Avodah Mailing List

Volume 08 : Number 024

Sunday, October 21 2001

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2001 20:36:51 +0200
From: "Rena Freedenberg" <free@actcom.co.il>
RE: varying minhogim re number of neiros Shabbos - two vs. one per family member

> Shabbos licht were often a single oil lamp with multiple wick holders...
> In richer homes, people would hang a metal ring from chains, and the
> ring would support typically 7 glass lamps....

I'm not really so sure about what really occurred here. I have seen many,
many oil lamps like the ones you have mentioned in the Israel Museum.
However, I could not say and have not seen any proof either way that these
were shabbos lecht. Since there were no electric lights at the time and no
chevrat chashmal to provide electric lines, people had to use oil lamps all
the time.

My guess is that just like we have lights on all round the house and also
light several candles or jars filled with olive oil [we light olive oil],
they may very well have lit the chandelier-type lamps with the 7 glass lamps
over the table and then either two or more Shabbos lights in addition.


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Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 17:32:13 -0400
From: Beth and David Cohen <bdcohen@optonline.net>
Birchas Habonim

<<The KSA [131:16] writes that it is a minhag for both fathers and mothers
to bentch their children on Erev YK. But I don't know of any mother who
actually does so.  

My wife and I both together bentch our children every Friday night and
Erev YK

David I. Cohen

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Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2001 22:10:55 -0400
From: Mendel Singer <mes12@po.cwru.edu>
Beis HaLevi's objection and Dr. Greenspan's response

Ari Greenspan wrote:
>The Radvaz 1480-1573 Chief Rabbi of Egypt' says specifically " it is
>possible that it still exists today but that we don't recognize it or
>don't know how to catch it also there is no need for it today as there is
>a color similar to tekhelet that is fast, that is Isatis or Nil in arabic"
>(kala ilan) teshuva 685

>So you see even he' who was interested in the topic, while the dying
>continued in Byzantium, was familiar intimately with kala ilan and knew
>the plant on a technical level was both unfamiliar with murex despite
>his assertion that it might exist. Yet he never bothered to look for it
>and he lived near the ocean!

Hmmm...the Radvaz wrote about the chilazon, knew about k'la ilan, was
near where they dyed with murex and yet doesn't mention murex at all.
Isn't the obvious answer that he *knew* that murex was NOT the chilazon?

COncerning the Beis HaLevi - it seems to me that if murex was so
famous, regardless of whether people knew the dyeing process, that
the identification of the species would have remained among the Jews
as long as murex was known for purple dyeing - which it was throughout
the time of its dyeing. Jews may forget the process, but if the species
was so known and identifiable - which it was, why wasn't it identified
anywhere? If it was still being used, then Jews would know - hey that's
the chilazon, if only we still knew how to dye with it. Seems to me the
objection is still reaosnable against murex, though I wouldn't reject
it on that basis alone, certainly.

I'm sure there will be some response to my previous post, but I will
be out of town for the next week and doubt I will be able to check in
with this list - so everyone can attack me for it without much fear of
my responding for a while!

Anyway, thanks Dr. Greenspan for your reponse on this issue - I am
hurried in my response here, and I have probably missed something -
so please correct me.


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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 01:53:05 +0200
From: "Mrs. Gila Atwood" <gatwood@netvision.net.il>
Re: neiros Shabbos

>                   [W]hereas when the old fashioned neiros were the main /
> only illumination there perhaps there was more of a sevara to add more of
> them and bring more light into the house. However, nowadays, when the
>vsituation is mostly / usually different, perhaps a stronger argument can
> be made to light davka a limited number of neiros ...                with
> the largely symbolic (as well as actually illuminating) oil lights and
> candles.

Rav Barclay pointed out that more neros enhance the Shabbos atmosphere.  He
also said that, given that electric light is really the most significant
source,  it's a hidur to turn on the dining room/salon light and then light
the candles,  and have in mind also the electric light when you make the

From: MPoppers@kayescholer.com
> When my wife and I do stuff like turning extra lights on before Shabbos,
> we're thinking about oneg Shabbos, not nairos Shabbos.

Related-  since purpose of neros is shalom bayis-  i.e. people should have
enough light that they can enjoy Shabbos without bumping into things and
people.  This is all the more reason to have a night light or candle in the
bedrooms.  An olive oil light in a high safe place is better than a candle
because in the unlikely event that it gets tipped over it's more likely to
be extinguished and the worst that will happen will be a broken bulb as
opposed to a fire.  Just use slippers till you can sweep.

In a message dated 10/19/01 10:48:33am EDT, res10@nyu.edu writes:
>> Derech agav, he also mentions a strong preference for olive oil, as
>> opposed to candles.

What about also the idea that olive oil is zecher l'beis hamikdash.  See
also netilas yadayim cups made from brass.

re cnas-  the Rav did not say that it is a halacha to add a light if we miss
because of childbirth -  it is a hidur-  as if we have taken the cnas upon
ourselves out of our love for the mitzva.  If we miss through negligence it
would be a halacha.

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Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2001 22:47:12 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: neiros Shabbos

In a message dated 10/19/2001 3:25:47pm EDT, gil_student@hotmail.com writes:
> On the other hand, I'm not sure how obligated someone staying in the
> hospital is in neiros Shabbos. As a guest who can be moved at the whim
> of the hospital, I don't know if she needs to light, or at least not
> with a berachah. Especially since her husband is crazy enough to insist
> on being mishtatef bifrutah whenever staying in someone's house.

Hypothesis: A lo plug takkanah was paskened so that all New Mothers
had to add a candle So if they did light fine. And If they missed
no one would know because ALL new Mothers added a candle regardless.
Thus the New Mother would be relieved of the pressure to light during
her first Shabbos.

Shalom and Regards
Rich Wolpoe
Moderator - TorahInsight@yahoogroups.com
"Knowledge without Insight is like a horse in a library" - Vernon Howard    

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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 15:33:36 +1000
From: "SBA" <sba@blaze.net.au>
Girls lighting Shabbos candles

From: "Mrs. Gila Atwood" <gatwood@netvision.net.il>
> ... the Chassidic custom of the girls lighting candles for themselves
> from the age of three.

Chasssidic minhag?

AFAIK only a few rebbishe 'courts' had this minhag - but only for 
the rebbe's immediate family members - not the daughters of the chassidim.

The LR z'l however introduced this for his chassidim approx 25 years
ago - and as with all the rebbe's 'mivtza's' - the chassidim did their
utmost to enthusiastically convince the rest of Klall Yisroel to join in.


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Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2001 20:31:52 -0400
From: "Gil Student" <gil_student@hotmail.com>
Re: Birchas habonim

I wrote:
>Off the top of my head, here's a defense. Shabbos is not a time for
>bakashos. Hence, we don't say...the weekday shemoneh esreh....

Michael Poppers wrote:
>Seems to me like a popular myth.  See the bottom of BT B'rachos 21a
>("lo it'r'chuhu").

That's an embarassing mistake.  FWIW, the Ta'amei Haminhagim brings both 
reasons for why we don't say a weekday shemoneh esreh on Shabbos.

Gil Student

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Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2001 22:56:03 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: Birchas habonim

In a message dated 10/19/2001 3:26:27pm EDT, MPoppers@kayescholer.com writes:
> I'm not a big fan of the manner in which kSA is quoted nowadays, as Rav
> Ganzfried z'l' combined Halacha and custom in his writings yet they're
> bandied about by some as totally binding on all, but this particular
> paragraph is apparently based directly on the BT.

As someone who teaches Kitzur semi-regularly I do not dispute this.
But AISI on a subtle level, virtually every Halachic work is "biased"
as to local Minhag. The KSA is just a bit more "blatant".

Perhaps the Rosh and the Tur were exceptions in that they lived in BOTH
Asheknaz and Sepharad and had at least a dual perspective...

Shalom and Regards
Rich Wolpoe
Moderator - TorahInsight@yahoogroups.com
"Knowledge without Insight is like a horse in a library" - Vernon Howard    

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Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2001 22:50:18 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: doing more than necessary

In a message dated 10/19/2001 3:26:00pm EDT, Eli.Turkel@colorado.edu writes:
> Another example is using 2 challot on shabbat. The Ari advocated 12
> challot. I have never seen anyone complain about more than 2 chalot for
> lechem mishneh (does the mishneh mean 2?).

FWIW, I grew up with square Challos that were made in a way to resemble a
composite of 6 small rolls - something like today's break-way Challos...
Thus lechem mishna with these Challos would be tantamount to "shtayim
she'heim Shtaym esrai"

Shalom and Regards
Rich Wolpoe
Moderator - TorahInsight@yahoogroups.com
"Knowledge without Insight is like a horse in a library" - Vernon Howard    

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Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2001 21:24:17 EDT
From: Phyllostac@aol.com
saying Vayichulu on Friday night after shmoneh esreih

Many people seem to believe that Vayichulu after shmoneh esreih on Friday
night must be said with someone else, as it is like eidus (testimony).
Therefore, some people, when they miss saying it with the tzibbur
(e.g. when they finish shmoneh esreih later than most or the chazan goes
too fast), are midakdeik to seek out someone else to say it with. This
seems to be quite common in some circles (e.g. 'Yeshivish').

I was wondering about this, e.g. if it was really necessary....

Recently someone (R. Sholom) told me that the Chazon Ish, IIRC, was
mifakfeik on this. According to him it is not really necessary, as the
eidus comparison is not be taken too literally...

Anyone know about this?
Comments please?


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Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2001 20:27:49 -0400
From: "Gil Student" <gil_student@hotmail.com>
Mesirus Nefesh

At shaleshidis today, my shul made a siyum in memory of Abe Zelmanowitz
z"l and the other victims of the WTC tragedy. Some may have heard that
Abe, from my neighborhood, was on a relatively low floow of 1 WT when the
airplane hit but remained behind to help a paraplegic co-worker evacuate.
Unfortunately, neither survived.

One short devar Torah struck me as being worthy of repeating.
The following is my recollection of what R. Asher Zucker, one of the
neighborhood rabbonim, said:

The midrash says that Yishmael told Yitzchak that he was more worthy than
Yitzchak. Yishmael had his milah when he was 13 and was moser nefesh
for it. Yitzchak, however, had his milah when he was eight days old.
It was not even his choice. Yitzchak replied that if he had the chance
he would be moser nefesh and he proved it with the Akedah. At the Akedah,
Yitzchak demonstrated that he was worthy of being Avraham's heir.

Today, we see that Yishmael's descendants are ready to be moser nefesh,
albeit in a perverted fashion. But at that exact moment when Yishmael
was moser nefesh, Yitzchak once again demonstrated his willingness to
be moser nefesh when Abe Zelmanowitz z"l stayed behind to do a chessed.

May we learn from his example.

Gil Student

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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 11:30:02 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: saying Vayichulu on Friday night after shmoneh esreih

In a message dated 10/21/2001 11:03:57am EDT, Phyllostac@aol.com writes:
> Recently someone (R. Sholom) told me that the Chazon Ish, IIRC, was
> mifakfeik on this. According to him it is not really necessary, as the
> eidus comparison is not be taken too literally...

Here is a thought:
Perhaps w/o a 2nd person there is mamash no need to make up a missed
Vaychulul. IIRC according to Tosafos Vayechulu is ONLY a din a on YT
chechal beshabbos because on those occasions Vayechulu is omitted from
the Amidah. On regular Friday nights, OTOH it's said only due to a "lo
plug". So when you miss the Tzibbur's Vayechulu there may be no chiyyuv
tashlumin, and therefore the point of getting a chaveir to at least be
mekayyem the inyan of eidus, w/o which the ayechulu might be forfeit.

If this sevara is correct, a 2nd party would NOT be necesary when Yom
Tov is Friday night because having omitted Vayechulu in the Amidah there
lich'ora would be an imperative even for the individual...

Shalom and Regards
Rich Wolpoe
Moderator - TorahInsight@yahoogroups.com
"Knowledge without Insight is like a horse in a library" - Vernon Howard    

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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 16:28:13 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: saying Vayichulu on Friday night after shmoneh esreih

On Sat, Oct 20, 2001 at 09:24:17PM -0400, Phyllostac@aol.com wrote:
: Many people seem to believe that Vayichulu after shmoneh esreih on Friday
: night must be said with someone else, as it is like eidus (testimony)....

I was approached by such people, and since I try to be a nice guy and
have nothing against repeating some pesukim, I accomodate.

However, I always wondered... If you hold by this shitah, do you make a
point of not davening Friday night with any qerovim? If you're going
to treat Vayechulu like eidus, wouldn't this invalidate the kat? Also,
what about Qiddush once you get home?


Micha Berger                 The mind is a wonderful organ
micha@aishdas.org            for justifying decisions
http://www.aishdas.org       the heart already reached.
Fax: (413) 403-9905          

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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 14:32:14 -0400
From: "Yitzchok Willroth" <willroth@voicenet.com>
Re: doing more than necessary

>> Another example is using 2 challot on shabbat. The Ari advocated 12
>> challot. I have never seen anyone complain about more than 2 chalot for
>> lechem mishneh (does the mishneh mean 2?).

> FWIW, I grew up with square Challos that were made in a way to resemble a
> composite of 6 small rolls - something like today's break-way Challos...
> Thus lechem mishna with these Challos would be tantamount to "shtayim
> she'heim Shtaym esrai"

Similiar to the minhag to make 6-braid challos (rather than the simpler
3-braid), so that the two finished loaves are actually made up of 12
indivual strands.

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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 11:53:21 -0400
From: Isaac A Zlochower <zlochoia@bellatlantic.net>

The reproduction of Dr. Singers critique of the techelet produced by the
P'til Techelet organization and the subsequent discussions on this list
have, I believe, advanced the quest for the "real" techelet. Although
I am not persuaded by most of the various arguments used by Dr. Singer,
the one substantial argument (also raised here in discussions on 1/00)
that should be addressed by the P'til Techelet people is the rationale for
the test given in Menachot 43a to distinguish between techelet and kelah
ilan (dye derived from the indigo plant) when both dyes are chemically
identical (except perhaps for minor admixtures) in the P'til process.
In 1/00, I offered a suggestion that could provide such a rationale - if
its assumptions were correct. I hypothesized that the murex dye contains
some amount of iodoindigo in addition to the the dibromoindigo component.
If true, then the weak C-I bond can be broken during the oven heating
of the fermented dough containing the test thread. The iodine thereby
liberated can then interact with the starch in the dough to produce
the blue-purple starch-iodine complex and thus provide a positive test.
It should be kept in mind that the gemara had concluded that the first
test (soaking in an aged urine concoction) will cause both the techelet
and kelah ilan dye to fade, and that the second test (baking the faded
dyed thread in the dough) is the key to discriminating between the two
dyes. My assumption of the presence of iodoindigo in the murex dye can
be easily checked by chemical analysis. It is predicated, however, on
the continuing presence of haloindigo molecules in the dye. The current
P'til process, however, is aimed at removing the dibromoindigo from
the murex mixture by a photochemical treatment. The same exposure to
solar or UV radiation will convert the iodoindigo molecules to indigo.
However, there is no indication from any ancient source that I have
seen quoted - including the gemara, that the dyeing needed to be done in
sunlight. Moreover, clear glass containers were rare in biblical times,
or simply not available.

I understand the desire of the P'til researchers to convert the violet
dibromoindigo dye to the blue indigo color. The violet color of even
the murex trunculus dye which consists of a mixture of indigo and
dibromoindigo molecules is not a normal sky color - nor is it particularly
beautiful. However, converting all the dibromoindigo to indigo does
not lead to lead to a rich blue color either - from what I can see. As
stated above, the P'til process should also invalidate the tests given in
Menachot 43a. If the current photochemical conversion process of P'til
(violet dibromoindigo to blue indigo) were controlled as to leave some
amount of the dibromoindigo, then a richer color may result and allow
the Menachot test to distinguish the murex dye from the indigo plant
dye. The question of how much of the dibromoindigo must remain for a
valid techelet dye would still need to be addressed.

Alternatively, the observation of the P'til people that immersion of the
fresh dibromoindigo dyed thread in boiling water turned the dye blue
is of considerable interest. As I understand it, such a conversion is
the result of the replacement of the bromine atoms in the molecule by
alcohol (OH) groups. This dihydroxy indigo differs significantly from the
unsubstituted indigo of the plant dye as to allow a distinction based
on chemical properties, such as the Menachot test. It would be helpful
if the P'til people would better describe the color and colorfastness of
this boiled murex dye. If the color were reasonable then a more realistic
process would have been found to produce a credible techelet.

Yitzchok Zlochower

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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 12:04:18 -0400
From: "Michael Frankel" <michaeljfrankel@hotmail.com>
RE: techeiles - why Gedolim are silent on P'til

while I have nothing to add to the central issue of this exchange -- other
than my appreciation for the quality and quantity of the data dump
collectively provided by drs sterman, singer, greenspan, mandel (and et al
in case i've forgotten anybody) on a subject about which (except for reading
r. herzog's thesis many years ago) i knew little. But i do have a comment
to make with regarding dr sterman's en passant remarks regarding 19th
century pos'qim.

to wit, dr sterman writes: <..the dyeing process are well known, but it
is important to be fair. According to Rabbi Borstein's excellent sefer
HaTecheiles, the Lev HaIvri, Rabbi Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, a posek
of great stature, not only supported the Radzyner position but wrote a
sefer in its defense. He was every bit the equal of...>

to which i must respond -- huh? By what perspective has r. schlesinger
been transmuted into a "poseq of great stature"?. Surely the idea would
have sounded odd to his 19th century contemporaries who deliberately left
his name off of public "pisqei halochoh" precisely because of his light
weight status. The lev ho'ivri certainly ought not be (and never was)
accounted a work of p'saq -- propaganda is more like it. r. schlesinger
was certainly a talented and complex individual, but his early career
-- when lev ho'ivri was written -- was essentially passed in service
as the henchman to his much better known (though here too, really only
in a local hungarian/transylvanian context) father in law, r. hillel
lichtenstein who, unlike his son-in-law r. akivah, was an acknowledged
talmid chochom, who waged an uncompromising crusade against not only
reformers but against frumme yidden who might be tainted with the
slightest shemetz of modernizing tendencies -- such as learning and
qal v'chomer/chas v'sholom speaking the local language. to give you a
scaling point, you should understand that the k'sav sofer would fall
on r. hillel and r. akivah's enemies list (which got complicated for
r. akivah because the k'sv sofer was also one of his rebbes.) As i said,
a complex individual. In any event, the lev ho'ivri basically represents
r. hillel's interpretation of the chasam sofer's tzavo'oh, with the aim
of drafting the chasam sofer's words to the anti-modernization crusade --
admittedly not an insuperably difficult task. But it is hard to think
of anyone who took r. akivoh seriously at as anything but r. hillel's
gofer. Basically he was more of a veteran pamphleteer and promoter
of qanoei causes (and that's in unterlandish hungary mind you, where
to stand out as a qanoei, then as now, you had to be something really
really special) rather than a poseiq.

Under the heading of "who said those EJ editors didn't have a sense
of humor?" i must share a moment of cognitive dissonance i suffered
just a few moments ago as it occurred to me to also check the EJ entry
on him just before sending this off. To my astonishment the EJ opened
their entry of r. schlesinger with the line that he was "one of the
first visionaries of modern zionism". -- apparently because his role in
founding petach tikvah (sic) and his championing of chardei agricultural
settlements after he made aliyah in his middle age.. If, from the olom
ho'emes, r. akivah has managed to peruse this entry, i have little
doubt that the future energy needs of the jewish state may be ensured
indefinitely merely by tapping an appropriately coupled flywheel to the
rapidly spinning guf in his grave.

both the tone and content of the informed submissions on this thread
represent, from my personal perspective, this list functioning at
its best. I do not know if this is precisely what RMB had in mind when
selecting the nom-de-list of "avodah" -- which evokes a kind of musarish
intent -- but it works for me.

Mechy Frankel                       W: (703) 588-7424
michaeljfrankel@hotmail.com         H: (301) 593-3949

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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 14:14:23 +0200
From: "S. Goldstein" <goldstin@netvision.net.il>
tcheles vs gdolim

I would like to relate a comment I heard bshem Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook:

The Gemara says that appropriate conduct is required on Har HaBayis.
Campandria [making Har HaBayis a shortcut to reach the other side of
Jerusalem] is forbidden.  Spitting on Har HaBayis is forbidden, kal vachomer
mi campandria.

RZYK:  Mehkar about the exact location of Har HaBayis/ mkom mizbeach based
on archaeology etc. is assur kal v'chomer mi rkika (spitting)

Shlomo Goldstein

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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 18:36:42 +0000
From: "Seth Mandel" <sethm37@hotmail.com>
Re: T'kheles

R. Baruch Sterman wrote: <It is disingenuous to lump all attempts at
the rediscovery of tekhelet together.>

Now, now. I may be argumentative, I may be curmudgeonly, but I am never
disingenuous. Any disingenuousness you see in my arguments is solely a
result of your own disingenuity.

<Each must be examined on its own merit and evaluated seriously.>

I agree. I have evaluated your arguments and they are unconvincing.
"Seriously," though, I cannot claim to achieve. My arguments are serious,
but my tongue is usually in my cheek.

You claim that the contemporaries of the Radzyner raised problems with
his t'kheles which are do not apply to the Murex t'kheles. The specific
issues they addressed indeed do not apply. But you are missing the
majorthrust of my argument.

In the absence of any masorah, what we would need for positive
identification is a) finding something that matches closely the statements
in the g'moro, or b) that matches what the rishonim who had seen the
hillazon and its production say, or c) really convincing archeological
evidence. Let me cover these one by one.

Regarding b): It appears that no evidence exists from rishonim who had
seen it. Micha had written earlier, quoting R. Sterman that "Equating
tekhelet with purpura and the color of purpura: The Chavot Ya'ir in his
M'kor Chayim... The Shiltei haGiborim... The Musaf la'Aruch... Midrash
haGadol from Yemen..., and the Aruch..." The idea that techeiles and
royal purple have the same source recurs throughout the period in which
techeiles wasn't worn. One could argue that at least a theoretical,
if not practical, mesorah did exist.>

That is scarcely the case. Masoros about identification of objects are
lost far more quickly. Just witness the mahloqes'n among the rishonim
about such basic identifications as the sh'mone sh'rotzim or the 5 grains
required to make matzo and hometz. Not only scientists like Dr. Yehudah
Felix, but major rishonim like the Rambam deny that oats or rye belong to
the five grains. And the five grains, whatever they were, all existed in
the time of the rishonim, though maybe in a different place from where
they lived.

Qal vahomer regarding t'kheles, which was lost in the time of the
g'onim. A point curiously overlooked by those (including the P'til
society) who bring purported proofs from the Rambam about the identity
of the hillazon is what he says in Perush Hamishnayos (1st mishna in
pereq HaT'kheles, in my translation from the Arabic): "we do not have it
[t'kheles] today, because we are not sure about its dye [or "we are not
knowledgable about dying it"], for not every kind of blue in clothing is
t'kheles, but only a specific kind of blue that is not possible nowadays
(lam tumkin alyom). Therefore we only make lovon." The Rambam is clearly
stating that, to the best of his knowledge, the source of t'kheles is not
available in his day. (Note that the Rambam lived on the shores of the
Mediterranean before the purple industry totally ceased with the fall of
Byzantium. The Rambam was also familiar, through the Arab naturalists,
with Pliny. One might well ask that since the purple industry was known
in the Rambam's time, although very tightly controlled, and the Rambam
knew what the Roman naturalists said about the mollusc that was the
source of the dye, why the Rambam does not identify it as the source
and just say we don't know how to process it.)

Regardless of whether the Rambam was indeed correct that the t'kheles
was impossible in his day (the P'til society would claim that he was
in error, since the murex was readily available), it is completely
clear that he himself did not know nor had ever seen anything that he
considered t'kheles, and so the accuracy of his statements about the
hillazon must be just the tradition that he had heard, without having
seen it. So his descriptions cannot be taken too literally, especially
not if it does not match the g'moro.

If the Rambam, living in the place of t'kheles and before the dye industry
completely shut down, had never seen it and cannot identify it, what sort
of tradition do you think was available to the Chavos Ya'ir, in 17th
century Germany? However, the Chavos Ya'ir was very familiar with the
secular sciences, and any identification he makes is scientific guesswork,
not a masorah. The same goes for the other sources sources mentioned,
with the exception of the Arukh, who, like the Rambam, lived at a time and
place where the purple dye industry was known. And the Arukh suggests that
Tyrian is Latin or Greek for t'kheles, but is completely and strangely
silent about identifying the hillazon with the Muricidae. Speculation by
others like the Mosaf la'Arukh (1600), who lived long after the Rambam
and the Arukh as to the identity of t'kehles is no worse, but no better,
than my speculation about its identity. The only statement that indicates
anything is the Ramban, who says "v'hat'khelet gam hayyom lo yarim 'ish et
yado lilbosh hutz mimmelekh haggoyim." I take that to mean that the Ramban
is identifying t'kheles with royal purple, as the P'til society does,
but the Ramban fails my test of a rishon who had seen the hillazon and
the production of t'khelet. It is impossible to conceive that someone who
grew up and lived in Christian Spain, who had little access to the works
of Pliny would know more than the Rambam. Nor, in discussing t'kheles
in the mitzva of tzitzis does he indicate that he knows how it is made.

[Following my line of argument, I will be fair and ignore what the Rambam
says about the hillazon in Perush haMishnayot Bekhorot 6:2 that hillazon
means the same thing as nahash (i.e. a long creature, certainly). I am
claiming that the Rambam's description cannot be taken to literally,
since he never saw it, so I cannot argue that the Rambam proves Murex
is not it, since Murex scarcely resembles a snake.]

So then we go to a), the statements in the g'moro about the hillazon.
Regarding the g'moro in M'nohos about the hillazon, Micha has argued that
the list explains certain significant features, and not, like R. Singer
holds, identifying characteristics. The P'til society follows the same
tack, explaining how the features can be reconciled to the facts about
Murex. I am not going to argue that the reconciliations are impossible.
But I would like to point out where that gets us. They say "gufo dome
layam" means that it is camouflaged, probably by the algae that grow
on its shell in the wild. "Biryato doma ladag" means it spawns. "Oleh
ahat l'shiv'im shana" means that it periodically is less abundant as a
result of overfishing. "Midamo 'osin t'khelet" just means that t'kheles
is made somehow from some bodily secretion. So the g'moro is saying
that the hillazon is a sea creature that may be camouflaged (or not) and
can be overfished and spawns. Rabbosai, what does that not include? Yes,
it excludes giant sea turtles, because they lay eggs. Yes, it excludes
brightly colored fish. But it includes almost everything else. Starfish,
octopodes, all molluscs, gastropods and cephalopods, oysters and clams,
sharks, manta rays, crabs, flounder and hundreds of other kinds of
fish. All may be camouflaged, spawn, may be overfished, and have bodily
fluids. Hazal would therefore be saying the only significant feature or
identifying characteristic of hillazon is that you make t'kheles from
its fluids. Wonderful! The significant features of the animal from which
you make t'kehles is: the animal you make t'kheles from! For that Hazal
spent a line in the g'moro? Just to tell us that it is not bright and the
dye is not made from its skin or muscles? The P'til society relies on
the g'moro that states that we learn potzea' from hillazon, which means
it has a hard shell or tough mantle. This does not help us too much,
since virually all molluscs and lots of other things have hard shells or
mantles. Cephalopods, for instance, and starfish. They also highlight
the g'moro that says the dye is best when taken from a live or freshly
killed hillazon, which does correspond to Murex. But the major problem
with using these two as conclusive evidence is that other g'moros seem
to contradict the Murex. The one about testing t'kheles versus indigo,
which would be impossible if they were chemically identical. Micha
speculates that the bromine which ends up in the dye might affect the
characteristics of the test, but admits that this is mere speculation R.
Sterman adds his own speculation, which he also has not tested, and
asserts that no one understands how the g'moro's test works. That may
be true (although R. Singer thinks he does), and it is certainly not
P'til's fault. But the bottom line is that that g'moro presents a
challenge to P'til, to figure out how it might work, and certainly not
a support for the identification. We may eventually figure out what
the g'moro means, but right now we are left in doubt. There also is
the Yerushalmi. Whereas the Bavli was composed in a place where there
was no t'kheles industry, one might well expect that the Yerushalmi,
composed in a place and time where and when t'kheles was available,
might give reliable descriptions. Yet the g'moro (Shabbos 1:3) says
"hillazon yesh lo gidin va'atzomos" (sinews/muscles and bones). That is
certainly not a statement that one would make about a mollusc. A friendly
octopus, maybe, since at least octopodes have beaks. But molluscs like
the murex have nothing hard save their shell. [Besides, Muricidae are
not as friendly as octopodes!] Attempts to reinterpret the Yerushalmi are
extremely far-fetched, as R Herzog points out. So a) fails as well. We
may eventually be able to reconcile the Murex with the g'moros, although
it is a stretch, but only if there were proof from elsewhere that Murex is
it. So we come to c), archeological evidence. R. Sterman says, <In the
case of the murex though, it is virtually unanimously accepted by secular
scholars and an exhaustive amount of evidence from various disciplines
has been offered to corroborate the murex as the source of the ancient
tekhelet dye.> Now I might claim that this is disingenuous. What is
"virtually unanimously accepted by the secular scholars and an exhaustive
amount of evidence" is the Murex (brandaris and Thais haemastoma) are
the source of the ROYAL PURPLE. Secular scholars know nothing about the
requirements for t'kheles, and they are either speculating with no basis
or quoting the work of P'til and its members. As I continue to point out,
the evidence of the huge piles of shells from all over were known in the
time of R. Herzog, and scientists had discussed them and identified them
as connected with the royal purple. These shells appear at multiple sites
around the Mediterranean. I read recently that piles of Murex trunculus
had been discovered at Carthage, the Punic capital, and that coins
there show the trunculus. Is anybody seriously going to claim that the
'ovdai 'avodah zoro (real true blue AZ!), were supporting an industry
to supply Jews (who were apparently as rare in Carthage as hillazons)
with their t'kheles, and featuring that fact on their coins? (Note to
the linguistic irregulars: the plural should be helzonim or helzonot).
Ella mai? Just what I am pointing out: the goyim had a major industry of
producing purple and purple-blue, and used not only Thais haemastoma and
Murex brandaris, but also Murex trunculus. All these shells are evidence
of the massive dye industry producing royal purple and similar dyes. I
will freely admit, R. Sterman, that if we know how to make blue out of the
Murex species and Thais that they did as well. But there is no evidence
that they did, nor any evidence that they used any of their dying industry
for tzitzis. When we find the evidence (say, even, some Murex shells with
some tzitzis next to them) you will have some evidence. Until then, we
are left with 1) evidence of a large-scale dying industry that indeed is
"virtually unanimously accepted" as producing royal purple; 2) evidence
that you can produce a blue dye, chemically identical to indigo, from
Murex; 3) no evidence that that was ever done or used for tzitzis.
P'til's remaining argument is that if you can produce blue from Murex,
and it is not t'kheles, then why didn't Hazal warn us against buying
blue made from Murex? But the blue and purple made from Murex was a
monopoly, and, as Carthage indicates, a source of major income for the
city state. Consider the following: just for the sake of argument, imagine
that t'kheles is made from an as yet unknown marine species. You can get
blue dye from this hillazon, or from indigo, or from Murex. The indigo
costs $20, the hillazon costs $150 (not unreasonable, since the g'moro
says "damav y'qarim," and the Murex costs $300. Furthermore, you may be
arrested for buying Murex dye, and you have to keep changing suppliers:
the nice Roman and Punic manufacturers who hold the monopoly have this
inexplicable minhog of bumping off competition. The only people who will
sell Murex dye to you are scoundrels (who are probably selling you plant
indigo), or your local Afghan smuggler Ahmad. To get to Ahmad, you have to
go in the middle of the night to an unmarked door in the bad part of town
and say "Micha sent me." The door you have to go to keeps changing, and a
lot of the time people are mugged outside Ahmad's door, since every honest
thief knows that Ahmad only deals with people who pay cash and in American
dollars. So Hazal, worrying about people buying fake t'kehles, are going
to warn you not to buy the Murex? Anybody crazy enough to go to Ahmad and
pay twice the price wouldn't listen to Hazal anyway. I have not set out
to prove that Murex is definitely not t'kheles. I cannot definitively
do so, nor is that necessary for my argument. If the identification is
questionable according to the g'moro, there is no authoritative testimony
from the rishonim (and, inexplicably, the two rishonim who knew about
Murex and the dye industry, do not identify it as the hillazon), and
the archeological evidence proofs nothing, then we are left with a big
fat sofeq (or at least a jumbo family size one). The P'til society says,
"so what? What do you lose by putting on a sofeq?" And that is where my
other argument comes in: that the g'dolim in the time of the Radzyner had
a sofeq, and did not put on his t'kheles; I suggested that the reason
is because you lose the mitzvo of lovon and gave my argument. If I am
wrong, and their reason was something else, who am I to know better than
they what to do in the case of a sofeq t'kheles? R. Singer has written
that R. Chayim Ozer and R. Hayyim Berlin wore t'kheles privately. I
do not believe that to be the case. Menahem Borshtein brings just that
"it is a tradition among Radzyne chasidim" that these figures, as well
as R. Hertzog, wore the Radzyner t'kheles secretly. If they felt that
there was nothing wrong with being yotze the sofeq by wearing it, why not
publicly? How come none of their talmidim, including those who learned by
R. Hayim Ozer daily in his habura, knew anything about it? I think this
is just a story, based on the fact that precisely these were the kind of
g'dolim who would have seriously considered wearing it; R Hayyim Berlin
did correspond with the Radzyner Rebbe with interest on the subject. It
is easy enough for ardent supporters of any cause to go from "Ploni was
correspondence and was really interested in discussing the merits of the
case" to "Ploni supported the cause," and I think that the stories have
no credibility. From the rest of the g'dolim we find, according to R.
Borshtein's research, only various excuses about why they could not
comment or get involved. That is the case with R. Yitzchoq Elhonon,
with the Chofetz Chayim, with R. Shmuel Salant, with R. Yehoshua Leib
Diskin, with R. Iser Zalman (and none of these are from what I call the
"rejectionist front"). But why did they not wear it and vote with their
feet, even if they did not have time to write t'shuvos on the subject? It
is clear that they all had reservations. Nor do I think that R. Gebstein
and R. Rabinovits represented all the objections of the g'dolim; none
of the g'dolim mentioned ever refer to their books. The best summary
is that of the Arukh haShulkhan, 9:12: "a few people followed him [the
Radzyner Rebbe], but none of the g'dolei hador and most of k'lal Yisroel
did not follow him."

I think that the g'dolim refrained from wearing them because there was
not enough evidence, and refrained from getting involved because the
the argument had become very vitriolic (R. Gelbstein said in his book
that it is a mitzva to tear off the tales in public of someone who was
wearing Radzyne t'kheles).

Only if we had clear and convincing evidence would we go against the
practice of R. Yitzchoq Elhonon and the others, and there is none as
of now.
 Maybe in 20 years, maybe in 50 will convincing archeological evidence be
found. Maybe an animal that exactly matches what the g'moro says will
be found. There are fish that lived in the Mediterranean that are now
extinct, and there are fish described in Hulin whose identity we don't
know. Perhaps he whose coming we all await will tell us where this
specimin still survives, or clear up our s'feqos. But until that day
is come, I think we would be better of following the practice of the
g'dolim in the time of the Radzyner.

For afficionados of this subject, I will b'n post something quite short
addressing some other of R. Micha's points and the question of the color.

Seth Mandel

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