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The Guardian Knot (Ki Teitzei)

Within this week’s parshah lies a section of laws aimed apparently at preserving the integrity of biological species.  Its first half contains prohibitions upon crossdressing (Deut. 22:5), seizing a mother bird along with her chick (ibid. 6-7), crossbreeding (ibid. 9), plowing with an ox and donkey together (ibid. 10), and wearing mixtures of wool and linen (ibid. 11). From there we proceed to a series of matters that concern various forms of forbidden union between men and women (ibid. 13-23:19).

In the middle of this section, however, we discover a law that does not seem thematically related to the subject at hand: “גדלים תעשה לך על ארבע כנפות כסותך אשר תכסה בה”—“You shall make yourself twisted threads, on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself” (Deut. 22:12). Why is this mitzvah—the mitzvah of tzitzis, i.e., of affixing knotted strings to four-cornered garments—included here? (more…)