn to the true Tree of Life and the true Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Both of these terms are terms for the Torah. If not, then a person is drawn to another Tree of Life and another Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which in essence, is their own passions and desires. We all want to be free, too, and we must remember our victories in the Lord. This will give us the strength and courage we need. The Lord will lead us to freedom.
Now, why is the command for tzitzit placed here in the Torah? Because we should remember not to make the same mistake the ten scouts did. The tzitzit remind us to follow God and his word, not our own passions and desires. We are not to stray from his purposes by following evidence that is contrary to what he has already said. The tzitzit tell us that we have a future in the Olam Haba, or the “promised land” even though we don’t get there until we die. Our eyes can only see the reminder of what God said about it, the tzitzit. The lesson is this: No commandments mean no teaching, and no obeying the Lord, which leads to no success.
Now, before we leave this portion, we are going to go back and pick up some additional information on two things. First, we will be looking deeper into who Caleb (Hebrew “Kalev” meaning “dog”), the son of Jephuneh the Kenizite, really was. The second thing we will look at further is women and tzitzit. We will first deal with Caleb. This concept is very important in order to understand the role of non-Jews in the plan of God. He was one of the “good” scouts who came back with Joshua with a good report. We will be quoting from an article called “Caleb the Goy” by Dan and Susan Wheelock. It is a good article with some valuable information, but there are other sources on this subject.
So, we will pick up here in Part 16.