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

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



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.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Shimon Peres meets with the family of fallen IDF soldier Max Steinberg.
Four Notes on The Situation
Latest Sections Stories
book-Family-Frayda

Written entirely through Frayda’s eyes, the reader is drawn by her unassuming personality.

book-I-Kings

Adopting an ancient exegetical approach that is based on midrashic readings of the text, thematic connections that span between various books of the Bible are revealed.

book-Unify-A-Nation

While Lipman comes from an ultra-Orthodox background and is an Orthodox rabbi, he offers a breath of fresh air when he suggests that “polarization caused by extremism and isolationism in the religious community may be the greatest internal threat to the future of the Jewish people”

The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten defines a mentch as “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.”

Certainly today’s communication via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and the like, including the ubiquitous Whatsapp, has reduced the need to talk with people and communicate at length.

These two special women utilized their incredibly painful experience as an opportunity to assist others.

Maybe we don’t have to lose that growth and unity that we have achieved, especially with the situation in Eretz Yisrael right now.

Sleepily, I watched him kissing Mai’s chubby thighs.

I have always insisted that everything that happens to anyone or anything is min Shamayim.

My teachers like me and they tell my parents that I am a great girl with good middos.

The chicken and waffle nuggets were fabulous and were like chicken in a dessert form.

“Have you forgotten your dreams?” The Hope Merchant asks a defeated and hopeless Lily when she “happens” upon his shop.

The universe was created by God out of nothing; it has not always existed.

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.

    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/sections/books/book-reviews/title-the-rarest-blue/2013/01/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: