In this week's parsha we learn of the rebellion of Korach. At the end of the first pasuk Rashi tells us that Korach and his assembly, in an effort to undermine Moshe Rabainu's authority, came before Moshe Rabbenu wearing garments that were comprised completely of t'cheiles and asked "Is a talis that is made completely of t'cheiles obligated to have t'cheiles in the tzitzis as well or not?" Moshe answered them that it is indeed obligated. The assembly started laughing at Moshe, and argued that if a talis of a different material only requires one string of t'cheiles for it to be exempt from its obligation of t'cheiles, certainly a garment that is made of t'cheiles should exempt itself. The Medrash Hagadol informs us of the rest of the dialog between Moshe and Korach and his assembly. The Medrash says that Moshe answered Korach with the following question: is a house full of seforim obligated in the mitzvah of mezuzah or not?" Korach answered that it is obligated. To which Moshe responded that just as a house full of seforim is obligated in the mitzvah of mezuzah so too a garment comprised only of t'cheiles is still obligated in the mitzvah of t'cheiles in the tzitis.
There are several points in the exchange between Moshe and Korach that are perplexing. Why did Korach only ask that a garment which is completely comprised of t'cheiles should be exempt from its obligation of t'cheiles? Why didn't he ask that a garment that is completely white should exempt itself from the obligation to put white strings on the garment? Another question is, the mitzvah of t'cheiles is to attatch a string of t'cheiles to a garment, how can Korach suggest that one fulfill his obligation in any other fashion? Also why did Korach use the terminology of a garment becoming exempt from its obligation, the focus should have been on the person- has he fulfilled the mitzvah with such a garment or not.
The Kesef Mishnah in hilchos Teffilin (1:11) cites a Rambam in teshuvos that explains that with regard to the mitzvah of mezuzah the mezuzah is not the mitzvah, rather the house is obligated to have a mezuzah on it. When there is no house there is no obligation of mezuzah. Obviously there is no obligation on the house for it is inanimate; however the Rambam means the person is obligated to ensure that his house has a mezuzah. Therefore the house is what obligates one to put up the mezuzah.
When one puts a mezuzah on his house he has exempt his house from obligating him in the mitzvah of mezuzah. Similarly, a four cornered garment obligates anyone who wears it to put on a string of t'cheiles. When one attaches a string of ticheles to the garment he has exempt the garment from obligating him in t'cheiles, hence the terminology of exempt applies to a garment and a house.
Reb Moshe Shmuel Shapiro zt"l explains that it appears from the Rambam (hilchos tzitis 1:3) that there is a difference between the mitzvah of white strings and the t'cheiles string.
The Rambam writes that there are two parts to the mitzvah of tzitis, the corners should have white strings coming out of them and that you should attach a string of t'cheiles to the corner. Seemingly the mitzvah of the white strings is that the garment should have white stings coming out of its corners. The mitzvah of the white strings is a mitzvah in the garment. We could say the mitzvah of the white strings is to wear a talis mitzuyetzes "a garment with white strings". On the other hand the mitzvah of t'cheiles is not to wear a "garment with a string of ticheles"; rather the mitzvah is to attach a string of t'cheiles to the garment. The garment is not part of the mitzvah of t'cheiles.
Obviously Korach would not ask that one should be able to perform a mitzvah not in its proper maner. However he understood that the nature of the obligation to attach a t'cheiles string was different than that of the white strings. Korach never thought to exempt a white garment from the obligation to attach white strings to it because the garment itself requires white strings to come out of its corners. Therefore even with an all white garment there still is a requirement of the garment to have white strings come out of it. He only thought that a garment of ticheles could exempt one from his obligation to attach a string of ticheles since the mitzvah of t'cheiles is separate from the mitzvah of the garment. Korach understood that the nature of the mitzvah of t'cheiles was merely to attach a string of t'cheiles and not an integral part of the garment, as were the white strings. Therefore Korach reasoned that if the garment already contains t'cheiles it should not require any other t'cheiles attachments.
Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 6/24/2011 08:57:00 AM