Jan 032017
 

Sometimes you run across odd uses for tzitzit strings. This week we received an inquiry from a young woman from Germany, suffering from an ailment and hoping that blue tzitzit strings (techelet) have curative powers.

Shalom. One quick question: I am girl. Can I put tzitzit blue to my neck pendant with Hebrew letter[s] chai? I am sick and this color tzitzit give me heail power from Hashem. Plz answer me. Todah, shalom.

I replied to her as follows:

Thank you for your inquiry. Not a good idea! The Torah clearly states that tzitzit are meant to be tied onto the corners of four-cornered garments. That’s the mitzvah. There is no mitzvah to attach tzitzit to jewelry, just as there is no mitzvah to put a mezuzah on a car door.

When my wife was nine months pregnant with our first child, she was very nervous about the birth. She kept sending me around town to obtain all sorts of segulot (charms). I went to a very notable, sagely rabbi, one of the leading poskim of the generation, to ask him about a certain segulah.

“I don’t deal much with segulot,” he told me. “The main thing is prayer.”

The Torah teaches us that when Yishmael was dying, Hashem harkened to the lad’s prayer for himself before he harkened to his mother Hagar’s prayer! Praying earnestly for your own health is the key.

Techelet Debate: Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan chimes in 3 decades ago

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Jan 312014
 

When it comes to the raging debate over whether Murex trunculus is the real techelet mentioned in the Torah, it’s hard to find someone who is really objective on the issue. Many people, including some rabbanim, seem to have made up their minds for the most part, before they start “investigating” the matter.

For example, a year or two ago a Torah scholar in Bnei Brak published a booklet strongly arguing against Murex trunculus as the real techelet. While reading through it, I felt it was very clear the writer was extremely biased and presented his case in a highy selective manner. When discussing the correct color of techelet, for instance, he wrote that according to Rashi it should be a very dark blue, almost black, but neglected to mention the many opinions – including Rashi himself, elsewhere – that speak of very different shades of blue (see below). In the booklet he also claimed the chilazon is found in the Kinneret. This opinion is mentioned in the Midrash, if I’m not mistaken, but a much more accepted opinion is that the chilazon dwells in the Mediterranean.

That’s why it helps to take a look at what Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt”l wrote over 30 years ago in his commentary on Chumash, The Living Torah. And it’s particularly worth taking a look now, since you will find it in this week’s Torah reading, Parshas Terumah.

The verse in Shemos 25:3 lists the various materials used in the construction of the Mishkan, including techelet. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan translates it as “sky-blue.” The shade of techelet is a matter of debate in and of itself, and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan mentions five or six different opinions, including Rabbi Saadia Gaon, Rambam, Yosephus, Rashi and Radak.

Sometimes I get customers who ask for me to dig through my stock of Ptil Tekhelet for the darkest set I can find (or sometimes the lightest). Although there can be slight differentiation between one batch and another, for the most part they all look to me to be the same shade. However, the thin is always noticeably darker than the thick, presumably because the Murex trunculus dye penetrates better.

Rabbi Kaplan goes on to mention various points that anyone who has looked into the present-day techelet debate will recognize immediately: purpura, Murex trunculus shells found at the site of the ancient Tyrian dyeworks and the signs of the chilazon.

Tekhelet Research Conference in Jerusalem

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Dec 252013
 

Some 350 participants and 20 speakers are expected to take part in an international conference on techelet research on December 30 at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.

Techelet research pioneer Rabbi Herzog

Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Herzog

The conference was initiated to mark the centennial of the late Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Halevi Herzog’s ground-breaking doctoral dissertation, “The Dyeing of Purple in Ancient Israel.”

Throughout the day video clips will be screened and a tekhelet dyeing station will be set up to provide hands-on demonstrations.

The conference will be streamed live, starting at 9:30 am (Israel time) at yutorah.org/live.

Scheduled speakers include MK Isaac Herzog, grandson of techelet research pioneer Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Herzog, Professor Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel, Rabbi Menachem Burshtein, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik and Dr. Naama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The keynote speaker will be Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

Ptil Tekhelet

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Jun 122012
 

The Ptil Tekhelet Association was founded 20 years ago. To make their first batch of ten they spent a year hard at work. Today over 100,000 people around the world put Ptil Tekhelet on their tallit or tallit katan.

View Techelet Tallit selection>>>

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According to Baruch Sterman, during Talmudic times there was a false techelet that was cheap to make. It was so similar to the real thing that “only God could differentiate between them,” notes the Gemara. Called kala ilan, this fake techelet is identified by the Rambam as the indigo plant. Both the murex-derived indigo and kala ilan-derived indigo have almost the same molecular composition, which explains why the Talmud says only God could discern the difference.

Archeological evidence supporting Ptil Tekhelet

Inexpensive Ptil Tekhelet

Authorized dealer. Click on image for details.

In the 1960s Yigal Yadin found a scrap of dyed woolen cloth at Masada in an area known as the Room of the Scrolls. An analysis by Prof. Zvi Koren showed that the dark blue embroidery, dating from the Mishnaic period, contained dibromoindigo — a clear indication the Murex trunculus snail used to make Ptil Tekhelet was the source of the dye. The rich hue retains its deep color and luster over 2000 years later. (The New York Times published a report on Koren’s findings and Ptil Tekhelet.)

Similarly Sergei Rudenko discovered an exquisitely preserved piece of fabric in the Altai Mountains buried with a Scythian prince.

A saddlecloth excavated in Siberia and dated to the time of the First Temple Destruction has a pattern of purple and a sky-blue border – both of which have been conclusively identified to derive from Mediterranean murex snails.

Dozens of actual Murex trunculus shells were found in digs on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, dating from the Second Temple Period, in a section thought to be the homes of kohanim.

These finds demonstrate unambiguously that ancient dyers had developed techniques to control the shades of the murex dyes to produce a sky-blue color, that murex-dyed wool was available in Israel in the Mishnaic period, and that the Murex trunculus snail was well known in Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period.

Despite the strong archaelogical evidence we cannot say with absolute certainty that Ptil Tekhelet is made from the real chilazon, but the dye also fits the historical, Talmudic, halachic and bio-chemical descriptions.

What do rabbanim say about Ptil Tekhelet?

According to Rabbi Yaakov Klass, writing in The Jewish Press, today, within the halachic community, there are three stances on Ptil Tekhelet. Some rabbanim view Ptil Tekhelet positively, encouraging their followers to wear it — and in some cases even ruling that they must wear it.

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky's approbation for a book on techeiles

Approbation by Rabbi Yisoel Belsky, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and a leading Orthodox Union rabbi

Other rabbanim remain unpursuaded that Ptil Tekhelet is made of the true chilazon and advise against wearing it. Generally these rabbanim hold that archeological, historical or scientific evidence is inadmissible in the court of halacha, and therefore the debate must rest on authentic halachic material exclusively.

A third school of thought admits that Ptil Tekhelet may well be made from the chilazon used during the Talmudic Era, but rejects the use of Ptil Tekhelet, arguing that once the chain of tradition for a certain mitzvah has been severed, that mitzvah is suspended indefinitely.

Who wears Ptil Tekhelet?

Some notable figures who wear Ptil Tekhelet include Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, Rabbi Avraham Dov Auerbach, Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky, Rabbi Amram Opman, Rabbi Simcha Kook, Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Dr. Rabbi Abraham Twerski. Many others wear it privately.

In a recent approbation for Levush Ha’aron, a book that promotes the use of the Murex trunculus used by the Ptil Tekhelet Association, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, a prominent posek in the U.S. and a leading figure in the OU, writes that he read the book carefully from cover to cover and looked into the various proofs presented. The book is “worthy to be disseminated among Torah scholars and it seems that it can also be relied upon in practice,” he concludes. Preempting the skeptics within the ultra-Orthodox community, where techelet has been slow to gain traction, Rabbi Belsky adds that the book should “not be lightly dismissed and those who would like to look into the matter should study the text carefully.”

Further reading on Ptil Tekhelet
The Rarest Blue by Baruch Sterman
Ptil Tekhelet on Radzyn techelet by Mois Navon

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We buy in bulk to provide you the most inexpensive Ptil Tekhelet available online.

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Yemenite Tzitzit

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May 052011
 

I recently came across a product labeled “Yemenite Tzitzit” on one of the leading online tallit shops. This sounded peculiar to me. There is such a thing as Sephardic Tzitzits, which simply come with longer shamash strings for those who tie chulyot (loops) around each winding, but Yemenite tzitzits? What are Yemenite tzitzit? I asked a Yemenite talmid chacham in my neighborhood, and he was just as puzzled as I was.

I’ve concluded that this was simply a mistake by whoever added the product to that particular webstore. It could well be that the worker does not know the first thing about tzitzits.

Yemenite Tzitzit - Techeles

Techelet tzitzit tied according to the Rambam. Click on image to enlarge.

On the other hand, many people Google the term “Yemenite tzitzit,” presumably because they are interested in a Yemenite tallit katan with tzitzits tied according to the Yemenite custom, i.e. the Rambam, which is very distinctive. This tying custom is followed by Yemenites for white tzitzits and a number of non-Yemenites who start wearing techelet.

It took me quite a while to learn how to tie Yemenite tzitzit, but eventually I came across a technique that I found simpler to implement. Now I can tie the knots effortlessly. Normally we do seven chulyot on each corner, and 13 by request. Tying Rambam with techelet is more involved. The problem is that you really need to get the basic knot down pat before you start dealing with techelet, because the first and last knots have to include both white and blue.

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Techelet Debate in Jerusalem

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May 042011
 

Ashrei will be sponsoring a debate on the mitzvah of tekhelet, featuring Rav Mois Navon of the Ptil Tekhelet Association and Rav Elie Ganz of Yeshivat Keren Ora.

The evening will be moderated by Rav Yehoshua Kahan, Director of ASHREI, and is being co-sponsored by the the RRG Hillel Beit Midrash Program at Hebrew University, overseen by Rav Yonatan Udren.

The Color Techelet

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Mar 072011
 

by Jonah Mandel
The Jerusalem Post

Not quite azure, more of a midnight blue. That is apparently the actual color of the biblical techelet, according to Prof. Zvi Koren, who spoke this week at the Shenkar College’s International Edelstein Color Symposium.

Techelet: Color of a Clear Blue Sky

Techelet is the color that was used to dye the coat of the high priests in the time of the temples, as well as the strings attached to the corners of men’s garments “so that they may be seen and remind you of God’s commands,” as the Torah states. In modern Hebrew usage, techelet is the color of a clear sky in the daytime.

But the analysis of a small piece of dyed fabric that archeologist Yigal Yadin found at Masada in the 1960s, dated to the first century BCE, was what Koren recently used to determine not only the true hue of techelet, but also the chemical breakdown that allowed him to establish irrevocably that the source of this ancient dye was indeed the Murex trunculus snail.

However, Koren stressed that there were different types of Murex trunculus.