Understanding Kiddushin Daf Yomi

.. m, we must first bring textual proof to the color of the Throne before we assert that Techeles is similar to it in color. The verse likens the color of the Throne to that of a much more familiar object — the sky (under His feet was something like.. the color of the sky). Therefore, it was necessary for Rebbi Meir to point out that Techeles is sky-colored (like we see for ourselves) before concluding that the Throne of Hashem’s Glory is also sky-colored (like the verse states). Why, though, does the Gemara mention the sea as an intermediary step in this comparison? It would have been just as easy for Rebbi Meir to compare the color of Techeles directly to that of the sky, without mentioning the sea! ANSWERS: (a) RASHI here explains that Techeles is actually not exactly the same color as the sky — it is more similar to the color of the sea.

In other words, the sea’s color is somewhere between the color of Techeles and the color of the sky (the sky being the color of the Throne). This is why the Gemara, in demonstrating that the Techeles is reminiscent of the Throne, needs to describe the similarity in stages. Techeles is similar to the sea; the sea, in turn, is similar to the sky, which is similar to the Throne (TOSFOS SHANTZ offers the same explanation.) This however, leads us to another question. If Techeles is, in fact, not really the color of the Throne, why was Techeles chosen to be the color by which we remember the Throne? If the purpose of the Techeles in our Tzitzis is to remind us of Hashem’s closeness to us, why not dye the thread with a dye that is sky-blue, rather than using a color which is only *reminiscent* of the sky’s color through a two-step comparison? RAV HADAR MARGOLIN (of Har Nof, Yerushalayim) suggests the following answer. Rashi here refers to a Sifri (#115) which tells us that the point of Rebbi Meir’s statement is to prove that when someone performs the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, it is as if he is having an encounter with the Shechinah.

This stands in contrast to the Gemara in Menachos (43b), which formulates this theme somewhat differently: Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai said, ‘Whoever is careful to perform the Mitzvah [of Tzitzis] *will, as a reward*, merit to have an encounter with the Shechinah.’ The encounter with the Shechinah is referred to in Menachos as an ultimate *reward* for the Mitzvah, that is — in the World to Come, while according to the Sifri the performance of the Mitzvah is *tantamount to* (Ke’ilu) encountering the Shechinah. The Sifri’s statement might explain why the color of Techeles is not identical to that of Hashem’s Throne. A true encounter with Hashem is not possible in this physical world. Nevertheless, the Tzitzis strings that hang from our garments — by reminding us that the Divine Presence watches over us from every angle — can elevate us to *feel as though* (Ke’ilu) we are in direct contact with the Divine Presence. This pseudo-encounter with Hashem is what is hinted at by the twice-removed comparison between the Techeles thread worn on our Tzitzis and Hashem’s Throne.

The color of Techeles thus demonstrates that our Tzitzis grant us an appreciation of the Divine Presence even in the mundane world in which we live, where a glimpse of His true Presence is distant from our grasp. (b) In his commentary to Menachos, Rashi seems to offer another approach to the question of why Rebbi Meir mentions the color of the sea in connection with the Techeles. Rashi (DH Domeh) comments cryptically, Techeles is similar [in color] to the sea — where miracles were performed for Israel. What is Rashi’s intention in this comment? What is the connection between the miracles performed at the Sea and the color of Techeles? Rabbi Isaac Herzog (in an article on the subject of Techeles) suggests that Rashi may be hinting at a comment made by the Sifri (ibid.), Why is [the color used in Tzitzis] called ‘Techeles’ (from the root Kaf-Lamed)? -Because the Egyptians were annihilated (‘Kalu,’ from the root Kaf-Lamed) in the Sea. The color, as well as the name, of Techeles is hinting to what happened at the Sea.

Rashi is telling us that the color of the Techeles has a *dual* significance — it reminds us of Hashem’s Throne on the one hand, and it also recalls the miracles wrought for us at the Sea on the other hand. This, then, is why Rebbi Meir mentions two similarities of color when describing Techeles: Techeles is similar to the sea, and the sea is similar to the sky (which is the same color as the Throne of Glory). Both of these similarities are significant in their own right! We may add to Rebbi Herzog’s insightful comment that the two symbolisms of the color of Techeles are not unrelated. Chazal tell us that when Hashem led the Jewish people through the Sea, not only did He split open the waters of the Sea, but He revealed himself to them in all His glory, until the people were able to point to Him and say, ‘*This* is my G-d..’ (Rashi, Shemos 15:2). We may suggest that the point of the Techeles is to remind us that as Jews, we are able to raise ourselves to a spiritual height from which we can perceive the Shechinah in this world.

In order to substantiate this claim, Techeles recalls as well the events which occurred at the Sea, during which the Jews actually *did* perceive the Divine Presence. The semblance of Techeles to the color of the sea serves to reinforce the theme that we are able to perceive the Divine presence while yet in this world. It is interesting to note that TOSFOS here (DH Mipnei), quoting the Yerushalmi, presents yet another version of Rebbi Meir’s statement, in which Techeles is first compared to the sea, the sea is compared to *grass*, and grass is then compared to the sky, which is the color of Hashem’s Throne of Glory (Yerushalmi Berachos 1:2). Why is the color of grass added in the progression of colors? In light of the explanation we offered for Rashi in Menachos, the added mention of grass in Rebbi Meir’s statement is especially appropriate. The Gemara earlier (Sotah 11b) relates when the Egyptians came out to the fields to kill the infants there, Hashem caused the babies to be miraculously swallowed up into the ground, where they were safe from the Egyptians’ evil plottings.

The Egyptians, not to be deterred, proceeded to plow up the ground. After they left, however, Hashem miraculously caused the babies to sprout up out of the ground like the *grass* of the field, as it says (Yechezkel 16:7), I made you as numerous as the grass of the field… (see Insights there). Perhaps, then, the color of Techeles is intended to remind us of this miracle as well. Techeles is similar in color to grass, which reminds us of the manner in which Hashem miraculously caused our people to experience a population explosion during the Egyptian exile. Techeles alludes to that because the Gemara there says that when Hashem revealed His glory to the Jews at the splitting of the Sea it was these infants (now grown up) who exclaimed (Shemos 15:2), *This* is my G-d… The infants who grew as the grass were the first to recognize Hashem’s Divine Presence, Rashi explains, because they had *already* witnessed His glory on a previous occasion.

That is, these children experienced in Mitzrayim an encounter with the Shechinah on a level comparable to the one which the Jews experienced at the splitting of the Sea. Accordingly, Rebbi Meir (in the Yerushalmi’s version of his statement) mentions the color of grass in his list for the same reason that he mentions the color of the sea. Recalling the story of the miraculous births in Egypt helps to substantiate for us — in the same manner as the miracles at the Sea — that it is possible for a human being to experience a close encounter with Hashem’s Divine Presence in this world! Religion.

November 3, 2018