Editor’s note: for follow-up Q&A on this subject see Techelet: All or Nothing?
Dear Rabbi Simon
I have a question about something I came across on a “techelet experience” in Israel recently. Given that techelet is d’oraita [a Torah mitzvah] how come it is only taken up on a limited basis? Is this due to the lack of clarity as to the correct source of the techelet dye? I also have a related practical question about Tallit and Tzitzit strings. I had not realised that there are so many different minhagim [customs] re tying the tzitzit strings and was wondering which one I should ideally be going for – Rambam or Ravaad, and if Ravaad which type of tying (ie Gr”a [Vilna Gaon], Chinuch or 7-8-11-13) and what the differences are.
Thank you for your interesting questions. The contemporary advocates of techelet make a strong case for their identification, drawing on scientific and technological advances not available to earlier generations. Moreover, it may well be the case that even if the techelet they have produced is inauthentic, the end result is not inferior to have all 8 strings (actually 4 doubled over) of white, ie no dye at all. Nevertheless, there is an in-built conservativism in the halakhic process which is not quick to embrace the novel, even where the “novelty” purports to be a rediscovery of ancient practice. There is a reluctance to imply that my observance of the mitzvah is superior to that of my forbears as well as the revered and saintly mentors and teachers of earlier generations. Nevertheless, the techelet “enhancement” is gradually gaining traction, and may one day become widespread or even the norm.
WRT your specific question of choosing how to tie your new tzitzit, these differences abound primarily due to the complexities of the techelet tzitzit options (as I am sure you know). I would recommend the Ravaad approach according to the Vilna Gaon (Gr”a).
Rabbi Rashi Simon