Puzzling Over Fringes

tzitzitOn Friday, I was in line at the kosher deli in Winn Dixie. The gentlemen there have come to know me as I used to work as a vendor in the store and have shopped there for about 3 years. I’ve shared with them my trip to Israel, we’ve exchanged pleasantries, and they’ve helped me with food choices.

On this particular day there was no one in line as I was perusing the offered fare. You see my granddaughter wasn’t with me, so I could eat anything I wanted this Shabbat – things I like but she doesn’t. And since it is Shabbat, I normally want us both to enjoy every morsel of food. I want nothing to detract from the joy of the day. So I usually seek out her favorite foods.

But this Shabbat I could choose something different, something I liked without regard to anyone else’s preference. And coming to the close of a stressful week at work, I didn’t want to cook. So here I was in line at the deli, searching for what would bring joy to my palate.

As I perused, three people came up and asked for help. The man behind the counter suggested I was first. Having just read the Torah portion about Abraham’s graciousness with his nephew, Lot, I knew God was calling me to step back and let the others be served first.

This seemed to surprise the man behind the counter, but he joyfully assisted the others. Even when his co-worker came up to assist, and he told him I was first, I passed it on to the next person. To be honest, I just needed to stop for a few minutes and breathe in the family of God preparing for His special day, to disconnect from the crazy pace of the week and slow down to the peaceful pace of Shabbat.

As I stood there soaking it all in, an elderly gentleman came up sporting a kippah and tzitziyot. He asked, ‘Are those tzitzit?’

“Yes sir.” I responded.

“Can you explain?” he demanded, as he spied the Star-of-David on my neck.

Woman reaching for Jesus' tzitzitI suddenly realized he was offended that I was wearing tzitzit. Now I have to stop and share that lately I’ve been wondering about my decision to wear tzitzit. For those unfamiliar with what this is, they are the fringes worn on the corners of the garment to remind us to obey God’s commandments. (Numbers 15:38-39) They are also the fulfilled promise that the Messiah will have healing in his ‘wings/corners’ (Malachi 3:20; Matthew 9:20, 14:36)

The rabbis say women are exempt from following this commandment because it is a time-bound commandment and women’s time is consumed with raising children and tending to the family, which is an honorable vocation.

So I prayed for guidance and answered, “Yes sir. All my children are grown and I just want to obey the commandments of Hashem.”

He nodded his head, said ‘okay’ and proceeded to shop for his needs.

This is the second conversation the tzitziyot started in the kosher section of Winn Dixie with older Jewish gentlemen. The first was very pleasant. This one, however, left me wondering. Was this gentleman satisfied with my answer? Or was he still offended but pursuing peace?

So I’ve been puzzling over how to accomplish what I believe my Father wants me to do (wear tzitziyot), but at the same time not cause offense. In other words, how can I be like Father Abraham (who let Lot choose which parcel of land he wanted instead of taking the best as was his right – Gen 5:13-11); or like Paul who said ‘do nothing out of rivalry or vanity, but, in humility, regard each other as better than yourselves’. – Phil 2:3

On the heels of this encounter, I got my food order. And for the first time in three years the man behind the counter wished me ‘gut Shabbos’. Did he hear my response? Was he satisfied?

So I’ve been thinking, maybe when I come into an area where there are a lot of Jewish men, I should tuck in my tzitziyot. After all, this is what I intend to do when I go to Israel in order to keep from being an offense to those living in the land.

But on the other hand, like the two conversations this has started, does God want to use these to show our older brother, Israel, that the nations are pursuing their God? That all their faithfulness these millennia are bearing fruit? That the nations are coming to their God in obedience to His Torah?


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7 Responses to Puzzling Over Fringes

  1. Eli November 6, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    Hello Ro. Nice story, but not nessesarely nice or related to you. There is a lot to say about this story or similar experience / presumptions / identifications (or I would say identity substitute). I know that there will be lots of opinions including yours about this issue (gentiles taking on Jewish identity markers as some defined it) Please no offence even so my words looks like will be not favorable, but this is just from my Jewish table. Your experience in the shop with 2 gentleman presumably both Jewish not related. All that is coming out of the fact that as Gentile, you know very little about specifics of Jewish life and nuances (I taking this from actual story) Also according to the banner is “A gentile’s search for the Jewish Messiah” so may I say if you search for Jewish Messiah, just keep searching for Jewish Messiah. It seems to what you trying to do is more than just a Gentile serching….

    Also you said you believe that G-d told you something namely to…. Really? He may told you, or someone else may told you, or you may imagine it yourself (no offence pls.) So often I hear this kind of things to justify complete nonsense.

    You said: “So I prayed for guidance and answered, “Yes sir. All my children are grown and I just want to obey the commandments of Hashem.” What on earth your children have to do with this situation?

    You say: “That the nations are coming to their God in obedience to His Torah?” What this have to do with ridiculous invasion into Jewish life and traditions? Too often this very fraise justify some stupid behaviour. I would like to plead with you, do not do this kind of things. They make just gross harm.

    There is much to say about all this situation. I will not engage in this on Blog because too often I have being abused by messianics. If you like to know more you can write me on my e-mail.

    There is much more but blog is not place for much.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  2. Ro Pinto November 7, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    Hello Eli,

    I appreciate your passion and desire not to start a verbal war. And that is not my desire either. And you are correct, it is not likely we would come to see ‘eye-to-eye’ in the confines of this blog.

    Please know that I do not take offense at your words. I understand that you believe by doing these things I am attempting to take the place of you and your Jewish brethren. Please know this is not my intention. The way I see it, if I am part of the family, then shouldn’t I start to resemble my family?

    But I am guessing that before you and I could discuss the way someone from the nations should walk out following Messiah, we would have to agree on who the Messiah is. I believe he is Yeshua of Natzrat.

    Eli, I am sorry you have experienced abuse by Messianic believers. I, too, find many who claim to follow Yeshua to be mean-spirited. If they truly listened to his words, they would understand that this is wrong.

    I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your passion. There is actually an update to this situation. I went into the store and had an opportunity to talk with one of the gentlemen who works there (the one who wished me good shabbos). I asked him if it was an offense for me to wear the tzitzit and he said it wasn’t an offense but that women shouldn’t wear them. So I asked him if it would be better if I tucked it in when I came into the store, to avoid making anyone upset. He said that would be good.

    Two things stood out to me:
    1 – he was concerned that the gentleman who approached me had upset me. I found this refreshing. There was no condemnation, but a heart to instruct and help.
    2 – he seemed pleased that I would offer to hide what might upset others.

    Eli, I think you and I could agree that the exchange in this blog speaks more to dealing with each other in compassion and loving-kindness than any legalities.

    I wish you nothing but shalom.

  3. Eli November 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    Hello Ro. I’m appreciate you response and thank you. Just to make sure, when I wrote my comment, there is much more than short respond I posted. If you like to read it all please let me know. I don’t think I will post all but I can send it to you via e-mail.

    I would like to point few issues with your response. I’m not sure I will appreciate many others to be involved in it, but so the nature of the beast:

    “Please know this is not my intention”

    Hmmm… we all know good intentions usually leading to…. It seems to me better to get read of any intentions. Good intentions also very deceptive.

    “The way I see it,…..”

    It seems to really a problem with people saying this “I see it….” Could it be that truth not in place where and what we see it?

    “if I am part of the family, then shouldn’t I start to resemble my family?”

    This is not really so… there is no or should not be any place for resembleness. This attempt of resemblness just making problems for everyone and yourself. Your behavior make problem for that Jewish man, It make problem for me… Should you ask yourself then that there may be something wrong with such resembleness attempt? Just that someone in the shop reacted positively or neutrally, means nothing. As I mentioned you don’t understand nuances of Jewish life. This is not fault or problem in itself but becoming problem when someone from outside becoming involved. Like in your case. You are from outside, you are not Jewish, nor you have any Jewishness. Its not a problem at all, to have no Jewishness. Its actually very joyfull thing. Imagine for a moment you attacked by Anti Semites, or gassed in ovens just because you try to resemble…. G-d forbid that happen to you… but it coming soon to our neighborhood…. just an idea how to measure things to come..

    “he was concerned that the gentleman who approached me had upset me. I found this refreshing.”

    Not everyone around will be nice from your point of view. I’m probably not nice because such behavior upset me. Woman should not do this sort of things and more also Gentile woman. This is upsetness for everyone, so why to upset everyone? This is Jewish things so better to live it to Jews would you think? Nice gentleman in the shop … ah nice to have nice gentleman, and nice to listen to nice gentleman, but he must probably secular, so what kind of witness you made there to that nice gentleman? He don’t care…. Far more important to be good witness to that not too nice gentleman. Far better not to have it than hide it…. It will be much better witness of the One and Only.

    “Eli, I think you and I could agree that the exchange in this blog speaks more to dealing with each other in compassion and loving-kindness than any legalities.”

    Well… this all nice sound … but it seems to more resemble to some christian idealisms. We in the Family do not separate compassion and loving kindness from as you called it “legalities”. This is really not a legalities at all. Again this is not legalities for us. Nor compassion and loving kindness mean compromises to standing of the Scriptures. If someone desperately want become part of the family, should that one need to take some measures to understand the family and then follow what the family say?

    In all, reality dos not measured by nice and not so nice conversations in the shop. Im reminded again about Koree ten Boom story.

    By the way Yeshua from Natzeret (Nazareth it is)


    • Ro Pinto November 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

      You’ve given me a lot to think about, Eli. One thing I do know is that I’ve offended you, and for that I do apologize.

      I will respond in more detail, after I’ve had a bit of time to truly mull over what you’ve presented. Please do email your full response. I’d like to read it.

  4. Eli November 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    Waw, comment got really long. Im sorry for that. I hope it will be ok, and there will be no misunderstanding.

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