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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Tekhelet’

Tekhelet: a Choice or an Imperative?

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

We all make choices. In doing so, we are essentially making judgments about issues. And when we make judgments about issues, it is not always easy to avoid the trap of making judgments about those who choose a different way.

Yet avoid that trap we must, for the sake of Jewish unity. We are commanded to rise above such petty judgments and to judge only ourselves.

So it is for me with tekhelet, the sky blue color that men are commanded by the Torah to wear in their ritual fringes alongside the white. I am speaking of myself here. While many of my neighbors are focused on embracing the wearing of the blue, I find myself conflicted about the energy invested in the practice. And while tekhelet is a biblical commandment, it’s one full of “buts” that bring me up short.

Ptil Tekhelet co-founder Dr. Baruch Sterman (right) welcomes MK Isaac Herzog, Rabbi Dr. Herzog's grandson, to the conference.

Ptil Tekhelet co-founder Dr. Baruch Sterman (right) welcomes MK Isaac Herzog, Rabbi Dr. Herzog’s grandson, to the conference.

Lost Mesora

For instance: Jewish men are commanded to wear tekhelet but, as a people, we lost the mesora, the chain of custody that would empirically tell us which blue is THAT blue. We know that the source of tekhelet was a snail, but we don’t know for sure which snail is the right one.

In my capacity as a writer at Kars4Kids, I went to an all-day conference on the subject, 100 Years to Tekhelet Research, and heard from experts in many related disciplines and learned a great deal, but I came out of the conference feeling much the same as I did going in: the evidence is not absolute and therefore inconclusive.

That said, the search for tekhelet is a fascinating subject and the endeavor is rooted in Torah.

(Left to right) Ptil Tekhelet co-founders Joel Guberman and Dr. Ari Greenspan display a page from Rabbi Dr. Isaac Halevi Herzog's ground-breaking doctoral dissertation, "The Dyeing of Purple in Ancient Israel.”

(Left to right) Ptil Tekhelet co-founders Joel Guberman and Dr. Ari Greenspan display a page from Rabbi Dr. Isaac Halevi Herzog’s ground-breaking doctoral dissertation, “The Dyeing of Purple in Ancient Israel.”


As usual, Finn Partners did a bang-up job organizing the event, and there were some mighty important people there: former chancellor of Yeshiva University Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Israeli Supreme Court Judge Neal Hendel, and MK Isaac Herzog, whose grandfather, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Herzog (zatzal), wrote a dissertation on the subject of tekhelet in 1913 as a seminal figure in the search for “himmel blau.” I spoke with Dr. Ari Greenspan, my across-the-street neighbor and a founder of Ptil Tekhelet.

V: In his talk, Rav Weinreb of the OU touched a bit on the Haredi reluctance to accept tekhelet. Several people at the conference have told me that Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (zatzal), who was known to wear many types of tzitzit at once to cover all Halachic bases, wore your tekhelet. Who else from the Haredi community was/is known to wear tekhelet?

Ari Greenspan: There’s Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg who has actually served as a posek. There’s Rav Amram Opman who is one of the judges of the Beit Din of the Badatz Eida Haredis and Rav Dichovsky on the Bet Din HaGadol of the Rabbanut. The entire Zilberman clan wears tekhelet. And the truth is, as you begin to go into the Haredi world, you begin to find some of the unique, individual thinkers that are looking for truth, and wearing it. Not a lot, but a significant number of Haredim. In the English world, both Rabbi Herschel Shachter and Rabbi Yisroel Belsky of the OU.

V: Well, but those last two—they aren’t Haredi.

Ari Greenspan: They’re American Haredim. Belsky’s a big name!

V: No one can say for sure if this is really the tekhelet, right?

Ari Greenspan: Here’s what I’ll tell you. There is no doubt that this is the color that our ancestors wore. There is no doubt that this is the source that the Romans used—no other source. And there’s no doubt that it was this snail—that the Romans killed people for wearing the color of this snail. There’s also no doubt that there was no other snail that the Romans used and we know for a fact that what we wore is what the Romans wore.

Varda Meyers Epstein

Researchers Find Ancient Fabrics in Colors Noted in Jewish Sources

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Centuries-old fabrics identified by Israel Antiquities Authority researchers include one that may have been made by means of a technique similar to making the tekhelet (blue)in tzitzit, the fringes that the Bible commands be worn on four-cornered garments.

To date, only two pieces of fabric treated with actual dye-murex have been found in Israel

The fabrics identified by Dr. Na‘ama Sukenik represent the most prestigious colors in antiquity – indigo, purple and crimson, – that are mentioned in Jewish sources

Thousands of fabrics dating to the Roman period have been discovered in the Judean Desert and regions of the Negev and the Arava. So far only two were colored with dye extracted from the murex snail. Now, within the framework of a study conducted by Dr. Sukenik, three other rare fabrics belonging to pieces of prestigious textiles were exposed that might have been used as clothing in the Roman period.

Dr. Sukenik’s doctoral dissertation was supervised by Professor Zohar Amar and Dr. David Illuz of Bar-Ilan University, and the textiles were examined by Dr. Orit Shamir, Curator of Organic Materials at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

These prestigious textiles, from the Wadi Murabba‘at caves located south of Qumran, were revealed in a study that analyzed the dye of 180 textiles specimens from the Judean Desert caves. Among the many textiles, most of which were dyed using substances derived from plants, were two purple-bordeaux colored textiles – parts of tunics that were double dyed utilizing two of the most expensive materials in antiquity – Murex trunculus (Hexaplex trunculus) and American Cochineal insect .

Photo: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Photo: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

A third textile, made of wool, indicating the thread fibers were dyed by exposing them to sunlight or heated after having been dyed, represent another use of the murex snail for achieving a shade of blue, and it is possible that the item in question is an indigo fabric made by means of a technique similar to making the tekhelet (blue)in a tzitzit.

The importance of this fabric is extremely significant as there are practically no parallels for it in the archaeological record.

Dr. Sukenik, assisted by Dr. Alexander Varvak, examined the colors using advanced analytical instrumentation for identifying dye substances (HPLC).

The testing of the fabrics, performed by Dr. Orit Shamir of the Israel Antiquities Authority, revealed that the two purple textiles were spinning in a unique manner characteristic of imported textiles, whereas the blue textile was spinning in the same fashion as the local textiles.

Of all of the dyes that were in use, purple is considered the most prestigious color of the earlier periods, but it seems the public’s fondness for this reached its peak in the Hellenistic-Roman period. The purple dyed fabrics attested to the prestige of the garment and the social status of its owner.

There were times when the masses were forbidden from dressing in purple clothing, which was reserved for only the emperor and his family. These measures only served to increase the popularity of that color, the price of which soared and was equal to that of gold.

It is difficult to know for certain how such prestigious fabrics came to be in the Murabba‘at caves. They might have been part of the property belonging to Jewish refugees from the time of the Bar-Kokhba revolt and demonstrate their economic prosperity prior to the outbreak of the uprising.

Another possibility is that they were part of the possessions of a small Roman unit, which on the basis of the artifacts was stationed in the Murabba‘at caves following the Bar Kokhba revolt.  It is likely these same soldiers brought some of their belongings from overseas to Israel and others they purchased from the local Jewish population during their service in the country.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/researchers-find-ancient-fabrics-in-colors-noted-in-jewish-sources/2013/12/31/

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