Friday, December 4, 2009

Techailes From the Murex Trunculus and Psak Halacha

In high school I noticed that my Rebbe wore techailes on his Talis Gadol. This was peculiar to me since I was under the impression that techailes had been lost to us. I knew that there were people claiming to be wearing techailes again, but I had heard from so many people that those techailes, the Radziner techailes, were definitely not the real techailes. With my curiosity peaked I went up to my brand new Rebbe, this was the start of Junior year, who I knew was not a Radziner Chassid and asked him why he wore techailes on his Talis Gadol.

He answered, "Here, read this," and he handed me a pamphlet that he had written a few years before. This pamphlet can be found at this website:

I was intrigued by this 17 page pamphlet that my Rebbe, Rav Chaim Twerski, had written. It brought the history of Techailes, the history of the Radziner Rebbe's search for Techailes and several proofs as to why the Murex Trunculus is most likely the source of true techailes. I immediately desired to fulfill this great mitzvah that had been lost.

The most intriguing part about the whole article was the conclusion. It said,

"The argument for identifying chilazon as Murex trunculus has much merit. However, it cannot be said this identification can be 100% absolute, both with regard to the species or even with regard to the color. Nonetheless, the element of certainty would seem to surpass the threshold needed for identification l’halacha. Moreover, there is no issur in wearing a blue colored thread in the tzitzit, even if it turns out that this is not techelet,a point made poignantly by the Radziner Rebbe, in his sefer, Ptil Techelet.61 As with anything that is not definite,this matter is likely to be controversial for along time to come. It is likely that in future years there will be some rabbonim who will say that one is required to wear techelet made of Murex trunculus, others who will say that it is a mitzvah, but not an obligation, others who will say that it is a chumrah, or a mitzva min hamuvchar. Many, undoubtedly will say that there is no mitzvah whatsoever, and that it is a wasteof money and effort and still others who will find some issur to wear Murex trunculus techelet. Undoubtedly, Radziner chassidim will continue to maintain that sepia is the chilazon and techelet made of any other species is possul.62 If I may offer my own humble opinion it would seem that this identification ought to be accepted by many, if not the majority of poskim. But it will likely take much time for this to happen, for halacha is by its very nature conservative, and in general, a consensus is reached only after much debate and deliberation. For the meantime, until a consensus is reached, each rav should do according to the dictates of his own reasoning. If after careful study of all the material he is skeptical, there is no reason for him to wear techelet made from Murex trunculus or instruct others to do so. If, on the other hand, one is reasonably convinced that Murex trunculus is indeed the chilazon, he should wear them, and rule so for those who ask and rely upon his rulings.

61) As Rav Leiner states in his Sefer, Ayn HaTechelet, and in Ptil Techles, the curse meted out for those who use k’la ilan in their tzitzis and claim that they are wearing techelet, is meant for those who are intent upon deception, not those who are making a sincere attempt of fulfilling the mitzvah.

62) Chassidim are known for their emunas chachamim and it would be highly unlikely that
they would question the conclusion of their rebbe. It should be noted, however, that Rav Leiner
himself stated that he would accept any reasonable argument that would prove his identification
wrong and another identfication right. It is more than likely that were the Radziner rebbe to be alive today he would have abandoned his own thesis and adopted the present one

I do not know about the rest of you, but this article taught me something very important about piskei halacha. Every competent Rav has the right, nay, the obligation to paskin halacha based on what he finds to be the correct psak. As Rav Twersky tells us, there will be a variety of differing opinions on this halacha and every single one of them is legitimate. He admits that every Rav will come to their own conclusion and that is THEIR OBLIGATION.


Anonymous said...

Most interesting! Thank you for the article, which I have printed out to read. (I wish I could say more, but I am entirely uneducated on this subject - a situation that you have kindly helped me begin to rectify.)

E-Man said...

You are welcome. I am glad that you are interested in learning about it. I found it fascinating and quite convincing.

Anonymous said...

I read the article. It is extremely convincing. I am sure people are going to give the mesorah argument. mesorah is important, but God is more important. Let us not forget the mitzva of techeilet is written in the Torah.