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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Israel Jews’

‘Dead’ Mitzvah Acquires New Life

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

 Techeles, the blue strings the Torah requires Jews to wear on their ritual tzitzis garments, has long been thought of as a “dead” mitzvah. Sometime in the 7th century apparently (possibly due to the Arab conquest of Israel) Jews stopped producing techeles strings and the identity of the chilazon, from which the blue dye originates, was subsequently lost.

 However, 1,200 years later, interest in the mitzvah reawakened. In the 19th century, anticipating the building of the Third Temple, the Radzyner Rebbe traveled to an aquarium in Naples, Italy and identified the chilazon as the Sepia officinalis, a certain kind of squid.

 In 1913 Rav Isaac Herzog, who later became Israel’s first Ashkenazic chief rabbi – and whose 50th yahrzeit will be commemorated this year – wrote his PhD dissertation on the chilazon’s identity. He calls the Murex trunculus snail the “most likely candidate” but, because of unsolved questions, did not come to a definitive conclusion.

Today P’til Tekhelet, an Israeli organization founded in 1993, provides techeles to tens of thousands of Jews around the world based on Rav Herzog’s research.

Dr. Ari Greenspan, a co-founder of P’til Tekhelet, recently spoke to The Jewish Press.

The Jewish Press: On one foot, please relate the genesis of P’til Tekhelet?

Dr. Greenspan: In 1985 Rabbi Eliyahu Tavger of Jerusalem began looking into techelet as a matter of halacha lema’aseh. A series of circumstances brought me, Joel Guberman and Baruch Sterman [the other P’til Tekhelet co-founders] together and we went scuba diving to get the snails [Murex trunculus] with Rabbi Tavger.

The renewal of the ancient dying technique was unchartered waters, and it took us a year to figure out how to make those first 10 sets of techelet – the first in close to 1,300 years. People then began asking us for techelet and before we knew it we had hundreds of people on a waiting list.

How do you know the Murex trunculus is in fact the chilazon?

Rav Herzog was convinced, on an intellectual level, that the murex was the source of techelet. But he was left with three major problems that he mentions in his doctoral thesis: 1) He was told by the preeminent French chemist on dyes that the color from the murex was not permanent, which is the defining characteristic of techelet; 2) The color they were able to get was only purple, while the definition of techelet is sky blue; and 3) The only murex snail he saw was a dead polished murex. It was cream colored, while the Talmud talks about it being “similar to the sea” [blue-green].

However, all three of these objections are based upon mistaken evidence or advice. 1) The color blue we derive from the murex is the most permanent natural color in existence. We have done chemistry tests to prove this. The facts were simply told to Rav Herzog incorrectly. 2) Thirty years ago Professor Otto Elsner discovered by accident that if the liquid extracted from the murex is exposed to sunlight, the molecule of color changes from dibromoindigo (puple) to indigo (blue). 3) Had Rav Herzog seen a live snail and not a polished dead one he would have seen its shell covered with a bright blue/green color, just like the “color of the sea.”




Tzitzis with techeles tied according to (L-R) the Radzyner Rebbe/Chabad; the Rambam (one interpretation); the Vilna Gaon; the Sefer HaChinuch; the Raavad; Rav Amram Gaon; and the Rambam (Yemenite tradition).

How can you be sure that the dye extracted from the Murex trunculus is the real techeles?

During Talmudic times there was a fake techelet that was cheap to make. The Talmud says it was so similar to the real thing that “only God could differentiate between them.” This fake techelet, called kala ilan, is identified by the Rambam and others as the indigo plant. Now, it turns out, that murex-derived indigo and kala ilan-derived indigo are molecularly identical. No wonder the Talmud says only God could distinguish between them!

Having said that, we cannot be sure the Murex trunculus is the real chilazon. However, when one looks at the entire picture, we can say that the identification of murex as the source of techelet fits the Talmudic, halachic, archaeological, historical, biological and chemical description.

Why haven’t those rabbis regarded as gedolim given their approval to your project?

Why do you say this? Many have. There are some significant figures in the halachic world wearing it publicly and many others who wear it in a private manner so as not to make a public statement as long as it is not worn by all of Am Yisrael. I find that intellectually honest people who take the time to really learn this sugya have a very  difficult time walking away not being convinced this is the real techelet.

Which rabbis, then, support you?

I am not sure how to handle this. First, no matter what names I give you there will always be others who don’t or don’t yet wear techelet. Second, many people, in the U.S. in particular, have not even looked into this issue and, as a result, their practice of not wearing techelet is no proof of disagreement – “lo ra’inu eini raya.”

That being said, the following are just some of the rabbis who wear techelet: The well-known posek Rav Zalman Nechemia Golderg; the son and brother of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z”l; Rav Simcha Kook from Rechovot; Rav Shlomo Dichovsky of the Bet Din Hagadol; Rav Amram Opman of the Eida Chareidis in Yerushalayim; Rav Hershel Schachter [from Yeshiva University]; and Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski.

Some people claim that someone who doesn’t wear techeles is violating the commandment of “ba’al tigrah,” detracting from the Torah’s commandments? Do you agree?

Some poskim might say so. One should address this issue with his own posek. It is a complicated halachic issue.

Some people argue that thousands of people are potentially not fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzis if your organization is wrong and they are wearing false techeles.  What is your reply?

The Radzyner Rebbe already addressed this question 120 years ago. He writes that one loses nothing by wearing techelet, for even if it is not really techelet, the Talmud tells us it is “no worse than wearing white [strings].”

Where can someone go to learn more about this topic?

Our website, www.tekhelet.com.

Elliot Resnick

Ahmadinejad’s Calls For Genocide Are Crimes Against Humanity

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

“The more things change,” goes the well-worn maxim, “the more they remain the same.” Readers of The Jewish Press are already well acquainted with now incessant Iranian calls for the annihilation of Israel. What might not be so apparent, however, is that such calls to “wipe Israel off the map” constitute a serious crime under international law. And as this particular crime centers on genocide, such calls for crimes against humanity should have an especially disturbing resonance for the Jewish State.

Genocide has always been prohibited by international law. According to the Genocide Convention, a binding multilateral treaty that codified post-Nuremberg norms and entered into force in 1951, precisely the sorts of murderous acts openly advocated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s surrogate terror groups qualify straightforwardly as genocide.

It follows that if international law is ever to be taken seriously, some pertinent authorities in our so-called “international community” must immediately step forward with both condemnation and conclusive enforcement action.

In this connection, it is also important to understand that war and genocide need not be mutually exclusive. More specifically, war can be an entirely efficient instrument of genocide. Our enemies no longer need to work out the complex logistics of bringing Jews to the gas. Rather, the “gas” can now be brought directly to the Jews.

Current Iranian preparations for a Final Battle with “The Jews” are not only for a presumably indispensable and unavoidable war but – ultimately and religiously – for the planned extermination of an entire people. Under international law, President Ahmadinejad’s calls for the mass murder of Jews – whether indirectly in Jihad or directly through missile attack – constitute authentic calls for genocide.

The international community, therefore, must now acknowledge that the very same individuals who continually call for commission of the world’s most egregious crime cannot be a proper partner for honest negotiation or diplomatic reconciliation.

While most of the world outside of Washington and Jerusalem still chooses to ignore explicit Iranian calls for the commission of genocide, international law does have an unswerving obligation to stop and take notice. Expressed by leaders of the major states in world politics, the relevant norms and principles of international law should be invoked in time.

Certainly, this must happen before the calls for genocide against Israel’s Jews are allowed to become the materialized foreign policy of a rogue state that has been allowed to arm with nuclear weapons.

Lest anyone be overly optimistic, the fusion of genocidal intent with genocidal capacity is now well within reach for Iran. As my readers here are well aware, a failure to preemptively destroy Iran’s key nuclear infrastructures in a timely fashion will place Israel at existential risk.

Significantly, it is jurisprudentially clear that such preemption could assuredly meet the settled criteria of anticipatory self-defense. No Israeli government would need to put off life-saving preemptions for fear that it would be acting in violation of international law.

Naturally, any lawful expression of anticipatory self-defense would still have to be consistent with expectations of the law of war – that is, discrimination, proportionality and military necessity. Under international law, even where there isjust cause, there must also be just means.

Iran and its assorted proxy terror groups (most notably, Hizbullah in Lebanon and also Hamas in Gaza) are obligated to refrain from incitement against Israel.

What is not widely understood is that the Genocide Convention criminalizes not only the various actual acts of genocide, but also (Article III) conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Articles II, III and IV of the Genocide Convention are fully applicable to Iran in all cases of direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

For the Convention to be invoked, it is sufficient that any one of the state parties call for a meeting – through the United Nations – of all the state parties (Article VIII). Although this has never been done, the United States should consider very seriously taking this imperative step. From a purely jurisprudential point of view, Israel, too, should be an obvious co-participant in this call, but it is unlikely – for entirely pragmatic reasons – that any Israeli government would seek legal redress under broad multilateral conventions.

The Genocide Convention is not the only authoritative criminalization that should be invoked against interminable Iranian calls for the mass murder of Israel’s Jews. The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination could also come productively into play.

This treaty condemns “all propaganda and all organizations which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form,” obliging, at Article 4(a) state parties to declare as “an offense punishable by law, all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons.”

Article 4(b) affirms that state parties “Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offense punishable by law.”

Further authority for curtailing and punishing Iranian calls for genocidal destruction of Jews can be found at Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” All of these treaty norms are now an incontestable part of customary international law, and are therefore binding upon all states – whether or not they are actual parties to the particular conventions.

The chief message of the law-making judgments at Nuremberg was to ensure that all future crimes against humanity be identified, prosecuted and punished. This point should now be kept in mind as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his surrogates advocate the genocidal extermination of Israel.

In essence, because it is a process that is accompanied by genocidal threats, steady Iranian nuclearization has already become a punishable crime against humanity.

Let me conclude with a non-legal but still altogether vital observation on the deeper meaning of Iran’s intended genocide. Iran’s aggressive behavior represents a crime against humanity not only because of its obvious violation of certain major legal norms, but also because the fate of the entire world – the fate of humanity – is utterly and always inseparable from the fate of Israel. The genocidal destruction of Israel by Iran would have unimaginably dire implications for all of humanity.

As he has written so movingly in The Jewish Press, Rabbi Eliezer Waldman reminds us that the “eternal flame of Jewish life in Israel” burns brightly on behalf of all humankind. By preventing genocide against Israel, we protect the entire planet. By working for the redemption of Israel, we work to bring a blessing to all peoples of the world.

If there is ever to be any sort of meaningful international community, there must first be a safe and secure State of Israel.

Copyright The Jewish Press, March 16, 2007. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism, war and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for THE JEWISH PRESS.

Louis Rene Beres

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/ahmadinejads-calls-for-genocide-are-crimes-against-humanity/2007/03/14/

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