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Defining Contempt for Tzitzit


Rabbi Moshe Leib Halberstadt

Cheshvan 13, 5773
Could you go into some greater detail as to what would be considered a way to wear tzitzit which shows contempt for the Tashmish Mitzvah? I’m new to wearing tzitzit myself and was just looking online (no other Jews around for dozens of miles) for the best way to wash them when I was alarmed to discover every site was saying to wear an undershirt beneath the beged to prevent it from touching your skin! This was the first site to say otherwise, and although your source seems impeccable, I would appreciate if you could further define what would be considered contempt. I gain great strength and meaning from observing this mitzvah and was horrified to learn that despite my initial caution, I may have done something very wrong. Perhaps this is especially recommended if a Jew knows he may sweat a lot that day, to prevent excess dirtying? But then, there were some bochers who bragged about never washing their tzitziyot, which seemed antithetical to not just their statement but my own view of the garments’ holy purpose. I hope you understand my confusion on the topic- I would really appreciate your assistance with this facet of my increasingly Jewish life. [Note: despite the lack of understanding this seems to present and my general isolation, I wanted to assure you that both my parents are Jewish, etc. going back just a couple generations to Poland. Another issue I encountered while surfing the web were goyim looking for answers to questions which didn’t concern them and I wouldn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable explaining halakha to an unknown person.]
Wearing the garment of Tzitzit close to the skin without an undershirt is discussed at length by the Halachis authorities of our times. In Tractate Tzitzit which is one of the seven minor tractates added to the Talmud, it says in section 5, as follows: Apikersin is exempt (of Tzitzit) Rabbi Akiva says obligated. Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky Shlita explains in his commentary Argaman (7) that some commentators say that the reason Apikersin is exempt of Tzitzit is because it is made to absorb the sweat and a garment which is not made for the pleasure of warming but for absorbing sweat does not have the status of a garment. Therefore, concludes Rabbi Kanievsky, it is proper to be careful and not wear the garment of Tzitzit on his skin itself so it should not be like an undergarment which is exempt of Tzitzit. Nevertheless, many authorities permit wearing the Tzitzit garment on the body without an undershirt, especially if it is a hot day. One who is lenient has whom to rely on. (Halichot Shlomo 3, 11 in the name of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT"L. Responsa Rivevot Ephraim 4, 15a).
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