With regards to warring sides on string ratio

With regards to warring sides on string ratio

With regards to warring sides on string ratio 150 150 Israel Ziderman

Date: May 4, 2020

IZ:  1. As regards to the prefered number of tekhelet cords in tsitsit, let me refer you to Rashi on לתת על המצנפת למעלה (Shemot 39:31), where he proves that, although the term “petil tekhelet” is in the singular, it refers to several cords and at the least to two cords. This justifies his and Tosfot’s ruling on the Gemara that tsitsit requires two tekhelet cords.

  1. This ruling is also adopted by the Mishna Berura (11:12, 58): “בזמן שהיה תכלת, היו עושים שנים מתכלת ושנים מלבן”.
  2. Furthermore, the late Rabbi Levi Yitshak Halperin זצ”ל, founder and head of the Institute of Science and Halacha, Jerusalem, ruled that the number of threads according to Rambam (1) and Raavqad (2) are included in the number adopted by Rashi and Tosafot (4), and it is therefore the preferable הידור to have four.
  3. It is such a pity that nowadays the various views have each been advocated by different authorities, resulting in different practices throughout the communities. I am even tempted to regret having published my reseaches that have enabled the restoration of petil tekhelet in tsitsit. For my aim was to unite Am Yisrael in introducing this new mitsva, and not create diversity, תתגודדו and discord in Jewish life and practice.
  4. I have the same reservation about the multiple tying patterns that have been promoted in our communities, without regard for uniformity of religious norms. Surely the minhag (7-9-11-13 windings) as laid down in Shulchan Aruch 11:14, and practised till today, and adopted by Chabbad הגר”ז specifically in preparation for revival of the tekhelet, is sufficient to be adopted by us all.


RH: In response:

  1. The term Ptil literally means “wick” as we see with regards to lighting the Menorah, and indeed, a wick can have many cords. What’s interesting is that, while each of our cords contain 8 strings, I was advised elsewhere that the 8 ply threads are a minhag, whereas the 2 and 2 ratio is the Halacha.
  2. My only elephant-in-the-room question on that is, in Hillel’s opinion Tzitzis were to be done with three cords instead of 4 (we go like Shammai). This therefore suggests that there were many Jews that wore Tzitzis with 3 cords, an odd number. If one cannot have more Techeiles than Lavan, how can we have two strings? The only way I see it happening is if it was a 1.5/1.5 ratio, where the 1 would satisfy Raavad and the .5 would satisfy Rambam. But this is conjecture.
  3. Agreed, as per point 2. What’s interesting to note though is that Rashi gets 2-2 based on a Sifri, which the GR”A later comes in and calls the authenticity of that very Sifri into question.
  4. It’s both a pity and a miracle. There’s no need to regret the work you’ve done over the decades; to say your research has been indispensable to finding Techeiles today would be the understatement of this short century. Lehavdil, the Rambam wrote his Mishneh Torah as a means to be the “final answer” to all contradictions. That sort of backfired when the Raavad came in and upended the Rambam on most of his teachings. Machlokes is how we survive and thrive to find truth and meaning.
  5. 7-8-11-13 is a method meant to remind of of Techeiles. The fact that it adds up to 39 which is a multiple of 13 3-wind Chulyot is a bonus. There is no evidence that this was the tying method used when Techeiles was work well over a millennium ago. Lo Titgodedu (not sticking out) is a subjective rule. Some state that wearing Techeiles in itself is Lo Titgodedu. In today’s times it’s more accepted than ever before, and Jews are wearing it with string ratios and tying methods of all kinds, so it’s difficult to say that it’s “sticking out” when there’s no actual norm when wearing Techeiles, at least in our current generation.

I’ll add re: string ratio that some Ashkenazim holding like the Rambam feel that if it’s not the right Techeiles, they’re “safe” by merit that the other half is white. With those holding like the Raavad ratio, similar to the Rambam, the only purpose of Tekhelet is to act as a winder and anything extra would be pointless (based on a Pasuk regarding Naftali which homiletically relates to Ptil regarding struggling by using both arms to wrap around the enemy). The way I personally see it is, 2-2 ratio is the Halacha, and if less is required, then all I’m risking is additional colored strings which there’s nothing Halachically against it.

I’ll add one more thing regarding string ratio. Your tying method is what the Shulchan Aruch HaRav writes about. I spoke with a certain Lubavitcher that wears Techeiles using Rambam ratio, who told me that when the Alter Rebbe wrote these things, they were intended for non-Chassidim (he also apparently wrote 2-2 string ratio when he was younger and a Misnagid), but Chassidim should do like Rambam, since the AR”I held of 1 string, as does the Zohar (Bnei Yisrael travelled the Midbar for 7 days and arrived at the Yam Suf in the 8th, and Techeiles Domeh LeYam). Why he would write something for non-Chassidm and another for Chassidim IMO is beyond me, and is not the first time Lubavitchers veer from the Rebbe’s path (e.g. Lubavitchers teaching Talmud to only women that are Baalei Teshuva even though RMMS held of educating all Jewish women in Talmud), but that opens a whole other can of worms.

One final thing regarding diversity/unity: I feel that as long as we all show respect to one another, we are united and can all only grow via a vis differing opinions. Differing opinions due to textual vagueness stimulates creativity and intellectual growth. What we do with that is a choice. So far I think we’re all united in trying to perform the mitzvah of Techeiles to the best of our abilities.

IZ: Theoretical disputes on these issues are, of themselves, in order

קנאת סופרים מרבה חוכמה

BUT! This is not to be confused with divergencies in mitsva- practice, which confuse the public and engender animosity, thereby estranging many from adopting the mitsva.

לא תתגודדו

RH: IZ I’m personally not so sure it will estrange many from adopting the Mitzva. I think that making it personal will empower many to make it extra special for oneself. However, I hear what you’re saying. I’ve spoken to those that chose to either a) not wear Techeiles at all due to uncertainties regarding tying method/string ratio or b) wait a long time and speak with their Rav which method to wear prior to adopting the Mitzva. Then there are tying methods that aren’t an “exact science” such as how many winds to do when tying Raavad, which can frustrate some people when looking for an exact “how to.” So eilu v’eilu.

IZ: Where is the sifrei you mentioned?

RH: Here: https://www.ou.org/torah/files/PerekHatecheiles-2018.pdf


מכמה גדילים אתה עושה? אין פחות משלושה – דברי בית הלל. בית שמאי אומרים: שלושה של צמר ורביעית של תכלת. והלכה כבית שמאי. ספרי שלח )קטו(

How many strings must one place? Not less than three – this is the opinion of Beis Hillel. Beis Shammai say: Three [strings] of [white] wool and a fourth of techeiles. And the halacha is according to Beis Shammai.


כמה גדילים נעשים? אין פחות משלושה חוטים כדברי בית הלל. בית שמאי אומרים: מארבעה חוטים של תכלת וארבעה חוטים של לבן… והלכה כדברי בית שמאי. ספרי כי תצא )רלד(

How many strings are placed? Not less than three strings according to Beis Hillel. Beis Shammai say: Four strings of techeiles and four strings of white. And the halacha is according to Beis Shammai.


Note: The Vilna Gaon claims that the correct version of this Sifre is — “בג‘ חוטין של לבן ורביעית של תכלת“ “With three strings of white and a fourth of techeiles.” This change would harmonize the two quotes from the Sifre.

IZ: But Rashi does not quote this Sifrei as his source. On the contrary, he presents his own clear logic, proving that the word petil refers to the commodity (i.e.spun and wound cords of textile) without defining how many pieces. Accordingly, the remark of the Gera is irrelevant to the issue.

It seems that Rashi’s Shita involves an equal status for the white and tekhelet threads in tsitsit, 4 of each. Accordingly, התכלת לא מעכבת את הלבן והלבן לא מעכב את התכלת.

Therefore, a tsitsit without white but with only 8 tekhelet is fine.

RH: IZ INTERESTING. All Tekhelet Tzitzis would be good for Lavan as well technically?

IZ: RH There’ a difference between בדיעבד and לכתחילה


Israel Ziderman

Scientific Director, Tekhelet Foundation
Chairman, Union of Civilian Research Scientists in Israel
Scientific Editor, Yalkut Journal of the Israel Textile & Fashion Association

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