Dec 032014

I normally am not outspoken in my opinions, but I feel no hesitation to bring the opinions of prominent rabbanim on the techeiles debate to the public. So I have taken the initiative to selectively translate excerpts from letters written a number of leading poskim in Eretz Yisroel. If you would like to see the letters in full in the Hebrew original, go to the website.

Source of Murex techelet dye

Murex trunculus

Five years ago, in 5770, HaRav Moshe Mordechai Karp, one of the leading poskim in Kiryat Sefer, wrote an approbation for a book by Rav Eliyahu Tavgar, the rabbinical authority for the Ptil Tekhelet Foundation. “Although in practice,” writes Rabbi Karp, “for a number of reasons we cannot obligate one to wear techeiles, as Maran HaRav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv shlita [he has since passed away] has ruled, nevertheless certainly those who had the merit to clarify the halacha and arrived at the conclusion that [Murex trunculus is authentic techeiles] must fulfill the mitzvah, and embarassment has no place when it comes to fulfilling halacha.”

HaRav Gershon Meltzer, a well-known posek in Jerusalem who delivers a class at Mir Yeshiva, wrote an approbation for a pro-techeiles booklet written by Rav Meir Hellman. Rabbi Meltzer writes that the booklet presented the case very thoroughly, based on the Gemara, Rishonim and Achronim, and delved into practical aspects as well. His arguments are “well-founded and he effectively counters all of the dubious claims [against his thesis].”

Rabbi Meltzer goes on to argue that the contemporary debate is a worthy discussion and the arguments in favor should not be casually dismissed. He recalls that when machine matzah was first introduced, several of the leading poskim were staunchly opposed, primarily because matzah had been baked by hand for millenia, therefore in our generation one cannot come along and introduce a radical innovation.

He explains that the reason Rishonim did not wear techelet is already mentioned in the Ramban (Shemos 28:2), who says because it was used in clothes for royalty, the gentiles considered it an act of rebellion if Jews wore attire dyed with Murex trunculus.

Rabbi Yisrael Belsky, a prominent posek in the Orthodox Union and Yeshiva Torah Vodaas wrote an approbation two years ago in 5773 for a booklet on techeiles called Lavush Ha’aron. Like Rabbi Meltzer, he says that those who tie techeiles onto their garments certainly have valid reasons, their decision should definitely not be scorned and the matter should not be lightly dismissed. “Torah scholars would do well to carefully examine the clarifications and sources cited in the booklet, and apparently it can be relied upon in practice,” writes Rabbi Belsky.

In the summer of 5766 (eight years ago) someone, who’s name I cannot decipher, wrote a letter to HaRav Sariyah Dublitzky, saying he was thoroughly convinced that Murex trunculus “is the techeiles that the Creator commanded us to tie onto our clothing,” and asking Rav Dublitsky if he felt he should add it to his tallis katan, at least when worn discreetly.

“I myself wear Murex on my tallis katan,” HaRav Dublitzky wrote in a very brief reply.

In 5771 HaRav Shmuel Nadel, a well-known dayan in Bnei Brak, reviewed a booklet called Chotem Shel Zahav. During the time of the Gemara, writes Rabbi Nadel, “gentiles used and dyed with techeiles, and in all of the books by the wise men of the nations that contain detailed information on all of the types of dyes in use during the time, this snall appears as a source for dye, and no other snail used to derive techeiles is mentioned. Since it has been clarified that techeiles dye can be produced from this snall — which I saw with my own two eyes — there is no logical reason to cast doubt on the identity of the snail. The technique for producing the dye also appears in the gentiles’ books from that period, and it reselbles the production process familiar to us today.”

“Although clearly this is the techeiles used during the time of Chazal, there still appears to be room for debate over whether we should tie techeiles onto our talleisim considering the fact that for over a thousand years the Jewish people have not used techeiles tzitzis, therefore we cannot reintroduce this mitzvah, even if we are certain of the authenticity of this techeiles. I do not concur with this view, however this is a question worthy of consideration.”

Rabbi Nadel writes that the detrators assertions are illogical and baseless.


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