web analytics
September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



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
Drone Intercept Along Syrian Border 1
Israel Shoots Down Syrian Sukhoi-24 Fighter Jet In Israeli Airspace
Latest Sections Stories
Calmer Times. Breslov chassidim on erev Rosh Hashanah in 2012 at the grave of Rav Nachman in Uman.

As optimistic as Menachem Rosenberg is – and he said he is going to Uman – he’s sure that this year, most of the travelers will not tour other religious sites or places in Ukraine.

Three sets of three-day Yomim Tovim can seem overwhelming – especially when we are trying to stay healthy.

Plotkin-092614

Is a missed opportunity to do a mitzvah considered a sin?

Teens-Twenties-logo

The sounds and scents of the kitchen are cozy, familiar, but loud in the silence.

Everyone has a weakness. For some people it is the inability to walk past a sales rack without dropping a few hundred dollars. For others, it’s the inability to keep their house organized.

Not enjoying saying no, I often succumbed to requests viewing them as demands I couldn’t refuse.

His entire life was dedicated to Torah and he became a pivotal figure in the transmittal of the Oral Torah to the next generation.

When you don’t have anyone else to turn to… that’s when you’re tied to Hashem the closest.

While we all go to restaurants for a good meal, it is dessert, that final taste that lingers in your mouth, that is the crown jewel of any dining experience and Six Thirteen’s offerings did not disappoint.

Today, fifty years and six million (!) people later, Israel is truly a different world.

There will always be items that don’t freeze well – salads and some rice- or potato-based dishes – so you need to leave time to prepare or cook them closer to Yom Tov and ensure there is enough room in the refrigerator to store them.

In Uzbekistan, in the early twentieth century, it was the women who wore the pants.

This is an important one in raising a mentsch (and maybe even in marrying off a mentsch! listening skills are on the top of the list when I do shidduch coaching).

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: