web analytics
July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Title: The Rarest Blue


book-the-rarest-blue

Title: The Rarest Blue
Author: Baruch Sterman with Judy Taubes Sterman
Publisher: Lyons Press

I’ve always had an interest in the intersect between halacha, history, and archaeology. It is this interest that led me to research and write about the status of Purim in modern-day Israeli cities that are adjacent to ancient cities that had a wall around them in the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun. I concluded, in regards to Beit Shemesh at least, that there is much merit in observing a second day of Purim, on the 15th of Adar.

Although I never took my interest in archaeology and halacha much further than the Purim issue, I jumped at the opportunity to review Baruch and Judy Sterman’s new book, The Rarest Blue – an adventure into the world of techelet, the blue of the Bible. While techelet was needed and used in a number of different ways, especially in the Temple service, it was more widely found on the fringes of the tzitzit. As the Torah says, there must be a thread of blue on the corners of the tzitzit garment. Sadly, however, this mitzvah has fallen dormant and all but forgotten over the last 2,000 plus years. This was mostly due to the inability to identify the source of this blue.

The Rarest Blue is a fascinating journey that takes the reader back in time, offering an exciting and thorough overview into the ancient world of dyeing in general, and of dyeing the techelet in particular. It tells the story of the re-discovery of the murex snail which is, at least according to the Stermans, the source of the ancient blue. To properly explore the world of techelet, one is taken on an exciting adventure into the world of Torah, archaeology, art, chemistry, and history, which The Rarest Blue so gracefully does.

In unraveling the mystery and re-discovery of techelet, readers are taken back in time to the Greeks, Romans, Akkadians, Scythians, and Phoenicians. Indeed, with haskamot from a chemist and a journalist, and publication by Lyons Press, this is not your average sefer. The Stermans clearly wanted to publish an “all audiences” book, which is what they did. Whether one is a non-Jewish academic exploring the history of the ancient dyeing industry or a Torah scholar seeking to understand the history and revival of the murex as the source for fulfilling this mitzvah d’oraita, this book offers something for everyone.

Nevertheless, I would have much appreciated a chapter, or at least an appendix of some sort, on the practical applications of the halachot and shittot on wearing and tying techelet today. How many strings of blue? How are they to be tied? Is there a problem with having techelet on only some of one’s tzitzit garments and not others? These, and other such questions that the Orthodox reader would enjoy exploring, would have made the book that much more complete and authoritative — the one-stop-shop for anything techelet. There also should have been further resources available on how those who wish to purchase techelet can do so.

But from Crete to Masada and from Galileo to Gandhi, no stone is left unturned in presenting the glorious past of the blue dye. The key players in the history of techelet, such as the Radziner Chassidic dynasty and Rabbi Isaac Herzog, are beautifully presented along with their biographies and the historical context in which they lived and were influenced. Readers will even learn how Aristotle and Pliny affected the search for the murex snail.

The Rarest Blue is simply delightful. The material is crisp and clear – it reads incredibly smoothly and beautifully. Even the chapter on the physics, biology, and neurology of techelet-making can be understood by someone like me who never passed tenth grade science. The argument that the murex snail is the source for the techelet of the Torah is certainly a convincing one. And although I am not in a rush to place techelet on my tzitzit, I am certainly far more educated on the word of the murex and techelet than I was 300 pages ago.

About the Author: Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, who performs some form of kaparot in most years, is a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh and a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of “The Dalet Amot Halacha Series” (five volumes), among other works of halacha. He welcomes books of a halachic nature for review. E-mail him at rabbiari@hotmail.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.

No Responses to “Title: The Rarest Blue”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Members of Hamas rally on the Temple Mount - July 3, 2015.
Rioting Arabs Again Keep Visitors Off Temple Mount
Latest Sections Stories
South-Florida-logo

Orlando was once a place where people came only to visit and vacation. Now it is home to a burgeoning Torah community, a place Jewish families can be proud to call home.

South-Florida-logo

The smuggler’s life has been changed forever. He is faced with a major criminal charge. He will probably be sent to prison.

South-Florida-logo

“Thanks to a local philanthropist who shares our core mission, we now are able to connect more Jewish teens to Israel than ever before,” said Todd Cohn, executive director of Southern NCSY.

In September 2013 he was appointed head rabbi of the IDF Central Command and is currently in charge of special projects for the IDF chief rabbinate.

Last month we outlined how a few years after Judah Touro’s death a public movement was inaugurated by the citizens of New Orleans to erect a monument to his memory, and that opposition to this tribute came from a number of rabbis throughout the country who claimed that Judaism forbade the erection of any graven […]

Marceau suggested a dark reason for his wordless art: “The people who came back from the [concentration] camps were never able to talk about it…. My name is Mangel. I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.”

Anna Henriques, who hopes to one day head back to Jamaica, says, “Rabbi Raskin must be willing to respect what exists in Jamaica. The way to the future is to gently bring in the traditions of the past and at the same time embrace the idiosyncrasies of the Jamaican people.”

The Silver Platter has it all: gorgeous photography, oodles of useful tips and, more importantly, incredible recipes that you will find yourself making again and again.

It may be that seeking to connect with the past is rooted in the impermanence and impersonality of modern life.

It is very hard to build a healthy marriage when you do not have good role models.

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

We tend to justify and idealize this division with pride attributing these tendencies as demonstrating a higher level of kedushah.

More Articles from Rabbi Ari Enkin
Israelis celebrate Jerusalem Day to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem after the 6 Day War which began with a pre-emptive strike.

The Talmud teaches: “If someone comes to kill you – kill him first!”

Winter-112213-Zeh-Kaporosi

The sefer opens with the origins of the kaparot custom. Readers may be surprised to learn that kaparot – at least in some form – might date back to the Talmudic era, with Rashi testifying about a custom to use a plant for kaparot.

I’ve always had an interest in the intersect between halacha, history, and archaeology. It is this interest that led me to research and write about the status of Purim in modern-day Israeli cities that are adjacent to ancient cities that had a wall around them in the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun. I concluded, in regards to Beit Shemesh at least, that there is much merit in observing a second day of Purim, on the 15th of Adar.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/title-the-rarest-blue/2013/01/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: