Photo Credit: Courtesy, Ptil Tekhelet
Tekhelet tying methods on display at the Ptil Tekhelet conference.

Ari Greenspan: It’s a very good question. The answer is shechita applies only by kosher animals, number one, and number two, what’s the definition of tzar baalei chayim?

So there’s a famous teshuva by the Noda b’Yehuda, one of the greatest decisors in the last 400 years where he’s asked whether a person is allowed to go hunting in the forest with a kaneh aish, a rifle, for fun let’s say. So he deals with the entire issue.

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The details don’t matter. It’s not baal tashchis: you’ll sell it, there’s no issur in hunting per say. In the end he says it’s not tzaar baalei chayim because the definition of tzaar baalei chayim is doing it for no purpose. If you kill an animal, a treif animal, a kosher animal, because you need a new hat or a belt. That’s not tzaar baalei chayim. Tzaar baalei chayim is hurting an animal l’lo toelet.

V: Like the kid I went to school with who was lighting ants with his cigarette lighter.

Ari Greenspan: There you go. There you go.

V: I guess there’s no inyan of doing it in a merciful way?

Ari Greenspan: The truth is, if you look at the scale of development of creatures, snails are pretty much at the very bottom.

V: Primitive, yeah.

Ari Greenspan: I doubt that they feel pain. Nobody knows if they feel pain. They certainly have no awareness.

V: What made you start it?

Ari Greenspan: Joel [Guberman, founder of Ptil Tekhelet] wanted to wear tekhelet. Why? Because his brother was killed in a car accident and he took it upon himself to learn everything there was about tzistzis. That’s how he found Rav Tevger. Joel called me and said, “Rabbi Tevger wants to go to the ocean,” and he knew that I was scuba diving and Baruch [Sterman, founder of Ptil Tekhelet] was my partner. He said, “Why don’t you come to the ocean? And scuba for us.” That’s how it happened. 20 years. Rav Tevger decided he wanted to wear tekheles and it had nothing to do with any of us. And then he went ahead and did it.

V: What’s the main reason to continue to pursue this if you could pinpoint one reason?

Ari Greenspan: I think that there’s no doubt that Hashem put us in a particular place in a particular time. Like, there’s no doubt about it. What are the chances of four people, three of which knew each other in high school, never talked for 25 years and then Rav Eliyahu Tevger [founder of Ptil Tekhelet]—a Russian that speaks Hebrew and Russian—that we’d had no interaction—with whom we would have had no interaction. There’s no doubt Hashem put us here. And I think it’s sort of a passion.

We feel a mission.

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Blogger and mother of 12, Varda Meyers Epstein is a third-generation Pittsburgher who made aliyah at age 18 and never looked back. A proud settler who lives in the biblical Judean heartland, Varda serves as the communications writer for the nonprofit car donation program Kars4Kids, a Guidestar Gold medal charity. The author's political opinions are her own and not endorsed by her employer.

6 COMMENTS

  1. You write incorrectly: “We know that the source of tekhelet was a snail”. This is untrue. We “know” that techelet comes from the chilazon, a marine creature. The question revolves around the identity of the chilazon, a mollusk; be it HaRav Herzog’s zt”zl janthina janthina, Radzin’s sepia officianalis, or the P’til’s trunculous murex.

    You write: ”Jewish men are commanded to wear tekhelet”. Women are permitted to fulfill the commandment of tzitzith/techelet and are equally required to include techelet.

    HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”zl wore Radziner techelet secretly since 1989. I delivered it to him personally, as well as subsequently since.

    Today it is a matter of ratzon. If today you want to fulfill the commandment of tzitzith/techelet – you have who to rely on. If you don’t care, you also have who to rely on, there are plenty of rabbanim who don’t care. But why would you care not to, any more then you would care not to fulfill any other of HaShem’s commandments? What kind of Torah is “I find myself conflicted about the energy invested in the practice”? This is an absurd statement considering the effort you expend cleaning your home for Pesach. What energy is invested, retying your tzitzith? Are you serious?

    The resistance to geulah is passive. You can be the last to wear techelet, but you won’t match those of us working to get techelet into everyone’s tzitzith, hour for hour, to prevent us from getting the work done.

  2. Great come-back, about as intelligent as your article. The last set of techelet I delivered to HaRav Scheinberg zt"zl before he was niftar was on a Beged Ivri tunic especially designed for him.

  3. Reuven Prager, so here's the part I cut from the piece because it was too long. Maybe it will help you better understand my perspective. If not, so be it:

    "I keep thinking: first let’s wear clothes. Then we can worry what color they are.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am an anomaly. I’m a Haredi woman who lives in a Modern Orthodox community. Very few, if any, women in my town are careful to wear socks, as I do, in the hottest months of the year. I cover my hair. All of it. I cover my collarbone, my elbows, my knees and feet. I wear skirts and dresses, not pants.

    This is an important focus for me as a religiously observant woman—this business of covering up. And so I come up against my own judgmental nature when I see people in my community getting excited about whether or not to wear a blue thread when so many of my female friends wear pants and sleeveless and don’t cover their hair.

    Dressing as I do seems basic to me. As basic as Adam and Eve, the snake and the apple. As basic as losing the right to live in the Garden of Eden and knowing the shame inherent in public nudity: perhaps the earliest example of epistemological particularism in which you know something but you don’t know how you know it.

    The focus on tekhelet then, seems from my particular viewpoint, misplaced."

  4. Varda Epstein 1- Your last statement: Trying to fulfill a Mitzva d'Oraita is misplaced? And you're Chareidi? 2- With any Mitzvah, you can either find a way or find a way out. Each says something about the person. 3- If HaShem meant for us to be naked, He would have created us without clothes. Said another way, HaShem's original intention was to hang out with naked vegetarians in a garden. 3- Time to get out of Golus and even more, get Golus out of your head. Time for Yetziat Mitraim – get out of your narrow places.

  5. Varda Epstein 1- Your last statement: Trying to fulfill a Mitzva d'Oraita is misplaced? And you're Chareidi? 2- With any Mitzvah, you can either find a way or find a way out. Each says something about the person. 3- If HaShem meant for us to be naked, He would have created us without clothes. Said another way, HaShem's original intention was to hang out with naked vegetarians in a garden. 3- Time to get out of Golus and even more, get Golus out of your head. Time for Yetziat Mitraim – get out of your narrow places.

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