Ptil Tekhelet

Ptil Tekhelet

Tekhelet is a blue dye that is highly prized by the ancient Mediterranean civilizations. This was mentioned about 49 times in Tanakh or Hebrew Bible. This is used in High Priest’s clothing, tapestries in Tabernacle, tassels, Tzitzit and more are affixed into the corners of every corner of this 4-cornered garment.  

Tanakh never specified the source of the Tekhelet, but according to Talmud, its dye was produced from marine creatures known as the Hillazon. Tosefta stated that Hillazon is an exclusive source of dye.

The Biblical References

Of 49 or 48 uses in Masoretic Text, one pertains to fringes on the cornered garments of the entire nation of Israel. 44 relates to temple clothes, garments or priesthood. That remaining 6 in Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Esther are said to be secular uses like when Mordechai puts on the white and blue clothing in Esther. Colors can be used to combine with other colors like that of the 2 Chronicles wherein the veil of Solomon’s Temple was made of blue-violet.

Ezekiel might indicate the source of shellfish which is the Aegean Region. Aside from the observations mentioned above, it’s worth adding that the entire instances of the tekhelet both priestly and secular attribute its use to some elite. From such a perspective, it has become apparent that it’s hard to obtain and costly what’s further corroborated through rabbinic writings.

Ptil Tekhelet History

At a certain point, following Second Temple Roman destruction, the real identity of dye’s source was lost, and during more than 1400 years, the majority of Jews have just worn plain and white tassels. Stripes on the prayer shawls usually black, but also purple or blue are assumed by many to indicate what the opinion of the majority about mainstream Judaism consider as lost Tekhelet that is referred to by numerous sources being “black as midnight” “as blue as mid-day sky and purple. The stripes of the tekhelet have inspired the designs of Israel flag.

Identifying Colors of Tekhelet

In spite of the common agreement of the majority of the contemporary English translation of phrases, tekhelet itself avoids several basic issues or problems. First and foremost, this remains strange whether the term in biblical times tends to denote abstract color or the real source material. This issue seems specific neither for tekhelet nor for biblical Hebrews and scholars usually point to other language featuring the same phenomena.

Though with time, it came to denote solely the color blue and the exact color in Antiquity was kept unknown. Having to base on scarce material proof from ancient East and early biblical translations, scholars assume that tekhelet perhaps belonged to spectrum between red, blue and purple.

In Septuagint,    tekhelet is translated to Greek as “hyakinthos.” The hyacinth flower’s color could be violet-blue or bluish purple.

The ancient Rabbinic literature provides two major expositions for colors of tekhelet. A group of sources which include Bava Metziya 61 a-b and the Menachot 40 a-b, not to mention the Qala ilan, a particular indigo dye that is described to be very visually indistinguishable from tekhelet. Though the dye is easier and cheaper to get, rabbis cursed those individuals who will substitute low-priced equivalent to tekhelet.

Another larger group compares tekhelet to the sky’s color or color of the sea that is not far from Indigo. But this group somehow contains some instances that extend comparison and considered tekhelet into the throne of glory. Particular features of the divine chair aren’t speculated in ERL, but this can be assumed safely again that these are not those visual qualities that counted here but instead, the value of objects and its unambiguous cultic associations

Ptil Tekhelet is certainly an essential thread that unites the Jewish’ past, present and the future. It is for this reason that Ptil Tekhelet is something that is treasured by Jewish people. The tekhelet, known as the blue wool was also considered the hallmark of high nobility. This is in line with the purpose of the tallit, and that is to remind the Jews that they are members of the G-ds Kingdom of priests.

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