The Spiritual Value of Techeiles in the Mishkan

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

In Vayakhel-Pekudai we find an interesting continuation of the construction of the holy vessels and priestly garb from Tetzaveh. It covers the usage of gold, silver, copper, Techeiles (blue-purple wool), Argaman (red-purple wool), Tolaas Shani (crimson-red wool), and Shesh (linen). It starts with the donation of these fine metals and wools, then with respect to the wools, the spinning of “wise-hearted people” (Shemos 36:5), followed by the making of physically beautiful garments used to cover spiritually beautiful vessels. We read how they are used to make the curtain with woven cherubim (Shemos 35:35), the screen of the gate of the courtyard (Shemos 38:18), meshwork Begadim, and the Begadim of the Kohen Gadol (Shemos 39:1). In addition, it was used for the Ephod (Shemos 39:2-5), Choshen (Shemos 39:8), fastening the Choshen to the Ephod (Shemos 39:21), the Meil (Shemos 39:22), the little pomegranate bells (Shemos 39:24), the Avnet-belt (Shemos 39:29), as well as to place over the cap (Shemos 39:31).

Bottom-line, these precious wools, namely Techeiles, were used for a whole array of items which we unfortunately have no access to today, since we are still awaiting for the third Beis Hamikdash to access and “relate” to these items. While we assume that the Kiseh HaKavod is something which is invisible, the Malbim, Ramban and Zohar take it to mean something tangible.

How the Kiseh HaKavod Might be Something Tangible

Concerning the Kiseh HaKavod, the Malbim suggests from in Bereishis 28:17 concerning Yaakov’s awe regarding the place where he dreamt that the Har HaBayis is the Kiseh HaKavod, as that’s where “heaven kisses earth. More specifically:

על כן התירא מאד מקדושת המקום, ואמר מה נורא המקום הזה, ומזה ידע שהסולם רומז ג”כ למקום המקדש, כמ”ש חז”ל במד’, והוא המקום שהראה ההוא טעיא לרבב”ח  (רבה בר בר חנה) תא אחוי לך היכא דנשקי ארעא ורקיעא אהדדי שהוא המקדש שהוא הסולם המוצב ארצה וראשו מגיע השמימה.

“Jacob understood that this site where he dreamt of the ladder also hinted at the the site of the future Temple… for the Temple is the ladder, whereby heaven and earth kiss each other. Man’s worship ascends upward, and the Divine providence descends thereby.” (translation: aish.com).

The Ramban seems to understand that the Kohen Gadol represents the Kiseh HaKavod. As he comments in Shemos 28:2:

לכבוד ולתפארת שיהיה נכבד ומפואר במלבושים נכבדים ומפוארים, כמו שאמר הכתוב כחתן יכהן פאר (ישעיה סא י), כי אלה הבגדים לבושי מלכות הן, כדמותן ילבשו המלכים בזמן התורה … והתכלת גם היום לא ירים איש את ידו ללבוש חוץ ממלך גוים, וכתיב (אסתר ח טו) ומרדכי יצא מלפני המלך בלבוש מלכות תכלת וחור ועטרת זהב גדולה ותכריך בוץ וארגמן, והתכריך הוא המעיל שיעטף בו:

For honor and for splendor: That he should be honored and glorious with honorable and glorious clothing, as the verse states (Isaiah 61:10), “as a groom who ministers in glory” – as these clothes were the clothes of royalty. Their likeness was worn by kings during the time of the Torah…  And [concerning] Techeiles even today ‘no man lifts his hand’ to wear it except for a king of nations. And it is written (Esther 8:15), “And Mordechai went out from in front of the king with regal clothes of turquoise and white, and a crown of gold and a wrap of linen and purple” – and the wrap is the robe (meil) in which he wraps himself (translation: Sefaria).

The Zohar in Shlach though seems to understand that the “Kiseh HaKavod” represents the chair of Din (judgement) on souls. Anecdotally this is one reason why Chabad Chassidim are against wearing Techeiles until Moshiach arrives! To quote:

“כסא בית דוד שהיה בו דיני נפשות היה תכלת”

Credit: Yehuda Levi and Yehoshua Yankelewitz.

How Tzitzis Serves as a Reminder

Techeiles in Tzitzis consequently is supposed to be a reminder to do Mitzvos by connecting with the Kiseh HaKavod. Rashi states that all white Tzitzis covers the “reminder” aspect works with the Gematria of Tzitzis (ציצית) equals 600, plus 5 knots (as per Rashi) and 8 strings per corner, and therefore ones gets the number 613, which alludes to the number of Mitzvos in the Torah (Rashi on Shlach 15:39). The Ramban though doesn’t understand Rashi’s position, and virtually rips it apart. He points that in the Torah, the word Tzitzis is spelled with only one Yud (ציצת) which only gives it 590, so you’re missing 10. In addition, if one goes by the number of strings like Beis Hillel (three), one only has six when doubled, as opposed to eight. Furthermore, he mentions that the number of Torah-based “knots” is 2, achieved by the double-knot Kesher Elyon.  He then explains that the “entire” Mitzvos reminder is achieved by the Techeiles which ultimately reminds one of Hashem vis a vis the Kiseh HaKavod (the throne of glory). To quote:

“וטעם הזכרון הזה שיהיה בציצית לכל המצות כתב רש”י (רש”י על במדבר ט״ו:ל״ט) מפני המנין של ציצית בגימטריא שש מאות ושמונה חוטין וחמשה קשרים הרי תרי”ג ולא הבינותי זה שהציצת בתורה חסר יו”ד ואין מנינם אלא חמש מאות ותשעים ועוד שהחוטין לדעת בית הלל אינם אלא שלשה (מנחות מא) והקשרים מן התורה אינם אלא שנים כמו שאמרו (שם לט) שמע מינה קשר העליון דאורייתא דאי סלקא דעתך לאו דאורייתא כלאים בציצית דשרא רחמנא למה לי הא קיימא לן התוכף תכיפה אחת אינו חבור אבל הזכרון הוא בחוט התכלת שרומז למדה הכוללת הכל שהיא בכל והיא תכלית הכל.”

Tzitzis with Techeiles is supposed to be a reminder for us to do Mitzvos. Due to space constraints, it’s not possible to bring down the numerous sources that refer to Techeiles as representing royalty, it being Hashem’s “gold seal,” and how it was a significant financial expense to acquire. Therefore, when one had it, the physical beauty was able to wrap itself around the spiritual beauty, and psychologically remind one that he was a “holy vessel” assigned to do the will of Hashem.

Where this Leaves Us

Techeiles has been lost for a very long time. While it more than likely has been found today, one important aspect we still miss is the connection to, and association with, the “Kiseh HaKavod” and all other items this precious wool covered. While it’s strongly advised for those that aren’t certain to consult their respective Rabbonim, there is a lot of Rabbinic support for it and the Mitzva of wearing it seems to be independent of spiritually connecting in the same manner as when it was more common. Regardless of ones decision, we should all hope for and strive for the speedy rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash in our days, and through the mitzva of Techeiles possess the keys to connect to a much higher purpose.

This piece originally appeared on The Jewish Vues issue, dated March 10-18, 2021 in honor of Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei.

About the Author
Rafi Hecht has over 15 years experience in I.T., and as both a Digital Marketer and Web Programmer. Rafi has a B.S. in Management/Information Systems from the Lander College for Men as well as a M.S. in Information Systems at Stevens Institute of Technology. He also blogs at "My Western Wall" and is a Techeiles enthusiast at Blue Fringes.
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