Feb 022015
 

Someone by the name of Mark has sent me a few questions on techelet by email and today he called me on the phone. One question that has apparently been on his mind lately is how many strings of techelet should you use: one blue and three white, according to the Raavad, or one blue/white and three white, according to the Rambam?

“According to the simple meaning of the verse in the Torah, doesn’t it make sense to go like the Rambam, so that [after tying] you have one blue and seven white?” said Mark. “After all, the Torah speaks of a string of blue, not multiple strings.”

I told him that if you are looking at the simple meaning of the verse, it makes more sense to me to follow the Raavad. “Someone comes up to you and says he has a four-cornered garment and he just got a supply of tzitzit strings. ‘How should I go about attaching them to the garment?’ So you would tell him, ‘Take three white strings and one blue string, insert them in the hole and make a double knot…’ The Raavad is looking at the question from a perspective of production, while the Rambam is looking at the final product.”

But I was wrong. The truth is the Rambam is reading the verse in a very straightforward manner as well.

דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת עַל כַּנְפֵי בִגְדֵיהֶם לְדֹרֹתָם וְנָתְנוּ עַל צִיצִת הַכָּנָף פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת

Read the posuk slowly, according to the simple meaning, with the working assumption that “tzitzis” = white strings and “ptil techeles” = a blue string.So according to the Rambam the Torah says, “They shall make tzitzis on the corners of their garments, for all generations, by placing on the [white] tzitzis strings of the corner a string of blue.” In other words you should tie on white tzitzit strings and then wind a blue string around the white strings.