Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
The Radziner Rebbe, Rav Gershon Chanoch Leiner (Poland 1839-1891) declared that he had discovered the true Techelet. R. Leiner was a brilliant talmid chacham. He was also knowledgeable in chemistry, engineering and medicine. He proposed that the Chilazon was a type of squid known as the cuttlefish. He travelled to visit the great aquarium in Naples to research the matter and became convinced that the Techelet was made from the black ink of the squid. The Rebbe returned to Radzin and, within a year, 10,000 Radziner Chassidim were wearing the Techelet.
Most gedolim of his time were not convinced with the Rebbe’s finding. The most outspoken of these was the great-grandfather of the Rav, R. Yosef Ber Soloveitchik of Brisk-the Beit HaLevi, on the grounds that we have no unbroken messorah for wearing murex Techelet. A positive mesorah is required to begin wearing murex Techelet. Since there is no mesorah, then even if the murex Techelet is authentic, we still may not use it.
Rav Soloveitchik expressed his personal opinion on this matter when he wrote in “Shiurim leZecher Abba Mori z’l, p228”- “ I know very well what happened between by great grandfather, and the Gaon of Radzin, that the Rebbe tried to prove, based on much evidence, that this dye was the true Techelet. However, my Zaide objected, saying that conjecture and proofs cannot prove anything concerning matters which rely upon tradition handed down from generation to generation. In such a case, argumentation cannot be the deciding factor, only tradition itself can determine it. That was the way our fathers saw it, and acted thereon, and that is the way the sons have to continue acting.
Consequently, the Rav spoke about Techelet at Yeshiva University many times and always concluded that he was opposed on the grounds of mesorah.