Volume 19 Number 58
                       Produced: Fri May 12 18:21:29 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Pesach and the Ultimate Redemption: Rabbi Nachman Kahane's Analysis
         [Harold Gellis]
         [Doni Zivotofsky]


From: Harold Gellis <gelyc@...>
Date: Wed, 3 May 1995 15:59:33 +0300 (IDT)
Subject: Pesach and the Ultimate Redemption: Rabbi Nachman Kahane's Analysis 

(On the Shabbos Hagadol before Pesach, Rabbi Nachman Kahane, rabbi of
the Chazon Yecheskel synagogue in the Moslem quarter of the old city,
Jerusalem, author of the 'Mei Menuchos' commentary on Tosafos, and
brother of the late Rabbi Meyer Kahane, spoke on the relevancy of Pesach
to the contemporary Jewish experience.Following are an abstract of his

The Passover hagada is full of inexplicable, and even contradictory,
ideas and activities.Why, for example, do we place so much emphasis on
an event that took place in Egypt 3,500 years ago?The author of the
hagada reminds us that we should see ourselves as having left Egypt.Had
it not been for our deliverance, we would still be slaves in Egypt. But,
in all honesty, wouldn't some social system or political change have
occurred during this 3,500 year interim to ultimately free the Jews from
servitude even if the Exodus had not occurred when it did?

Furthermore, if the rationale of the hagada is to commemorate our
liberation from Egyptian bondage, why then, do we eat the food of
freedom, matzoh, first, and then eat the food of slavery, marror? We
should first eat the marror and then the matzoh because we were slaves
first and then we were freed!

Why do we dip the potato or carrot or lettuce into salt water and why do
eat the potato to begin with? What is the essence of the potato?

The sequence of 'Yachatz' requires breaking the middle matzoh into two
unequal pieces.The larger portion, afikomen, is hidden away to be 
stolen by the children.Why is the matzoh broken into two unequal pieces 
and why is it hidden? In addition, what is the unique nature of matzoh to
begin with?

The Torah system and Jewish observance is not necessarily based upon
rational explanation and logic.For example, there are 4 degrees of 
capital punnishment mandated by the law.Why, is the capital punnishment 
for the murderer, for example, less severe than the capital punnishment
meted out to the transgressor of the sanctity of the shabbos? Surely,
murder is a more heinous crime that violating the shabbos? Nevertheless,
the Torah system dictates that the shabbos violator is treated more
harshly than is the sabbath violator - this is the inexplicable nature of
the Torah.

Similarly, the eating of the matzoh and the commeroration of the hagada
in the manner it is celebrated is not necessarily understandable by the
limitations of the human mind.Nevertheless, within the limitation of 
our `hard wiring' (a literal quote of Rabbi Kahane in comparing the human
mind to a computer's CPU and RAM), we can attempt to understand the
significance of the activities of the seder.

In reality, continued Rabbi Kahane, we are not merely commemorating an
irrelevant 3,500 year old event.Instead, the deliverance of Exodus is the 
personal experience of every Jew living today. For the delivery from
Egypt is subordinate to the ultimate delivery which will redeem the
Jewish people in the future.This theme is symbolized in the potato 
dipped into the salt water.For, the carrot and the potato, are a 
vegetable whose bulk grow below the surface - not visible to the human
eye.Similarly, the bulk of the redemption of the Jewish people is also 
still below the surface - the Egyptian deliverance was only the initial
phase in what will, ultimately be a more splendid and majestic
deliverance of the Jewish people.

Hence, the splitting of the matzoh into two unequal pieces.The smaller 
piece represents the deliverance from bondage in Egypt.But, the larger 
piece, the afikomen, represents the hidden, and, as of yet, unrealized
portion and completion of the Exodus which, may we speedily witness it,
is the grand finale of Jewish history and destiny.

The matzoh itself, a mixture of flour and water, cannot ferment for more
than 18 minutes lest it rise and become chometz.The development of the 
matzoh is, therefore, truncated, similar to the redemption which began in
Egypt but was also truncated - leaving the ultimate redemption for the

It is for this reason as well that we eat matzoh first and then the
marror.For, although experiencing the initial elation of redemption 
from bondage from Egypt, the Jewish people were destined to endure
further expulsions from the land, exile to far corners of the earth,
persecution, Crusades, pograms, and the holocaust.It is the future 
redemption - represented by the afikomen, and the potato - that will
finally end the suffering of the Jewish people, may we see that day in
the near future.

Rabbi Kahane then raised a curious contradiction in the text dealing with
the `zroa hanetuya' - the outstretched hand.The author of the hagada 
writes that this refers to the sword as it is written `his drawn sword in
his hand, outstretched over Jerusalem' (Divrei Hayamin 21:16). If the
mood of the holiday and Pesach is festive and joyous to commemorate our
redemption, why does the author mention a catastrophic event - the sword
outstretched over Jerusalem?

The answer lies in the context of the verse `his drawn sword in his hand,
outstretched over Jerusalem.'The verse follows a sequence of events 
beginning withKing David's grievous error, conceived in stubborn 
opposition to his chief of staff, Yoav Ben Zeruya's admonitions,
of counting the heads of the Jewish population; a cardinal sin.The 
Almighty must punnish King David for his transgression of counting
heads.He offers three choices: two years of famine; six months of 
servitude to the Philistines; or 72 hours of plague.King David opts for 
the plague, thinking that direct dealing with the Almighty is preferable
than dealing with mortals such as Philistines and other gentiles.

But, the plague proves too much for the Jewish people.70,000 Jews die.  
The Almighty, after 36 hours, takes pity on the Jewish people and
intervenes to stop the rampant death.The Almighty instructs his angel of
death whose `drawn sword in his hand, is outstretched over Jerusalem' to
pause.King David, meanwhile, has glimpsed the menacing angel standing 
on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.Panic stricken, Ornan is 
hiding with his sons, in mortal fear of the angel.

King David calls on Ornan to emerge and requests the Jebusite to sell his
field to King David.Ornan, in panic, is willing to give the field away 
for free, but King David insists on paying in full.King David purchases 
the threshing floor of Ornanthe Jebusite, and the site is destined to 
become the location of the Beis Hamikdash - the Temple.

The Almighty then instructs his angel to cease his activities of
destruction and the plague ends.In the explicable ways of divine 
providence, the angel with his `drawn sword in his hand, outstretched
over Jerusalem,' has proven to be catalyst for the sanctification of the
Jewish people, through their acquisition of a threshing floor which would be
transformed in the spiritual center of the Jewish people for eternity.

This is the theme of the `zroa hanetuya' - the uplifting and ascent of
the Jewish people throughout the ages despite seeming adversity and
catastrophe.May we witness the fulfillment of this goal in the near future.

(As I walked through the streets of the old quarter with Rabbi Kahane, he
expounded on the theme of submerged redemption as it relates to Purim.

After the miracle of the megillah, Esther requested: `establish me for
the generations.'The Sages disagreed.  Ultimately, Esther's viewpoint 
prevailed and Jews, throughout the ages commemorate Purim and read the

Why did Esther disagree with the Sages?Esther felt that the miracle of 
Purim was imcomplete; it was not a final redemption.The Jewish people 
would be threatened by Hamans in future generations in various forms and
guises.The Jews, having succumbed to the temptations of Ahashverus's 
feast, would again succumb to the allures of assimilation and alienation
in future generations and in different locales.Again, there would be 
threats of annihilation - currently in the form of the nuclear threat
from Iran. The Jews would have to resort to the time-tested measures 
of the the megillah.They would have to repent from their evil ways and 
do real `teshuva' - only then will they realize the ultimate redemption
from the Hamans of Jewish history.)

Heshy Gellis,
Shaarei Chesed, Jerusalem,


From: <DONIZ@...> (Doni Zivotofsky)
Date: Wed, 03 May 1995 01:41:51 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Tchelet

The following is a preprint of an article that will soon appear in the
Cleveland Jewish News. Since someone recently raised the issue of the "new"
tchelet on this Bulletin Board I am taking the liberty of posting the whole
article, although only the second half relates to tchelet. Much of the
material is based on an article by Dr. Baruch Sterman who is one of the
principal drivers and organizers of the organization that is producing and
marketing the tchelet. 

        In Search of the Holy Snail or A Fringe Benefit by Ari Zivotofsky

        There is something new and exciting in Jewish ritual
fashion. The traditional prayer shawl, customarily adorned with white
threads dangling from each corner, has been sprouting a new color on its
corners in a small number of congregations. The story behind this begins
in the Bible, continues through the Talmudic period, makes a big
comeback in the early part of this century and is continuing to be
played out in modern chemistry labs and yeshivas. First the background:
        One of the most familiar ritual garments, one that is found in
every synagogue, is the tallit. It originated as a four-cornered cloak
worn in ancient times, not specifically for prayer, on which tzitzit
(ritual fringes) - four strings doubled over to make eight - were
attached to each corner. On the modern tallit these tzitzit are attached
in the centuries-old fashion in which they are knotted with five sets of
double knots, and one of the strings, known as the shamash
(lit. caretaker), is wrapped around the other seven between each of the
double knots.
        The tallit's origins are found in the book of Numbers in a
section customarily recited twice daily as part of the Shema. There, the
Jews are commanded to attach fringes on all four-cornered garments, not
only those designated for prayer, as a reminder of G-d's presence. When
the four-cornered cloak gave way to other garb, the custom developed
that Jewish men wore a "mini-tallit", known as arba kanfot
(four-corners) or tallit katan (small tallit), under their shirts all
day. Additionally, we are all familiar with the large tallit worn during
morning services except Tisha b'Av, and at the Yom Kippur evening
service. Among most Ashkenazim, this large tallit is worn daily
following marriage, while Sephardim and German Jews will wear it at
bar-mitzvah or even earlier. All groups of Jews start children wearing
the small tzitzit at a much younger age. In addition to its function in
prayer, the large tallit may be used in certain life cycle events, such
as to form the chuppah at a wedding or to wrap the deceased in for
        The material portion of the tallit has very few religious
dictates. It is usually a large woolen rectangle, traditionally white
with black or blue "racing" stripes across the front and back. This
design and colors were the impetus for the modern Isreali flag. In
recent years some have taken to designing multicolored, "modern"
tallitot. Jewish law has little objection to these as long as it is
large enough to be deemed a garment, has the tzitzit properly attached,
and, preferably, it is woolen.
        The one area that is usually not tampered with is the strings,
the actual tzitzit. They are white on almost all modern tallitot. But it
has not always been that way. The Bible actually requires that one
thread on each corner be tchelet, a special shade of blue that was made
from a sea creature know as the chilazon. This blue string was
considered the principal feature of the tzitzit. A highly prized dye,
literally worth its weight in gold, tchelet was scarce even in ancient
times, and was used by ancient royalty. During the Talmudic period, the
Romans issued edicts against the Jewish tchelet industry, forcing it
underground. Following the Arab conquest of Palestine, the secret of how
to make tchelet was effectively lost and by the mid-eighth century, the
fringes Jews wore on their garments were only white.
        The story of the rediscovery of tchelet is a multi-pieced puzzle
full of intrigue, deception, deduction and logic. Its major players
include Jewish and non-Jewish archaeologists, marine biologists,
chemists, sailors, the leader of a hasidic sect, a former chief rabbi of
Israel and some good friends of mine, a physicist and a dentist.
        The first piece in the puzzle was a chance encounter in
1858. The French zoologist Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers was on a scientific
expedition when one of the fishermen on his boat took a snail, broke it
open, and smeared it on his shirt. He boasted that the yellow stain
would soon change color in the sunlight, and when that came true,
Lacaze-Duthiers immediately realized that the snail (of the species
Murex Trunculus) was the long-lost source of some of the ancient dyes.
        In 1887, unaware of Lacaze-Duthiers' findings, Rabbi Gershon
Henoch Leiner, a Hasidic Rebbe from the Russian-Polish town of Radzyn,
published a pamphlet announcing that he was to begin searching for the
lost chilazon in an effort to bring back the tchelet to the Jewish
people. Leiner, an exceptional individual with no formal secular
training who nonetheless spoke several European languages and taught
himself medicine and mechanics, set out incognito to search for the
chilazon. After studying marine specimens in an aquarium in Naples,
Italy, (to identify the chilazon) and being tricked by a duplicitous
chemist (about the dying process), Rabbi Leiner set up a factory to
produce a dye he thought to be tchelet using the cuttlefish Sepia
Officinalis, a type of squid. Within two years 10,000 of his followers,
the Radzyner Chasidim, were wearing his tchelet. Rabbi Leiner published
two more books to counter the strong opposition from other rabbis, but
the split between his followers and others who would not wear his
tchelet ran deep and divisive to the point that Radzyner Chassidim were
often not allowed to be buried in regular Jewish cemeteries.
        In 1913, then Chief Rabbi of Ireland (and later of Israel; also
father of the past President of Israel, Chaim Herzog), Isaac Herzog,
wrote a doctoral dissertation (recently republished in English as a
book) on the subject of Hebrew Porphyrology ("the study of purple" - a
word Herzog coined). He requested from the Radzyners samples of their
tchelet as well as details of the manufacturing process. Much to Rabbi
Herzog's surprise, he proceeded to show that the Radzyner tchelet was no
more than the popular inorganic dye known as Prussian Blue, and thus,
was most likely not the true tchelet. It seemed that Rabbi Leiner had
been deceived. Ironically, while discrediting the Radzyn tchelet, Herzog
was at the same time also responsible for saving their process following
the destruction of the tchelet factories in Europe during the
Holocaust. When the survivors of Radzyn made their way to Israel it was
Herzog who provided the information needed to reestablish their tchelet
industry, which flourishes in Israel to this day.
        Herzog was aware of strong evidence associating Murex Trunculus
with the chilazon. He knew of a fascinating article dealing with dying
by William Cole of Bristol published in 1685 (and available in the
original in the CWRU library!) and of Lacaze-Duthiers' work; he had read
Pliny and Aristotle who describe the dying industry of their periods
around 2000 years ago; he knew of archaeological finds in Tyre and
elsewhere on the Mediterranean coast uncovering mounds of Murex shells;
thus, he felt strongly that Murex Trunculus could be the
chilazon. However, due to some unresolved questions, he did not
conclusively identify the chilazon and begin manufacture of tchelet. He
even proposed a possible alternative snail, Janthina, of course raising
another set of questions.
        Most of the evidence seems to point to Murex Trunculus as the
chilazon, the source of the dye for the tchelet of the tzitzit. Within
the last few decades many of Rav Herzog's questions regarding Murex
Trunculus have been addressed systematically by a group of Israeli
professors and rabbis, who have also worked out the details of the
ancient dying process. Within the last two years a non-profit
organization, Ptil Tekhelet Foundation (972-2-933-420), was established
in an effort to produce tchelet and provide it to the general
public. This effort has included the participation of a number of my
friends who go scuba diving in different port cities on the
Mediterranean for Murex Trunculus which they believe to be the
chilazon. A number of prominent rabbis have accepted the Murex Trunculus
snail as the long-lost chilazon, and tzitzit with possibly authentic
tchelet are now being worn, even by some here in Cleveland, for the
first time in more than 1300 years.

        Two final points: some of the prominent rabbis mentioned include
Rabbis M.D. Tendler and H. Shechter.  In addition, someone has
previously posted a claim that the Chofetz Chaim wore the Radzyner
"tchelet". That is simply not the case. The most he did was the permit a
student in his yeshiva to wear it as kibud av since that student's
father was a Radzyner Chassid and had requested that his son wear it.


End of Volume 19 Issue 58