web analytics
May 24, 2015 / 6 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


Tekhelet Continued: the Long Version

techelet

The quickest way to lose your audience is by going on too long. Gifted speakers know this. And bloggers know it, too.

That’s why I don’t always say everything I want to say in a blog. That’s how it was with my recent piece, Tekhelet: A Choice or an Imperative. I found I had a surprising number of things I wanted say about the subject which is goofy, considering my manager at Kars4Kids, had not been convinced I should attend the Tekhelet conference or write about it in the first place. What does the search for tekhelet have to do with car donation or educating children??

But I have my ways of making the connection to whatever it is I want to write about. (Nyuh uh uh). Here, it wasn’t even especially difficult for me to find the appropriate angle. Kars4Kids is about helping kids fulfill their talents and dreams. Kars4Kids gives children the opportunity to make the most of their God-given gifts.

Finding Blue

The search for Tekhelet seems to me then, almost a match made in heaven in terms of the similarity of the two goalposts—the finding of the blue against helping children to find themselves.

Finding Tekhelet is about fulfilling an ancient mitzvah that was there the whole time. It was only the tekhelet that had gone missing. And here were Ari Greenspan and Baruch Sterman, Joel Guberman, and Rav Tavger, brave Jews with curiosity and excitement, who may not have known if they’d ever get there—if they’d ever find that elusive blue—but were undaunted in retaining their childlike fervor for the hunt and the mystery.

It’s a beautiful thing in and of itself.

So what if I, Varda Epstein, remain unconvinced that the correct thing to do is for men to adopt the wearing of thread dyed with the murex trunculus?

Rich, Glorious, Essential

I can still appreciate the beauty of the hunt and the desire to bring something back to our people: something rich and glorious and essential, too.

But back to brevity and losing one’s audience. I was forced to cut much of what I had wanted to say in my original piece but now I feel that in making my piece readable, I might have cheated my readers or perhaps myself, by stifling my own voice.

Part of my problem with the search for Tekhelet is the focus. I alluded to this in my original piece but cut out the longer explanation in my final draft. Here is the part I left out:

“I keep thinking: first let’s wear clothes. Then we can worry what color they are.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an anomaly. I’m a Haredi woman who lives in a Modern Orthodox community. Very few, if any, women in my town are careful to wear socks, as I do, in the hottest months of the year. I cover my hair. All of it. I cover my collarbone, my elbows, my knees and feet. I wear skirts and dresses, not pants.

My Focus

This is an important focus for me as a religiously observant woman—this business of covering up. And so I come up against my own judgmental nature when I see people in my community getting excited about whether or not to wear a blue thread when so many of my female friends wear pants and sleeveless and don’t cover their hair.

Dressing as I do seems basic to me. As basic as Adam and Eve, the snake and the apple*. As basic as losing the right to live in the Garden of Eden and knowing the shame inherent in public nudity: perhaps the earliest example of epistemological particularism in which you know something but you don’t know how you know it.

The focus on tekhelet then, seems from my particular viewpoint, misplaced.”

I’d like to flesh that out a bit, if you’ll excuse the pun. What is the standard for dress in the National Religious community? Or isn’t there one at all?

A Model?

Is it up to the individual woman? Is it up to her husband? Is there a model for her to emulate, for instance, the wife of the town rabbi (in Efrat this would be Vicky Riskin, for example)?

And shouldn’t this be a primary focus and all nicely hashed out and set in community stone, so to speak?

I stand back and watch and keep my mouth shut. But I don’t understand the fuss about the blue thread when the community appears to be so conflicted about the right and the wrong way to dress. They appear to think we have infinite choice in this area. Isn’t covering nudity also a biblical commandment? Do we not have a mesora here?

A Bore

I realize I am comparing apples and pears (there’s that fruit again), but I can’t help but step back and watch the spectacle and think: one mitzvah is groovy and fun, the other is “meh” and just so 19th century Eastern European and stifling. “Let’s do the tekhelet hunt because dressing modestly? Oh, what a bore.”

Then there is the issue of lost mesora. In my correspondence with Ari Greenspan, he told me, “You really don’t want to go there.”

A Terrible Loss

He gave me stuff to read to show me that my idea of “mesora” is not necessarily the Torah view of mesora. But for me it comes down to respecting a loss. A terrible loss, but a loss all the same. The mesora for tekhelet is LOST. Period. It’s not coming back. There’s no one to stand up and say, “Oh, I remember. THAT’S the sea creature. THAT’S the process. THAT’S the color.”

That man who remembers these details does not exist.

So we’re stuck with a sad state of affairs. One we can mourn. A loss we can say is part of our sad history as a people. It’s a loss we should note for the generations to come, but a loss all the same.

Overwhelming Evidence

Finally, I would like to state for the record that the body of evidence presented at the conference was overwhelmingly persuasive. If I believed that one could restore this mesora (or any mesora at all), it would definitely be all about the murex trunculus AND NOT THE RADZYNER TEKHELET, which I am convinced is inorganic Prussian blue in which cuttlefish ink was clearly incidental to the process.

The murex trunculus fits the entire scenario as laid out by the sages, up to and including the fact that on exposure to light, the purple it produces turns sky blue (tekhelet). No other sea creature or color fits the bill like the murex trunculus. This one is it. That’s all folks.

Still and all, I am not rushing out to buy tekhelet for my sons and husband.

Endlessly Fascinating

The funny thing is, as I continue to talk it over with my husband, who did not attend the conference, the closer he is to pondering a purchase of tekhelet strings for himself and our sons. It’s certainly an endlessly fascinating topic.

Stay tuned.

*Or whatever fruit that was—I’ll let you all hash that out in private.

About the Author: Blogger and mother of 12 Varda Meyers Epstein is a third-generation Pittsburgher who made aliyah at age 18 and never looked back. A proud settler who lives in the biblical Judean heartland, Varda serves as the communications writer for the nonprofit car donation program, Kars for Kids.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

4 Responses to “Tekhelet Continued: the Long Version”

  1. Look forward to reading this. Personally, I do not think the source of the color is important whatever the khillazon was. Looking at the murex sea snail the actual pigment is chemically dibroindigo which can be found in a number of substances including indigo. And it all can produce a range of color from almost black to red, or purple to sky blue. ‘Farming’ murex snails might work, but is it necessary to deplete a certain species when it is actually the color that is important. I have tzitzit that are completely murex based blue—very expensive—as well as those with a sky blue shamash that is not so expensive but every Jew deserves to wear t’kheilet.

  2. Mois Navon says:

    While mesora is an essential part of the way we determine practical halacha, it is not the only way. Furthermore, we are not to simply bemoan our losses and accept them but rather we are bidden to restore and repair anything we can – is this not what teshuva is all about, is this not what tikkun olam is all about. I have written on the issue of mesora, especially as it relates to the hillazon and tekhelet in the following article:
    http://www.divreinavon.com/pdf/HistoryMesorahNignaz.pdf
    also available in my book on tekhelet:
    https://www.createspace.com/4597533

  3. Yes. Ari showed me your pdf file on the subject. Here was my response to him (your words in quotes):
    'Commenting on the this conflict, R.Tikochinsky explains: “Therefore it is understood
    that only during the time of the Temple it was found in abundance, following which it
    was nignaz, not that it was stored away completely, but that it was found less
    frequently.”'

    But eventually it was lost altogether, or you wouldn't have had to search for it or prove to the world that this is it.

    'The Radvaz too explains that, “it is possible that the hillazon exists but we do not recognize it or how to trap it.”'

    Because we no longer have the mesora.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Sha'ar Shechem / Damascus Gate. The Old City of Jerusalem.
Arab Stabs 2 Jewish Teens in Old City Terror Attack on Shavuot
Latest Blogs Stories
Rabbi Levinger (zt"l)

Torah is to be lived. Rabbi Moshe Levinger was a completely living Torah, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael

Tadmor - Yerushalmi

“Said Rabbi Yochanan: Happy are those who see the fall of Tadmor…” (Talmud Yerushalmi)

Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi is looking to come home to the Likud he abandoned a few years ago.

Why has Prime Minister Netanyahu given Erdan & Hanegbi insultingly low-level cabinet appointments?

Rabbi Levinger in blue, seated with the author

Without Israel, the Jewish People are scattered nomads lacking Torah’s true national grandeur&power

Will it get better/worse for Bibi or does the wily Bibi know/plan something that will shock us all?

Dr. Vernon Smith, 2002 Economics Nobel Prize winner, on predicting housing markets & economic issues

100% of the ‘First Responders’ helping those Arab school girls were Jewish and they didn’t hesitate!

Women equalizing with men in all areas of Judaism is anathema to the very idea of male/female roles.

Bibi endorsing the “2 State Solution” endangers Israel, moving the policy Center-Right from far Left

Dear Opposition Members… You seem confused… Let me clear it up for you… You lost.

A tribute to Jerusalem by its finest troubador, David Herman.

Do the food giants really care about our health? Are consumers now eating healthier food?

If other pleasures exceed the joy we feel for Jerusalem, then something is wrong with our Judaism.

There will be peace when we listen to G-d and do want he tells us to do – all for our very own good.

We will celebrate and thank the L-rd for our blessings, determined to truly liberate our Holy sites

For the record, the grand total of Jewish grandmothers in Israel that have blown up ANYTHING: ZERO!

More Articles from Varda Meyers Epstein
faith leaps

For coexistence, Jews (& everyone) must draw a line in the sand showing “This is where we part ways”

American-Jews-100413

How do you put a love of Judaism into a middle-aged man when it was never there in the first place?

Only Bibi has the sort of leadership qualities we need to get us through this perilous time.

Come live in Israel-make us stronger and live unashamedly JEWISH in our God-given land. We need you.

“I don’t think my kids have any difficulties that are specific to the Israeli school system.”

The universities and the local progressive culture make Pacific Northwest a hotbed of Israel hatred.

Finding Tekhelet is about fulfilling an ancient mitzvah that was there the whole time.

While tekhelet is a biblical commandment, it’s one full of “buts” that bring me up short.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/ear-to-the-ground/tekhelet-continued-the-long-version/2014/01/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: