One of my customers sought my help in putting together his “dream tallit.” All the details were finally settled, including techelet tzitzit, but then when it came time to decide how to tie the techelet, he ran into uncertainties. At first he wanted to follow the regular Ashkenazi tying custom, but I explained to him that the standard Ashkenazi and Sephardic tzitzit tying customs are not suited for techelet tzitzit. According to Rabbi Mois Navon of the Ptil Tekhelet Association, “All the customary methods of tying tzitzit with white only were developed to infuse the tzitzit with meaning lost with the loss of tekhelet. When tying with tekhelet, one of the tekhelet methods should be employed.”
So I recommend he stick with Vilna Gaon, Sefer HaChinuch or Raavad. He wavered, and then started asking me about Rambam techelet tying. He couldn’t decide between the Rambam, the Gra, the Raavad and Sefer HaChinuch.
He then asked me about the history of the Raavad. In halacha, the Raavad argued with the Rambam. In the classic halachic texts this is actually a compliment. Major halachic figures who bowed down before a predecessor would often write a gloss to the predecessor’s work. The classic example is the Rema’s commentary on the Shulchan Aruch. If you open up the Rambam’s Mishnah Torah you will see the Raavad’s comments here and there where he had a bone to pick about one of the Rambam’s rulings. One of those contentions was that he disagreed with the Rambam’s approach that one of the four strings on each corner should be half blue and half white, so that after the tzitzit are tied you see seven white and one blue string hanging down. The Raavad held that it should be one string of all blue. There is also a third opinion that holds there should be two whole strings of blue (which gets expensive!). Confused? Here’s a quick summary of how the strings look hanging down.
Rambam – one of eight strings is blue
Raavad, Vilna Gaon, Sefer HaChinuch – two of eight strings are blue
Rashi, Tosefos – four of eight strings are blue
Of course that’s just the strings. There are also various approaches on how to go about tying them, as you can see from the photos. I’m not sure all of my explanations helped him, or merely complicated matters. As of now, I’m waiting for his reply.