דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם וְעָשׂ֨וּ לָהֶ֥ם צִיצִ֛ת עַל־כַּנְפֵ֥י בִגְדֵיהֶ֖ם לְדֹרֹתָ֑ם וְנָ֥תְנ֛וּ עַל־צִיצִ֥ת הַכָּנָ֖ף פְּתִ֥יל תְּכֵֽלֶת׃ וְהָיָ֣ה לָכֶם֮ לְצִיצִת֒ וּרְאִיתֶ֣ם אֹת֗וֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֹ֣ת יְהוָ֔ה וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑ם וְלֹֽא־תָתֻ֜רוּ אַחֲרֵ֤י לְבַבְכֶם֙ וְאַחֲרֵ֣י עֵֽינֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּ֥ם זֹנִ֖ים אַחֲרֵיהֶֽם׃[Num. 15:38-39]
He says בגדיהם in the plural - does this mean we have to 'make tassels' on every single piece of clothing? Not only, say, a shirt or tunic; but also pants, jackets, socks, pajamas, hats, kipot? But wait; ציצית is singular! Was God's intention that we make one huge tassel for all the garments of Israel? Or that we each have only one tassel? Or one tassel per garment? It's confusing!
The more I think about it, the more questions arise! Does תכלת just mean 'blue', or does it refer to the color of a special dye manufactured from a certain species of sea creature? Do the non-blue tassels have to be the same color as the garment, to show they are part of it? Or maybe they should be a different color, to highlight their special function?
What about current rabbinic practice: instead of adding tassels to regular garments, 'Orthodox' Jews simply make a separate, special piece of clothing with tassels to wear every day (טלית קטן). Does that satisfy the commandment of Torah? Or how about Reform-style practice, wearing no טלית קטן but a טלית גדול once a week (or a year)? Incidentally, do the tassels have to show on the outside, or can I tuck them into my other garments? Should women also have ציציות, or is this commandment just for men?
In just a few minutes, I've come up with several questions related to how to keep this commandment. And I could go on and on. The words of the מצוה do not themselves answer my questions. So what do I do? The response of rabbinic and rabbinic-like Judaisms has been to try to standardize every single detail, to answer every single possible question with an "authoritative" prescription. A council of rabbis (or other 'clerics') decides what "must" be done - and that becomes the "doctrine" or teaching of the religion or denomination.
My view is the opposite. If God left it unsaid, where do these councils get the hubris to impose conformity on a free people? To put themselves in the place of God and issue additional מצוות to כל עם ישראל? To forbid what is not forbidden by Torah itself? Why do they even want to control every aspect of everyone's behavior? Is this not totalitarianism?
The wording of this commandment, as well as many others, leaves open the possibility of a wide variety of forms or styles in observance. In my opinion, each of us should make an effort to keep this commandment. Personally, I see no problem with one person wearing טלית קטן every day, another wearing טלית גדול only on shabbat, a third attaching green (and blue) fringes to his yellow football shirt, and a fourth wearing a brown poncho with brown and blue fringes. What in the world is the problem with this?? Only fascists want to eliminate all variety from life and force everyone to think and act identically.
God said for us to have ציציות on our clothes as a visual reminder of His commandments; i.e., of how He wants us to live. We should therefore have ציציות on our clothes as a visual reminder of His commandments. What we should not do is to ignore this instruction completely. We should also not ignore it in part, (e.g.) by explaining away the need for a blue cord. Yet neither should we obsess over what isn't clear. Not all details have been given, leaving many questions open to a multiplicity of interpretations. The possible existence of a variety of practices (ways of keeping this commandment) should be viewed as a positive phenomena and deeply enriching to Jewish life. Most importantly, none of us should attempt to impose one particular interpretation of these unprescribed details on everyone else. That does violence to God's commandments and also to the creativity and freedom He has implanted in every human spirit.