Halfway through the 30-Day Tzitzit Challenge, the moon is full and white and crisp as tracing paper, and I have developed a practice I hope I will continue to cultivate after the challenge is over. Every morning when I affix my tzitzit to my make-shift tallit katan, I meditate on four ideals: Peace, Patience, Compassion, and Clarity.
Growing up, these where values that pervaded my Jewish education, formal and informal. As an adult, too, I find these values upheld in many of our sacred texts. Isaiah admonishes us not to fast if it’s only going to give us an excuse to abuse the people around us, Micah instructs us on what is good and what the Lord doth require: Only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. The book of Leviticus — that compendium of arguablly finicky rules and regulations — obliges us not to speak insults to a deaf person. Hillel tells us that we must strive to be nothing more and nothing less than human. Into modernity, much of our theology and spiritual approach is related to repairing the world, remembering the stranger, and being kind to each other. And you can’t get very far in Jewish prayer without some heartfelt plea for peace.
As I gripe and moan about how the Ultra-Orthadox have hijacked Judaism in Israel, about how Chasidism and/or fundamentalism has hurled offenses at women, about how my tzitzit seem to bring the worst of Judaism into stark relief, I betray the gift of this practice.
I have started each day — for the last week or so — remembering these ideals that feel so keenly Jewish, so compelling, and so important. I have thought of them all day long. And I have fallen asleep with them on my bedside table, waiting for me to renew my commitment to them each morning.
Peace. Patience. Clarity. Compassion.