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.

  • Marc

    Does this mean to wrap the already white tzitzis (4) in a techelet string?

  • Noah

    However, Rashi interprets the word פתיל differently. Rashi views both the white and the techeilet as equal parts of the mitzvah and he finds places in Shemot where the word פתיל is used to signify plural. Thus, Rashi, the Ba’alei Tosefot, and others interpret the mitzvah of techeilet as requiring two and two.

  • http://tzitzit.tallit-shop.com/ BensTallitShop

    If you look at the tzitzit strings hanging down you see eight, but they are really four strings folded in half where they are inserted into the hole.

    According to Rashi and Tosefot, you use two white and two blue. According to Raavad and the Gra you use three white and one blue. According to Rambam you use three white and one half blue/half white.

    Depending on the tying custom, sometimes you will be wrapping one of the “eight” white strings around the core of seven, and sometimes you will be wrapping techeles around the core of seven.

    Radzyn Techelet is sold with just a package of four blue strings, and you buy a regular package of white separately. That means you are going to have a total of four white strings left over.

  • Marc

    I know the regular minhagim, I do Raavad. My question was regarding “In other words you should tie on white tzitzit strings and then wind a blue string around the white strings.”