ATID Fellow Joel Guberman, diretor of Ptil Tekhelet

The ATID Fellows visited the factory of Ptil Tekhelet in June 2001. The Association for the Advancement and Distribution of Tekhelet is under the direction of Joel Guberman, an ATID Fellow. Joel and three colleagues have been responsible for the renaissance of the lost mitzvah of tekhelet.

Tekhelet is one of the colors mentioned in the Torah, traditionally associated with a shade of blue. It is mentioned frequently alongside gold, silver and silk as a precious commodity. There is a Biblical commandment to tie a thread of Tekhelet around the tzitzit (fringes) of cornered garments.

Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them that they shall make themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments throughout their generations. And they shall place upon the tzitzit of each corner a thread of tekhelet... And you shall see it and remember all of the commandments of Hashem and you shall do them. (Num. 15:37-39)

The dying process. In addition, Tekhelet is required in the garments of the High Priest, as well as for the coverings of the holy vessels. The Talmud describes Tekhelet as coming from a sea-creature called a chilazon. In a homiletic passage, the chilazon is characterized as "similar to the sea, being similar to [but not] a fish, and coming up from the sea once in seventy years [rarely]." Chilazon in modern Hebrew means "snail". Rabbinic, historical, archaeological and chemical evidence point to Murex trunculus snails as the source of Tekhelet.

The chilazon tank.Recently much has been accomplished to reestablish the tekhelet dyeing process. In 1985, Rabbi Eliahu Tavger of Jerusalem began researching and writing a book about ritual fringes - the tsitsit - and became convinced that authentic tekhelet had been discovered. Determined to actualize his newfound knowledge, and after much trial and error, he succeeded in applying the process according to the halakha from beginning to end. Based on Rabbi Tavger's pioneering work, P'til Tekhelet was formed in an effort to provide tekhelet to the general public. Today, after more than 1,300 years, tzitzit are again being made with the elusive thread of tekhelet.

P'til Tekhelet is a non-profit organization based in Israel, comprised of a small group of individuals who devote their time to obtaining the snails, extracting the dye, and dyeing quantities of fine quality, pure Merino wool. All their work is done by hand and lishma - for the express purpose of making tzitzit as the halakha requires. The wool is then spun (again by hand and lishma) into pure blue strings by a foremost tzitzit maker in Jerusalem.

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