The Meaning and Symbolism of Tekhelet

June 11, 2014

This week’s parsha—Shelach—contains the third paragraph of Kriyat Shema, which discusses the commandment to attach tzitzit to four-cornered garments. The pasuk states:

“And they shall place upon the tsitsit of each corner a thread of tekhelet… And you shall see it and remember all of the commandments of Hashem and you shall do them.”

Until recent years, fulfilling the mitzvah of tzizit with tekhelet was all but impossible. P’til Tekhelet – The Association for the Promotion and Distribution of Tekhelet – is a non-profit organization based in Israel. P’til Tekhelet provides educational programming and resources pertaining to Tekhelet, and produces Tekhelet for tzitzit. The association is comprised of a small group of individuals whose work is done lishma – for the express purpose of making tsitsit as the halakha requires.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice Presient emeritus of the Orthodox Union, recently spoke at a conference marking 100 years of tekhelet research. In this video, Rabbi Weinreb discusses Tekhelet and its meaning with respect to the psychological aversion to depravity on the one side, and excellence on the other.

In this segment, Rav Meir Soloveichik discusses the idea first suggested by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik regarding the symbolism of Tekhelet and white in the tzitzit. He examines this in the context of the establishment of the State of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to its sovereign homeland:

Explore more on tekhelet.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.