A Tale of Four Tzitzis

A month ago, I asked native Atlantan Michael Cenker, 63, a Georgia Tech graduate, with a BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering, to explain the religious significance of the "tzitzis" he was wearing (white, knotted tassels worn at the four corners of clothing by observant Jews). Suddenly there we were, with his two daughters Sarah Malkah and Devorah (he has three other children) and her son Yehuddah, discussing Jewish Law on the steepest incline of Stone Mountain as passersby climbed all around us. His explanation was at once erudite and plain-spoken about how “in the book of Deuteronomy in the Torah there is a section that deals with the commandment to love God with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your resources. There is a three-segment prayer said twice daily, and the last segment says that if you wear a four-cornered garment, the tzitzis will remind men of the 613 positive and negative commandments in the Torah. You will look at them and remind yourself of the commandments incumbent upon you to observe.” I also asked Sarah and Devorah about their "tzunis," or modesty clothing of long skirts and Devorah’s head covering. The laws of the Torah call for women’s clothes to go above the collarbone, below the elbows and knees, and for married women to cover their hair.

When I asked his opinion of the ongoing conflict between Gaza and Israel, which is currently under a ceasefire, Michael Cenker shared some of his passionate thoughts. "Are you familiar with the movie 'Groundhog Day?'" he asked. "About every three years this happens." He believes only divine intervention will stop the fighting and that "it's cut and dry: God gave us this land over 2,000 years ago."
He went on to say, "We were exiled from the lands because we sinned, but it hasn't changed ownership; that's the religious view. The politically correct view is that no country in modern history has been turned against by the entire world to give up land that they were democratically given by the U.N. in 1948, and have had to fight three wars against overwhelming odds to maintain their independence as a democratically led country. The idea that a former president of this country would suggest we invite terrorist killers sworn to the destruction of every man, woman, and child of Hebrew descent is appalling. It's like they're saying 'Israel, stop terrorizing the people who are trying to kill you.'"