Should We Be Wearing Techelet Today?

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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.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

2 comments

  1. Did RYBS comment on the cuttlefish or the murex? I thought he said that there was a positive mesorah that it was not the cuttlefish as it’s ink was well known through the ages and had not been used. I did not know that he commented on the murex.

  2. There are new developments: archeological finds, remnants of kla’ai ha’ilan, Karaite tzizit, etc. That makes the case stronger. Ein le’dayan ella mah she’ainov ro’ot seems applicable. His sort of matter is subject to yiftakh be’doro… according to the Rav ztl.

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