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Tzitzit - Chapter Two

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Tzitzit - Chapter Two


The term techelet mentioned throughout the Torah refers to wool dyed light blue - i.e., the color of the sky which appears opposite the sun when there is a clear sky.

The term techelet when used regarding tzitzit refers to a specific dye that remains beautiful without changing. [If the techelet] is not dyed with this dye, it is unfit to be used as tzitzit even though it is sky blue in color. For example, using isatis, black dye, or other dark dyes, is unacceptable for tzitzit.

The wool of a ewe that a goat gave birth to is unacceptable for use as tzitzit.


תְּכֵלֶת הָאֲמוּרָה בַּתּוֹרָה בְּכָל מָקוֹם הִיא הַצֶּמֶר הַצָּבוּעַ כְּפָתוּךְ שֶׁבַּכָּחל. וְזוֹ הִיא דְּמוּת הָרָקִיעַ הַנִּרְאֵית לְעֵין הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ בְּטָהֳרוֹ שֶׁל רָקִיעַ. וְהַתְּכֵלֶת הָאֲמוּרָה בַּצִּיצִית צָרִיךְ שֶׁתִּהְיֶה צְבִיעָתָהּ צְבִיעָה יְדוּעָה שֶׁעוֹמֶדֶת בְּיָפְיָהּ וְלֹא תִּשְׁתַּנֶּה. וְכָל שֶׁלֹּא נִצְבַּע בְּאוֹתָהּ צְבִיעָה פָּסוּל לְצִיצִית אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא כְּעֵין הָרָקִיעַ. כְּגוֹן שֶׁצְּבָעוֹ בְּאִסְטִיס אוֹ בְּשָׁחוֹר אוֹ בִּשְׁאָר הַמַּשְׁחִירִין הֲרֵי זֶה פָּסוּל לְצִיצִית. רָחֵל בַּת עֵז צַמְרָהּ פָּסוּל לְצִיצִית:


How is the techelet of tzitzit dyed? Wool is taken and soaked in lime. Afterwards, it is taken and washed until it is clean and then boiled with bleach and the like, as is the dyers' practice, to prepare it to accept the dye. A chilazon is a fish whose color is like the color of the sea and whose blood is black like ink.1 It is found in the Mediterranean Sea.2
The blood is placed in a pot together with herbs - e.g., chamomile - as is the dyers' practice. It is boiled and then the wool is inserted. [It is left there] until it becomes sky-blue. This is the manner in which the techelet of tzitzit [is made].


כֵּיצַד צוֹבְעִין תְּכֵלֶת שֶׁל צִיצִית. לוֹקְחִין הַצֶּמֶר וְשׁוֹרִין אוֹתוֹ בְּסִיד וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְכַבְּסִין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה נָקִי וּמַרְתִּיחִים אוֹתוֹ בְּאָהֲלָא וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁהַצַּבָּעִין עוֹשִׂין כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּקְלֹט אֶת הָעַיִן. וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְבִיאִין דַּם חִלָּזוֹן וְהוּא דָּג שֶׁדּוֹמֶה עֵינוֹ לְעֵין הַתְּכֵלֶת וְדָמוֹ שָׁחוֹר כִּדְיוֹ. וּבְיָם הַמֶּלַח הוּא מָצוּי. וְנוֹתְנִין אֶת הַדָּם לְיוֹרָה וְנוֹתְנִין עִמּוֹ סַמְמָנִין כְּמוֹ הַקָּמוֹנְיָא וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁהַצַּבָּעִין עוֹשִׂין וּמַרְתִּיחִין אוֹתוֹ וְנוֹתְנִין בּוֹ הַצֶּמֶר עַד שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂה כְּעֵין רָקִיעַ. וְזוֹ הִיא הַתְּכֵלֶת שֶׁל צִיצִית:


One must dye tzitzit techelet with the intention that it be used for the mitzvah. If one did not have such an intention, it is unacceptable.

When one places some wool in the pot in which the dye was placed, to check whether the dye is good or not, the entire pot may no longer be used [for tzitzit].3 [If so,] how should one check [the dye]? He should take some dye from the pot in a small container and place the wool he uses to check in it. Afterwards, he should burn the wool used to check - for it was dyed for the purpose of checking4 - and pour out the dye used to check it, since using it for an experiment disqualified it. Afterwards, he should dye [the wool] techelet with the remainder of the dye which was not used.


הַתְּכֵלֶת שֶׁל צִיצִית צְרִיכָה צְבִיעָה לִשְׁמָהּ. וְאִם צְבָעָהּ שֶׁלֹּא לִשְׁמָהּ פְּסוּלָה. וְהַיּוֹרָה שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ הַצֶּבַע אִם צָבַע בָּהּ מְעַט צֶמֶר לְבָדְקוֹ אִם הוּא יָפֶה אִם לָאו נִפְסְלָה הַיּוֹרָה כֻּלָּהּ. אֶלָּא כֵּיצַד יַעֲשֶׂה. לוֹקֵחַ הַצֶּבַע מִן הַיּוֹרָה בִּכְלִי קָטָן וּמַנִּיחַ בּוֹ צֶמֶר שֶׁבּוֹדֵק בּוֹ וְשׂוֹרֵף אֶת שֶׁבָּדַק שֶׁהֲרֵי נִצְבַּע לִבְדִיקָה. וְשׁוֹפֵךְ הַצֶּבַע שֶׁבַּכְּלִי שֶׁבָּדַק בּוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי טַעֲמוֹ וּפְסָלוֹ. וְצוֹבֵעַ הַתְּכֵלֶת בִּשְׁאָר הַצֶּבַע שֶׁלֹּא נִפְגָּם:


Techelet should only be purchased from a recognized dealer because we are concerned that perhaps it was not dyed with the intention that it be used for the mitzvah. Even though it was purchased from a recognized dealer, if it was checked,5 and it was discovered that it was dyed with another dark dye which is not of a permanent nature, it is not acceptable.6


הַתְּכֵלֶת אֵינָהּ נִלְקַחַת אֶלָּא מִן הַמֻּמְחֶה, חוֹשְׁשִׁין שֶׁמָּא נִצְבְּעָה שֶׁלֹּא לִשְׁמָהּ. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנִּלְקְחָה מִן הַמֻּמְחֶה אִם נִבְדְּקָה וְנוֹדְעָה שֶׁנִּצְבְּעָה בְּאֶחָד מִשְּׁאָר צִבְעוֹנִין הַמַּשְׁחִירִים שֶׁאֵינָן עוֹמְדִין פְּסוּלָה:


How can techelet be checked to see whether it has been dyed properly or not? One takes straw, the secretion of a snail, and urine that had been left standing for forty days and leaves thetechelet in this mixture for an entire day. If the color of thetechelet remained unchanged, without becoming weaker, it is acceptable.

If it became weaker, we place the techelet which changed color inside a dough of barley meal that was left to sour for fish brine. The dough is baked in an oven, and then the techelet is removed. If it became even weaker than it was previously, it is unacceptable. If this strengthened the color and it became darker than it was before being baked, it is acceptable.7


כֵּיצַד בּוֹדְקִין אוֹתָהּ עַד שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ אִם נִצְבְּעָה כְּהִלְכָתָהּ אִם לָאו. לוֹקְחִין תֶּבֶן וְרִיר שֶׁל שַׁבְּלוּל וּמֵי רַגְלַיִם שֶׁנִּתְחַמְּצוּ אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְשׁוֹרִין הַתְּכֵלֶת בְּכֻלָּן מֵעֵת לְעֵת. אִם עָמְדָה בְּעֵינָהּ וְלֹא כָּהֲתָה כְּשֵׁרָה. וְאִם כָּהֲתָה לוֹקְחִין בָּצֵק שֶׁל שְׂעוֹרִין שֶׁמְּעַפְּשִׁין אוֹתוֹ לְמוּרְיָיס וְנוֹתְנִין אֶת זוֹ הַתְּכֵלֶת שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּנֵּית בְּתוֹכוֹ וְאוֹפֶה הַבָּצֵק בְּתַנּוּר וּמוֹצִיאִים הַתְּכֵלֶת מִן הַפַּת וְרוֹאִין אוֹתָהּ אִם כָּהֲתָה מִמַּה שֶּׁהָיְתָה פְּסוּלָה. וְאִם הוֹסִיף עֵינָהּ וְהֻשְׁחֲרָה יוֹתֵר מִמַּה שֶּׁהָיְתָה קֹדֶם הָאֲפִיָּה כְּשֵׁרָה:


One may purchase techelet from an outlet which has established a reputation for authenticity without question. It need not be checked. One may continue to rely [on its reputation] until a reason for suspicion arises.

Should one entrust techelet to a gentile for safekeeping, it is no longer fit for use, [because] we fear that he exchanged it. If it was in a container and closed with two seals, one seal inside the other,8 it is acceptable. If, however, it had only a single seal, it may not be used.


חָצֵר שֶׁמּוֹכְרִין בָּהּ תְּכֵלֶת וְהָיוּ מֻחְזָקִין בְּכַשְׁרוּת לוֹקְחִין מִמֶּנָּה סְתָם וְאֵין צָרִיךְ בְּדִיקָה וַהֲרֵי הִיא בְּחֶזְקָתָהּ עַד שֶׁתֵּחָשֵׁד. הַמַּפְקִיד תְּכֵלֶת אֵצֶל הַכּוּתִי הֲרֵי זוֹ פְּסוּלָה שֶׁמָּא הֶחֱלִיפָהּ. וְאִם הָיְתָה בִּכְלִי וְהָיָה חָתוּם בִּשְׁנֵי חוֹתָמוֹת חוֹתָם בְּתוֹךְ חוֹתָם כְּשֵׁרָה. בְּחוֹתָם אֶחָד פְּסוּלָה:


If a person found techelet in the marketplace - even strands which were cut - it is not fit for use.9If they were twisted together, however, they are acceptable.10

[The following rules apply when] a person purchases a garment to which tzitzit are attached in the marketplace. When he purchases it from a Jew, he may presume [that it is acceptable]. If he purchases it from a gentile merchant, it is [presumed to be] acceptable;11
from a non-Jew who is a private person, it is not acceptable.


הַמּוֹצֵא תְּכֵלֶת בַּשּׁוּק אֲפִלּוּ מָצָא חוּטִין פְּסוּקִין פְּסוּלָה. שְׁזוּרִין כְּשֵׁרָה). הַלּוֹקֵחַ טַלִּית מְצֻיֶּצֶת מִן הַשּׁוּק, מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל הֲרֵי הִיא בְּחֶזְקָתָהּ, מִן הַכּוּתִי הַתַּגָּר כְּשֵׁרָה, מִן הַהֶדְיוֹט פְּסוּלָה:


When a garment is entirely red, green, or any other color [besides white], its white strands should be made from the same color as the garment itself. If it is green, they should be green. If it is red, they should be red.12

Should the garment itself be techelet, its white strands should be made from any color other than black,13
for it resembles techelet. He should wind one strand of techelet around all the strands, as one does with other tzitzit that are not colored.


טַלִּית שֶׁהִיא כֻּלָּהּ אֲדֻמָּה אוֹ יְרֻקָּה אוֹ מִשְּׁאָר צִבְעוֹנִין עוֹשֶׂה חוּטֵי לָבָן שֶׁלָּהּ כְּעֵין צִבְעָהּ. אִם יְרֻקָּה יְרֻקִּין אִם אֲדֻמָּה אֲדֻמִּין. הָיְתָה כֻּלָּהּ תְּכֵלֶת עוֹשֶׂה לָבָן שֶׁלָּהּ מִשְּׁאָר צִבְעוֹנִין חוּץ מִן הַשָּׁחוֹר מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא נִרְאֶה כִּתְכֵלֶת. וְכוֹרֵךְ עַל הַכּל חוּט אֶחָד תְּכֵלֶת כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁעוֹשִׂין בִּשְׁאָר צִיצִיּוֹת שֶׁאֵינָן צְבוּעִין:


The punishment given someone who does not wear [tzitzit of white strands] is more severe than that given one who does not wear techelet, because the white strands are easily accessible while techelet is not available in every time and in every era, because of the [unique] dye mentioned above.14


קָשֶׁה עֹנֶשׁ מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מַנִּיחַ לָבָן יוֹתֵר מֵעֹנֶשׁ שֶׁלֹּא הִנִּיחַ תְּכֵלֶת לְפִי שֶׁהַלָּבָן מָצוּי לַכּל וְהַתְּכֵלֶת אֵינוֹ מְצוּיָה בְּכָל מָקוֹם וְלֹא בְּכָל זְמַן מִפְּנֵי הַצֶּבַע שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ:


The identity of the chilazon is a matter of question. Menachot 44a states that it would be visible only once in seventy years. From Bechorot 6:2, one can infer that it was a long snakelike fish. From other sources, it appears to be a snaillike animal. In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Menachot 4:1), the Rambam writes that techelet is no longer available. Similarly, Rabbenu Yitzchak Alfasi (who lived two generations before the Rambam) writes that "we do not have techelet."

Approximately one hundred years ago, Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner attempted to reintroduce a dye which he determined to betechelet. Similarly, Rabbi Herzog, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, attempted to locate the chilazon. Although, from a theoretical perspective, the Torah community appreciated the value of their research, in practice, their decisions were not accepted by the majority of Torah scholars.


Though ים המלח generally refers to the Dead Sea, there are times when the Rambam uses this term to refer to the Mediterranean. See the conclusion of his Commentary on the Mishnah.


Menachot 42b interprets the phrase, "totally techelet" (Exodus 28:31), to mean that the entire dye must be intended for a ritual purpose.


Thus, it is unfit to be used for tzitzit. This wool should be burned lest it be discovered by someone else and unknowingly used for tzitzit.


Since it was purchased from a recognized dealer, there is no obligation to check it. Nevertheless, if it was checked, it can be disqualified. See Halachah 6.


The Rambam's statements appear to imply that the blood of the chilazon must be used for tzitzit, not because of a Torah decree, but because it was the only lasting dye they had (Kinat Eliyahu).


These processes are mentioned in Menachot 42b-43a.


The concept of two seals is explained in the laws of kashrut. See Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 13:8.


Even if it proves to be techelet, we assume that it was not dyed for the purpose of being used for tzitzit.


We assume that twisted strands of techelet were made to be used for tzitzit. It is unlikely that someone would go to the trouble of twisting strands of techelet for any other purpose. (See the Ra'avad.)

Our text follows the standard published versions of the Mishneh Torah, which is supported by a responsum purported to have been written by the Rambam. The original printings and many authoritative editions of the Mishneh Torah state that even twisted strands of techelet are not acceptable when found in the marketplace. This version appears to be supported by the Rambam's ruling, Hilchot Shabbat 19:24, which is based on the same Talmudic passage, Eruvin 96b.


We assume that a merchant will not risk tarnishing his reputation by misrepresenting an article.


The rationale for this decision is that tzitzit must be "of the same type of fabric as the fringe of the garment." This also implies that they should share the same color as the fringe (Rashi, Menachot 43b).

This decision is not shared by Tosafot, Menachot 41b, which rules that white strands are appropriate even when the garment itself is of another color. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 9:5) mentions that those who are precise in their performance of mitzvot follow the Rambam's view. The Ramah, however, maintains that one should use white tzitziot for all garments.


The Kessef Mishneh notes that the Rambam's statements are not an exact quote from his source, Menachot, ibid., which substitutes the word kelah ilan instead of black. Kelah ilan is a dye which looks almost exactly the same as techelet except that it is not made from the blood of the chilazon. The Kessef Mishneh suggests that the Rambam meant that any dark color is unacceptable although lighter colors would be acceptable. It is necessary that there be a contrast between the color of the strands of tzitzit, just as there is a contrast between white and techelet.


Even in Talmudic times, techelet was very expensive and difficult to obtain. As mentioned in the commentary on Halachah 1, according to most authorities, techelet is not available in the present era, nor has it been available for at least 1000 years.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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