Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why People Don't Wear Techeles

In light of all the evidence in favor of identifying Murex trunculus as the source of techeles, why do so many Jews (including myself) not wear it?

There are those who claim that there are substantial objections to identifying Murex trunculus as the source of techeles. As I noted in the previous post, these almost always turns out to stem from an anti-rationalist viewpoint. For example, it may indeed be true that the Murex trunculus does not match various descriptions given by certain Rishonim, but that is only relevant if one make the anti-rationalist assumption that the Rishonim knew exactly what it was. And claiming that the real chilazon is some unknown or lost creature that nobody has ever discovered, and that the archeological remains of Murex factories and blue Murex-dyed fabric is a red herring, is not consistent with a rationalist outlook.

But even from the perspective of those who consider such objections valid, they are not the underlying reason why these people do not wear techeles. Even if there were no such objections, these people would still not wear techeles. In the comments to the previous post, one person offered the following explanation of why various groups of people do not wear techeles:
* Haredi rabbis: We don't deviate from the previous generation's mesorah, even if they call left "right" and right "left".

* Haredi layfolk: Because my rav doesn't wear it.

* Modern rabbis: We probably should, but it's not my mission.

* Modern layfolk: Eh, not interested. Plus, the people who wear it tend to be, er... "eccentric" types.
An elaboration of the reason why Haredim do not wear techeles was offered by someone else:
Charedim don't care about techeles because they are particular about halachos that are part of their mesorah. If the techeles was discovered through research it is not a part of their mesorah, and they won't deal with it. It is perfectly consistent with their approach to halacha/mesorah. It is similar to the Chazon Ish's statements on newly discovered texts. It's all interesting academically but he would not use a newly discovered text to overturn centuries of halacha.
This is all essentially correct, and it's similar to what I once heard from a prominent rav in the charedi community. It's also consistent with the patterns that I described in my monographs on The Novelty of Orthodoxy and The Making Of Haredim. Orthodox Judaism, as per its academic definition, came about as a reaction to the challenges posed by modern society. In order for Judaism to survive against the drastic changes that were taking place, it became extremely conservative. Immense resistance developed to change, if that change was perceived as coming out from external sources. Haredi society took this approach to even greater extremes.

I strongly disagree with the person who posted a comment claiming that such reasons are "100% definitely heresy" and based on "sinat chinam." Once you open the door to changing the practice of Judaism based on external sources and academic research, you have opened a Pandora's box. I'm not saying that there is never a place for this - each case must be weighed up separately. But it is certainly understandable that there are those who would rather sacrifice a mitzvah than place the entire edifice of Orthodox Judaism as risk.

There is much merit to this approach. Ironically, it is very similar to the approach of none other than Rav Herzog regarding Chazal and science. Rav Herzog acknowledged that Chazal granted permission to kill lice on Shabbos based on a mistaken belief in spontaneous generation. However, he maintained that it is still permissible, due to the authority of the Gemara. It is similar to the celebrated case of tannur shel Achnai, which teaches us that adhering to the protocols of halachah is more important than the "objective" truth about the halachah. Behind all this is a concept that religion requires authority and stability. (I elaborate on all this at much greater length in my book Sacred Monsters.) The ramifications of this are that in an age when there is so much threat from change, we have to be very cautious with any change.

It's true that wearing techeles is a mitzvah. But Jews have not worn techeles for many centuries. Reintroducing techeles is a significant change - and it comes from people who are (a) academics rather than rabbis, and (b) not from the charedi world. For many Orthodox Jews, and especially for chareidi Jews, techeles is therefore an innovation that comes from outside sources.

In case there is any confusion, I am certainly not saying that nobody should wear techeles. All I am saying is that the charedi opposition to wearing techeles is very understandable, in light of their worldview regarding Judaism.

What about me? My own reasons for not wearing techeles are not too different from those of the charedi community. Aside from my work with Biblical and Talmudic zoology, my public role is of saving rationalist Judaism from extinction. While for many people, rationalist Judaism is a spiritual life-saver, it is certainly destabilizing for many others. And while there is a crucial difference between theology and practice, it is often very difficult to get that point across. When I stress that the Sages based some of their rulings on a mistaken belief in spontaneous generation, there are inevitably going to be some people who see that as calling for a change in halachic practice, no matter how strongly I stress my allegiance to the approach of Rav Herzog and Rav Glasner. Furthermore, some of my work spills over into the realm of practice, such as my essay regarding kezayis. And so I think that I personally have to be extremely cautious regarding changes in practice. (See too my post on Seder Historical Realities Versus Seder Traditions.)

To put it in other words: I already rock the boat quite a lot. It is quite likely that at some point wearing techeles will become mainstream, and then I'll be glad to join the crowd. But in the meanwhile, I think that it is wise for me to be as conservative as possible in the area of practice. I must also add that I have not yet been able to research this topic as thoroughly as I would like to, and so it is possible that I may change my mind!

(Please note that the delay in blog posts is due to a very heavy workload. For this reason, I will probably not be able to respond to all the comments that this post may provoke. Sorry! Also, while I have your attention, if there are any readers in New Jersey or Long Island who are interested in hosting a parlor meeting in their home on January 22nd, please be in touch. Your help is greatly appreciated!)

149 comments:

  1. See Rav Asher Weiss' teshuva on the subject - http://en.tvunah.org/2013/12/16/tcheiles-from-murex-truncules/.

    I'm not quite sure his arguments fit into any of the categories you mentioned. IIUC he is saying that the identification of the murex does not accommodate the mekoros and so it is not even a safeik. Significantly, though, he explicitly says that he does not object to wearing techeles, but rather feels that this does not qualify as a safeik de'oraysa.

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  2. His arguments are about as anti-rationalist as you can get.

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  3. For many Orthodox Jews, and especially for chareidi Jews, techeles is therefore an innovation that comes from outside sources.
    -------------------------
    Agreed, the interesting point is that a metahalachic concern trumps a possible fulfillment of a mitzvat aseih.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  4. R' Asher Weiss also writes that the archeological evidence from the days of chazal is worthless because, as we know, the same mechanism can produce results millions of years old...

    All in all, though, the number of dying factories that have murex shells in them really doesn't prove anything. We knew before they found a way to make blue murex dye that it was used for royal purple and argamon. There is a an assumption that the demand for murex dyes was tekheiles that I haven't seen justification for. And it is true that the fit to the gemara is not compelling even if you consider it possible or plausible.

    So there are rational arguments against wearing tekheiles that can be made. (Even if I personally wouldn't be swayed by them.)

    But I also wonder if halakhah is supposed to be all that rational. It's a legal process. While those who wear tekheiles argue with those who don't on the role of scientific findings in legislation, it would well be that the halakhos for making halakhah put more emphasis on precedent than on fact. The Oral Torah is oral for a reason; it's supposed to evolve and drift in a particular way.

    I made a similar argument to warn the reasership against assuming your discussion about the size of historical olives necessarily means one should change their opinion of the contemporary kezayis. It requires greater knowledge of halachic process than I have. So there, I wouldn't use 1/1,200 (plus a margin in case the sign rounded numbers) of the length of Chizqiyahu's tunnel as an ammah, although a real olive for a kezayin might well be jusstified given R' Chaim Volozhiner's unwillingness to drop the historical olive from the discussion. I would need a poseiq to tell me the proper authority / reason balance.

    Here, though, it's not in contradiction to accepted pesaq, where halachic authority might trump reason, it's in the absence of halachic precedent. There is no halachic authority issue to be overcome, no reason to ignore what appears rational to me.

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  5. A few points:

    -Perhaps it's your neighborhood, but certainly in some communities (especially in Israel), wearing tekhelet has gotten very "mainstream" indeed. I daven in beit knesset in central Yerushalayim heavily populated by older, conservative folk, and you see a lot of tekhelet.

    -Rabbis have not called for the introduction of tekhelet? Surely you mean *haredi* rabbis. Lots of prominent rabbanim wear it. R' Schachter ain't chopped liver.

    -If anything, the tanur shel achinai proves the opposite of your point: There was about the strongest "mesorah" you could imagine, and still the reasoning of the chachamim won out.

    -I think all this is very different from the usual cases you describe, as, despite charedi evasions, wearing tekhelet *is* a d'orayta. If anything, the people who *don't* wear it have some 'splainin to do.

    -And to be frank, I think you're overestimating, or at least misstating, your influence at the end. The haters will hate you, and those who bother listening to you will do so in a rational manner, even if they're not rationalists.

    When the time comes, I'll be glad to tie your tekhelet.

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  6. I asked a Bresolver chosid why they wear techeles and he told me that shortly after the Radziner Rebbe discovered the cuttle fish, either Rav Nachman or Rav Nosson (I can't remember which one) appeared to one of the leaders of Breslov in a dream. So, they are not making a rational decision to wear techeles and obviously they don't use Hexaplex (that's the modern name)Trunculus.

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  7. (i) What I said was sinat hinam is not wearing tekehlet because it is associated with Religious Zionism/Modern Orthodoxy. I can attest from personal experience that this is the no. 1 objection ordinary Haredim have. If this is not sinat hinam, frankly, I don't know what is.

    (ii) What I said was heresy is the belief that a particular mitzvah has been abolished, either because of mystical reasons or because of some general hashkafic opinion you have. If these are not heresy then I would ask what is actually wrong with Sabbateanism or Reform Judaism. In as much as Haredi opposition to wearing tekehlet has any sort of intellectual component, it is based on these two considerations. It therefore follows that their mindless, fanatical conservatism, which provides the emotional component of their opposition, as you rightly say, has led them into heresy. This is a not insignificant fact.

    The rest of the post confirmed my general discomfort about the fetishisitic insistence on what is an what isn't "rationalist". Ignoring a mitzvah in the Torah because it challenges your world view, whether it is anti-rationalist, is wrong. Basing your life on a medieval Spanish forgery with substantial pagan influences, whether or not it is anti-rationalist, is wrong. Clinging mindlessly to eastern European practices that contradict our Torah, whether or not it is anti-rationalist, is wrong. Not learning Torah on the 5th of January because you think it 'goes to the sitra acher', whether or not it is rationalist, is wrong. etc. etc. What matters is not how rational we are, but whether we, to the best of our abilities, keep the Torah G-d has given us.

    Further than that, I really don't see how wearing tekhelet places "the entire edifice of Orthodox Judaism as risk." What, it seems to me, places Orthodox Judaism at risk is our manifest lack of interest in fulfilling divine commands, even when we read about them every day. Contemporary orthodox Judaism is like a paranoid neurotic who sets 300 alarms clocks to remind him of an appointment he has the next day and, then, when it goes off, forgets what he was supposed to do.

    Finally,

    Micha Berger. The point of the archaeological evidence is it demonstrates that (i) Hazal knew about the MT and (ii) they knew it is used to produce a blue dye. Both points are unarguable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y63TCyKe2cY

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  8. Nachum:
    Tanur shel Achnai wasn't a mesorah: it was proof from supernatural occurrence. A mesorah is the practice which was previously practiced - we do not know if there was previously a minhag one way or the other.

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  9. Gavriel M said...
    (i) What I said was sinat hinam is not wearing tekehlet because it is associated with Religious Zionism/Modern Orthodoxy. I can attest from personal experience that this is the no. 1 objection ordinary Haredim have. If this is not sinat hinam, frankly, I don't know what is.


    But it's not because they hate Religious Zionists/ Modern Orthodox. (Which they may well do, but that is not relevant to this.) It's because these are outside the charedi community.

    What I said was heresy is the belief that a particular mitzvah has been abolished, either because of mystical reasons or because of some general hashkafic opinion you have.

    And what if the "hashkafic" reason is Eis La'asos L'Hashem Heferu Torasecha? You might consider it wrong, but how can it be "heresy"?

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  10. Another point, which you ignore, is that by not wearing tekehlet, you are not merely not performing a mitzvah, you are (assuming you wear tzitzit) doing an aveirah. As the Gemara, the Rif and the Rambam make clear, it is only when you do not have access to tekhelet that it is permitted to wear just white, otherwise you are wearing a garment hayav in tzitzit, with invalid tzitzit. On Shabbat, it's possibly even worse - (this, though, is a complicated issue).

    As I pointed out in the last thread, these sort of arguments are not arguments not to wear tekehelet, but not to wear tzitzit at all. If someone asks, you could just say you tuck them in like the Ari, or that it's too hot. Or you could cut off one the corners and wear a normal pair. None of this is exactly pious, but it is certainly much better than wearing a four cornered garment with only white.

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  11. "But it's not because they hate Religious Zionists/ Modern Orthodox. (Which they may well do, but that is not relevant to this.) It's because these are outside the charedi community."

    That is what "sinat hinam" means: sectarian factionalism, even at the cost of a mitzvah.

    "And what if the "hashkafic" reason is Eis La'asos L'Hashem Heferu Torasecha? You might consider it wrong, but how can it be "heresy""

    First, do you now endorse the idea that Haredi Rabbis form some sort of virtual Sanhedrin? Secondly, if you stretch that principle this far, it would justify just about any heterodox movement, and certainly Reform Judaism. Thirdly, the hashkafik principle at play is specifically that we must always follow our mesorah no matter what. It's fine to have all sorts of hashkafic principles (all people are equal, women should have equal rights, the purpose of the Torah is to make us happy etc.) but once you allow them to overturn mitzvot in the Torah, then you've embraced minut

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  12. I would actually read the tanur [shel] achnai story as advocating halachic process as being legally binding RATHER THAN proof. An argument against assuming that halakhah bows to reason in all cases. Although it may in some, in other cases majority is more binding than physical proofs. We are allowed to, and at times supposed to, allow halakhah to detach itself from empiricism.

    I would also argue that the need to have one track the other requires mysticism. In rational worldviews, the function of halakhah is psychilogical. So, it should track how people think, and how our culture evolves. If you're a mystic, and think it changes the metaphysics thereby having impact on the physical world, then I could see arguing that halakhah must resemble how the world actually is.

    Gavriel M: I wasn't arguing against murex dyed strings. (Mine are tied according to the Baal haTanya's understanding of the Rambam, Radziner tying.) I was arguing against trivially dismissing the opposition. They have a real argument that needs addressing, even though it can indeed be addressed.

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  13. I don't believe the irony that I am reading. With all due respect Rav Slifikin, how can you, day in and day out, claim that so many Chazals/ Gemaras are just flat out wrong when, by doing so, you are essentially putting down our Mesorah!

    How can you not wear Techeles (if you know it's the truth) just because you want to "send a message" that we have a stable Mesorah? If you think the Murex is the truth then you should be wearing it. What is the purpose of all of these posts if you're not actually going to change any way of life? And if you do change some things (kezayis, seder,locusts) then what makes this different?
    I know it is not my place but I really hope you can find time to respond to mine and others' comments as this is a very practical discussion

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  14. This idea of chareidim not incorporating non-mesorah ideas might have some merit when looking at the issue in a very scholarly light, but to the average hareidi layman, the reasons he doesn't do it are much more likely to be because of sociological reasons.

    Of course, there's no way to prove this, but I suspect that these intellectual justifications are simply a post-facto rationalization for their behavioral preference to disassociate from the DL/MO crowd.

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  15. I agree that RNS should be very careful about putting on techeles. Can you imagine the confusion of the hundreds of people who come every morning to his minyan just to observe his minhagim? Not to mention the thousands of people who own the multi-volume sets of Minhagei HaGRaN Slifkin.

    A bona fide rationalist wouldn't want to be confused with modern techeles-wearing rabbis (at least b'tznua) such as R'ZN Goldberg, R'S Deblitzky, R'Y Belsky, R'Sh Auerbach or Dayan Offman from Badatz Eida Chareidis.

    But seriously, how many border-line Chareidim will be open to accept evolution or academic reading of the Germara, but only under the condition that the messanger looks and acts like a ferfurmter chnyok? I'm afraid your non-white shirts make you passul in their eyes anyway.

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  16. Micha: Leen Ritmeyer makes a convincing case that he's found the original square Har HaBayit, which was supposedly exactly 500 by 500 amot. Would you take that measure? (It happens to be about 18 inches, so it would cause a revolution.)

    dlz: You're right; in fact, the oven may just have been invented. I was making a perhaps not so strong argument that the case is very different.

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  17. If the question of techeles is asked to a person in a religion, the answer would be to ask many questions, seek knowledge from multiple sources, and follow the truth wherever it takes you, if you are able.
    It the question is asked to a cult, the answer would be to distrust sources from outside 'the club', seek approval from others, don't challenge leaders, and hide any differences that you have with those around you.
    This of course leads to the 'Marrano phenomenon' where some people wear it on tucked in tzitzis, but not on a talis.

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  18. Gavriel- I can make generalizations too: From personal experience, I find that people from the MO community aren't Shomer Torah Umitzvos. And from personal experience I know "ordinary charedim" who aren't Shomer Torah Umitzvos. So perhaps I should conclude that, overall, Orthodox Jews aren't really orthodox.
    Or maybe we just shouldn't be generalizing from personal experience...

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  19. Hi. Very thoughtful essay. But I find your reasons for not wearing techeilet lacking. I wear techelet for a simple reason: it might very well (probably is) the opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah d'oraita. If the murex ends up not being techeilet, I've lost nothing halachically. While the reason you presented about rocking the boat makes sense on a certain level, is that really a strong enough argument to miss a lifetime of possible kiyyum d'oraita? I don't think so, and have trouble understanding why Chareidim, who really do seem truly passionate about these very issues, ignore this incredibly good opportunity. Every day both of us mention Techeilet multiple times. I might very well be wearing it when I say it. You definitely are not. Does that seem rational?
    Keep up the great work.
    Reuven Spolter

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  20. Agreed with Nachum. Unfortunately, one has to qualify everything these days. One cannot say the techeles is not mainstream. In my Midwest community there are two big shuls right next to each other; in one techeles is absolutely common, in the other, just the opposite.

    Having said that, its perfectly understandable why RNS doesn't wear it, for the reasons he said. Having said that, the "approach" of Rabbis Herzog and Glasner is completely illogical. All it does is provide succor and comfort to those who privately feel halacha is made up (or even farther than that)but can't bring themselves to eat a cheeseburger, and need a justification to keep themselves sane.

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  21. Rabbi Slifkin, the reasons that you have given for not wearing techeles would surely only apply to not letting it be publicly known that you wear techeles. Why not just wear it and keep your tzitzit tucked in, and don't tell anyone that you wear it?

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  22. Danny - how do you know that I don't?

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  23. Some (me) have (had) a hesitation related to gaavah concerns. Initially some only wore it for tallit katan tucked in but later, as others began to wear it, wore it outside for tallit gadl.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  24. Rabbi Slifkin: Wouldn't your rationale for not wearing tekheilet also entail that you not eat locusts? If anything, when eating locusts you are not fulfilling any mitzvah, just enjoying a crunchy dish!

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  25. (b) not from the charedi world.

    Wasn't the Radzhiner Rebbe a product of the Chareidi world?

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  26. R Slifkin
    Stop equating R Herzog with R Glasner! All RH says is that Chazal win - he does not say WHY. He could very well hold like Michtav M'Eliyahu or a differsnt explanation.
    R Glasner is a daas yachid that is absolutely incompatible with orthodox judaism when taken to its logical conclusion. R JD Bleich called it Reconstructionist Judaism in a response to one of your letters in Tradition. I agree with DF on this point.

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  27. I would suggest dropping eating grasshoppers and wearing techeiles.

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  28. R'Natan, I must state my disappointment in your answer. You aren't questioning the likelyhood that the P'til Techelet strings are, indeed, the biblically mandated techeilet; only that you don't wish to be 'unnecessarily' controversial. If avoidance of controversy were a goal in life, you could have avoided much difficulty by not publishing or retracting those 3 books or pointing out the numerous erroneous statements in the talmud. I believe you to be a seeker of truth. Then research the topic properly and act accordingly. If you, indeed, wear the P'til Techelet strings privately, then disregard my objection and the following paragraph. I note, however, that you only mentioned the possibilty of private wearing in response to a commentor. It is not the position of your post as I read it.

    While your conservative attitude towards halachic practice has merit, it should not overrule well-researched 'unpopular' practices that have serious legal precedent. The techeilet question has some similarity to the question of shiurim. It is popular or de rigeur in yeshiva circles to use large shiurim that are based on the position of the Noda Biyehuda and Hazon Ish/Brisker Rav. It can be demonstrated, however, that these shiurim are much too large and conflict with descriptions in the talmud. Should one follow what is now conventional in these circles, or take the rational and researched approach? I doubt that you use the doubling of eggs thesis for your shiur of wine for the seder (or that a zayit is 1/2 of an Xtra-large egg). Why, then, avoid a biblical mitzva because of controversy? My own position is different, I have questions about the color produced and don't wish to wear the 'wrong' color even it may not matter in the end.

    The issue of killing lice on shabbat is another matter. The talmud sages do not have the authority to revoke a biblically mandated forbidden act. They merely assumed that such killing wasn't biblically forbidden and therefore permissible in order to alleviate suffering. I have maintained that the reason why lice are different is not the one given by Rav Yosef (asexual reproduction), but that such killing can't be directly derived from the forbidden slaughter of animals or the crushing of the hilazon snail on shabbat.

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  29. Although I don't have the time to enter the debate about techeilet, I went ahead and read the teshuva by Rav Asher Weiss mentioned by the first commentator.

    Suffice to say that it adds nothing of substance to the discussion.

    It would seem that he wrote it unaware of the extensive research and extensive literature on this subject.

    One would hope that someone knowledgeable will respectfully call this to his attention and, as an Ish Emmes, he will recognize this himself.


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  30. My argument isn't a technical problem with using Chizqiyahu's tunnel. If you take the tunnel's 525m (measured by Gitt, 2001) and divide it by 1,150 (the lower bound for rounding to 1,200) you get 45.7cm, less than the traditional Y-mi ammah as recorded by R' Chaim Naeh, 48cm. So the maximum possible bayis rishon ammah is less than every commonly cited opinion.

    Many amos on har habayis were intentionally padded by 1/2 etzba (Pesachim 86a). So we would at best get two estimates using the 500x500 platform. But I trust this identification less than I would the tunnel inscription.

    There is a second data point I like citing: There are also a number of markings on Har haBayis that are even multiples of 43.5+/- .2 cm apart. In a room under the NE corner, a number of markings are multiples of 42.8cm, telling me the 43.5cm is the padded ammah. (Repeatedly recurring distances are likely a unit of measure.) This data would fit the tunnel if the 1,200 ammos in the inscription were rounded down from some 1,225 or so, rather than rounding up from the lower bound, as I did above.

    So, I am convinced that at some point in history, the ammah was less than 43cm, and likely slightly larger than that in Herod's day. And yet I still wouldn't use that lehalakhah. And this is where what I wrote above rests.

    Halakhah is law, not fact. If the minimum measure was once given as "like an olive" it doesn't mean it is supposed to be like an olive today -- neither today's olives, not the olives at the time the phrase "kezayis" were coined. Law could depend on fact, it could depend on majority, it could depend on internal logic, it could depend on moral / religious philosophy (although aggadita really only impacts halakhah as a tie breaker)... The Oral Torah is oral so that drift is built into the system. Just because I found a case of drift doesn't mean the change should be unwound. I need someone who knows the art of pesaq -- and yes it's an art, not an algorithm -- to inform me. Despite my being dubbed "rabbi", I don't have that feel for how the halakhah works.

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  31. Micha:
    The halachic system can tell you how big your matzah must be or who is legally married to whom, but it cannot create another dye-producing sea creature when none other than the Murex family has ever been known to man.

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  32. Again, had there been another "tekheiles" proposed by halakhah, I would say each of us would have to ask our posqim (unless one is a poseiq themselves) whether follow that ruling rather than the murex. Even though I am convinced the data points to the murex as the historical pesaq.

    Yes, Dovid, that would presuppose knowing of another candidate. E.g. according to the Tif'eres Yisrael, any colorfast dye of the right color would qualify as tekheieles. It happened to be that the chilazon was the only known source in Chazal's day, unlike the kaleh ilan which (according to the TY) was the exact same shade, but did slowly fade.

    In reality, I don't have that problem, because the halachic ruling doesn't exist. There is no pesaq in an "I don't know". This is why I go with the kezayis we have been using since before RCNaeh recorded it, and not my reason, but do feel that the empirical argument for tekheiles has the halachic weight to necessitate spending the money.

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  33. The only world where wearing techeiles is controversial is the chareidi world. You are considered an apikores in that world so I am not sure why that should factor in to your decision to wear techeiles.

    Also, wearing blue strings, even if it is radziner techeiles or anything but kla ilan is still being yotzei the mitzva. There is no reason not to wear them except for what others will think.

    This would be a big deal, but as I said before, I am pretty sure that anyone who would "question" you about techeiles would already think you are an apikores.

    I could be wrong. Maybe there are those out there that believe in rationalist Judaism, but somehow buy into the ban on your books that is based on nothing.

    I personally do not understand how a rationalist could use this logic to bypass a mitzva dioraysah. Maybe the logic is that it is only a kiyum? But I assume you wear a wool beg'ged with four corners.

    (Just my two cents that is worth about that)

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  34. To put it more succinctly: Haredim won't wear techelet because they don't wear techelet.

    Is it just me, or does anyone else feel that the Haredi approach to Judaism is: Since that's what we've done, we'll keep doing it, so that it's still being done.

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  35. Jewishly ObservingJanuary 8, 2014 at 6:51 PM

    "R JD Bleich called it Reconstructionist Judaism in a response to one of your letters in Tradition."

    Was that the article where R. Bleich claimed that either Chazal never believed in spontaneous generation, or spontaneous generation actually occurs? He made himself look like an idiot.

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  36. Gavriel M said..
    > I really don't see how wearing tekhelet places "the entire edifice of Orthodox Judaism as risk."

    It puts OJ at risk because it means accepting academic evidence to change practice. Once you start doing that, you open the door to examining the origins of many popular practices. And many of them won’t stand up to scrutiny. For instance, is it okay to rebrand the annual mourning period for the god Tammuz as mourning for the Beis HaMikdash? Avodah zara is yarag v’lo yavar. For the survival of OJ it’s best not to let academic findings affect halacha.

    Micha Berger said...
    > We are allowed to, and at times supposed to, allow halakhah to detach itself from empiricism.

    Yeah, at which point Judaism becomes a game with arbitrary rules you follow to score points.

    > If you're a mystic, and think it changes the metaphysics thereby having impact on the physical world, then I could see arguing that halakhah must resemble how the world actually is.

    Those who claim that the world conforms to halachic rulings would seem to be the quintessential anti-rationalists. But that’s only if you see it as mystical sort of thing where, just as it says Hashem used the Torah as a blueprint for the world, the world continues to conform to the changing “blueprint” of halacha.

    I think it is instead a necessary logical outcome of the premise that Judaism *isn’t* just an arbitrary game. It’s still anti-rationalist, but instead of a mystical statement about the power of the Torah and halacha, it is a (desperate) attempt to keep halacha anchored to the real world.

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  37. I wrote: We are allowed to, and at times supposed to, allow halakhah to detach itself from empiricism.

    G*3 responded: Yeah, at which point Judaism becomes a game with arbitrary rules you follow to score points.

    Legal systems have non-arbitrary rules. Science isn't the only rule system. Grammars, which are a closer parallel to halakhah in that they are also an "art" with room for poetic license and native speakers having a feel that goes beyond the codified rules, also are non-arbitrary.

    I also wrote: If you're a mystic, and think it changes the metaphysics thereby having impact on the physical world, then I could see arguing that halakhah must resemble how the world actually is.

    And G*3's response began: Those who claim that the world conforms to halachic rulings would seem to be the quintessential anti-rationalists....

    Perhaps, but that suggestion wasn't under discussion. The choices were requiring halakhah to track empirical data, as though pesaq were a truth-seaking process rather than a law-defining one. The other was requiring halakhah to make sense against the psychology and culture of the people trying to use it as a tool for becoming holy (in terms of a relationship to G-d, self-refinement, whatever) or as a tool for making human society holier. Halakhah isn't about fixing the empirical objects in this world, so why need it track scientific findings?

    For example, if people's instincts more resemble Aristotle's Physics than the way the world actually operates, which will be more effective at making people better at the core level -- something that matches what we know intellectually, or something that matches our mistaken instincts?

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  38. I think I heard 1 time that R Aurbach (the father, the one that passed away) didn't wear Techellet because if he wore it then his students would as well, and it would be a big financial burden on them.

    Also for those interested can search for this subject on Machonshilo.org. Also video on this in youtube as well.

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  39. And claiming that the real chilazon is some unknown or lost creature that nobody has ever discovered, and that the archeological remains of Murex factories and blue Murex-dyed fabric is a red herring, is not consistent with a rationalist outlook.

    Is believing in an invisible all-powerful God consistent with a "rational outlook"? Just curious. What are the rules of this game?

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  40. I am going to make a prediction:

    In the everlasting search for new chumras, at some point in the near future some charedi faction will "discover" techelet and it will rapidly spread through the charedi world.

    Do not expect any of the recent (and seemingly exhaustive) non-charedi scholarship on this subject to be credited.

    They will start their own "mesorah" on the issue.

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  41. Lastyear,

    I strongly disagree. Charedi Judaism is constantly inventing new things.

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  42. I object to calling physical evidence 'academic' there is much academic about it anymore. We have the fabric and a range of color from the same dye.

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  43. A side point that is little mentioned is the practical issue of how to tie one's tzitzit if one did decides to wear techeles. One will almost certainly have to deviate from the traditional ways of tying (with 5 knots) as they de-emphasize the chuliot (sets of 3 windings) that are essential to techeiles, and once you start looking at the tying methods there is such an abundance of alternatives...

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  44. How about:

    I would love to, but I can't afford to.

    Given the cost of day school education, I suppose I could choose between these expenditures, but techelet doesn't come cheap.

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  45. I buy the inferences from the archaeology about H. trunculus, but there are questions I don't think we can answer.

    What was the range of shades for kosher techelet before the mesorah not only of species but of technical process was broken?

    How can we be sure that modern H. trunculus dyeing methodology reproduces the appropriate shade?

    How much can we dismiss the essentiality of a continuous mesorah?

    I would note that in Baba Metzia we learn that the kinyan of an animal is much easier if the previous owner hands over the reins to us.



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  46. "E-Man said...
    Also, wearing blue strings, even if it is radziner techeiles or anything but kla ilan is still being yotzei the mitzva. There is no reason not to wear them except for what others will think."

    I am confused. who says that anything but kla ilan is still being yotza the mitzvah. the Radziners point was that even if he is wrong you do not lose by using it and if he is correct then you have the kiyum

    The issue is more than Tzitziz, Techeles is a needed part of bigdei kehuna, which is needed to do Avoda in the Bais Hamikdash. To use the wrong dye by Bigdei kehuna would invalidate the service. Being that there is ANY doubt that this might NOT be the correct dye, to institute it without Mesora and claim that we who don't wear it is because of some of the claims that some people have made here (sinas chinam, it comes from "Them" and so on)is absurd. We don't wear it as there is no Mesora!

    DaBear

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  47. In the everlasting search for new chumras, at some point in the near future some charedi faction will "discover" techelet and it will rapidly spread through the charedi world.

    An alternate scenario is that someone in the charedi world figures out how to make money off techeles. Just like what happened with the Internet rally, which was apparently arranged by someone selling internet filtering.

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  48. As to the precise shade, I gather that with the three molecules present in Murex a range of blue shades can be produced, all of which are kosher. Perhaps one day we'll get an epicurean in among all those rationalists and he'll get them to produce something a little more vibrant than the current ptil tekhelet hue.

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  49. DovBear, I already mentioned the Tif'eres Yisrael's opinion that the chilazon was merely the only source of a colorfast blue dye of the right shade available to chazal.

    Contrary to E-Man, though, this is not the commonly accepted opinion. Thus the whole hut for the chilazon. Besides, qaleh ilan has been identified as indigo as far back as the geonim, and blue dye made from the indigo plant is colorfast. So his assumption that Chazal didn't know of another colorfast dye of the right shade, that qaleh ilan was problematic because it eventually fades, doesn't fit the data.

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  50. Dabear said
    "I am confused. who says that anything but kla ilan is still being yotza the mitzvah. the Radziners point was that even if he is wrong you do not lose by using it and if he is correct then you have the kiyum "

    The shulchan orech. The color of the tzitzit strings don't matter. You are yotzei if you wear green strings. My point was that radziner "techeiles" are clearly wrong.

    "The issue is more than Tzitziz, Techeles is a needed part of bigdei kehuna, which is needed to do Avoda in the Bais Hamikdash. To use the wrong dye by Bigdei kehuna would invalidate the service. Being that there is ANY doubt that this might NOT be the correct dye, to institute it without Mesora and claim that we who don't wear it is because of some of the claims that some people have made here (sinas chinam, it comes from "Them" and so on)is absurd. We don't wear it as there is no Mesora!"

    Dabear, I think you need to read my Rebbe's article because you are not understanding the argument. http://www.tekhelet.com/pdf/tw01.pdf

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  51. To 1.5:
    If you are serious about cost being the only issue, techeiles can be bought it in EY for about $45 per set and you could have someone mail it to you.

    To Jonathan Cohen: The halachic kiyum has has no relevance to how one ties it -- ANY of the traditional methods is 100% fine, as far as the halacha is concerned.

    To those who wondered about the correct shade: Also irrelevant, as far as the halacha is concerned.

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  52. Agreed totally with BSD above. Soon or late, someone in the Charedi world with connections will realize the money to be made off techeles. All it will take is some minor inconsequential detail to be changed from Ptil, so they can claim a difference, and a big enough rabbi in that world to be paid enough for his endorsement, and the industry will be set up in no time. It's not if it will happen, it's when.

    Micha Berger - where does the Tiferes Yisrael say that (that any colorfast dye will due, they just only knew of the chilazon.) I wonder why we could not apply that logig to (eg) the esrog, that they only knew of that fruit to be a pri etz haddar, but really any fruit would do.

    G*3 - any specific academic article you're referring to, re the tammuz mourning? I know its refrenced in yeschezkel, but the specifc suggestion that the temple mourning period was designed to replace the Tammuz god mourning period. Sounds doubtful.

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  53. Techeles is a needed part of bigdei kehuna, which is needed to do Avoda in the Bais Hamikdash.

    ...

    I think that tiferet yisroel says any blue is good for bigdi kehunah (although THE techeles is needed for tzizis. ) proof from the rambam missing out the ingredients in bigdi kehunah but not in tzitzis.

    although this is probably a minority opinion and the mishnah lemelech disagrees.

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  54. "my public role is of saving rationalist Judaism from extinction."

    You mean rationalist Orthodox Judaism (and not really, v"y). Rationalist Judaism would be something more like Reconstructionist. What you're doing is trying to be as rational as possible while still being Orthodox, and choosing the latter over the former when it comes down it.

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  55. Natan Slifkin said... "Danny - how do you know that I don't?"

    Because you said that you don't in the very first sentence.

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  56. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Wearing techeles is not fully mainstream, but it has penetrated the mainstream, and there are charedi rabbis (like Rav Belsky and others) who wear it.

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  57. Micha, what do you see as the purpose of halacha? Legal systems have to reflect reality. Halacha doesn’t. So, for instance, chometz isn’t really about fermenting yeast, but about an arbitrary definition that supposedly has something to do with yeast but in reality doesn’t – because yeast doesn’t actually start fermenting when the magic number of eighteen minutes is reached. So what’s the point, other than playing by the (arbitrary) rules in order to rack up points with God?

    DF said...
    > any specific academic article you're referring to, re the tammuz mourning? I know its refrenced in yeschezkel, but the specifc suggestion that the temple mourning period was designed to replace the Tammuz god mourning period. Sounds doubtful.

    No specific article, but there was a three-week mourning period at the end of the summer for Tamuz. We observe a three-week morning period at the end of the summer in the month of Tamuz. That’s quite a coincidence.

    I doubt it was a deliberate replacement of one with the other. More likely the traditional observance of the mourning period continued as it always had, and the reason for it changed slowly over time.

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  58. Why would the rabbis have been worried about substitution of tekhelet by the indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria) and not worried about substitution with woad (Isatis tinctoria)? The Jews of the Mishnaic period definitely had woad; it produces the same dye as the indigo plant; why would the indigo plant be kala ilan and not woad? I have an answer, but I'd like to hear if anyone has a better one first.

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  59. Rabbi Slifkin, the reasons that you have given for not wearing techeles would surely only apply to not letting it be publicly known that you wear techeles. Why not just wear it and keep your tzitzit tucked in, and don't tell anyone that you wear it?

    zach said...
    Natan Slifkin said... "Danny - how do you know that I don't?"

    Because you said that you don't in the very first sentence.


    Maybe he's wearing it under the first sentence?

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  60. Rabbi Slifkin: Wouldn't your rationale for not wearing tekheilet also entail that you not eat locusts? If anything, when eating locusts you are not fulfilling any mitzvah, just enjoying a crunchy dish!

    Lawrence Kaplan


    This is an interesting question.

    I don't think that the cases were comparable, because there is in fact a mesorah on locusts, unlike with techeles where we are trying to restore a lost mesorah. Also, I think that the "locust feast" did serve an important function to preserve the locust mesorah and others, and one could argue that it was important that a large number of people knowledgeable of zoology and Judaism participate by eating, in order "put their money where their mouths are":

    "Writing scholarly articles about such traditions is not enough, Zivotofsky said: “If you do a dinner where the foods are eaten publicly and with rabbis in attendance, then it gives them more weight.”"

    http://forward.com/articles/129694/at-kosher-feast-fried-locusts-for-dessert/#ixzz2prdQqF5I

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  61. SQ said...
    "my public role is of saving rationalist Judaism from extinction."

    You mean rationalist Orthodox Judaism (and not really, v"y). Rationalist Judaism would be something more like Reconstructionist. What you're doing is trying to be as rational as possible while still being Orthodox, and choosing the latter over the former when it comes down it.


    Rationalist Judaism is a term of art. As in "legacy of the rationalist medieval Torah scholars".

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  62. (i) What I said was sinat hinam is not wearing tekehlet because it is associated with Religious Zionism/Modern Orthodoxy. I can attest from personal experience that this is the no. 1 objection ordinary Haredim have. If this is not sinat hinam, frankly, I don't know what is.

    How about calling your Orthodox ideological opponents heretics?

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  63. I think there is something that a lot of people are missing. I believe RNS is saying that since halachikally speaking it may not be a chiyuv to wear tcheiles, there is no reason for him to de-ligitimize himself even more in the eyes of the establishment for it. OJ (as much as it sometimes feels like it) is not a fundamentalist approach to the bible (i.e. no literal eye for an eye). Therefore, common practice is decided by halacha which has rules. If the rules dictate that without a mesorah for something it is not applicable or not allowed (locusts are different as some do have a mesorah although not all)then it would be a hard argument to assume that techeilet is necessary. (I personally think that the most logical approach is to assume that anything can be used as long as the color is correct i.e tiferes yisroel and that Chazal just used what they could find - but I still don't wear it, mostly just laziness)If its not neccesary, then it is a cost/benifit decision. So, as a writer, teacher, father, zookeeper or w/e he decided that there is more benifit to him not to, for practical reasons.

    All he ever said is that he takes a rational approach to Judaism not that he is a tzadik who will stop at nothing to fulfill any possible kiyum of any mitzvah.

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  64. -I think all this is very different from the usual cases you describe, as, despite charedi evasions, wearing tekhelet *is* a d'orayta. If anything, the people who *don't* wear it have some 'splainin to do.

    Are there any prominent poskim favoring techeles who endorse this view (that non-wearers will have to answer for their "sin of ommission")?

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  65. Having said that, its perfectly understandable why RNS doesn't wear it, for the reasons he said. Having said that, the "approach" of Rabbis Herzog and Glasner is completely illogical. All it does is provide succor and comfort to those who privately feel halacha is made up (or even farther than that)but can't bring themselves to eat a cheeseburger, and need a justification to keep themselves sane.

    You are applying the method of scientific reasoning where legal reasoning is appropriate. It is logical to follow the majority? Of course it isn't, if you are trying to reach a scientific truth. As Einstein is quoted as saying in response to "100 authors against Einstein", "If I were wrong, one would have been enough".

    In the legal arena, and not just in Jewish law, adherence to precedent and procedure is important. So the approach is not illogical.

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  66. Another point, which you ignore, is that by not wearing tekehlet, you are not merely not performing a mitzvah, you are (assuming you wear tzitzit) doing an aveirah. As the Gemara, the Rif and the Rambam make clear, it is only when you do not have access to tekhelet that it is permitted to wear just white, otherwise you are wearing a garment hayav in tzitzit, with invalid tzitzit. On Shabbat, it's possibly even worse - (this, though, is a complicated issue).

    As I pointed out in the last thread, these sort of arguments are not arguments not to wear tekehelet, but not to wear tzitzit at all. If someone asks, you could just say you tuck them in like the Ari, or that it's too hot. Or you could cut off one the corners and wear a normal pair. None of this is exactly pious, but it is certainly much better than wearing a four cornered garment with only white.


    Same question as above. Any prominent pro-Techeles poskim who endorse this view practically?

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  67. Yehudah wrote: "Wearing techeles is not fully mainstream, but it has penetrated the mainstream, and there are charedi rabbis (like Rav Belsky and others) who wear it."

    R. Belsky is the only chareidi I've heard of. Who are "the others"?

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  68. Wearing techelet has already mainstreamed. A very large percentage of frum Jews can be seen wearing it. One of the dati leumi Torah giants, Rav Herschel Schachter wears it, Rav Yisrael Belsky, one of the haredi Torah giants in America wears it, and there are pockets in the Israeli haredi world that are beginning to wear it. This isn't radical anymore. In the early 90s it was indeed on the fringes :) I would say that davening nusach eretz yisrael in accordance with the Talmud Yerushalmi as Rabbi David Bar-Hayim advocates is currently fringe but as with techelet he has proven to be an accurate indicator of future trends. (he has advocated wearing techelet for many years-see his video on the topic:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orsZJX0UlWU

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  69. G*3, in all fairness, some bad things actually happened to the Jewish people at the beginning and end of the Three Weeks.

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  70. Rav Hershel Shachter holds you can't where tzitzis without techeles.

    Shmulie

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  71. Fun to get quoted in the post - thanks. :-)

    I thought I'd share YET ANOTHER reason why some people (myself included) don't wear techelet:

    * Because it's part of a "let's get back to our Biblical roots" mentality, and I don't really want to go there!

    Yes, there are things like 7-day niddah, 1-day Rosh Hashanah, eating kitniyot (and probably a few other things) which are more "authentic" in the Biblical sense and would make life EASIER. Those things I'd welcome, because a Jewish observance which is more pleasant is only a good thing, IMO.

    But... If what eventually comes with that is the rest of the Biblical "package" (which we now associate with Messianic times) - sacrifices, punishments for transgressing mitzvot, monarchy, theocracy, all the crazy politics that will no doubt accompany the Temple and Kehuna (and you thought the Kotel was a political hot potato!), and don't forget that Biblical niddah also implies a full restoration of the laws of tumah and taharah, requiring immersion in the mikveh after sexual relations, much laundering of clothes, much MORE separation required for a niddah, etc. - I for one would MUCH RATHER do without the kitniyot, deal with the extra-long niddah, etc.

    And yes, even though I "like" techelet and in theory would be happy to wear it - as long as it's associated with a "Ra ra, go Bible!" attitude, as long as it's associated with a "Let's return to the 'authentic' Torah" attitude, I can do without it, thanks.

    As far as I'm concerned, Judaism has *evolved* since Biblical times. And I'm not looking to go back.

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  72. David Ohsie said...
    Another point, which you ignore, is that by not wearing tekehlet, you are not merely not performing a mitzvah, you are (assuming you wear tzitzit) doing an aveirah. As the Gemara, the Rif and the Rambam make clear, it is only when you do not have access to tekhelet that it is permitted to wear just white, otherwise you are wearing a garment hayav in tzitzit, with invalid tzitzit. On Shabbat, it's possibly even worse - (this, though, is a complicated issue).

    As I pointed out in the last thread, these sort of arguments are not arguments not to wear tekehelet, but not to wear tzitzit at all. If someone asks, you could just say you tuck them in like the Ari, or that it's too hot. Or you could cut off one the corners and wear a normal pair. None of this is exactly pious, but it is certainly much better than wearing a four cornered garment with only white.

    Same question as above. Any prominent pro-Techeles poskim who endorse this view practically?

    Yes.
    Rav Shmuel Ariel published an article in Techumin V.21 on the topic.
    the article (in hebrew) can be retrieved here:
    http://upload.kipa.co.il/media-upload/otniel/1463784.DOC

    Two short quotes from the summary:

    זיהוי התכלת בימינו הוא קרוב לודאי, וחזר אפוא הדין שהטלת התכלת בציצית היא חובה, ואסור ללבוש ציצית של לבן בלבד.

    גם אם הזיהוי מסופק, יש לחוש שמא בלבישת לבן בלבד מבטלים עשה של תכלת. בלבישת לבן בלבד יש משום הכרעה, בעוד שבלבישת תכלת יוצא ידי חובתו בוודאי, שכן גם על צד הספק "לא יהא אלא לבן".


    גם לדעת הסוברים שלא יצאנו מידי ספק בראיות לזהויה של התכלת, עדיין נראה, שהספק שמא בלבישת ציצית של לבן אנו מבטלים את מצות התכלת, גובר על מידת החסידות להכניס עצמנו בחיוב הציצית ע"י לבישת ארבע כנפות. הסובר שזהו ספק, צריך לחוש גם לצד השני של הספק, ולהימנע מלבישת בגד שיש בו ציצית של לבן בלבד.22

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  73. Anonymous said...
    Rav Hershel Shachter holds you can't where tzitzis without techeles.

    Shmulie


    Can you give a reference for that? I've heard him say that if you actively refuse to use Techeles when available, that it might be Bal Tigra based on one interpretation. I did not hear him say that this applies today in a practical way. I'm not denying that he said it; I'd just like to hear the reference.

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  74. (i) What I said was sinat hinam is not wearing tekehlet because it is associated with Religious Zionism/Modern Orthodoxy. I can attest from personal experience that this is the no. 1 objection ordinary Haredim have. If this is not sinat hinam, frankly, I don't know what is.


    How about calling your Orthodox ideological opponents heretics?

    I apologize for this comment; it did not come out as I intended. I did not mean to say is not that you are engaged in Sinas Chinam; I believe that you are a sincere proponent of Techeles.

    What I meant is that a better example of Sinas Chinam is our general tendency (mine included) to chop up Orthodox Jews into subgroups each calling the other illegitimate or "heretics" in some way. And that goes for how we sometimes view non-Orthodox Jews and gentiles as well.

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  75. David Ohsie:

    1) Rav Hershel Shcachter, that is to say the most prominent MO posek in chutz la'aretz, rules that wearing just white violates bal tigra. The Zilbermans demand all parents wear tekhelet as a condition of acceptance. I was surprised to find Dov Lior does not take a similar position, but the teshuvah I found seems to indicate he thinks it is a safek (which it isn't - any more than my conviction that you are not a space lizard is a safek - so his opinion his moot). Both the Ravs whom I ask questions, neither of whom are insignificant figures, hold this way. But what does it really matter? It's what the Gemara says, it's what the Rif says and it's what the Rambam says. Do you consult prominent poskim before deciding whether it's assur to eat pork?

    2) I never called anyone a heretic, I said that arguing that a mitzvah has been revoked because of (i) "kabbala" or (ii) some hashkafic opinion you hold is heresy. If these views are not heresy, I ask, again, what exactly is wrong with Sabbateanism and Reform Judaism? Now, I don't see how pointing out that heretical views are heretical is sinat hinam. This is especially so given that Haredim themselves agree that denying mitzvot is heresy, except when they do it. Conversely, not performing a mitvah because it is associated with an orthodox (or even a non-orthodox) group that is outside your club ('K'lal Yisrael' as Haredim routinely call it) is the very definition of sinat human. That kind of sectarianism is precisely what the Gemara means when it says the temple was destroyed because of sinat hinam.


    G*3
    I would be interested to know what you are alluding to. Is it the Three Weeks? Suffice to say, I don't keep anything not mentioned by Hazal and the Ramabam anyway, which is most of it, so I don't think this would bother me all that much. Unless you mean that even tisha b'av itself has it's origin in this Tammuz mourning. Nevertheless, I would be interested to see an article. I had always thought that it was a specifically Asheknazi thing that probably had something to do with the Byzantine persecutions.

    In general I don't find arguments of the form "If we start keeping this bit of the Torah, then we might have to start keeping other bits as well and who knows where that will lead" terrible persuasive.

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  76. Micha, what do you see as the purpose of halacha? Legal systems have to reflect reality. Halacha doesn’t. So, for instance, chometz isn’t really about fermenting yeast, but about an arbitrary definition that supposedly has something to do with yeast but in reality doesn’t – because yeast doesn’t actually start fermenting when the magic number of eighteen minutes is reached. So what’s the point, other than playing by the (arbitrary) rules in order to rack up points with God?

    We don't eat/owned leavened bread in commemoration of Pesach. This is not a scientific definition, but a symbolic one. So there are some rules of thumb for when something is defined as "leavened" (time is one, but not the only one). Because you have a legal system, you have some rules. If you don't think that there should be a legal system for symbolic practice, then I agree that halacha will not be sensible to you.

    No specific article, but there was a three-week mourning period at the end of the summer for Tamuz. We observe a three-week morning period at the end of the summer in the month of Tamuz. That’s quite a coincidence.

    Isn't the 3 week mourning period a later innovation? I didn't think that it was mentioned in the Talmud which has one week or less in Av (not Tammuz). I may be ignorant here (as in many other places).

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  77. "If the rules dictate that without a mesorah for something it is not applicable or not allowed"

    Unfortunately, there is no Mesorah for this way of thinking.

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  78. David Ohsie: Indeed, Sephardim keep a week or less. The Three Weeks dates to long after people had forgotten Tammuz. In fact, Tanach has the breach at the ninth, not the seventeenth, of Tammuz, so that's a month, not three weeks.

    Also, it's not the end of the summer by far.

    There's no doubt that Jews mourned Tammuz (see Yechezkel; see also the story of Yiftach's daughter, which may indeed be a "kashering"), but this is probably not that.

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  79. “Even if there were no such objections, these people would still not wear techeles… it is certainly understandable that there are those who would rather sacrifice a mitzvah than place the entire edifice of Orthodox Judaism as risk.”

    The reasoning in this post is 1) falsely attributed to the chareidim 2) highly unconvincing (as has been pointed out in other comments). Firstly no chareidi would agree that techeiles puts the entire edifice of Judaism at risk – this is absurd. Chareidim might not trust (and usually unfairly) the research of academics or might give stronger weight to the simanim found in chazal but I don’t think any would agree with the above statement – and for good reason! I think most, if not all, would say that if they knew this was the techeiles of course they would wear it – just in their eyes, or as far as they know from those in whom they place their trust, this has not been proven.

    Which brings me to the so-called ‘irrational’ teshuva of R Asher Weiss. He makes a few points in the 2 teshuvos re the techeiles:

    1) The identification of the Murex runs counter to most of the simanim and processing mentioned in the rishonim and chazal. Whilst never saying that any one of the simanim is a definitive identity or even necessary, he simply thinks that they are on aggregate reliable and should not be dismissed as arbitrary. However one views the proofs this is definitely a reasonable starting point.

    2) The midrashim say the techeiles has been hidden – again he takes on that chazal didn’t say this arbitrarily (though it is not his main point and not a dogma).

    3) Most importantly, he says absence of evidence of a plausible alternative as an affirmative proof (the best proof of the techeiles) is a tool of archaeology and therefore not relevant to the halachic process which works within the realm of human perception based on direct factors and halachic tradition. This is a pretty rational view of halacha which detaches halacha from the realm of statistical probability and historical likelihood and negates the need to align it with the scientific facts but without disregarding those facts from a historical or scientific point of view. There are many examples of this throughout his writing (from drinking milk to psik reisha to evidence in court to chazaka to bugs to dinei grama to mention but a few). Hence he explicitly says that if direct evidence were found that the Murex was used for the techeiles then he would happily agree. Put simply, even if we believe the historical argument (i.e. no good alternative) it doesn’t create a sofeik on the halachic plane. You can agree or disagree but I think the main point is outside the scope of rational critique - notwithstanding any criticism of his suggestions as to why the techeiles may not have been found which he uses simply to illustrate the point. (I think this should also help contextualise what he said about the age of the universe.)

    As for the comparison to Rav Herzog’s point about the lice and loyalty to tradition etc – the Talmud explicitly permitted killing the lice, it never ruled that one should not wear techeiles – hence R Herzog’s research!!!

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  80. The evidence is overwhelming and compelling. Just take a look at the material on tekhelet.com.

    If indeed the Murex Trunculus is the hilazon, we are fulffilling the mitzvah k'tikunah. If not, no harm done. (It's not comparable to Hazal's admonition against kala ilan, which comes from the plant world).

    It's simply a case of safek d'oraitta l'humrah, which we assume applies even when the safek is left unresolved.

    Rabbi Slifkin, you should be moved by halakha, nothing else.

    In my experience, the resistance to tekhelet by some (mostly the Haredi community) is because for the following:

    1) They associate the rediscovery of tekhelet with the Religious Zionist community - and don't want to be associated with them.

    2) Hadash assur min ha-Torah. "You need a mesorah," per one version of the Beis ha-Levi's objection to tekhelet.

    3) The resistance to accept scientific evidence - even when it impacts on p'sak halakha. (This deserves a study on it's own).

    4) And finally.... Da'as Toireh/ Gedoilim worship. They will claim, "If the gedoilim don't say to wear it, don't wear it." (The modern invention of the halakhic hegemony too deserves it's own study).

    As I write above, the sole motivation to wear tekhelet should be halakha. Not social or political considerations. That is why Haredi poskim like Rav Z.N. Goldberg and the Zilberman's community of the Old City wear tekhelet - they transcend the petty, narrow-minded, politically motivated piskei halakha that reigns supreme today - and have the courage to look at the metziyut and rule accordingly.

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  81. Temujin intends to wear tzitzit in the not too distant future if the Almighty permits, hence his intense interest in this topic. True enough, he frets more about over-heating in the summer, as he reacts to heat with exhaustion and occasionally rashes, and his parnassa often involves heavy, load-bearing activities. Currently he is of the opinion that it makes more sense to wear the fringes out, as they are clearly meant to be a visible sign to others and one's self, rather than a concealed talisman and for him, they would also serve as frequent reminders of what he got himself into.

    On the subject of tekhelet, he has some reservations over the stridency of their advocates, about some of the science and claims. "Once you open the door to changing the practice of Judaism based on external sources and academic research, you have opened a Pandora's box," warns the Rabbi. And has anyone seen Mrs Pandora around lately?

    But above all, Temujin admires Rav Slifkin's well-reasoned and intended approach which Temujin interpts as treating halakhah as God's gift to people, as a glue for the community, and not as a religio-political manifesto, a society for historical recreation or bank drafts of indulgences for one's personal salvation or enlightenment.

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  82. Hence he explicitly says that if direct evidence were found that the Murex was used for the techeiles then he would happily agree.
    ===================
    Can you give an example of what would qualify as direct evidence ?
    KT
    Joel RIch

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  83. 1) Rav Hershel Shcachter, that is to say the most prominent MO posek in chutz la'aretz, rules that wearing just white violates bal tigra.

    I heard that in an audio shiur, but I did not hear it the way that you did as a practical: wearing lavan alone is assur because of Bal Tigra, and better now to put on a Talis/Talis Katan. I heard it as a consideration in deciding whether or not to where Teheles.

    The Zilbermans demand all parents wear tekhelet as a condition of acceptance.

    I'm not doubting you, but I can't verify that. If true, it is unfortunate. Now we have to divide the community on whether or not someone (or someone's parent!) wears Techeles? This is something good?

    I was surprised to find Dov Lior does not take a similar position, but the teshuvah I found seems to indicate he thinks it is a safek (which it isn't - any more than my conviction that you are not a space lizard is a safek - so his opinion his moot). Both the Ravs whom I ask questions, neither of whom are insignificant figures, hold this way.

    Hold what way? That they will walk up to someone is shul and tell them to take off their Talis? Not give them an Aliyah? I'm asking for evidence of Poskim who hold it is Assur to wear Lavan alone which has been asserted here as halacha.

    But what does it really matter? It's what the Gemara says, it's what the Rif says and it's what the Rambam says. Do you consult prominent poskim before deciding whether it's assur to eat pork?

    My point is that there is a difference between, "I think that Techeles should be worn and I wear it" and saying "those that don't wear techeles are arvaryanim (maybe b'shogeg if they don't know better)." Yes that is something for a Posek.

    If there was a tradition in a given community to eat an animal which later was determined to be "pork", then yes, I would want to a posek to say that the tradition is invalid even for those who have the tradition, before I would criticize them. And if poskim were hesitant to clear out say animal X is pork, then I would doubt whether it was assur.

    That kind of sectarianism is precisely what the Gemara means when it says the temple was destroyed because of sinat hinam.

    So the person who simply doesn't were Techeles is engaging in sectarianism, while the person who attacks another person for not wearing Techeles is simply pointing out the truth. OK.

    My view is that a better example of sectarianism would be throwing a kid out of school because his parent doesn't wear Techeles (if such a thing ever happened).

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  84. Same question as above. Any prominent pro-Techeles poskim who endorse this view practically?

    Yes.
    Rav Shmuel Ariel published an article in Techumin V.21 on the topic.
    the article (in hebrew) can be retrieved here:
    http://upload.kipa.co.il/media-upload/otniel/1463784.DOC


    Thank you very much. I only read the summary. Perhaps I have blinders on, but it still sounds like "you really should be wearing techeles, even if you think it is a safek, to be concerned for the possibility that you are mevatel an Asseh" and not "it is assur to wear tzitzis with lavan only as most do and it would be better to avoid putting on a Talis".

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  85. We don't eat/owned leavened bread in commemoration of Pesach. This is not a scientific definition, but a symbolic one. So there are some rules of thumb for when something is defined as "leavened" (time is one, but not the only one). Because you have a legal system, you have some rules. If you don't think that there should be a legal system for symbolic practice, then I agree that halacha will not be sensible to you.

    This is something with which I struggle, and hopefully someone has some thoughts. My question is how to reconcile the idea of the Oral Torah's "oral-ness" as a source of drift with the idea of Halacha requiring the permanent enshrinement of 2,000-year-old science as the determinant of, say, injured animals' viability.

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  86. 1) Rav Hershel Shcachter, that is to say the most prominent MO posek in chutz la'aretz, rules that wearing just white violates bal tigra.

    I heard that in an audio shiur, but I did not hear it the way that you did as a practical: wearing lavan alone is assur because of Bal Tigra, and better now to put on a Talis/Talis Katan. I heard it as a consideration in deciding whether or not to where Teheles.

    Wow, I can't read my own typing for all the typos:

    I heard that in an audio shiur, but I did not hear it the way that you did as a practical: wearing lavan alone is assur because of Bal Tigra, and better not to put on a Talis/Talis Katan (that has lavan only). I heard it as a consideration in deciding whether or not to wear Techeles, not as an outright Issur.

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  87. The Tammuz mourning (according to admittedly very basic google research) does not appear to have been three weeks, only a day or six days at most. I don't see any reference to three weeks, and if one finds one, one would have to investigate that outlier source carefully. In addition, as Nachum and others said, our historical record does show us experiencing troubles in Tammuz. And already Zecharia refers to the fast along the same lines as any other fast. And if the mourning period was just designed to divert the mourning of the god, why then is the focus on Av, not Tammuz?

    I understands the concept of weaning a "bad" by modifying the reason. Like the Moreh on sacrifices. But - and I'd love to see more evidence, if there is - it seems doubtful to apply that to the 3 weeks, just because of the mourning for Tammuz alone. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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  88. Temujin intends to wear tzitzit in the not too distant future if the Almighty permits, hence his intense interest in this topic. True enough, he frets more about over-heating in the summer, as he reacts to heat with exhaustion and occasionally rashes, and his parnassa often involves heavy, load-bearing activities.

    Maybe one of these would suffice: http://www.tamirgoodman.com/sport-string/

    http://www.ahuva.com/jewish-gifts/pc/Sports-T-Shirt-with-Tzitzit-27p9333.htm#.Us7FsfRDu9U

    Also, I think that everyone would agree that a thin cotton garment (which can easily be purchased) would be preferable to nothing, even if not preferable to wool.

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  89. Is there a gemara saying one can or should eschew the mitzvah of tzitzit to " save" (supposedly) the "edifice" of some contrived religious system chazal were not familiar with?
    Doesn't sound like the Rav Hertzog lice example is a valid analogy.

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  90. There is a widespread misunderstanding about the basis for using murex techeiles, that Rabbi Slifkin seems to share. This issue is not about archeological discoveries or science. It’s straight halacha.

    There are three halachik criteria for establishing that a particular dye is techeiles. If these are fulfilled, we are biblically required to use this dye on our tzitzis. Period. (We do not have to prove that this was the same dye used in days of old; we can leave that question to the archeologists and secular scholars…although the case is extremely convincing.)

    The criteria are:

    1. It must be derived from a chilazon

    Rashi, Maharil, Bach, Maharshal, Malbim, Targum Yonason, Ritva and many others translate chilazon as a snail. Morever, the word chilazon also means snail in many mid-eastern languages such as Farsi, Arabic, Assyrian and Syriac.

    2. It must produce a blue color

    Cloth dyed with the murex trunculus and then exposed to sunlight turns a bright sky-blue color that is indistinguishable from indigo (kalai ilan), which is consistent with the Gemara’s description.

    3. The dye must be steadfast and not fade.

    Experiments demonstrate that murex-dyed cloth retains its blue color even after being soaked in bleach for three days.

    Since these three criteria are thus met by the murex trunculus dye, we are halachically required to include murex-dyed strings in our tzitzis, unless we find another species that also meets these criteria.

    With that as background, it becomes clear that Rabbi Slifkin’s comments are misguided:

    1. No one is “changing the practice of Judaism based on external sources and academic research” as RNS suggests. We are simply applying established halacha to the current situation….

    Prior to 1983, cloth dyed with murex snails yielded a purple hue, so no one – not even Rav Yitzchok Herzog – could accept murex-dyed wool as tekhelet, (even though Rav Herzog strongly believed that the Murex snail was, in fact, the historical source of biblical techeilet). However, with the discovery in 1983 that exposure to sunlight during the dying process converted murex-dyed cloth into a sky-blue hue that would not fade, the well-established halacha required that this dye be used for techeiles.


    2. The use of murex techeilet is being endorsed by a growing number of well-respected rabbis and poskim, – not simply academics, as Rabbi Slifkin suggests. Rav Chaim Yisroel Belsky, Rav Hershel Schachter , Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, Rav Shmuel Nadel, Rav Moshe Mordchai Karp, Rav Gershon Bess, Rav Morchai Avrohom Katz, Rav Moshe David Tendler and Rav Amram Oppman, are among the many diverse poskim who endorse the use of Murex techeiles.


    3. The notion that RNS can choose to openly violate a biblical command --rather than taking a principled, rational position -- so that he will be able to “save rationalist Judaism from extinction” is inherently contradictory. Abandoning the pursuit of truth in order to avoid “rocking the boat” is not the kind of approach we have come to expect from Rabbi Slifkin.

    Inasmuch as Rabbi Slifkin inidctaes that he has not yet been able to fully research this topic, I would strongly suggest that he carefully read Rav Meir Hellman’s Levush HeAron” at
    http://www.tekhelet.com/pdf/hellmann.pdf and re-consider his position.

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  91. For.the record, after I bought techelet I was concerned that if I get asked to lead tefillah for maariv and I don't have my own talit, I might be given a talit without techelet.

    My rabbi who wears techelet, assured me that it was not a problem. Even in the Talmud, Jerushelmites are recorded as not wearing techelet, but still wearing tzizit.

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  92. There are three halachik criteria for establishing that a particular dye is techeiles. If these are fulfilled, we are biblically required to use this dye on our tzitzis. Period. (We do not have to prove that this was the same dye used in days of old

    This is an interpretation, but there are others possible, such that we need to have the same snail. Not saying that we don't but the notion that anything that fits your list is good is not airtight.

    2. It must produce a blue color

    Cloth dyed with the murex trunculus and then exposed to sunlight turns a bright sky-blue color that is indistinguishable from indigo (kalai ilan), which is consistent with the Gemara’s description.


    Other scholars believe that the color is different and that they would not have exposed the dye to sunlight. Rambam says that the color is daytime sky-blue, but he never actually saw Techeles.


    1. No one is “changing the practice of Judaism based on external sources and academic research” as RNS suggests. We are simply applying established halacha to the current situation….


    Which results in a change in practice based on academic research.

    he notion that RNS can choose to openly violate a biblical command

    Could it be that people simply disagree with you? Whoever drives slower than me is an idiot and whoever faster, a maniac.

    rather than taking a principled, rational position

    Why isn't caution in changing practice a principled, rational position? Were R. Glasner and R. Herzog not rational?

    Brakes slow you down, but people drive faster when they have working brakes than when they don't.

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  93. David Ohsie:

    Here is a quote from R' Herschel Shachter's sefer Ginas Egoz.

    וע"פ פשוטו הי' נראה לומר דמי שיש בידו האפשרות להטיל תכלת בבגדו ואינו עושה מוטב הי' אילו לא הי' לובש בגד של ארבע כנפות בכלל דבמה שלא מתלבש בד' כנפות הרי איננו מתחייב במצוה זו ואילו הלובשו ואינו מטיל בו תכלת הר"ז עובר בבל תגרע

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  94. To all those who say that Techeiles was hidden away based on the Medrash:

    The Eitz Yosef in his commentary to the Medrash Rabba translates "nignaz" as forgotten. Additionally we find that the Rishonim and Acharonim assume that it can come back. Examples include the Maharil, the Chemdas Shlomo, the Radvaz, the Malbim, the Olas Tamid.

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  95. Thank you for your recommendations, David Ohsie. Great links! Temujin has already been eyeing the pre-washed cotton NeatTzit product, as he is seriously allergic to wool, even with a lined jacket, past a shirt and t-shirt. But the links you sent are better, as the synthetic wick-like material, which promises not to bunch-up under the shirt as well would be great for the extreme summer temperatures and humidity levels of his hometown. One hopes one's beit din, one of the strictest around, will be forgiving when their inspection SWAT team bursts through Temujin's front door at dawn. What was that about "it's better not ask if you don't want to know the answer"?


    Greetings, Mr HarryKlari.

    Leaving aside the halakhic debate, strictly from a marketing perspective and a kiruv approach, the Ptil Tekhelet branding strategies to shame and frighten the children are a flop sliding down the public's inclined plane of indifference towards a certain disaster. Forgive the run-on sentence, but Temujin is fond of graphic imagery. It is somewhat of a no-brainer that a controversial minority view is best promoted with sweet honey, not bitter brimstone, to put it plainly. Speaking for one's self, whereas one was initially curious, then sympathetic, then puzzled, then troubled and then annoyed, one is now becoming teed-off and revolted....it's not the way promotion of ideas and products should work.

    It's best to stay off from too much of the science talk as well, if one may further opine. Temujin is not a scientist, but has quite a bit of background in assessing and presenting specialized technical information and thus, can tell you with certainty that from what he has seen so far, the presentation of the science arguments is not Tekhelet promoters' top skillset either. As things stand, Professor Zvi Koren has essentially mopped the floor with it.

    Jess' sayin'....

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  96. For.the record, after I bought techelet I was concerned that if I get asked to lead tefillah for maariv and I don't have my own talit, I might be given a talit without techelet.

    My rabbi who wears techelet, assured me that it was not a problem. Even in the Talmud, Jerushelmites are recorded as not wearing techelet, but still wearing tzizit.


    You could also "have in mind" that you are borrowing the Talit and not acquiring it on condition to return it (but listen to your Rabbi, not me).

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  97. Here is a quote from R' Herschel Shachter's sefer Ginas Egoz.

    וע"פ פשוטו הי' נראה לומר דמי שיש בידו האפשרות להטיל תכלת בבגדו ואינו עושה מוטב הי' אילו לא הי' לובש בגד של ארבע כנפות בכלל דבמה שלא מתלבש בד' כנפות הרי איננו מתחייב במצוה זו ואילו הלובשו ואינו מטיל בו תכלת הר"ז עובר בבל תגרע


    This sounds similar to my memory of the audio. His language is somewhat theoretical. I can't translate accurately due to lack of context, but it sounds like: "By the straightforward meaning, it appears that...". It also assume that "he has the capability to put Tcheles on clothing, but doesn't" which definitely applied at some time in the past, but at least is the subject of some controversy today. Maybe it's my blinders again, but if he meant it to be completely practical, he could have been clearer and said something like this: "now that techeles has been restored, it is better to not wear a talis than to where one with lavan only to avoid transgressing Bal Tigra". The quote is not quite the same. Although he could simply have been avoiding unnecessary controversy. Which still supports my point of view.

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  98. Rationalist Judaism (or modern orthodoxy) is always going to be somewhat a contradiction in terms. If you are fully rational you would not believe in torah misinai, etc. So it is about being jewish (or orthodox) despite the questions while not ignoring the questions. In the case of techeiles it is about being Jewish (or Orthodox) despite the answers while not ignoring those answers. That is what Rabbi Slifkin is doing (in my opinion)... so he is totally consistent with Modern Orthodoxy and Rationalist Judaism.

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  99. If my memory serves me correctly, the Rav, Rav Soloveitchik is quoted by R' Hershel Schachter as being against wearing Techeles because of lost Mesorah. I guess the Rav didn't hold that it was Ba'al Tigrah.

    I guess also according to Rav Schachter you might be carrying on Shabbos too? I don't know.

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  100. With all due respect to R' Herschel Shachter, what does he think people did in the times of the Tannaim when tekhelet was rare but talleitim were the standard garment? We have no record of them wearing, e.g., three-cornered garments or circular ponchos to evade the requirement of tzitzit. Of course they wore tzitzit without tekhelet, just as people do today.

    As I mentioned before, the fact that people evidently didn't go to great lengths to obtain tekhelet puzzled the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, ZYA. He didn't consider the issue of "the Romans"; I presume he would have expected Chazal to be moser nefesh if that were the case. I can also give a practical argument against this consideration: woad (indigo) was common the time of Chazal, and how could anyone know if tzitzit strings were dyed with woad or tekhelet (presuming that the two are similar)? Even if tekhelet is more purplish, the strings could be woad overdyed with cochineal.

    In any event the idea that "the Romans" prohibited the wearing of tekhelet is ahistorical. It's based on Sanhedrin 12a, which is not primarily about tekhelet but about intercalation; and the soldiers who captured the travellers were Persian, not Roman. The meaning of the passage is that two messengers posing as travellers in tekhelet came from Roman-occupied Palestine to Persian-occupied Babylon, the two empires then being at war. The messengers relayed a coded message about the Nasi having agreed to intercalate a second Adar. If anything, the passage shows that tekhelet was available under Roman rule!

    Anyway, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggests that the use of tekhelet was informally deprecated because of potential problems with shatnez. I should stress that he didn't think it necessarily should have been deprecated, just that in his view that reason best explains the historical evidence. I don't think he expressed his opinion on the use of either the Radziner or Murex candidates.

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  101. It is incredible that this little string and this little creature, and little Rabbi Slifkin, could stoke such a voluminous comment chain, practically a book in itself, with all the halachic and philosophical and sociological tzdadim spoken out, respectfully and intelligently. I wonder if we could consider the advent of this discussion, beyond merely the return of the thing itself, as a sign and a provocation and a nisayon for us on the cusp of the messianic age. In other words, to side with the mystics that this "return" is Gd-sealed, but to understand with the rationalists, that the only thing this makes muchrach is paying attention to and furthering this very discussion, with its unique blend of natural history, social psychology, and halacha that is suspended between mesorah and metziut. You might even say that the prophetic hand was at work in placing the discernment of the techelet thread, and the domestic from the wild wolf, and the face of an acquaintance (not a close friend) as the triggers for the morning zman kriyat shema (at the very beginning of shas)--when the darkness of the galut fades just enough for new vision and new voice to come into being, to proclaim definitively that G-d is one.

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  102. Rabbi Slifkin, you claim that the objections to the dye of the Ptil Tchelet organisation are based on Rishonim and therefore are anti-rational since the Rishonim cannot be presumed to know exactly what the Hilazon was.
    What do you do with the arguments that the dye from Ptil Tchelet does not match the description of Hazal who clearly did know exactly what the Hilazon was and how it was processed?

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  103. eLamdan said, ”Rationalist Judaism (or modern orthodoxy) is always going to be somewhat a contradiction in terms. If you are fully rational you would not believe in torah misinai, etc....”

    Really? If one understands you correctly, Lamdan, a “full rationalist” then, is a full-blown apikoros or a min. Someone with a big, red circled “F” on the standard Hilkhot T’shuva test? Presumably "lesser" rationalists do better. In your opinion, of course. And this conclusion, if one may point out the funny irony, you derived from what can only be an early Modern Era, crude positivistic Age of Reason “hashkafa” on rationalism.

    That’s a bit of a raw deal, no? Even shocking it would be, this false choice, false dilemma business, if it weren't so politely put.

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  104. David Ohsie
    1) What I understood was that it is better to wear no tzitzit than just white because by wearing just white you are over bal tigra and by wearing nothing you are not over anything. This is precisely what I said: it is better not to wear tzitzit than to wear just white (if blue is available).
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/760216/Rabbi_Aryeh_Lebowitz/Menachos_Daf_39_-_Tying_Tzitzis_and_Techeiles
    See the first three minutes of this, where he quotes Rav Schachter It is 100% explicit.

    2) I've heard orally about the Zilbermans and a bit of internet research confirmed this (though, obviously, that's doesn't confirm it per se.). Anyway, I don't understand your objection: the Zlibermans presumably also don't accept students whose parents don't wear tefillin or shake lulav. What's the difference? Just as your definition of heresy is so loose that it excuses both Sabbateanism and Reform Judaism, so your definition of sinat hinam is so narrow that it would include all the nevi'im and all of Hazal.

    3) One of the Rabbis tells this to people who he thinks will follow him (i.e. that it is better not to wear tzitizit than to wear just white), but wouldn't make an issue of it with someone else. The other, I'm pretty sure would not give an aliyah to someone etc. (though a stranger would obviously be an exception, perhaps he actually can't afford it, perhaps he doesn't know etc.). I should ask him next time we speak.

    4) In whatever sense that tekhelet is not meacev on white, white is not meacev on tekehlet. That is, if you hold that you can simply choose to wear just white, you can also choose to simply wear tekhelet (say because you think it looks cool, which is a better reason than I've so far found adduced here).. Would anyone tell someone

    ***
    Joe in Australia:
    1) Roman laws restricting certain dyestuffs to the aristocracy are a matter of historical record. Their existence is certainly not merely inferred from the gemara.
    2) There is not once case of anyone anywhere in Hazalic literature wearing just white. In fact, in the Aramaic material in the Bavli, tzitzit are routinely referred to simply as tekhelet.
    3) It follows that the Rebbe of Lubavitch adduced a completely far-fetched and ungrounded answer to a question that doesn't exist. This was hardly out of character, of course.

    Amateur:
    1) Your Rabbi misinformed you on a simple point of fact. The Gemara does not say that in Yerushalayim they wore only white, it says they did not wear tzitzit at all. (This, btw, would appear to be a further proof, since wearing just white doesn't even seem to have been considered a valid option, even though it would have solved the shatnez problem).

    2) What I was told is that if there is no other tallit in schul, then you fall into the category of someone who doesn't have tekhelet available (at least on Shabbat, or on a weekday if it is far from your house). If you have your own tallit, you should insist on wearing it. Tangentially, the whole minhag of making people wear a tzitzit to be the shatz causes all sorts of problems. The Rosh, for example, is quite clear that you do have to say a bracha on a borrowed tallit and his logic seems cogent.
    I once heard that the source for this minhag is the sefer yetzirah, but I never checked up.

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  105. Gavriel M- you have to make a bracha when using the shul tallis as a shatz because you are temporarily acquiring it as it is to your advantage to do so in order to get the mitzva of tzitzis. This is not the case when techeles is available, so I think having kavana not to acquire it should be both effective and recommended when worn solely during the time of serving as shatz or during an aliya, etc. On Shabbos this isn't necessary as there is no bitul aseh since it is imposssible to tie on techeles.

    (A much bigger problem in my opinion is membership in a shul without working one's hardest to ensure that the shul taleisim all have techeles.)

    Signed,
    ~~~Bavli Recspecting Techeles Wearer

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  106. To clarify my above comment, I would agree that using a shul tallis without techeles to serve as ahtz or for an aliya is a problem if you are a member and therefore do own a chelek of the tallis. I'm not sure about Bal Tigra, but there certainly is a bittul aseh at issue.

    ~~~Bavli Respecting Techeles Wearer

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  107. To clarify my above comment, I think a shul member does have problem wearing a shul tallis without techeles when serving as a shatz or for an aliya, since he owns a chelek of the tallis. I am not sure about bal tigra, but there is definitely a bittul aseh at issue.

    ~~~Bavli Wearing Techeles Wearer.

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  108. By your own standards that you have articulated at great length on this blog, you are not willing to overturn established halacha on the basis of new scientific evidence. By your own standards, you ought to also be eager to align halachic practice with scientific evidence when doing so does not pose a halachic problem. So what do you do when push comes to shove, lemaate maesara tefachim? You stridently adopt the psition that it's necessary to overturn chazal's conception of halacha with respect to hilchos retzicha when it (in your opinion) is based on outdated science, and you advocate adopting the standard of brain death. You break your own rules, because it is so important! Saves lives! But you do try to compensate. You next decide not to wear techeles, even though according to your own standards you ought to, because you don't CHAS VESHOLOM want to confuse people and lead them to think that an exemplar of rationalist thinking like yourself might be the sort of person who would advocate major change in the halachic system on "Rationalistic" Grounds. See! Your nontecheles wearing, plug-pulling self is a true conservative. Judge the book by the cover! For those of us who find you if not outright hypocritical, then certainly incoherent, there is always hope that your chitzoniyus will be mashpia on your pnimiyus!


    BTW your rationale is not the haredi rationale. You're acting like the MO rabbi. "It's not my mission!" "It may interfere with my mission!"

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  109. nDavid Ohsie
    1) What I understood was that it is better to wear no tzitzit than just white because by wearing just white you are over bal tigra and by wearing nothing you are not over anything. This is precisely what I said: it is better not to wear tzitzit than to wear just white (if blue is available).
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/760216/Rabbi_Aryeh_Lebowitz/Menachos_Daf_39_-_Tying_Tzitzis_and_Techeiles
    See the first three minutes of this, where he quotes Rav Schachter It is 100% explicit.


    This is a good reference. He says the same thing at about the 8 minute mark here: http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/746207/Rabbi_Aryeh_Lebowitz/Ten_Minute_Halacha_-_Should_One_Wear_Techeiles

    He says that he asked R. Schachter if he should tell his high-school students not to wear white-only tzitzis and R. Schachter said yes. He went on to say that he didn't do that because he would be fired. The practical result is that the p'sak is not actually out there in the wild, but it does seem that R. Schachter at least holds that it is the right p'sak if someone asked him.

    2) I've heard orally about the Zilbermans and a bit of internet research confirmed this (though, obviously, that's doesn't confirm it per se.). Anyway, I don't understand your objection: the Zlibermans presumably also don't accept students whose parents don't wear tefillin or shake lulav. What's the difference?

    For the same reason that you don't throw a Sephardi out of school for eating Kitnios on Pesach. Because it is not accepted universally in the orthodox community as a requirement. You think that it should be, but it isn't. Of course, you then pasken that a large number of those others are heretics and so shouldn't be counted.

    Just as your definition of heresy is so loose that it excuses both Sabbateanism and Reform Judaism

    I'm not sure where you get this from. Reform Judiasm doesn't claim to be orthodox or to follow Torah M'Sinai. And I don't know too much about Sabbateanism so I won't comment on that :).

    This is not a gotcha and not a criticism, but what you do understand that people with a fairly standard to wide definition of heresy like Zilbermans would make of this statement?

    "Incidentally, as the Yerushalmi makes clear, blowing shofar outside the temple is not a biblical mitzvah and this far better explains the halacha not to blow it on Shabbat than the Bavli's outlandish explanation."

    I think that under your preferred scheme, we would average a single student per school.

    , so your definition of sinat hinam is so narrow that it would include all the nevi'im and all of Hazal.

    Chazal said that Sinas Chinam existed in their time. I'm assuming it existed in the time of the Neviim. But what does that have to do with anything? I think that it is a symptom of Sinas Chinam for us to break up the Orthodox group into "n" sects, each of which considers the other Treif.

    4) In whatever sense that tekhelet is not meacev on white, white is not meacev on tekehlet. That is, if you hold that you can simply choose to wear just white, you can also choose to simply wear tekhelet

    This doesn't follow. You think there is a controversy about whether the white strings are valid? Or what their color ought to be? Or that we lost the mesorah for white?

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  110. Tangentially, the whole minhag of making people wear a tzitzit to be the shatz causes all sorts of problems. The Rosh, for example, is quite clear that you do have to say a bracha on a borrowed tallit and his logic seems cogent.
    I once heard that the source for this minhag is the sefer yetzirah, but I never checked up.


    ויעבור ה' על פניו ויקרא א"ר יוחנן אלמלא מקרא כתוב אי אפשר לאומרו מלמד שנתעטף הקב"ה כשליח צבור והראה לו למשה סדר תפלה אמר לו כל זמן שישראל חוטאין יעשו לפני כסדר הזה ואני מוחל להם

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  111. "As I noted in the previous post, these almost always turns out to stem from an anti-rationalist viewpoint."

    Must you keep insulting many of your supporters? Does maintaining a different methodology of halacha render one anti-rationalist?

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  112. You stridently adopt the psition that it's necessary to overturn chazal's conception of halacha with respect to hilchos retzicha when it (in your opinion) is based on outdated science, and you advocate adopting the standard of brain death. You break your own rules, because it is so important! Saves lives!

    It is well established in Halacha that when it comes to issues of medicine that we don't hold to the same standard of conservatism.

    For example, Rav Moshe Feinstein keeps to the definition of Treifos with respect to animals, even if in our time, they don't line up with reality. But with regard to Treifos of human beings, the halacha follows the current state of medicine. This has implications for Hilchos Retzicha. Do you think that Rav Moshe was "stridently adopt[ing] the position that it's necessary to overturn chazal's conception of halacha".

    Also, with respect to medicine, it is generally accepted that we don't follow the opinions of Chazal unless reverified. The only disagreement has to do with whether or not the differences between what we observe and what Chazal claimed are entirely due to changes in technology and circumstances or whether some may have been also due to an imperfect understanding of medicine in Chazal's time.

    In addition, there was simply no such thing as "brain death" at the time of Chazal, because they did not have artificial respirators. Anyone with "brain death" would have also been dead by all other measures. So this is a new situation requiring a new analysis. It has nothing to do with changing the halacha, but rather, it has to do with applying halacha to this situation. And you can't just be "Machmir" because an overly strict definition of death costs lives just and an overly lenient one does.

    Finally, the controversy over "Brain Death" was not initiated by R. Slifkin, nor is he staking out some radical position. Argue with the people on this page: http://www.hods.org/english/about/rabbisE.asp

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  113. @ 4:18 PM. Good Grief, indeed. Let's polarize the issue because there is an acute shortage of sinat hinam and an apparent increase in demand. How about the obvious, that a complex, case-by-case system of laws, practices and customs with traditionally established wiggle-room for honest differences and with an overall mission requires case-by-case decisions? Rx: Read R'Slifkin's post, digest, repeat as necessary.

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  114. Temujin,

    You seem more well-versed in "early modern" vs. "post modern" philosophy than I am. Are you referring to the fact that in "po-mo" all knowledge is a social construct and there is no real "truth"??? If so then yes... I am not using the term rational in that sense. I am using it to refer to the scientific method, cause and effect, as opposed to mystical, supernatural etc. I believe that is how Rabbi Slifkin uses the term and how most people reading this blog understand it. If that is what rational means then the rational approach presupposes that things should be explained scientifically and naturally and that is fundamentally at odds with the Torah view. How is that radical?

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  115. Also Temujin,

    According to my view a "full rationalist" (how I was defining rationalist) is not a min or apikores. A full rationalist is applying a rationalist philosophy to all subject matter - i.e. that everything can be explained naturally/scientifically. You then draw out all the conclusions based on that philosophy and ask which parts go against the Torah view, compare/contrast etc.

    The full rationalist need not "accept" every rationalist conclusion even if he finds the rationalist philosophy in general appealing. As Rabbi Slifkin does, one can decide in each case whether to apply the "rationalist" conclusion or the "Jewish" conclusion.

    It seems perfectly acceptable to me for example to go with brain death as death due to pikuach nefashot ramifications in this world but to not wear techeilet because there are no ramifications in this world. There is a contradiction, there is no clear-cut solution because the contradiction exists between views that operate on different planes, so you resolve the contradiction by inquiring about the practical ramifications.

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  116. David Ohsie:

    Your differentiation between wearing Tekheilet and eating locusts is well taken Nevertheless, it still seems to me that the reasons R. Slifkin for not wearing Tekheilet ought to entail his not eating locusts. He wrote:


    To put it in other words: I already rock the boat quite a lot. It is quite likely that at some point wearing techeles will become mainstream, and then I'll be glad to join the crowd. But in the meanwhile, I think that it is wise for me to be as conservative as possible in the area of practice.

    Is eating locusts "mainstream?" Then why not be as "conservative as possible in the area of practice" with regard to it?

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  117. Gavriel M wrote: Roman laws restricting certain dyestuffs to the aristocracy are a matter of historical record. Their existence is certainly not merely inferred from the gemara.

    You're refuting a straw man. Yes, there were sumptuary laws regarding the wearing of Tyrian purple (argaman) in Rome, but these were practically moot in the Empire's later years; and they had nothing to do with tekhelet, which everyone agrees was not the color of argaman.

    These sumptuary laws were certainly irrelevant in Palestine in the Mishnaic period: the Mishna actually uses the example of "lashonot shel argaman", tufts of purple wool, as something common enough to be untraceable once it is lost in a marketplace. If argaman was common there can have been no sumptuary prohibition on tekhelet, even if you accept (as I do not) that tekhelet came from the same source as argaman.

    Finally, the Jews in Bavel and the Jews in Ertez Yisroel were in two different empires. What have Roman sumptuary laws got to do with Persian Jews?

    So the question remains: why was tekhelet uncommon? Why did the Amaraim not go to great lengths to obtain it? This, at a time when its purported porphyric predecessor was freely available in the market.

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  118. M gavriel,
    I just went back and double checked. It specifically says that they did not put techelet on linen in Jerusalem because of kala ilan causing shatnez. It does not say that they did not wear tzizit at all.

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  119. Your differentiation between wearing Tekheilet and eating locusts is well taken Nevertheless, it still seems to me that the reasons R. Slifkin for not wearing Tekheilet ought to entail his not eating locusts. He wrote:


    To put it in other words: I already rock the boat quite a lot. It is quite likely that at some point wearing techeles will become mainstream, and then I'll be glad to join the crowd. But in the meanwhile, I think that it is wise for me to be as conservative as possible in the area of practice.

    Is eating locusts "mainstream?" Then why not be as "conservative as possible in the area of practice" with regard to it?


    Professor Kaplan, at the risk of counting angels on pins and/or repeating points, I would say:

    1) Participation in the locust feast has a unique and incremental positive value to the Klal in preserving the Mesorah, given R. Slikin's areas of expertise. Everything in this world is a tradeoff.

    2) The locust feast was not based on "academic or 'rationalist' insights" but the Mesorah. So there is no risk of "see what happens when you go down the academic path (or 'rationalist' path)".

    That said, I can't gainsay your or R. Slifkin's independent judgments on proper practice.

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  120. Finally, the Jews in Bavel and the Jews in Ertez Yisroel were in two different empires. What have Roman sumptuary laws got to do with Persian Jews?

    Please correct my ignorance: wouldn't Techeles have to travel from the Roman Empire on the Mediterranean to the Persian empire via trade?

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  121. eLamdan said, Temujin...You seem more well-versed in "early modern" vs. "post modern" philosophy than I am. Are you referring to the fact that in "po-mo" all knowledge is a social construct and there is no real 'truth'???

    Huh? Who said anything about post-Modern? Why not get worked up against Confucian philosophy, for that matter? You are engaging in faulty inductive logic, if you care for such formalities. The type of rationalism of the early Modern Era is distinct from other forms of rationalism by its default secularism. It is contradistinctive from, let's say, the rationalism in Jewish medieval philosophy of Muslim Spain, Al Andalus, which was decidedly a theistic one.

    To wit, you said, ”...If you are fully rational you would not believe in torah misinai, etc....” This is a grave charge. It implies that "full" rationalism, by your definition, must end up in atheism, or at least in rejection of authentic Judaism. That is a specific, unique assumption in Modern secular, and perhaps even post-Modern understanding of rationalism. One was merely surprised that you hold by such. Perhaps you need to clarify, as your second post doesn't help; it describes a strange kind of philosophical eclecticism or situational ethics you cobbled together, not rationalism. Rav Slifkin has nothing to do with any of that.

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  122. Joe in Australia:

    1. Roman sumptuary laws were enforced in the whole empire, not just Rome. This included Eretz Yisrael.

    2. The prohibition included blatta, oxyblatta, and hyakinthina. "Hyakinthos" means deep blue or purple blue and it is the Greek word used by LXX and Josephus as translation of the Hebrew "tekhelet"

    3. While it is true that these laws were not enforced at times of abundance,they were never abolish and were enforced during some periods (war time etc.) even in the later years.

    4. Can you tell us more about the mollusk dye industry of the Sassanid Persia? Otherwise we can take an educated guess how would the Roman laws and the frequent Roman-Persian wars influence the import of Roman products...

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  123. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  124. David Ohsie: I see no reason to think that tekhelet and argaman weren't traded between those two empires, even when they were at war. But in any event, the dyes were produced outside the Roman Empire as well.

    Shimon S., how do you reconcile your assertion that "Roman sumptuary laws were enforced in the whole empire" with the fact that argaman, which is identified with Tyrian purple, was a regular item of commerce in Mishnaic times?

    The claim that the manufacture of tekhelet was "forgotten" because of Roman sumptuary laws is making a very strong claim: that the laws were enforced in Palestine; that they applied to tekhelet; that Roman enforcement was so strong that nobody dared produce even a handful of threads. Furthermore, it presumes that the Romans would have prohibited tekhelet even though it was visually identical to kala ilan, which was presumably legal!

    So on the one hand we have all these claims that are necessary to the argument. On the other hand we have evidence from the Mishna and elsewhere that people traded in argaman, and we even have some textiles of the period dyed with Murex dye, which presumably would have been illegal under your theory.

    Surely you can see that it just doesn't make sense.

    Can you tell us more about the mollusk dye industry of the Sassanid Persia?

    I don't know much about it, but Muricidae are found in the Persian Gulf, and there's evidence of a Murex dye-works in Oman that was probably around during the Sassanid period. In any event, nobody has produced any evidence to show that trade in Murex-derived colors was prohibited.

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  125. Perhaps "sinat chinam" also derives from approval seeking behavior. This behavior inevitably leads to resentment when the approval fails to materialize. Who cares if Haredi Jews wear techeleth or not? Heterodox and hiloni also do not wear techeleth.

    My suggestion is to celebrate your personal decision without thinking or caring what other individuals or groups are doing.

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  126. Amateur:
    Menahot 40a

    תנו רבנן סדין בציצית ב"ש פוטרין וב"ה מחייבין והלכה כדברי ב"ה א"ר אליעזר ב"ר צדוק והלא כל המטיל תכלת בירושלים אינו אלא מן המתמיהין

    As is clear from the context and
    Rashi, "tekhelet" is being used as a shorthand for tzitzit, as it is frequently in the Gemara.

    I happened to be going over the laws of v'ahavata le'reiachca camocha, so I trying super hard to be nice at the moment, but I will say this. The whole tekhelet episode has been an extraordinarily dispiriting experience for me in many ways. Of these the most important is that, after having spent some time researching this issue, I have, time and time and time again, found serious Rabbonim making pronouncements, which clearly indicate they don't know what they are talking about and can't be bothered to find out.

    To take one example, Rav Weiss, as cited here, cites Hazal as saying that the hilazon is nignaz, but the earliest sources for such a statement are two midrashic compilations (Bamdibar Rabah and Tanhuma) written after the period of Hazal. Given that the Bavli records late Amoraim wearing tekhelet, it is incomprehensible that he could make such an error unless .... well see above.

    By the by, I think the most likely explanation for why Yerushalayimites did not put tzitzit on linen garments is the Gemara's original hava amina, namely that they held like Beit Shammai. Part of the intellectual toolkit of the Hachamim of Bavel was to posit gezeirot to explain halachic data that did not conform to their shitah, but we are not bound always to accept what are essentially just educated guesses.

    David Ohsie: I think some of the issues here deserve a serious treatment and I will respond, hopefully tomorrow, when I have time.

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  127. Joe in Australia:

    1. "how do you reconcile your assertion that "Roman sumptuary laws were enforced in the whole empire" with the fact that argaman, which is identified with Tyrian purple, was a regular item of commerce in Mishnaic times?"

    See point 3 in my answer above.

    2. 'The claim that the manufacture of tekhelet was "forgotten" because of Roman sumptuary laws is making a very strong claim.."

    Who makes such a claim? The main claim is that the manufacture was effected by Roman-Persian wars and later Muslim conquest.

    3. It is fascinating how you lump the Mishanic and Amoraic periods, covering some 500 years and two major empires.

    4. 'I don't know much about it, but Muricidae are found in the Persian Gulf, and there's evidence of a Murex dye-works in Oman that was probably around during the Sassanid period."

    And yet all the authorities agree it was imported from Lebanon. A conspiracy?

    5. "In any event, nobody has produced any evidence to show that trade in Murex-derived colors was prohibited."

    You mean other than all the quoted Roman and Byzantine codices? What other evidence of law can you possibly ask for?

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  128. The whole tekhelet episode has been an extraordinarily dispiriting experience for me in many ways. Of these the most important is that, after having spent some time researching this issue, I have, time and time and time again, found serious Rabbonim making pronouncements, which clearly indicate they don't know what they are talking about and can't be bothered to find out.
    [...]
    To take one example, Rav Weiss, as cited here, cites Hazal as saying that the hilazon is nignaz, but the earliest sources for such a statement are two midrashic compilations (Bamdibar Rabah and Tanhuma) written after the period of Hazal.
    [...]
    Part of the intellectual toolkit of the Hachamim of Bavel was to posit gezeirot to explain halachic data that did not conform to their shitah, but we are not bound always to accept what are essentially just educated guesses.


    Are you honestly disappointed that "serious Rabbanim" don't take the approach that you do towards halacha? This seems either extremely naive or a rhetorical device.

    I think that Yitz Waxman said it right.

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  129. David Ohsie: Perhaps you are right. It still seems to me that that GIVEN R. SLIFKIN'S OWN CRITERIA, the wearing Tekhelet and eating locusts issues have more in common than not. But I would like it hear from R. Slifkin himself about this. If he says it's a tradeoff, as you suggest, I am OK with that.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  130. M Gavriel, your reading of the gemorah makes no sense here. I can't quote every line, as it goes on for some time, but they even ask, why not count the techelet as white. It's a long section and should not be read as simple soundbites.
    You have a direct mishna that says one is not dependant on the other. And you only have one rishon who suggests not wearing tzizit at all.

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  131. Amateur:
    If you think my reading makes no sense, take it up with Rashi, and all the Rishonim who hold that even *today*(i.e. when we only have/had white) we do not put tzitzit on linen garments because of this gezeirah (See SA: OH 9:6 and the MB ad. loc). It doesn't make sense to you, because you are assuming that just wearing white when you have blue available is a valid option, but seeing as the the Gemara has just said in black and white that this is not a valid option according to Rabi or the Hachamim, then there is no reason for you to make such an assumption.

    Only one Rishon says not to wear tzitzit when tekehlet is completely unavailable. Many Rishonim say that you may not wear only white when tekhelet is available and with good reason because, again, that is what the Bavli clearly says.

    In principle I am open to the suggestion that the Bavli may be misinterpreting the Mishnah, which could, in theory, be read, as Rashi's original comment might seem to indicate, that one may choose to wear either only white or only tekhelet when the other option is not available. However, since the Yerushalmi has nothing to say on this issue, I see no pressing argument that we should argue so.

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  132. David Ohsie:

    1) Let's recap, I argued that the argument of R. Slifkin and others for not wearing tekhelet is invalid because they are not merely not performing a mitzvah, but they are actually performing an aveirah by wearing only white when tekhelet is available. This argument I base on halachic sources, which I am happy to cite. However, you wanted proof that serious poskim endorse such a view. You have been provided with three, but then further push the goalposts by arguing that this p'sak is not "out in the wild" because a high school Rebbe didn't tell his class (why an internet shiur available to the whole world is not "out in the wild", I don't know.).

    This indicates the basic difference between us. You are interested in a sociological entity called Orthodox Judaism defined by what Jewish people who identify as orthodox do, I am interested in something called the Torah, which is what G-d told the Jewish people, however they identify, to do. Because of this we are essentially talking past each other.

    2) (I) When I first read this comment, I honestly had no idea what you were talking about, but then I remembered my above observation. It seems obvious to me that tekehlet is in the same category as taking a lulav and not in the same category as refraining from kitniyot, because tekehlet is a mitzvah and kitniyot is a minhag (and, as it happens, a foolish and harmful one). The opposite position seems obvious to you because lulav is something everyone does and tekhelet is something few people do. I can't make you see it my way, all I can do is suggest you sit down and read Devarim cover to cover.

    (ii) The Zilbermans are followers of the Gra. The Gra frequently favoured explanations and even p'sakin of the Yerushalmi over the Bavli when he thought them more reasonable. As such, I don't think they would be phased. Doubtless, they wouldn't approve of certain other of my views, but that is not really the point.
    I have been very specific about what is heresy: the claim that a certain mitzvah is either cancelled or on indefinite hiatus because of either mystical or ideological considerations. This is because such views undermine the Torah in a fundamental way. Conversely, I do not think preferring an explanation a Mishnah of the Hachamim of EY, who had a surperior mesora, over those of Bavel undermines anything. I am willing to bring sources for my view, but you are not interested in whether my claims are right or wrong, you just want to delegitimise all such claims. What you see as irenicisim, I see as anti-intellectualism.

    I see flouting a mitzvah of Hashem because it is associated with people outside your faction as Sinat Hinam. You see pointing out that people are doing and saying something wrong and backing this up with sources as sinat hinam. This time, I suggest you read Yechezkel.

    (iii) If the leaders of Reform Judaism put out a statement saying "we are orthodox and follow Torah miSinai, this would not change anything because the important thing is not what they claim about themselves, but what is actually true. Now, someone who believes that a mitzvah has evaporated because of their interpretation of the speculations of a medieval Egyptian mystic, or 18th century Hungarian ideology doesn't actually follow the Torah, at least on that point. This is so regardless of what they say.

    4) The question assumes that we have found the correct tekhelet. If you hold so and nevertheless believe that you may choose only to wear white, you must also hold you may choose only to wear tekhelet. According to the standards you originally set (i.e. what are the poskim saying) I challenge you to find a posek who says you may only wear tekhelet. If they say you may choose to wear only white, but not the other way round, I submit that they are simply being incoherent.

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  133. 5) I do not expect mainstream Rabbis to be historically aware, nor am I surprised at Bavliolotry. However, I continue to be surprised when I find Rabbis misdating sources by >two centuries, or making statements that suggest they haven't read the Wikipedia article on the MT etc. I was quite specific about what I was saying, and I don't why you felt the need to chop up your quotations to suggest otherwise.

    Joe in Australia:
    1) Tekhelet was always an expensive dye in the ancient world associated with great wealth and prestige (see the book of Esther). It is still expensive today.
    2) It was probably made even rarer because of Roman sumptuary that we know exist. Tekhelet in the Persian empire was imported from the Roman empire.
    3) Nevertheless, tekhelet strings continued to be used throughout the period of Hazal and we do not have even one single recorded case of anyone wearing just white tzitzit.
    4) It is entirely unclear what you mean by saying that Hazal did not go to great lengths to procure tekhelet. Do you mean they didn't invent fish-farming two millennium before anyone else? That they didn't try to overthrow the Roman empire (which, in fact, they did, twice). What?
    5) Tekhelet was only lost, after the period of Hazal, sometime during the last throws of the Byzantine empire and the Muslim conquests, a period of intense chaos that turned the most fertile region of the known world (North Africa) into a desert, which it remains to this day. It is hardly a surprise that a dye industry that was already being outcompeted by imported indigo completely collapsed at this point.

    It follows that there is simply no enigma to explain. The Rebbe of Lubavitch had phenomenal analytic powers: he explained why it is bad to sleep in a sukkah even though all halachic sources say you must; he explained why the best way for a woman to cover her hair is with hair; he explained how someone can be Moshiach without fulfilling even one of the criteria for being Moshiach and he explained how belief in heliocentrism is mandatory and compatible with modern physics. However, here, I'm afraid, his powers were wasted because there is nothing to explain.

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  134. 5) I do not expect mainstream Rabbis to be historically aware, nor am I surprised at Bavliolotry. However, I continue to be surprised when I find Rabbis misdating sources by >two centuries, or making statements that suggest they haven't read the Wikipedia article on the MT etc. I was quite specific about what I was saying, and I don't why you felt the need to chop up your quotations to suggest otherwise.

    I apologize for chopping up your quotation. I was just trying to highlight certain aspects of your comment that I was commenting on. I don't think that anything was taken out of context.

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  135. @ Gavriel M:
    A little more respect for the Lubavitcher Rebbe please. You are very concerned about people fulfilling d'orayisas--It's safe to assume more people have performed the mitzva of putting on tefillin due to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, than you will ever convince to wear tzitzis with techelet.

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  136. David Ohsie:

    1) Let's recap, I argued that the argument of R. Slifkin and others for not wearing tekhelet is invalid because they are not merely not performing a mitzvah, but they are actually performing an aveirah by wearing only white when tekhelet is available. This argument I base on halachic sources, which I am happy to cite. However, you wanted proof that serious poskim endorse such a view. You have been provided with three, but then further push the goalposts by arguing that this p'sak is not "out in the wild" because a high school Rebbe didn't tell his class (why an internet shiur available to the whole world is not "out in the wild", I don't know.).


    Let me make it clear. You convinced me to near 100% that R. Schachter holds this way (the 1% remainder is that I don't like to rely on "A said that B said X"). I admit that I was surprised and you enlightened me. I withdraw my claim of support for my position from the fact that no poskim who are techelet proponents argue l'halacha not to wear only lavan.

    I said that it was "not in the wild" in that I don't see this actively being attempted, but I'm in the US where such a thing would be less acceptable than perhaps in Israel. I do think that there is some evidence that lavan-wearing is tolerated, if not encouraged, amongst the techeles poskim.

    2) (I) When I first read this comment, I honestly had no idea what you were talking about, but then I remembered my above observation. It seems obvious to me that tekehlet is in the same category as taking a lulav and not in the same category as refraining from kitniyot, because tekehlet is a mitzvah and kitniyot is a minhag (and, as it happens, a foolish and harmful one). The opposite position seems obvious to you because lulav is something everyone does and tekhelet is something few people do. I can't make you see it my way, all I can do is suggest you sit down and read Devarim cover to cover.

    Many have read Devarim and still feel the need to keep Kitnios because it is important to adhere to tradition in Halacha. But again, your philosophy differs from most Orthodox. This is not an argument against your position on Kitniyos per se, but an argument against your disdain for those who disagree with you.

    (ii) The Zilbermans are followers of the Gra. The Gra frequently favoured explanations and even p'sakin of the Yerushalmi over the Bavli when he thought them more reasonable. As such, I don't think they would be phased. Doubtless, they wouldn't approve of certain other of my views, but that is not really the point.

    My point was that if you put your two views together, your view of halacha, plus an insistence that others who disagree with you are sinners, you end up with a very, very small community.

    I have been very specific about what is heresy: the claim that a certain mitzvah is either cancelled or on indefinite hiatus because of either mystical or ideological considerations. This is because such views undermine the Torah in a fundamental way. Conversely, I do not think preferring an explanation a Mishnah of the Hachamim of EY, who had a surperior mesora, over those of Bavel undermines anything. I am willing to bring sources for my view, but you are not interested in whether my claims are right or wrong, you just want to delegitimise all such claims. What you see as irenicisim, I see as anti-intellectualism.

    First, I admit having to google "irenicism" :).

    I do not seek to delegitimize any explanation that you have. I think that it would be wise for all groups to be more accommodating of earnest interpretations of Halacha including yours. So I don't oppose Techelet, but I do oppose casting every group other than your own as Treif in some way. The problem here is not with your evidence, but the way that you attempt to delegitimize those that see it differently.

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  137. (iii) If the leaders of Reform Judaism put out a statement saying "we are orthodox and follow Torah miSinai, this would not change anything because the important thing is not what they claim about themselves, but what is actually true. Now, someone who believes that a mitzvah has evaporated because of their interpretation of the speculations of a medieval Egyptian mystic, or 18th century Hungarian ideology doesn't actually follow the Torah, at least on that point. This is so regardless of what they say.

    Yes, if everyone saw the world precisely as you do, then those who don't follow you turn out to be Kofrim who should know better. But they don't see it as you do.

    4) The question assumes that we have found the correct tekhelet. If you hold so and nevertheless believe that you may choose only to wear white, you must also hold you may choose only to wear tekhelet. According to the standards you originally set (i.e. what are the poskim saying) I challenge you to find a posek who says you may only wear tekhelet. If they say you may choose to wear only white, but not the other way round, I submit that they are simply being incoherent.

    Since no poskim who don't wear techelet give their reason as "we choose not to do a mitzvah", this paragraph makes no sense.

    There is a difference between "I think I am right" and "Everyone who disagrees with me knows I am right, but is acting in bad faith".

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  138. This indicates the basic difference between us. You are interested in a sociological entity called Orthodox Judaism defined by what Jewish people who identify as orthodox do, I am interested in something called the Torah, which is what G-d told the Jewish people, however they identify, to do. Because of this we are essentially talking past each other.

    I agree 99%. I would restate that the point of disagreement. I maintain that Torah is in fact defined by (and has traditionally been defined by) in part by what you term as "the sociological entity". Your position is more aligned to the Charedi viewpoint (no insulted intended). You define what is "Torah True" by your lights and all others are sinners, perhaps inadvertently, perhaps due to their heresy.

    The way in which you differ from Charedim (and the vast majority of Orthodox) is merely that you take a more "Saduccean" approach to Halacha, ignoring the practice and the traditional interpretation of the texts. That may be right or wrong, but I'm not taking issue on that point.

    This, I think, explains your reference to "Bavliolotry". First, the authority of the Bavli derives essentially from its near universal (among "Orthodox") acceptance (Rambam says this somewhere explicitly). This carries no weight with you. Second, those that follow this path are not following your "Torah True" interpretation and therefore compared to idolaters.

    I make no argument as to whether you are right or wrong in your underlying claim as to how to approach halacha. I'm just disagreeing with your decision to cast your view as authentic and the others as foolish, sinful or heretical. We can't peer inside each others brains, but I suspect that your zealotry derives from the same motivation as the book banners and the other religious zealots throughout the ages. If I'm right, you may take that as a compliment since, by your lights, accommodation in halachic interpretation is no virtue and zealotry in the name of Sefer Devarim is no vice.

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  139. Brooklyn Refugee SheygitzJanuary 14, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    First one of your posts that I clicked "kefira" on

    Not wearing techeilis is about "style".
    R. Sruly Reisman said as much in the audio shiur on YU's website - that wearing techeiles is about the "style" of certain groups which his "kehal" don't belong too.
    basically the reason for not wearing techeilis is the same reason for not wearing a suede yarmulke. As the mashgiach of my old "hunting grounds" once said to me (better read with a pronounced lisp): "it's not the style of a 'hunting grounds' bochur to wear a leather yarmulkeh"

    R. Sruly Reisman and his followers don't wear techelis for the same reasons they think metzizah b'feh is yeharog ve'al yaavor.
    It has nothing to do with keeping mitzvot but rather has to do with communal control.
    Pretty much the same rationale underlies, for example, why Gur chassidim have to ask their appointed counselor for permission to conduct marital relations with their spouses. To control the flock and stay in power.
    Not really any different.

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  140. Amateur:

    The Beit Yosef (OH: 9:6, last shtichel) does a pretty comprehensive treatment of this sugya, which I recommend you look at. To cut a long story short, though, the interpretation you label impossible is the majority one advocated by the S'mak, Rabbeinu Tam, all the Geonim, the Rosh, the Ba'al haMaor and the Beit Yosef himself. They all agree that the gezeira was against wearing any tzitzit on linen garments. The only exceptions are as follows:

    1) Tosefot (Menahot 40a) bring two interpretations of Rashi. According to the first, since the purpose of the gezeira (to prevent shatnez in c'sut lyla or other cases) is only relevant to tekhelet it should not apply to the lavan strings. However, this p'shat is difficult for various reasons and they bring a second explanation in the name of the Ri according to which they wore none at all, perhaps because they held like Rabi that lavan and blue are meacev. I would add that the first explanation seems to contradict what Rashi himself says (see line 23 on the Vilna daf).

    2) The Rif argues that the original baraita means only tekhelet when it uses the term tzitzit. This is extremely dachuk seeing as we never find another example of this. Conversely, that "tekhelet" in the next sentence is being used as a synedoche for tzitzit is very likely, since this is done on at least half a dozen occasions in the perek. The Rif's explanation is problematic for other reasons too, but, it should be added that the Rambam also paskens according to him.

    The objection you raised is explained as follows. The Gemara posits that the reason for the gezeira is because of kala ilan, which would be shatnez shelo b'makom mitzvah. The Gemara objects that this would not be so since the kala ilan strings would count as a lavan. This means that they would not be illicit shatnez. It does not mean that wearing only white strings l'chatchila is an option. Indeed, the fact that the sugya does not even seem to consider this option is a very powerful argument.

    ***
    While looking this up, I came across a very interesting opinion of the Ba'al haItur to the effect that without tekehlet one cannot fulfil the mitzvah of tzitzit with any material other than wool, and that a bracha said on silk/cotton etc. is a bracha levatala. The Bach brings this very sharply as the halacha. Given the normal halachic methodology today of being yotzei all the shitas, this would seem another clear reason to encourage tekhelet wearing, but apparently not because .... umm err and stuff.

    ***
    David Ohsie.
    I am quite enjoying our conversation and will try to find time to reply tomorrow.

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  141. David Ohsie.
    I am quite enjoying our conversation and will try to find time to reply tomorrow.


    Dear Gavriel M.,

    Since you have an interest, I'll make a couple of additional points, as it is unfair for me to argue with you without staking out my own position with a little more clarity:

    1) I want to make clear that I'm not calling your approach to interpretation and Halacha "illegitimate". As you suspected (and actually accused me of :), I've become quite liberal in this respect because I see the Jewish people (and indeed the world) being smashed into an uncountable number of shards, and I don't think that this was the plan. Paraphrasing the Rambam, when decisions depend on human reasoning, people will each come to their own best conclusions without agreeing. I'm objecting to your claims of exclusivity on the "right approach".

    2) You claim that my approach will not lend itself to any distinctions between Orthodox and Reform Judaism. I have two responses:

    a) I do believe that God is the one that will judge and so I'm not prepared make blanket condemnations of any group. As an example, someone who is not observant and puts his or her life on the line in the IDF is not someone that I'm prepared to judge. Our host once had a post on Gilad Shalit's post-release visit to the beach on Shabbos along these lines. There is a position in Chelek 104b that perhaps takes a similar position: דורשי רשומות היו אומרים כולן באין לעולם הבא (The Doreshe Reshumoth maintained: All of them [those mentioned in the Mishneh as not meriting the world to come] will enter the world to come) http://halakhah.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_104.html#PARTb. Also see the stories about R. Abbahu and R. Ashi on the bottom of 102a and top of 102b.

    b) My position actually makes a clear distinction between Orthodox and other forms of Judaism: the adherence, for the most part, to the tradition. Your claim that we need to critically examine the sources and their history and follow whatever they say matches the claims of all streams of Judaism; they just have different judgments as to by whom and when the sources were written and their consequent authority. You claim Bavliolatry; they would claim that your "strict" adherence to Sefer Devarim is similarly misplaced. They are following your method precisely, but they are reaching different results.

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  142. Adding to what I wrote above, I think that the continuation of the quote from Chelek 105a is a good one:

    "The ministering Angels exclaimed before the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the Universe! If David comes, who slew the Philistine and gave possession of Gath to thy children. [and complains at Thy giving a share in the world to come to Doeg and Ahitophel], what wilt thou do with him?' He replied, 'It is My duty to make them friends with each other.'"

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  143. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  144. IMHO the general Hareidi approach is a non binding legitimate expansion of certain authoritative Halachic axioms. This begins with the concept of authority itself as expressed in lo tasur (rabbinic authority) and acharei rabim lehatos (majority authority). A certain classic sefer, and let’s try this without identifying which sefer this is, (though many will figure it out), states (slightly edited and *emphasis* added):

    ועל דרך האמת והשבח הגדול בזאת המצוה אמרו ז"ל לא תסור ממנו ימין ושמאל, אפילו אומרים לך על ימין שהוא שמאל לא תסור ממצותם, כלומר שאפילו יהיו הם *טועים* בדבר אחד מן הדברים אין ראוי לנו לחלוק עליהם אבל נעשה *כטעותם*, וטוב לסבול *טעות* אחד ויהיו הכל מסורים תחת דעתם הטוב תמיד ולא שיעשה כל אחד ואחד כפי דעתו שבזה יהיה *חורבן *הדת *וחלוק *לב *העם *והפסד *האומה *לגמרי.... [ואם סר ימין ושמאל] ענשו גדול מאד שזהו *העמוד *החזק *שהתורה *נשענת *עליו, ידוע הדבר
    ....

    גבי מעשה דרבי אליעזר בתנורו של עכנאי ... פירוש הדבר הוא על ענין זה שבמחלוקת הזה שהיה לרבי אליעזר עם חבריו, *האמת* היה כרבי אליעזר וכדברי הבת קול שהכריע כמותו, ואע"פ שהיה *האמת* אתו בזה בייתרון פלפולו על חבריו לא ירדו לסוף דעתו ולא רצו להודות לדבריו אפילו אחר בת קול והביאו ראיה מן הדין הקבוע בתורה שצוותנו ללכת אחרי רבים לעולם בין יאמרו אמת או אפילו *טועים*....

    אילו נצטוינו קיימו התורה כאשר תוכלו להשיג כוונת אמיתתה, כל אחד ואחד מישראל יאמר דעתי נותנת שאמתת ענין פלוני כן הוא ואפילו כל העם יאמרו בהפכו לא יהיה לו רשות לעשות הענין בהפך האמת לפי דעתו, ויצא מזה חורבן שתעשה התורה ככמה תורות כי כל אחד ידין כפי עניות דעתו, אבל עכשיו שבפירוש נצטוינו לקבל בה דעת רוב החכמים יש תורה אחת לכולנו והוא קיומנו גדול בה ואין לנו לזוז מדעתם ויהי מה, ובכן בעשותינו מצותם אנו משלימים דעת הקל.... [ואם לא נטה אחר הרבים] ענשו גדול מאד *שהוא *העמוד *שהתורה *נסמכת *בו

    (CONTINUED)

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  145. I.e. under certain [admittedly limited] circumstances Halachah obligates us to obey rabbinic error; not to do so destroys Judaism and the Jewish people. This is true even if one follows correct minority rabbinic opinion. (I think this might surprise the commenters who considered Hareidi fears, as theorized by RNS, overdone. But we have the authority of this sefer that it is so. One might speculate that opposing rabbinic decision even in error once is a ‘slippery slope’ to destruction.)

    Now in this case rabbinic error is pitted against… the OPINION of oneself or that of a rabbinic minority, and wins. But what if it is pitted against… FACT? Does rabbinic error win also against fact? (This would be a bizarre scenario—rabbis ignoring facts?!?—but some claim that this is exactly what is happening with techeiles. So let’s switch to lice as perceived throughout the known world during the period of the Talmud, where presumably the facts were less obvious. Or stick to techeiles prior to 1983.)

    Well, first something else. Can, or does, ANY Halachah override fact? Yes. ‘Rov’ overrides fact, as detailed in Yoreh Deah 109. The same Torah that forbids food that is by definition treif allows it to be eaten when it is batell berov. The torah obviously has the right to redefine ‘treif’ or anything else that it says.

    So back to lice, once we see the Halachic strength of rabbinic decision even when it conflicts with the truth, and the Halachic irrelevance of fact when it conflicts with Rov, we can grant Halachic precedence to erroneous rabbinic decision [about lice] even if it conflicts with fact/science.

    Does this mean to “check out the brains at the church door”? Yes and no. Some axioms will just have to be accommodated. But around them there’s virtually unlimited room for brain work. These axioms also rest on Judaism’s logical fundamentals, as opposed to illogical fundamentals found elsewhere. And as cited above, they save Judaism and the Jewish people. You might call them a necessary evil.

    (CONTINUED)

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  146. As to what are the parameters of rabbinic decision, which are Halachikly binding even when in error? Perhaps only decisions made by the great Sanhedrin. But the famous Kesef Mishneh in Mamrim 2:1 discusses why we (with our OPINIONS) can’t disagree with Shas. IIRC his answer, as understood by RS Fischer, is that after Chasimas Hashas the Jewish people accepted upon themselves not to argue with it. This actually reads well into KM’s words, but only covers where we wish to be more lenient than Shas—we accept Shas’es stringencies. But if we feel obligated to be more stringent than Shas, (as Pachad Yitzchock suggested regarding lice), there’s no way that an ‘acceptance’ can allow us a Shas leniency that we don’t agree with. Chazon Ish says that after Chasimas Hashas they realized that there was a great drop in greatness and they felt unqualified to disagree. This would cover both leniencies and stringencies, but not errors in scientific fact. Well, Chazon Ish himself might say that Shas is superior to us even in scientific knowledge but that is certainly neither the approach of the overwhelming majority of Rishonim nor that of rationalists.

    RM Glasner says that it is forbidden to disagree with the written word. Before Chasimas Hashas all decision were oral hence disputable; this changed with the WRITING of Shas. (That covers Chasimas Hashas, but KM also refers to a Chasimas Hamishnah. This would not work according to Rashi’s view that the Mishnah was only put into writing much after the Tannaic period.) RE Wasserman says that Chasimas Hashas is like a ruling of Sanhedrin Hagadol, hence undisputable.

    Thus according to REW and in effect RMG, decisions taken by Shas are equivalent to a ruling of Sanhedrin Hagadol and Halachikly binding even when in error.

    (CONTINUED)

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  147. I thought that there was an another example of an erroneous decision taken later than Chasimas Hashas that has remained in Halachah, but I can’t recall it now and maybe my memory is playing a trick on me. Anyway, though technically this whole idea might be limited to Sanhedrin Hagadol etc., Hareidi practice appears to me a legitimate, if not binding, expansion of it.

    An individual whose conscience will not accept this for himself need not accept it.

    Hareidim themselves will undoubtedly deny my theory, as they believe the system to be infallible and supernaturally endowed. But I believe that it validates their behavior even though they don’t realize it.

    --

    I imagine one of us going back in time and complaining to a founder of reactionary Orthodoxy, (Chasam Sofer?), that his program will spawn the closing of the Hareidi mind and violation of techeiles. His reaction might be, have you no sense of priorities? If you can’t appreciate that violation of techeiles pales in comparison with my objective, saving Judaism, I have nothing more to say.

    I imagine the same if one of us went back in time and complained to a founder of mass kollel that eventually it would be abused.

    --

    For the curious, I add that I used to wear techeiles. Later though, I realized how many nefarious extremists on the right and the left were wearing it, and I was seized with sinas chinam and pure heresy—so I haven’t worn it since! };^)

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  148. Rabbi, you changed your name to Natan, IIRC, TO keep people who shouldn’t follow you from following you. That’s good. You don’t wear techeiles TO prevent people who should follow you from not following you. That’s also good. You offer constructive criticism against many groups but for sure mostly against Hareidim, and that prevents them from following you. Maybe that’s good too. You ate grasshoppers WHICH kept people who shouldn’t follow you from following you. Ditto for that. But you can’t be everything for everyone! Nice of me to say while hiding behind anonymity, but you could decide which of your goals is most important and pursue just that. Or decide that each one has a negative trade off and disregard what some will say.

    The other week one friendly Hareidi initiated a discussion of R Meiselman’s book with me, which I gently terminated as soon as I was able. At one point he made an utterly naïve comment that “you see from what Slifkin did later that he had been wrong initially.” I judge this person as neutral on how to resolve Torah-science contradictions. His emunah was neither helped nor harmed by “finding out” from your subsequent behavior that you had been wrong, only he’s in the dark about the truth.

    You make an admirably (by the standards of the blogosphere, but not by your standards) introspective comment at the linked post about the seder) http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/04/seder-historical-realities-vs-seder.html?showComment=1363893629132#c8750134776405602951 in which you come to recognize an opinion of yours that you weren’t previously aware of. Since you were open then, you might (when you have time!) rethink whence originates your not wearing techeiles.

    I do not envy your being in the public eye where, unlike typical public figures, you did not choose to be. For the rest of us it serves as a reminder that eventually we all will be in the public eye, as stated in Targum at the end of Koheles.

    סוף פתגם דאיתעבד בהאי עלמא בצנעא כולא עתיד לאיתפרסמא ולאישתמעא לכל בני אנשא, בגין כן ית מימרא דיי הוי דחיל וית פקודוי הוי נטיר דלא למיחב בסתרא, ואין תחוב הוי זהיר למיתב ארום כדין חזי למהוי אורח כל אנש.

    I appreciate all your fine posts and everyone’s fine comments.

    Chazak and Kol Tuv.

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  149. The only people who would be destabilized by your wearing of the tcheles would be rational people, who would also have to be irrational to be destabilized by your wearing it. With all due respect nobody irrational cares what you do.

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