web analytics
July 24, 2014 / 26 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



Q & A: Biblical Blue Fringe: Will the Real Chilazon Please Stand Up!


QuestionsandAnswers-logo

Rav Herzog investigated all the known sources regarding techeilet and the chilazon, looking for clues not only in halachic sources but in a vast array of secular sources as well. By that time, due to the work of the French zoologist Henri Lacaze-Duthiers, the German chemist Paul Friedlander, and a host of archeologists all along the Mediterranean, the scientific community was in agreement that murex snails were the source of the ancient dyes. Murex brandaris produced a red-purple dye – argamman – and Murex trunculus yielded a purple-blue dye – techeilet. Echoes of the Tiferet Yisrael ring through Rav Herzog’s conclusion that although all the evidence points towards the Murex trunculus snail as the Talmudic chilazon, if we assume that the true color of techeilet did not contain even a hint of violet, we must reject that snail as the source of the biblical blue dye.

The solution to Rav Herzog’s problem would not be found in his lifetime. In the 1970’s, however, two decades after Rav Herzog’s death, an Israeli chemist, Otto Elsner, discovered that at a certain stage in the dye process, if exposed to sunlight, the dye obtained from the Murex trunculus would in fact produce a magnificent sky-blue color that remained color-fast and stable. This discovery removed the difficulties that such rabbis as the Tiferet Yisrael, the Radzyner, and Rav Herzog had struggled with for over a century. It would take another 20 years until the mitzvah, lost for 1,300 years, would once again be fulfilled, as Rav Eliyahu Tevger produced the first techeilet strings with dye obtained from trunculus snails.

Although from a purely halachic standpoint the descriptions and requirements within the Talmud and other sources are vague and often contradictory, both Rav Herzog and the Radzyner – the two greatest experts on the laws pertaining to techeilet – agree on the minimum conditions that must be met in order to have “kosher” techeilet. Those are: (1) the dye must come from a sea-creature, (2) it must be fast and not fade or wash out, and (3) it must be the color of the sky. This list is based on the fact that the Talmud warns against using a fraudulent dye of vegetable origin known as kala ilan, which is indigo. This dye is sky-blue and is indistinguishable from real techeilet. Rav Herzog and the Radzyner argue that since the Talmud only warns against using this vegetable dye substitute, any marine animal that yields a fast, sky-blue dye must be suitable for the mitzvah of techeilet.

This seems to be an absolute endorsement of the trunculus dye, which meets all three criteria. However, one could argue that perhaps Chazal did not know of the trunculus snail, or maybe they were unaware of the process by which it could dye pure blue instead of violet. Three recent archeological discoveries prove that this was not the case. A saddlecloth unearthed in Siberia dating to the time of the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash has a pattern of purple and a border of sky-blue – both of which have been absolutely identified chemically as coming from Mediterranean murex snails. A piece of cloth with a dark blue embroidery was found on Masada that dates back to the early Mishnaic period. It also was produced from murex dye.

Finally, tens of actual Murex trunculus shells were found in digs on Har Tzion in Jerusalem dating from the time of the second Temple, in a section believed to be the houses of kohanim. These finds prove conclusively that ancient dyers knew how to control the color of the murex dyes to produce sky-blue, that murex dyed wool was available in Israel in the times of the Tannaim, and that the Murex trunculus snail was well known in Jerusalem in the time of the Beit Hamikdash.

Within the halachic community today, there are three opinions regarding wearing techeilet from the murex. There are those who view the trunculus techeilet positively; many rabbanim wear it, many encourage their followers to do so, and some have ruled that one must wear it – to the point where there are even opinions that hold it is forbidden to wear white-only tzitzit. Other rabbanim remain unconvinced that the Murex trunculus is the true chilazon and counsel against wearing techeilet. Typically, these rabbanim argue that scientific, archeological, or historical proofs are not admissible in the court of halacha, and so the discussion must rely solely on authentic halachic material. A third school of thought admits that the Murex trunculus could indeed be the chilazon used in the times of the Talmud, but reject wearing techeilet nonetheless. They argue that once the chain of tradition with respect to a certain mitzvah has been broken, that mitzvah is lost to halacha – at least until Mashiach comes to reinstate it.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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.

Please use the Facebook Tab below to leave your comment:

One Response to “Q & A: Biblical Blue Fringe: Will the Real Chilazon Please Stand Up!”

  1. Joy Comes says:

    How interesting! The association of this royal blue with the ruling class suggests that the wearing of tzitzit is a statement of individual sovereignty under Hashem — a precursor to modern democratic republics. As the Western world loses reliance on Hashem and Torah principles, liberty is being abandoned and replaced with socialism (aka “the road to serfdom”).

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
The UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. In 2007. it was repeatedly used as a launch site for mortars. (Archive 2007)
Update: Hamas Misfired Rocket Hit UNRWA School where 17 Killed
Latest Judaism Stories
The-Shmuz

When Hashem first thought (if it could be) about creating the world, the middah of din was in operation.

Daf-Yomi-logo

Hallel On Purim?
“Its Reading Is Its Praise”
(Megillah 14a)

Grunfeld-Raphael-NEW

If the only person available to perform the milah on the eighth day is a person who is not an observant Jew, the milah should be postponed until a devout mohel is available.

It is apparent from the Maharsha that he does not see galus as atoning for killing accidentally; otherwise, this Gemara would not bother him.

It was found to be a giant deer tick living in her head – with its claws in her scalp.

While daydreaming about finding the perfect job, I never expected to be rewarded in spades for my aforementioned experience.

We are all entrusted with the mission of protecting our fellow Jews

Today, we remain Hashem’s nachal.

Will Your brothers go to war, while you sit (in peace) here? (Bamidbar 32:6)

Perhaps, just perhaps, we can relate to this: whenever we feel distant from Hashem, that is the Churban.

Over the next 2 weeks covering portion Matot and Maasei, Rabbi Fohrman will bring order to confusion.

Our home is in the center of the Holy Land, surrounded by (what else?) green hills and valleys.

“Sound fine,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “In the middle, paint their names, Shoshana and Yehonasan. He spells his name Yehonasan with a hei and is very particular about it!”

Question: I recently returned from a trip abroad and wanted to say HaGomel. When I mentioned this to the officers of my synagogue, however, they told me – as per the instructions of the synagogue’s rabbi – that I would have to wait until Shabbos to do so. I was not given any reason for this and did not wish to display my ignorance, so I quietly acquiesced. Can you please explain why I had to wait?

Name Withheld
(Via E-Mail)

More Articles from Rabbi Yaakov Klass
Questions-Answers-logo

Question: I recently returned from a trip abroad and wanted to say HaGomel. When I mentioned this to the officers of my synagogue, however, they told me – as per the instructions of the synagogue’s rabbi – that I would have to wait until Shabbos to do so. I was not given any reason for this and did not wish to display my ignorance, so I quietly acquiesced. Can you please explain why I had to wait?

Name Withheld
(Via E-Mail)

Question: I recently returned from a trip abroad and wanted to say HaGomel. When I mentioned this to the officers of my synagogue, however, they told me – as per the instructions of the synagogue’s rabbi – that I would have to wait until Shabbos to do so. I was not given any reason for this and did not wish to display my ignorance, so I quietly acquiesced. Can you please explain why I had to wait?

Name Withheld
(Via E-Mail)

Question: I recently returned from a trip abroad and wanted to say HaGomel. When I mentioned this to the officers of my synagogue, however, they told me – as per the instructions of the synagogue’s rabbi – that I would have to wait until Shabbos to do so. I was not given any reason for this and did not wish to display my ignorance, so I quietly acquiesced. Can you please explain why I had to wait?

Name Withheld
(Via E-Mail)

Question: I recently returned from a trip abroad and wanted to say HaGomel. When I mentioned this to the officers of my synagogue, however, they told me – as per the instructions of the synagogue’s rabbi – that I would have to wait until Shabbos to do so. I was not given any reason for this and did not wish to display my ignorance, so I quietly acquiesced. Can you please explain why I had to wait?

Name Withheld
(Via E-Mail)

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-twenty-years-of-techeilet-2/2012/01/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: