The Color Blue

At only five years old, when I was asked what my favorite color was, I would sincerely answer turquoise and magenta. My favorite activity was drawing and I was enthralled by the illustrations in picture books. I was overjoyed that in Pre1A my teacher was a published children’s author and illustrator. She masterfully illustrated the parsha every week on the board and when my mother had a baby that year she made me a beautiful Mazel Tov poster with a picture of a baby in a carriage. I sat by the doorway of my home holding my enormous poster for the duration of the entire shalom zachor to ensure that everyone knew that I was the official owner of this precious artwork.

My love affair with art only increased over the years and I would gladly spend the weekend touring an art museum if ever given the chance. Later on, at the behest of my good friend and neighbor I began a neighborhood art chug where my newfound passion was to use only white and primary colors to create infinite shades of every color.

I had a fondness for painting skies and birds and flowers mostly in light blue and a purple pink which were variations of my childhood favorite colors. These colors are the equivalent of the biblical תכלת וארגמן – pale blue and reddish purple. Argamon is symbolic of royalty but techelet transcends argamon on the hierarchy of significance and holiness and also represents self esteem.

Techelet is the color of the sky, the ocean, and newborn babies’ eyes. It’s the color of the curtains in the mishkan, the jacket of the Kohen Gadol, and the strings on tzitzit. Every morning in saying the most fundamental prayer, Shema, we recite ועשו להם ציצית על כנפי בגדיהם לדורותם ונתנו על ציצית הכנף פתיל תכלת. It’s literally a sacred color that reminds us of God. 

Tzitzit is part of the רמ”ח – 248 positive commandments of the total of 613. It’s a physical reminder of the God who took us out of Egypt as a nation, just like tefillin and mezuzah. Tzitzit is a mitzvah דאורייתא and having strings with techelet is one of the key components. This blue color must come from a blue blooded snail. Over the years the exact tradition of precisely which animal was lost and for thousands of years in Galut we unfortunately weren’t able to keep this mitzvah in its entirety.

Fortunately this vibrant and splendid practice of wearing techelet on tzitzit is making a major comeback. There’s now a renewal and a resurgence of many communities, particularly in Jerusalem, who have taken upon themselves the solemn task of researching and discovering which animal is the original חילזון – snail, and proudly walk around while visibly displaying the exquisite sublime color on their tzitzit. 

I can now unequivocally say that my favorite color is blue and I even have all the Jewish sources to back me up in proclaiming that the color blue is literally divine. And to reinforce this announcement I only need to look at Israel’s national colors on the Israeli flag and envision the patriotic song כחול ולבן – white and blue, as soft background music. 

About the Author
Chava Berman Kaplan grew up in Los Angeles, CA in an orthodox community in the La Brea Fairfax neighborhood. She moved to Israel in her early twenties, first residing in Jerusalem, then Bet Shemesh, and now in Holon. She has two children, ages twelve and ten, who study in a mamlachti school in Holon. She works as an English teacher and has always enjoyed writing as a hobby.