Monday, July 18, 2011

The Murex Expedition

Today is my thirty-sixth birthday (please, no "happy birthday" wishes in the comments), and I celebrated in true "Zoo Torah" fashion - by going snorkeling to search for Murex trunculus, the sea-dwelling snail from which techeles is made. With my friends Victor Ofstein and Rafi Goldmeier (of Life in Israel fame) we went to Chof Dor, near Zichron Yaakov.

Sure enough, it did not take long before we found some -- or so we thought. Upon closer inspections, we saw that the shells were from snails that were dead, and the empty shells had been taken over by hermit crabs. But eventually, I managed to find some that were still inhabited by the snails from which the techeles dye is made.

I have not yet studied all the vast amount of literature on techeles. However, I have read a fair amount from both advocates and opponents of Murex trunculus. And although I do not wear techeles (for reasons that I will explain in a future post), I am convinced that Murex trunculus is indeed the chilazon of old. Beyond weighing up the individual clues and pieces of evidence regarding Murex trunculus, I have two different reasons for believing this to be the case.

One is that I see this as being similar to the case of the shafan. The hyrax is not as perfect a candidate for the shafan as many would like, due to its not being a true ruminant. Some people therefore claim that the shafan is an unknown, extinct animal. But in my book The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax I devoted an entire chapter to explaining why positing the existence of an extinct and unknown  animal that is small and yet a true ruminant, and which lacks split hooves but is not a camelid, and which lived in the Middle East in the last 4000 years yet disappeared without trace, is entirely implausible, from the perspective of animal physiology and from the perspectives of zooarcheology and paleontology. Whatever difficulties may exist with the hyrax are vastly less than the difficulty in proposing that the shafan is an unknown creature.

With the chilazon, those who oppose its identification as Murex trunculus are not proposing a more viable candidate. But it has to be something. We know that Murex trunculus was harvested for its dye in ancient times. Positing that the chilazon is an unknown creature raises far more difficulties than positing that it is the Murex trunculus.

The second factor involved in my conclusion is that it appears that those objecting to the Murex trunculus argue that it does not match the criteria for the chilazon as explained by various Rishonim. But there is no reason to believe that the Rishonim were familiar with the chilazon!

It was a great thrill to find the Murex trunculus in its natural habitat. I was also thrilled to discover the rotting carcass of a gigantic sea-turtle (although, strangely, my companions were not as thrilled at that discovery). I brought back the jawbone as a souvenir; I figured that if Samson used the jawbone of an ass to kill a thousand Philistines, then the jawbone of a sea-turtle might also come in useful.

All in all, with the exception of the jellyfish stings (pictured right is an elderly Sabra who kindly poured vinegar on them), it was a terrific birthday expedition. I couldn't have wished for a better gift - although some things on my Amazon wishlist come close!

71 comments:

  1. Have you read Mendel Singer's refutation of Murex as techeles? He's a Radziner from Cleveland (the city).

    http://www.begedivri.com/techelet/MendelSinger.pdf

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  2. Exactly the problems that I described - bringing objections from Rishonim/ Acharonim who never saw a chilazon, and failing to propose a superior candidate.

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  3. According to Rashbam, Bchor Schor and many other Reshonim and Geonim, Mafris Parso means "hooved", not split hooves. Rav Samson R. Hirsch follows this explanation, and as a result says that the Shafan and Arnevet can not be the hare or hyrax or rabbit family because the Torah says that the Shafan and Arnevet chew the cud, "which hardly seems to be the case" - also the Torah says that these animals are not Mafris Parso, meaning that they are not hooved, which is true, but these animals are really pawed animals which appear later in Parashat Shmeni Chapter 11 verse 26/27.

    So it seems pretty clear that the Torah is not referring to the hyrax and his friends, because it doesn't chew the cud and it needn't be described as non-hooved, since the pawed category is the better choice.

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  4. the only correction I have is that the woman was not a Sabra. She moved here 49 years ago (I dont remember from where).

    it was a great trip!

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  5. Honestly, David, do you really think that I have not considered Rav Hirsch's brief comments? In my book I present a wealth of reasons as to why he was lacking important information and his view on this is not viable.

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  6. Let's leave R. Hirsch out of it. The Torah says the Shafan chews the cud, the hyrax doesn't. Ergo the Shafan is not the hyrax.

    Please don't answer that I need to read your book. I did already.

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  7. Mmmm, you might want to check the laws on endangered species and collecting them or their body parts. I'm not completely up on them. You might be in violation of the law by taking that jaw bone home.

    As for the whole "jawbone of an ass" thing. It's not hard to believe. Thousands of people do themselves in every day with the same weapon!

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  8. What, no picture of the rotting sea turtle!? :(

    Yitznewton, while a nice paper, it is now outdated as techelet on tzizit have been found and identified, and the dye came from the Murex... (really, can we have a better name for that snail?)

    Though ironically, Ptil Techelet (atleast according to one aritcle) isn't going to change their procedure to match the color found in Masada. http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=210753

    Also for me, a clear piece of tzizit is to me more convincing than any of the articles or theories written previously.

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  9. David, it is vastly easier to change our understanding of "chewing the cud" than it is to change our understanding of shafan and arneves. You might as well say that parah is not a cow!

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  10. IF the Torah said that Parah doesn't give milk, then yes, I would say it is not a cow. IF the Torah says that the Shafan chews the cud, then it is not the hyrax.

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  11. Bad analogy. There's not the slightest basis for describing a cow as not giving milk. But there are several ways in which the hare and hyrax can be described as maaleh gerah.

    You can't simply wave away countless lines of evidence from mesorah, archeology, comparative languages, etc., and the lack of remotely viable alternatives, simple because maaleh gerah doesn't work out as neatly as you would like. That's why every single serious study of the topic has concluded that they are the hare and hyrax.

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  12. The Radziner tekhelet which is made using Prussian Blue was discounted by none other than Rav Herzog, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, as his doctoral thesis. He also helped the Radziner reestablish their labs after WWII when they lost the method.

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  13. Let's suppose that God showed Moses and the Israelites a Llama and said this is the Shafan. Being that the Shafan is only native to South America, no one from future generations (until the Americas would be discovered) would have any inkling what the Shafan is. So if one day they see a hare or hyrax making cud-chewing movements they could easily assume that this must be the Shafan of the Torah.


    This might be a more likely scenario than saying we need to alter our understanding of what Maleh Gayra means.

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  14. Ah, this must be some strange new usage of the word "likely" that I wasn't previously aware of.

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  15. Chazal, the Geonim, and the Rishonim all spoke about the arneves and many other animals of the Torah as creatures with which they were familiar. Clearly, it never occurred to them that the Torah might have been describing animals from undiscovered lands that were never seen by anyone since Matan Torah. And with good reason.

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  16. Of course Murex trunculus is the animal from which techeleth is made. If only they could get more approvals by leading rabbanim, they would be able to mass market it.

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  17. 36? amazing, you don't look a day over 35, just kidding, you look great, until 121 and beyond.

    By the way, is that July 18th, or the 17th of Tammuz, your fans want to know.

    How does the Radzin techeleth fit in.
    It is most affordable and therefore more popular.
    Many people are wearing it, and I too have a few pairs of them.

    Is it also from the Murex trunculus?
    o

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  18. I'm interested in learning why you don't wear techeiles. It's a mitzvah d'oraisa. I would think this is a pretty big deal. I know you're a propoent of mesorah and the halachic process, but the disovery of how to make techeiles is only about 25 years old. One can't therefore hide behind the argument that one is following the mesorah, right or wrong (like killing lice on Shabbos).

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  19. I see Rabbi Lamm's book Torah Umadda is on your Amazon wishlist. Just wanted to let you know there's a newer version published last year with a new intro & afterword -- the edition on your wishlist is the 1990 one.

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  20. Shouldn't this post be on the zootorah blog? There hasn't been a post there in a while...

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  21. Baruch shekivanti to your rishonim point

    KT
    Joel Rich

    http://download.yutorah.org/2011/926/761970/Techeles%20Hachodosh.MP3
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/761970/Rabbi_Yisroel__Reisman/Techeles_Hachodosh
    Rabbi Yisroel Reisman - Techeles Hachodosh :
    Starts with interesting analysis that if he was 50% convinced that the new tcheilet is the real thing, he’d have to wear them and if miyut hamatzui (10%) then maybe....but it doesn’t matter because he thinks it’s 0%.
    [4 side points]
    1) R’Reisman sounds a lot surer than he did a number of years ago in his navi shiur;
    2) when R’Reisman says the pictures of caves were not proof and were to “fool” people – you get the impression it’s more than just a halachic issue;
    3) comparing Tcheilet (a torah mitzvah) to black hats as a sociological statement – interesting but…;
    4) why the percentages above mean something in this context is unclear to me.
    R’Reisman then reviews all (IIRC there were a few others that Ptil Tcheilot quotes that he did not include) gemaras on tcheilet to show 0% chance. His major objections: 1) this tcheilet is molecularly the same as Kala Ilan (fake mentioned by Gemara); 2) Zevulun really didn’t have sea front property; 3) how could there be tzad (capture) mlacha on snails.
    [Me – I wonder how sure we are the rishonim (or amoraim) had a clear mesorah on what the tcheilet was]. Thus, he concludes we don’t change halacha on a small probability.
    Closes with mussar on supporting lomdei torah vs. other needs (interesting – why wouldn’t we follow priorities in Horiyot unless “true” talmid chacham [which many argue doesn’t exist today?])

    http://download.yutorah.org/2011/1109/762092/Ten%20Minute%20Halacha%20-%20Techeiles:%20A%20Response%20to%20Rabbi%20Reisman.MP3
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/762092/Rabbi_Aryeh_Lebowitz/Ten_Minute_Halacha_-_Techeiles:_A_Response_to_Rabbi_Reisman
    Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha - Techeiles: A Response to Rabbi Reisman
    R’Lebowitz responds to R’Reisman based on Dr. Baruch Sterman (of Efiat, formerly of Passaic Park when it was a small M.O. community). He gives refutations on each point [me – if I know who Pliny the elder was, everyone should!] but the bottom line is – do you really need 100% proof? what’s the loss? [me – a possible Torah mitzvah for less than the cost differential for Chalav Yisrael/Shmurah matzah for all pesach!?]

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  22. I like this line from the Tekhelet site:

    "The tekhelet molecule (indigotin) gets its color from a strong absorption peak centered at 613 nanometers!"

    That's pretty cool, but I suppose I would've even more impressed if the peak was centered at 613 nano-amot.

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  23. "I figured that if Samson used the jawbone of an ass to kill a thousand Philistines, then the jawbone of a sea-turtle might also come in useful."

    Hilarious! Kol Hakavod.

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  24. I don't know if R' Natan means to cover this point in a later post, but I am concerned about the process used by the Ptil Techelet people to make the dye and by the color produced. Unless there has been a change in more recent years, they allow the smelly snail extract to dry in the sun before placing it in a dye bath. I believe that this degrades some of the dye giving it a yellow tinge (aqua). Pliny, as I recall, mentioned keeping the animal in brine until ready for dyeing. In any case the color produced should be virtually the same as that produced by indigo, as per the concern of the sages about confusing the two products. By the way the two aren't identical due to the different minor constituents of the two natural products. Nor is the peak absorption wavelength of any significance, other than color.

    As to the Radziner "techelet" that is simply the classical Prussian Blue dye that results when the black cuttlefish extract is strongly heated in an iron pot. The organic material of the cuttlefish is totally degraded in the process to form the inorganic Ferric ferrocyanide, which is an intense blue color. They have both an incorrect aquatic species (a cephalopod rather than a gastropod) and an incorrect process. The same dye could be produced in their process from any organic material that contained nitrogen (ox blood was once the common organic source).

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  25. My problem with the cuttlefish techelet is that when I bought some and left it in my tallis bag for 6 months, the blue color got over everything... the techelet in the gemorah says it doesn't fade or leak like that.

    Either I was sold fake cuddlefish, or its not a very good dye.

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  26. Y.Aharon- in regards to Pliny saying the animal should be kept in brine,i think that is referring to live snails which must be kept in seawater (or some equivalent)to stay alive for any extended period of time(more than 48 hrs approximately).They must be kept alive,otherwise the ink begins to spoil(it sort of starts to ooze out & dissolve)as mentioned by chazal(shab.75a).
    As far as the yellow/aqua tinge,are you referring to a theoretical issue,or your observations regarding the actual finished product(the tzitzit) ? If the former,isn't the only criteria that should concern us halachically,if it is identical in color to Kalah Ilan/(identified as)Indigo? [which i am given to believe the tzitzit is-correct me if i'm mistaken].

    In regard to what Ameteur mentioned above( http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=210753 ),about Zvi Koren's recent discovery; while i haven't gone through his study in depth,it seems that he is trying to prove his case with a single piece of fabric,which,in fact,we have absolutely no reason to believe comes from anything to do with tzitzit !,and in fact seems to go against what the Gemara mentions(that it has to be (identical to)Indigo/Klah Ilan).[his color,according to the best of my knowledge has more purple.]
    Koren,most likely,is interested more in a new take on a Masada find,than the in depth study of the exact source of tcheilet (no fault involved in that). [a point shared with me by scholars in both fields].

    By the way,-no,i don't work for P'til. (though i actually just returned from a weeklong excursion to Italy,researching the market there(& the poss.of wholesale purchase),for the Murex Trunculus.

    Natan-I have snails for you,though it sounds like you don't need them anymore.

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  27. "That's pretty cool, but I suppose I would've even more impressed if the peak was centered at 613 nano-amot."

    Want to see something cooler? Check out the techelet gamatria I found in my younger years:

    http://www.sumseq.com/Techelet_Gematria.pdf

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  28. Lots to respond to. But first, Happy Birthday! My own 36th is in a couple of weeks.

    David K: What you quote makes no sense. Many, many non-kosher animals have hooves. Horses have hooves. Are you suggesting that a "chazir" is a horse? And your argument is illogical: The Torah says that the shafan and arnevet *don't* have "mafris parsa." Finally, "mafris" pretty clearly indicates "split."

    voixjuive: What do you mean? The murex tekhelet *is* mass marketed. You can get it in stores all over.

    Isaac: I don't think the Radziner is "more popular." It's basically worn by Radziner and Breslover Chassidim. The murex type is much more widely distributed. As for its status, it's been pretty discredited for a century by now. And "cheaper" means nothing here- quite the opposite, in fact, halakhically.

    yitznewton: Until I read your post, I had no idea Singer was a Radziner. I *did* know that he was trying to push Radzin tekhelet without actually saying it. This extra lack of disclosure merely makes it worse.

    Miriam: Unless R' Slifkin changed it, the Amazon list shows the newest edition.

    ameteur: Actually, the name "murex" is the old name. It's now "hexaplex trunculus"...OK, not much better.

    ameteur again: How do we know that sample is tzitzit? It is a piece of cloth. And why would they change the color? The color always varies based on various conditions.

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  29. ",in fact,we have absolutely no reason to believe comes from anything to do with tzitzit !,and in fact seems to go against what the Gemara mentions(that it has to be (identical to)Indigo/Klah Ilan).[his color,according to the best of my knowledge has more purple.]"

    Two points.

    1. I have a hard time believing that someone can look at that fabric and find any reason for it other than tzizit. Why else would you have a hole in the corner with thread coming down from it?

    2. I was under the impression that indigo can be made to look like many colors, as can any base of a natural dye. (do a google images search for indigo dye http://www.google.com/search?q=indigo+dye&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1475&bih=777 )

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  30. Hmm, I also am wondering what could be the obstacle preventing you from wearing techeleth....

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  31. @Amateur: You were definitely sold real cuttlefish. That stuff does in fact wash out and will rub off on things (you get what you pay for). Cuttlefish is not the same as the Murex dye which does not wash out or fade even under intense conditions.

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    Replies
    1. I have had techelet on my talit for over 25 years. It has been washed many times and bleached with different wool bleaches. It still is strong and did not fade.

      Delete
  32. Regarding R’Reisman I suspect he is coming from the ideological view that prevents him from analyzing the matter with any objectivity. Fitting considering R' Slifkin's recent posts on bias, but I believe that there is literally no proof in the world sufficient for convincing such people. They have already determined their position and nothing will budge them. Even if you found a grave with perfectly preserved tzitzis and techeiles, they would not even change how they tie their tzitzis.

    The whole question of using archaeological evidence is explored more fully in The Role of Archaeology in Halachic Decision Making

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  33. 1. "With the chilazon, those who oppose its identification as Murex trunculus are not proposing a more viable candidate."

    For the murex fans any other candidate can't be viable. For others, there is no reason to ignore Rav Herzogs candidate (Janthina janthina).

    2. "The second factor involved in my conclusion is that it appears that those objecting to the Murex trunculus argue that it does not match the criteria for the chilazon as explained by various Rishonim."

    So how do YOU understand the criteria listed in the Beraisa (Tosefta, also in gemara Menachos)? Simple reading clearly points to periodicity, sea color or that is looks like a fish.

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  34. They certainly look like the sea-bed. I was surprised at how un-mollusc like they looked.

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  35. From Nachum:
    $David K: What you quote makes no sense. Many, many non-kosher animals have hooves. Horses have hooves. Are you suggesting that a "chazir" is a horse? And your argument is illogical: The Torah says that the shafan and arnevet *don't* have "mafris parsa." Finally, "mafris" pretty clearly indicates "split."$

    Nachum, please see the Rashbom on Perek 11 Possuk 3. He very clearly is learning that mafris parsa means hooved. So when the Torah says that the shafan and arnevet "don't have mafris parsa", all it means is that the shafan and arnevet are not hooved. Which even if you argue that they are the hare and the hyrax, these animals are not hooved. The root PRS can mean split, but it can also mean "cover". See Haksav Vhakabala.

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  36. Can some of the six commenters who checked "kefira" please explain why this is kefira?

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  37. "That's pretty cool, but I suppose I would've even more impressed if the peak was centered at 613 nano-amot."

    One meter is according to some opinions about equal to ten tefachim.

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  38. I also am convinced that murex is the source of techelit, but I also were only all-white tzitzit.

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  39. SF2K01

    >Regarding R’Reisman I suspect he is coming from the ideological view that prevents him from analyzing the matter with any objectivity.

    I might have thought that myself, but two things give me pause.

    1. He says that it was he felt there was a 50% chance it is techeles than he would have to wear it, and even if there was a 10% chance. As far as I can tell this attitude is not the perspective of the ideological view he allegedly has. (Yeshivish American, is what I assume you mean.)

    2. He made it clear at the beginning that for those who think that the proponents of techeles are driven by some sort of political identification (i.e., RZ, although he does not specify this) that he rejects this, and that he believes that they are yarei shamayim and talmidei chachomim.

    Now I know that these two factors do not necessarily add up to an absolute rejection of what you said, but it seems to me that at least on this one he can't be typecast so easily.

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  40. Ameteur, I don't know what you're talking about. You can't think of why a piece of cloth would have a hole in it? Lots of my clothes have holes in them for various reasons that have nothing to do with tzitzit. I don't even really see the hole you're talking about- on the top of the picture? It barely looks like a hole. And note that the dye is, of course, on the cloth. There are no fringes there at all.

    And of course the shade can vary. That's my point: There's no reason for there to be any change- there *can't* be a change.

    Shimon: Janthina can't be the chilazon for the obvious reason that it doesn't produce blue dye. The words in the Gemara have been explained over and over.

    He Who Might Know: OK, so, neither the rabbit nor the hyrax have hooves at all. So what's the problem, then?

    The camel does, though. But a gamal is certainly a camel.

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  41. voixjuive: What do you mean? The murex tekhelet *is* mass marketed. You can get it in stores all over.
    ====
    The cost would be lower per set if there were greater demand for the tcheilet tzitzit(economies of scale etc.)


    Nu Charlie - why?

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  42. Nachum said:

    $He Who Might Know: OK, so, neither the rabbit nor the hyrax have hooves at all. So what's the problem, then?

    The camel does, though. But a gamal is certainly a camel.&


    The Torah refers to pawed animals as Holaych Al Kapav. Not as non-mafris parso. See verse 27.

    It is illogical to say that the hare or hyrax are shafan and/or arnevet since they don't chew the cud.

    The camel does not have a "true" hoof. This is how one can explain (as does the site owner in the book) how the Torah can say that the gamal is not a mafris parso (according to rashbom).

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  43. Nachum, I think you are arguing for the sake of arguing.

    look at this full image. My first thought when reading hte article is, "how do they know its tzizit", but when I saw the image, I felt there was no doubt.

    http://jewi.sh/zr44

    As for the change.. I was refering to this quote from the NYT article:

    "Baruch Sterman, a P’til Tekhelet founder, said that new scientific findings were unlikely to change the tradition his group had reintroduced: using the sky-blue color for ritual tassels."

    And then a second quote in the article:

    "“Tradition is not so interested in science,” Mr. Sherlow said. “There is a type of denial of science and new information.”"

    But its possible the NYT was misrepresenting them.

    You can see that others read the article the same way here: http://jewi.sh/zr45

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  44. "Janthina can't be the chilazon for the obvious reason that it doesn't produce blue dye.

    Unlike Murex, Janthina DOES naturally produce blue (bluish) dye (Murex dye is originality clear). It is not stable and need mordants - "samanim". Just as it says in Menachos.

    "The words in the Gemara have been explained over and over."

    Repeating the same far-fetched "explanations" does not make them any more true. It's not a magical mantra. Ditto for all the historical "proofs" presented: Massada techeles, techeles coin etc.

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  45. Charlie Hall:

    "Can some of the six commenters who checked "kefira" please explain why this is kefira?"

    I didn't click on kefira but many people understand the buttons to mean "like" and "dislike". Maybe they didn't like the dead turtle...

    "I also am convinced that murex is the source of techelit, but I also were only all-white tzitzit."

    Wow. Why?

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  46. S,

    Regarding point 1, it's not really proof of anything because even staunch anti-techeiles people say they would wear it if they thought we had the real thing. The point in saying this is so you know they don't reject the idea of techeiles, not that they're open minded. Rather, for them, there is no level of proof that could cause them to believe that what we have is the real thing. As a last resort they can always say it's simply not in our mesorah, or it's hidden until moshiach comes. He resorts to the idea that people faked archaeological evidence to fool us. Once you've gone there, you know exactly where he stands if you had any question.

    Point 2 is a distraction from the overall issue by grasping at straws to blame for the reasons that it might look legitimate with the point of defending his practice. If he could analyze the qualification of the Murex itself, the political affiliation would not matter unless you have already disprove it and are accusing people of being misleading. He believes he has some strong questions, but didn't bother to take into account other explanations of his questions before assuming he has already determined the correct answer.

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  47. I know Prof. Mendel Singer, even played ball with him on occasion. His license plate says CUTLFSH, or something cute like that. A neat guy. Good articles in the RJJ journals. But wrong on techeilis.

    R.Reisman is also a neat guy, if I can say it, and, obviously, a serious TC. His opposition to the murex *is* colored by an ideology, but not the foolish ideology that reflexively rejects every movement that originates from a different hashkafa than your own. Rather, it's the assumption that every statement of every tanna/amora/rishon must be right, and further, that all their statements are harmonious. A Toisfos approach, basically. Thus, eg, a pronouncement about dinei shabbos must align with someone else's drush about the chilazon. Because there is so much material here to work with, it is inevitable that one can show a source or two at odds with the murex ID.

    One can use that approach to find flaws with the entirety of Jewish practice, from the way you put on your tallis to the way you bake your matzas, one can always cite sources. The only difference is that these customs are older than the current generation, while the murex thing is new. So give it time. 50 years hence the majority of tzitis-wearers will have it.

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  48. Whichever Techeleth one should wear, it would seem to me, that if one is of the custom of kissing his Tzitzith, would have to refrain from doing so with the Techeleth.

    Techeleth is the blood of a none- kosher animal and it can come off in one's mouth when kissing it.
    o

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  49. Just wanted to comment on your statement that "Murex trunculus is indeed the chilazon of old":

    It is my deepest belief that no unclean creature can be even remotely considered to have been used to make a blue (or any other) dye.

    You wouldn't try to make a dye out of a pig, whould you?

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  50. SF2K01

    >Regarding point 1, it's not really proof of anything because even staunch anti-techeiles people say they would wear it if they thought we had the real thing. The point in saying this is so you know they don't reject the idea of techeiles, not that they're open minded. Rather, for them, there is no level of proof that could cause them to believe that what we have is the real thing. As a last resort they can always say it's simply not in our mesorah, or it's hidden until moshiach comes.

    Briskers don't say that they would wear it. Besides, he is saying if he was 50% - or even 10% sure - then he would wear it. That also means that he rejects the idea that we would not wear it because it's not in our mesorah, or that it's hidden until moshiach comes. So how do you group him with those people?

    >Point 2 is a distraction from the overall issue by grasping at straws to blame for the reasons that it might look legitimate with the point of defending his practice.

    I'm just trying to point out that he took pains to disassociate himself from the kind of thinking that presumably most yeshivish people have, which is that it is not an issue for real examination because "We don't and they do." He specifically dismissed such thinking.

    I'll tell you one thing which I was unimpressed with - he says that he looked up Aristotle, but he had no way of looking up Pliny. I can think of several ways of looking up Pliny, and given the seriousness of the issue he should not think that there's no way for him to look it up. But no one's perfect. I think my two points at least cast doubt on what you said, which is that no other conclusion for him was possible from the very beginning. IIRC he mentioned some who secretly wear it. Wasn't that a possible position for him? I'm not saying that he'd definitely have the guts to conclude it should be worn, do so publicly, and teach this, but even these are a far cry from what you said about him.

    I would also modify what I said slightly to agree with DF. I was struck by his idea that techeles has to conform totally to Shas Bavli. I understand why he'd think that, but that's a mistake.

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  51. "Janthina DOES naturally produce blue (bluish) dye (Murex dye is originality clear). It is not stable and need mordants "

    So Shimon, why hasn't anyone produced it? If they did, would you wear that one? How do you brush off the find at masada (although it doesn't look like tzitzitz to me, it shows they used the murex for dyes in teh Jewish commmunity)

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  52. I agree with the identification of the Murex Trunculus snail as the most likely source of techelet. My only problem is with the process and the color that I have noted in the past in some P'til Techelet tzitzit. I don't believe that aqua is an acceptable techelet color given that it is obviously different than the indigo color. It is possible, however, that they now produce a deeper blue coloration.

    As I noted, the cuttlefish is definitely not an acceptable source of a techelet dye, nor is the Radziner process. The gemara at one point speaks of hilzonot appearing in the ground after a rain. That could refer to land snails, but hardly cuttlefish. Instead of the Prussian blue from cuttlefish, you might as well use synthetic Prussian blue dye - if you insist on colored tzitzit.

    The Janthina snail produces a blue dye, but it is not as colorfast as the Murex dye. The use of mordants is typical for vat dyeing, and is, I believe, also used for the Murex dye. The only favorable point on the behalf of janthina is the fact that it is a deep water snail that is only driven ashore on rare storms. That is more consistent with an aggadic statement that the hilazon comes ashore once in 70 years. Some, however, take this aggadic statement as mere speculation to justify its cost. There was, apparently, never an industry based on the Janthina dye.

    I don't have a clear recollection of Pliny's account of Murex dyeing. My impression, however, is that Pliny referred to keeping either the shell-less snail in brine or the liquid extract - rather than the intact snail.

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  53. Isaac and Alexandr Sigalov, the Murex dye is completely colorfast. It won't come off on your lips or in the wash. There is also no issue in having a product which is treif used for mitzvah purposes. Our sifrei torah, tefilin and mezuzah parshiot are typically not made of hide from animals that have been shechted. Those animals are treif (neveilot, actually). The hilazon of the talmud was a sea creature with a shell. There is no such kosher species. Furthermore, the crimson dye used in the tabernacle (mishkan), temple, and among the clothing of the high priest is called in the torah, tolaat shani, i.e., the crimson worm. It is hardly a kosher species. The tachash of the tabernacle is most likely the Dugong, a sea mammal - again not a kosher animal.

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  54. Y. Aharon said...
    The tachash of the tabernacle is most likely the Dugong, a sea mammal - again not a kosher animal.

    Uhhh.... Do you even pay attention to the Blog Master's writings?
    The tachash were most likely GIRAFFE skins. Kosher, but as you say nevela.

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  55. Phil writes:
    That's pretty cool, but I suppose I would've even more impressed if the peak was centered at 613 nano-amot.

    But it's still 3.047x10^-9 furlongs.

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  56. Y. Aharon, there's the ever-popular cop out. "Well, back in the day dugongs were kosher," just like "Back in the day little girls reached menarche at three, but that changed at some unspecified time."

    Never underestimate the power of rationalization when someone has assumed his conclusions and is required to reject all contrary evidence.

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  57. Reuven Meir:

    "why hasn't anyone produced it?"

    Dr Shaul Kaplan claims in few articles that he is able to dye wool with janthina extract. My many attempts to contact him were so far unsuccessful.

    I also try to obtain Janthina from the best aquaristic stores in the US. Without success.

    "How do you brush off the find at masada."

    I found Prof. Korens discovery to be the most important contribution to the techeles debate in years. I'm eagerly waiting for his full article about this.

    There were previously two important claims against the murex:

    1. There is zero evidence that the murex was used for blue/bluish dying in the ancient world. Maybe they even didn't know how to dye blue with it (and therefore Chazal didn't warn us against fake techeles from this source).

    2. Since there is no chemical difference between murex and indigo dye (so it was claimed by some), how would the test in gemara work.

    The last discovery makes both these points moot.

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  58. S.,

    R'Y Reismans approach is not such a surprise. He is a Rosh Yeshiva at Torah Vadaath. The senior R"Y is Rav Yisroel Belsky, who wears techeles betzanua (but everybody knows).

    Some other charedim include:

    R' Zalman Nechemia Goldberg
    R' Saraya Deblitzky
    R' Amram Ofman, BaDaTz E"Ch
    R' Berel Wein
    R' Avraham Twersky

    And others.

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  59. Uhhh.... Do you even pay attention to the Blog Master's writings?
    The tachash were most likely GIRAFFE skins.


    You're behind the times. I retracted the claim about giraffes a long time ago. See Sacred Monsters.

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  60. What I don't understand is that if hilozon is Murex trunculus why the practice of making tcheles stopped. Wasn't this snail always around?

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  61. To all the Janthina fans: i believe that anyone who goes through Rav Herzog's work thoroughly,& is familiar with the current research on the murex(trunculus),will realize that there's no doubt that if R'Herzog was around today,he would be the first to say that the
    Chilazon is the murex.[just read what he says in his article, -how the arrows are all pointing at the murex,& only because it's purple,plus the Gemara's simanim-{see next paragraph},that's why he's investigating into another possibility-[which nothing ever came of].

    As far as the Gemara's description; Here is a possible reading of the Ba'raita (menachos 44a) [which,BTW, isn't the way P'til learns it,however,most of the serious Talmudists (who are also familiar with the facts about the murex) i spoke to,also learned it this way]

    ת"ר חילזון זו -this snail,(the girsa of חילזון זהו isn't grammatically possible to be correct), גופו דומה לים -it's body/covering is similar to the sea,-i.e. it blends in to it's surroundings (which,when in water it does -it's usually a greenish/purplish tinge), ברייתו דומה לדג -it's creation is similar to a fish, -i.e. it's born & lives in the sea like a fish, -i.e. a sea snail, (unlike Rashi's translation-ברייתו- it's shape), ועולה אחד לשבעים שנה,(the girsa in מסכת ציצית is שבע שנים), -& it rises/comes out (of the sea) once in seventy years.

    note: when Chazal say the expression of once in seventy years [see maccos 7a] it could mean: never,very rarely,or literally;once in seven/ty years. Now,there is no reason why we should assume that Chazal are referring to some mystical/supernatural phenomena (which,as of yet,is unknown), of a sea snail coming out of the ocean once in seventy years.Instead,we can use the simple meaning (i.e. poshut pshat) that the snail comes out of the sea very rarely.

    According to this,the end of the Baraita reads as a conclusion to the whole Baraita, [as opposed to Rashi's pshat] -לפיכך דמיו יקרין, -therefore it's cost is expensive. -meaning,that since (1)it lives in the ocean,and (2)blends in (not that easy to fish),& (3)rarely comes out,that's why it's quite expensive.



    -Y.Aharon;i don't know where/when you noticed an aqua(or anything remotely alike)colored pair of tzitzit,but i have yet to see a pair that isn't basically indigo.
    As for Pliny,i checked it up,& you are right about the brine/salting -here's a link[pages 39-40] http://books.google.com/books?id=8WbtW1fY9koC (i cant find the orginal translation right now),i dont think we know exactly what the process he refers to accomplishes[or how to do it precisely,either].



    Ameteur- there was absolutely no claim [according to the best of my knowledge],by Koren or any other scholars in the field,that the shape[or the hole] of the fabric had anything to do with it's origin as tzitzit.Besides the fact that it's an ancient PIECE of fabric & is just a remnant of a larger cloth/garment.
    As far as the shade varying;if there is no proof that this cloth was from tzitzit at all,then why would we want to match a shade which is not pure Indigo [which at least Chazal specifically said it is identical to],to be some other shade(meaning purplish in this case)which happens to consist of mostly indigo as the base.

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  62. For anyone interested in what's got to be the nuttiest tcheiles proponent ever,check out this guy's argument....
    that tcheiles,argaman,& lavan,... are the colors of the American Flag !!

    [Don't ask what else it symbolizes!]

    http://nabiy4america.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/the-colors-worn-and-adorned-by-the-harlot-of-revelation/

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  63. The link to Pliny that i posted earlier only has snippets,anyway,here is the original [Pliny translated to english].
    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137%3Abook%3D9%3Achapter%3D60

    [wasn't the easiest to find,either!]

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  64. Aleksandr:
    "It is my deepest belief that no unclean creature can be even remotely considered to have been used to make a blue (or any other) dye."
    The Tiferes Yisroel in the beginning of Moed asks that question.

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  65. E.Braun, I'm pleased to learn that the P'til Techelet dye color is not aqua. I read, however, that a number of colors are produced depending on the purity of the murex extract and its concentration in the dyebath. Presumably, the length of exposure of the dyestuff in reduced form to the effect of the sun's UV rays is also involved since that changes the absorbed dye from purple (6,6' dibromoindigo) to blue (indigo). It would seem that more research is needed on the precise dyeing process of antiquity in order to establish a more definitive coloration. Moreover, the use of the trunculus snail rather than the brandaris one may also be an issue since both produce the tyrian purple (6,6' dibromoindigo) when can then be converted to the deep blue indigo by solar rays.

    I certainly do not mean to 'invalidate' the P'til snail, process, and product. I only raise some questions with regard to the details in the hopes of engendering an optimized process and color.

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  66. 19 of Tammuz is the
    Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog (1889-1959), Chief Rabbi of Ireland and later the Chief Rabbi of Israel during the years of Israeli independence. His father was the Chief Rabbi of Paris, and his son, Chaim Herzog, was later president of Israel.

    His doctoral dissertation claimed that the Murex snail is the source for Techelet, the long-lost blue dye used for making tzitzit.

    After World War II, Herzog went on a rescue mission to redeem Jewish children from the churches and monasteries where they had been hidden during the war.

    Rabbi Herzog authored a book of talmudic discourses, Divrei Yitzhak.
    Aish.com

    "Y. Aharon said... Isaac and Alexandr Sigalov, the Murex dye is completely colorfast. It won't come off on your lips or in the wash."

    I wear the Radzin Techeleth, and I can testify to the fact that it's blood dose come off even when handling it, let alone kissing it.

    I for one, would not want to kiss something that is even dyed with blood from a kosher animal.

    Kissing the Tzitzith is only a custom, and I am sure it began with the non-Techeleth Tzitzith. From where is its origin? I do not know. But what I can say is.
    "The Torah states that you should look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord."
    It dose not say, you shall make love to it.
    o

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  67. Isaac, the extract from either the Murex snails or the cuttlefish isn't the creature's blood. Rather, it is a secretion produced by the animal when under stress or when hunting (Murex). The liquid is treif since it comes from a treif creature. However, the sepia extract from a cuttlefish is completely transformed into an inorganic dye in the Radziner process. It may have some toxicity, but it is no longer treif. The P'til techelet dye is not problematic since it is colorfast and won't come off on lips.

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  68. Thank you Y.Aharon.
    But, colorfast or not, or treif or not. If it comes from non-kosher, and there is no need to kiss it. Then better not to kiss it.
    Rather, we should look upon it, as stated in the Torah.
    o

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  69. The post was interesting and the comments very informative.
    I have reviewed the literature, and have visited Ptil Tchelet, and last year started to wear Tchelet.

    Coming from a charedi Yeshiva background, my belief is that once the charedi crowd will find a way to monopolize and monetize the mitzva of Techilit we will then find a whole heartfelt commitment to Techelet, including 3 hechsherim for the various techelet being sold.

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