01 Jun PARSHAS SHLACH: TOP FIVE OBJECTIONS TO WEARING TECHEILES TODAY
1. Vague Terminologies in Describing the Chilazon – Once in 70 Years
One reason is because everyone back then “knew” about the process without explanation required, another was to write in code to hide from the Romans, as freedom of speech and press didn’t exist then and there. One example is “once in 70 years.” The explanations for that is 70 years refers to a long time and may refer to one of the following:
1.The Radvaz states swarms of shellfish surfacing en masse was a miraculous event that only occurred in the times of the Beis Hamikdash.
2.R’ Benzion Halberstam stated in his shiur “Glimpse into the Mind of a Posek” that the Romans, symbolizing Edom/Esav, had a certain event where a healthy Roman was riding on the shoulders of a crippled Jew (representing Yaakov who limped), this Jew needed to carry the Roman around. It was meant to symbolize that the Romans, symbolizing Edom were “on top” and the Jews were forever crippled. such that Esav was on top of Yaakov and the Romans were considered “Edom” like Esav was called. This event was meant to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Once-in-a-lifetime may refer to 70 years because 70 years historically was used to describe the length of ones life. At this event the Chilazon surfaced in much greater numbers in order so that people could more readily sell the blue cloth to others at this event.
2. Lack of Mesorah / Gedolim
There was an epic correspondence between a letter from a friend of the Beis Halevi, R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (Brisker Rav) and R’ Gershon Henoch Leiner, with two resulting versions. The Soloveitchik version is that one must have a Mesorah and one can’t reinstate things by archeological evidence or by visiting an aquarium and try to figure based on Simanim. He gave an example of Orez versus Dochen and which one has the bracha of Mezonos versus HaAdama. While Orez/Arroz is defined as rice in Arabic as well as Spanish, his retort was that one couldn’t rely on a dictionary for the definition, but one needed a Mesorah.
The Radzyn version was more nuanced: R’ Soloveitchik replied that our parents and grandparents knew about this squidfish that spits out the black dye, since it was commonly used for ink at the time. If they knew about this Chilazon and chose not to use it for Techeiles, then it actually counts as a negative Mesorah. However, if one can show him a new fish not known to our parents and grandparents, and a good reason for the disuse of this creature for Techeiles and why now is different, he would be the first one on board.
R’ Feivel Cohen spent a year with R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv to get shimush by him. After he returned to New York they corresponded frequently, and in one of the letters, he asked R’ Elyashiv which one of the two versions made sense. R’ Elyashiv’s response was that the Soloveitchik version made no sense, and that one can use Archeological evidence to reconstruct Mesorah. R’ Cohen then asked what he thought of the new Techeiles, and the response was “let me get back to you.” (He never did.) It’s also interesting to note that R’ Moshe Mordechai Karp, a close talmid of R’ Elyashiv, today wears Techeiles on all is Begadim with Tzitzis.
Other examples of reconstructing Mesorah include:
a. R’ Eliezer seeing the golden Tzitz in Rome to see if it’s one or two lines because of “LaHashem” (Shabbos 63b).
b. The Ramban changing his opinion of the weight of a Shekel from the Rif to Rashi (1/6th lighter) after Samaritans showed him a Shekel in Israel upon making Aliyah (see Ramban Shemos 30:13 and Ramban al HaChumash HaArah Be’Inyan HaShekel). This has potential implications on matters concerning Pidyon HaBen.
c. Teruma and Maaser after not being in Eretz Yisrael for a long time (our grandparents didn’t do it), and
d. Turkey consumption. Birds traditionally need a Mesorah, but the question is whether the 14 birds listed in the Gemara were the Ikkar or that they simply weren’t birds of prey.
The above stated, one would think that Gedolim are needed for such a decision. R’ Herschel Schachter, R’ Yisroel Belsky ZT”L, R’ Bentzion Halberstam, R’ Gershon Meltzer, R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, R’ Moshe Mordechai Karp, R’ Shlomo Gissinger ZT”L, and R’ Shlomo Machpud are for starters. And more Gedolim are coming aboard. As an aside, R’ Belsky reportedly told R’ Eliyahu Ferrel of the OU that with solid Rayos, it’s “K’Ilu there is a Mesorah.”
3. Financial Expense
Techeiles was historically expensive and difficult to get. In fact, one of the laws in the “Codex Justinian”, mentions that if a person would be found wearing blue or Tyrian purple, he would “lose his property… and his head.” We actually have echoes of such a gezaira from the gemara in Sanhedrin 12a. The Gemara states that a message was sent to Rava saying, “Zug Ba MeRakas” “a pair of scholars came from Rakkas (Teveria)” and was caught by a “Nesher”, a troop of soldiers. In their hands, they carried “things manufactured in Luz (Techeiles). In the Zechus of Hashem and their Zechus , they came out in peace.“
In addition, the sea creature coming “once every seventy years” appears moreso to justify financial expense than anything else. Also, both the Ohr Chaim and Rabbeinu Bachya state that Techeiles is akin to a gold seal.
4. Sticking Out Socially
Lo Sisgodedu – historically it was to cut oneself, but the general idea is to not “stand out” so that it seems like there are multiple Torahs (see the topic all over Yevamos). The Radzyner Rebbe and others though felt that this only applies when changing a Minhag from the rest of the Kehilla. One example is Tefillin on Chol HaMoed. While today, it appears that most people do whatever their family minhag is, purists that do wear Tefillin on Chol Hamoed would wear Tefillin privately. However, it does not apply when trying to fulfill a Safek MiDeorayssa.
The above stated, this is one reason why certain Rabbonim like R’ Yisroel Belsky ZT”L, as well as R’ Gershon Meltzer Shlit”a, would only wear Techeiles on their Tallis Kottons and not on the Tallis Godol, since that way one can fulfill the mitzvah of wearing Techeiles and not stand out. However, they also felt this way as they were public figures, and leMaaseh many of their students (that aren’t as public as them) that do wear Techeiles today do so publicly. There are also many Gedolim that wear Techeiles on their Talis Gadols.
Another item is self-perceived social stigma. That’s admittedly a personal matter that in time will fade the longer one wears Techeiles.
Techeiles is special in that not only does the color resemble the sea, skies and Kiseh HaKavod, but this special wool was used to cover the holiest objects in the Mishkan. Techeiles should be a unifying force and not a dividing one, in hopes that it will help bring about the ultimate Geulah.