Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Techeiles

The Arizal says that techeiles only applies during the days of the Bais Hamikdash. Rav Elyashev shlita wrote a lengthy, as-yet unpublished teshuva (as far as I know) about today's techeiles to Rav Feivel Cohen, explaining at length why we do not use it. The Arizal is one of the reasons he brings.

The Arizal is difficult to understand: what does the Bais Hamikdash have to do with techeiles? There is an explanation on this by the Satmar Rav ZTL: Chazal say that the
value of the techeiles color is that "techeiles is similar to the sea, which is similar to the sky, which is similar to Hashem's throne of glory." But Chazal also say that "since the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed, the sky has not been seen in its pure color". Ergo: Techeiles is no longer "similar to the sky" and therefore no longer similar to Hashems "throne of glory" after the churban.

I would imagine the reason [that the Tanaaim and Amoraim wore Techeiles after the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed] is due to the fact that, as I mentioned above, the reason the Arizal said that because the entire institution of Techeiles is based, as Chazal say, on the idea that the techeiles is similar in appearance to the sky, which is similar in appearance to the Kisei Hakavod (and therefore by viewing the Tzitzis we will remember the Mitzvos). But after the Churban, the sky changed its appearance and is no longer similar in appearance to the Kiseh Hakavod.

However, the Gemora says that whether the sky changed its appearance since the days of the churban is a machlokes between the amorayim:

Brachos 59a: "Rav Yehoshua ben Levi says, if someone sees a clear sky, he makes the brachah oseh maaseh berrishis. And this disagrees with Rafram bar Papa, for Rav Chisda said in the name of Rafram bar Papa, since the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed, the clear sky is no longer able to be seen."

So the Arizal's statemnt is subject to a dispute among the Amorayim, which he rules like Rafram bar Papa, against RYB"L.

Thus, if there will be other Tamudic sages who used Techeiles, they would agree with RYB"L, arguing with Rafram bar Papa. We pasken like Rafram, against RYB"L, so it would not be a problem.


By wearing Techeiles today, you're accomplishing nothing. And perhaps worse than nothing. Because if the great Tzadikim avoided using Techeiles because the Arizal says that nowadays it’s useless, to say you know better, or that you’re more frum than them, is foolishness and arrogance.
You don't need to be wearing the wrong techeiles "on purpose" to violate this isuur; even if you think you're wearing the right techeiles but it's not, you are still violating it, albeit b'shogeg. Thus, any element of question regarding the authenticity of your techeiles exposes you to this issur, and therefore unless we know for sure - not "probably" and not "OK it can’t hurt" - you are taking a chance of violating this. Therefore, the usual "let's be machmir - why not?" attitude does not apply to techeiles.

And no, nobody is certain that this techeiles is the real thing. Several questions have been raised about it, and it boils down to "it can't hurt to do it!” But Rav Elyashev is saying it CAN hurt to do it.

Especially since the Rambam in Peirush Hamishnayos says that nowadays we don’t know the recipe to make the right color of the techeiles.

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The Radziner Rebbe's Techeiles is not the same as the usual kind.

As for the YU rabbis and the rest, what I am saying indeed disagrees with them. That's precisely what Rav Elyashev said - they're wrong. And he, being much greater than all of those Modern Rabbis, says it’s useless to wear the Techeiles; meaning, no, don't follow their example.

You're not "remembering" a Mitzvah by faking it - it would be kind of like painting tefillin on your arm and saying well, I don’t wear Tefilin all day so this will remind me of the Miztvah. All you're doing is painting a picture of techeiles on your Tzitzis. And yes, Klall Yisroel for many generations has not been interested in wearing Techeiles, as Rav Elyashev said, due to the Arizal. If they - and he - don't think you're accomplishing anything by wearing it, then for you to say you are is foolish.

And there's a Mitzvah not to be foolish.

And who says there's a Mitzvah to "remember" the Techeiles anyway? What's the deal with that? We're doing things l'zecher nishmas the Mitzvah? The Torah says that by having knots and strings equal to 613 we remember all Taryag Mitzvos by looking at our Tzizis. So what's with this business of making blue strings out of nowhere and "remembering" techeiles?

Why don’t you tie a string around your finger to remind you of, I dunno, the Mitzvah of Eglah Arufah that we don’t do nowadays?

Uh uh. The issue is simply whether halachicly this is techeiles, and if so, are we supposed to wear techeiles nowadays? This "remembrance" of Mitzvos is meaningless.

For the record, one of those modern rabbis is going around dismissing the Arizal because, as noted above, some sages in the Gemora after the churban worse techeiles. The fact that they use such reasoning - that the Arizal doesn’t count based on what you see in the Gemora - is itself a reason not to follow them. We can't dismiss the words of the Arizal because we think we know better. Just because they can't think of an answer to the Arizal doesn’t mean someone else can't. Bishvil kushya lo yishtaneh hadin - the Halachah doesn’t change because you don’t understand it.

(And even were we to accept their challenge to the Arizal, it is satisfactorily answered, as per above. So no more problem with the Arizal and the Gemora.)

Rav Shach ZTL writes regarding a certain issue, that if the Chazon Ish didn't think there is any reason to do it, and that doing it doesn't benefit you in any way, someone who thinks he knows better "needs bedikah". The same thing applies here. If Rav Elyashev, after hearing the case for techeiles, said there's no reason to wear it, and more, that we should not, because Klall Yisroel throughout the generations apparently ruled like the Arizal, then we don’t do it. (And it's not as if these Rabbis have any reason why we should not follow the Arizal - as I said, their "problem" with the Gemora is quite answerable).
It's not a question of who is greater, but for the record, I am not certain at all that in Halachah the Radziner Rebbe ZTl was greater than Rav Elyashev.

Be that as it may, Rav Elyashev's point is that Klall Yisroel was not concerned over the Techeiles - he makes a list of specific Gedolim - and he is attributing that lack of concern to the Arizal. The Radziner Rebbe, who clearly did believe in using Techeiles (though it was not the Efrat Techeiles) is explaining the Arizal that way. However, the rest of Klall Yisroel, who did not agree with the Radziner's concern about Techeiles, explains the Arizal differently, Rav Elyashev is saying, that the reason why Klall Yisroel was not accepting of the techeiles concern, is because they - Klall Yisroel - must have understood the Arizal literally. However, he did not tell us what the pshat in the Arizal is, nor how to answer the Radziner's issue.

But there certainly is an answer. And a possibility is above.
Looking at Rav Elyashev's teshuva again, I see that he mentions, apparently from the Yeshuos Malko, a shitah that the tzitzis and the beged of the tzitzis have to be the same color. So that if the beged is white the tzitzis must be white as well. This being the case, if the techieles is not the real techeiles, it is in violation of this halachah. So, like lots of unnecessary chumras, this techieles is actually a big kulah as well.

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