The Wood Gatherer Revisited

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Log Pile
06 Jun 2007

In Parshat Shlach we read of the following incident which occurred during our 40-year journey in the wilderness.

A man was found gathering wood on Shabbat. Those who found him brought him before Moshe, Aharon, and the whole community. He was placed in custody, for it had not been specified what was to be done to one who desecrated the Shabbat. Hashem sealed his sentence as death by stoning.

Immediately afterwards, Hashem commands Moshe regarding tzitzit and tekhelet:

Speak to the Children of Israel and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and they shall put a cord of tekhelet on the fringe of each corner. And this shall be for you as tzitzit, and you shall see it and remember all the commandments of G-d and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge. (Numbers 15:38-39)

One is not punished for committing a sin out of forgetfulness or by accident. Therefore it is safe to assume that the wood gatherer’s intention was the deliberate desecration of Shabbat and that he was well-warned. Being that this particular situation was not one of FORGETFULNESS, what is the relevance in the fact that tekhelet will serve as a REMINDER regarding the commandments?

That tekhelet is intended to remind us of all the mitzvot is only one half of its potency. The entire effect is that by seeing it one will “remember all the commandments AND do them.” The wood gatherer’s problem was that he remembered the mitzvot but succumbed to his negative inclination not to do them. Tekhelet was graciously given to us in order to counteract that “lustful urge” to disobey that which we are commanded to do. Its efficacy is that it causes us not only to remember the commandments, but also to do them.

A remarkable incident occurred this year, as told by R. Feibus.

Lag Ba’Omer, on which night bonfires are widespread in Israel, “fell out” this year on Saturday night. Some boys were seen gathering pieces of wood on Shabbat in preparation of the exciting event. Suddenly they stopped and pointed at her husband and cried, “Hey! That man is wearing tekhelet on his tzitzit!” The boys stopped to have a closer look, at which point they were gently reminded that gathering wood was not permitted on Shabbat. Deja vu!!

P’til Tekhelet – The Association for the Promotion and Distribution of Tekhelet – is a non-profit organization based in Israel. P’til Tekhelet provides educational programming and resources pertaining to Tekhelet, and produces Tekhelet for tsitsit. The association is comprised of a small group of individuals whose work is done lishma – for the express purpose of making tsitsit as the halakha requires. To learn more, visit their website at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.