Monday, June 18, 2018

The Power of the True Blue

The last four posts about techeiles were taken from a paper I wrote in college titled The Search for the True Blue. In that paper (Part 4) I had made an educated guess as to why kala ilan (a plant derivative) was not a substitute for true techeiles (from a mollusk). Just recently I read a more formal account of why this is so.

The Gemara (Chullin 89a) records that the blue color of techeiles is similar to the color of the sea, which is similar to the sky, which is similar to sapphire, which is similar to the Throne of God. By looking at techeiles we are reminded of God's Presence and this keeps us from sin.

In the book Understanding Emunah by Rabbi Yehuda Cahn he explains that looking at techeiles not only reminds us visually of the Throne of God but allows us to perceive it spiritually. The power of techeiles to do this is hinted to in the word חלזון [chilazon], the name for the mollusk that produces the techeiles dye. This word includes the letters חזון, the Hebrew term for a prophetic vision. Thus, techeiles that comes from a mollusk packs an extra spiritual punch in that it grants the viewer a very diluted form of prophecy and allows them to perceive the Divine. While looking at the kala ilan dye does offer the same visual reminder of God's Presence (because the two dyes share the same physical properties) the prophetic component of the experience is lacking.

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