THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) THE NUMBER OF STRINGS OF "TECHELES" AND "LAVAN"
OPINIONS: The Mishnah states that the lack of Techeles on the strings of
one's Tzitzis does not prevent the Mitzvah from being fulfilled without the
Lavan, the white strings, and the lack of white strings does not prevent the
Mitzvah from being fulfilled with Techeles.
How, in practice, are the Mitzvos of Techeles and Lavan performed? How many
strings of Techeles and how many strings of Lavan are necessary?
(a) RASHI (DH ha'Techeles) explains that the Mitzvah is to have two strings
of Techeles and two strings of Lavan. This is also the opinion of TOSFOS (DH
ha'Techeles), the ROSH (Hilchos Tzitzis #6), and the MORDECHAI (#939). Their
source for this explanation is the Gemara later (42a) that discusses the
verse "Gedilim Ta'aseh Lach" -- "make for yourself fringes" (Devarim 22:12).
The word "Gedil" in the singular form refers to a combination of two
strings. Accordingly, "Gedilim" in the plural form implies a minimum of four
strings (two "Gedil"). These are the four strings that are used as Tzitzis
for one corner of the garment (when tied and folded over, they appear as
However, this shows only that four strings are needed. How do we know that
the four strings must be comprised of two strings of Techeles and two
strings of Lavan (and not three of one type and one of the other)? Tosfos
answers that since we find that the Torah requires both types of strings, it
is logical that there should be an equal number of each type, unless
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Tzitzis 1:6) maintains that the Mitzvah of Tzitzis
is comprised of four strings of Lavan, with *one* of the resulting *eight*
strings dyed with Techeles (that is, half of one full string is dyed with
The KESEF MISHNEH explains that the Rambam understands that the word
"*Pesil* Techeles" (Bamidbar 15:38) implies that there should be only one
string of Techeles (of the eight strings). Indeed, the Rambam himself writes
this in a responsum to the CHOCHMEI LUNIL (quoted by the Kesef Mishneh,
Hilchos Tzitzis 1:7), in which he details precisely how Tzitzis are to be
made. In his letter, the Rambam also notes that REBBI SHMUEL BEN CHAFNI
agrees with his view of the number of strings required of each type. (Tosfos
cites a Sifri which may be interpreted as supporting the view of the Rambam,
but Tosfos concludes that the Sifri itself argues with the Gemara here.)
(c) The RA'AVAD (Hilchos Tzitzis 1:6) says that the Rambam is mistaken, and
he presents a third explanation. The Ra'avad maintains that out of the
resulting eight strings, two are Techeles and six are Lavan (that is, one
full string of the original four is dyed with Techeles). This opinion is
also cited by the ARUCH (Erech Techeles) in the name of RABEINU DANIEL.
The Kesef Mishneh explains that Tosfos holds like the Ra'avad. This seems
problematic, though. As we noted above, Tosfos quotes the Sifri that states
that only one string of Techeles is required. The Sifri could be interpreted
either like the Ra'avad's opinion (one full string of the original four is
dyed with Techeles) or like the Rambam's opinion (half of one string of the
original four is dyed with Techeles), as the Kesef Mishneh interprets it.
However, Tosfos clearly states that the Sifri argues with out Gemara, and
thus he rejects the Sifri in favor of the ruling of our Gemara (that two
strings of Techeles are required). How, then, can the Kesef Mishneh say that
Tosfos agrees with the Ra'avad?
(In fact, we find that the Ra'avad as quoted by the BEIS YOSEF (OC 11, in
the new printing of the Tur) says that "two strings are Techeles and two are
Lavan." This is exactly like the opinion of Tosfos mentioned above. However,
this text does not appear in our edition of the Ra'avad, nor in the older
printing of the Beis Yosef. According to the older printing, the Beis Yosef
must be referring to the Sifri quoted by Tosfos, and not to the opinion of
(d) The SEMAG (Mitzvas Aseh 26) seems to say that any number of Techeles
strings is acceptable. One may use either two strings of Lavan and two of
Techeles, or three of Lavan and one of Techeles. The Beis Yosef explains
that the Semag is not saying that either option is a valid Halachic option.
Rather, since the issue was not relevant to practical Halachah, the Semag
did not trouble himself to decide whom the Halachah follows, and thus he
simply recorded both opinions. (Y. Montrose)
2) A TOTALLY CUT OFF STRING
QUESTION: Rava states that if the strings of Lavan of one's Talis are cut
off and the strings of Techeles remain whole, or visa versa, the Talis is
still valid. The Gemara explains that the Talis is valid only if the
remnants of the strings that were cut off retain "Kedei Anivah" -- "enough
to tie" (the Gemara later discusses the meaning of this term). The Gemara
later (39a) says that if a string is cut off entirely, the Talis is Pasul.
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Tzitzis 1:18) rules in accordance with this Gemara.
However, the Rambam earlier (1:4) explains that the Mishnah's case in which
"the Lavan does not prevent the Mitzvah of Techeles from being fulfilled" is
when all of "the Lavan gets cut off up to the corner of the garment, and
only the Techeles remains" (which, according to the Rambam's opinion (see
previous Insight), means that only *one* string out of eight remains), and
the Rambam rules in that case that the Talis is still valid! How can the
Rambam rule that if one string is entirely cut off, the Talis is Pasul,
while if all of the strings of the Lavan are cut off, the Talis is valid?
(a) The KESEF MISHNEH answers that the Rambam maintains that it is not the
number of strings that determines whether or not the Talis is valid, but
rather the number of *sets* of strings. When the Rambam rules that the Talis
is Pasul if one string tears off, he is referring to a case in which an
entire string fell off before the Tzitzis were knotted. An entire string
consists of one string of Techeles and one of Lavan (when folded over, since
half of the string is dyed with Techeles). When all of the Lavan strings are
cut off, the Talis is still valid because the Techeles remains intact. When
*all* the strings are cut off, then it is necessary to have "Kedei Anivah"
on all of their remnants in order to be a valid Talis.
(b) Alternatively, the Kesef Mishneh explains that when the Rambam says that
the Lavan strings were cut off "until the edge of the garment," he means
that there is still "Kedei Anivah" left on all of the Lavan strings.
Accordingly, the Rambam maintains that the Talis is valid only when one set
has "Kedei Anivah" and the other is intact. Unlike the first explanation of
the Kesef Mishneh, if the Techeles is also only "Kedei Anivah," then the
Talis is completely Pasul.
(c) The Kesef Mishneh suggests a third possible explanation. The Rambam
understands that there are three different cases with three different
Halachos. When all of the strings are partially cut off, "Kedei Anivah" is
required in order for the Talis to be valid. When one string is totally cut
off, then the Talis is Pasul. If the Lavan strings are only partially cut
off but do not have "Kedei Anivah," the Talis is valid as long as the
Techeles is intact.
(d) The KEREN ORAH answers that when the Rambam (1:18) says that when one
string is totally cut off, it is Pasul, he does not mean that the entire
Talis is Pasul. He means that although the person is no longer fulfilling
the Mitzvah of whichever type of string (Techeles or Lavan) the cut string
was, he still fulfills the Mitzvah of the other type of strings. This is
similar to the Rambam's ruling earlier (1:4), where he states that the Lavan
does not prevent the Mitzvah of Techeles from being fulfilled. He means that
only the Mitzvah of Lavan remains unfulfilled (unless the Lavan strings have
(e) The ARUCH HASHULCHAN (OC 12:7) explains the words of the Rambam in a
very simple manner. The question on the Rambam's ruling is based on the
premise that the words "totally cut off" mean that the strings are totally
cut off from the *knot*. This, however, is not the correct definition of
these words. The Rambam holds like RASHI (39a, DH me'Ikaro), who explains
that "totally cut off" means from the place where the Tzitzis are connected
to the garment. Accordingly, there is no contradiction in the Rambam's
rulings. The Rambam rules that if one string was cut off from the garment,
the Talis is Pasul. If the Lavan strings are cut off until the knot, but not
from where they meet the garment, the Talis is valid as long as the Techeles
strings remain. If all of the strings are cut off until the knot, the Talis
is valid if there remains at least "Kedei Anivah." (Y. Montrose)