The creature that produces the dye of the Techelet has been mystified for centuries due to its connection to the mishkan and the disappearance of the mitzva of techelet.

The sages used an Aramaic term, chilazon, to describe the creature.

What is a chilazon in the original language? And how does it help us to identify the creature that produces the dye for techelet?


1 Answer 1


Chilazon is a general term in Aramaic that means “snail”. See this Aramaic speaker in this video calling a sea snail chilazon.

In terms of Jewish sources, let's start with the Arukh:

חלזון [שנעקע] (פרק יב דכליים) או שקשר חלזון בראשה טמאה פי' זה הוא צורתו ונקרא חלזון כמו החלזון שהוא מוקף (א"ב בעל הערוך צייר בספרו צורת חלזון וכן עשה בקרדום שניטל עושפו עיין ערך בקע ג'):

See Klein:

חִלָּזוֹן m.n. PBH 1 conchiferous animal, snail, Gastropoda (zoology). 2 cataract of the eye. 3 a snail-shaped ring. [Together with Aram. חִלֽזוֹנָא, Syr. חָלְזוֹנָא, whence prob. Arab. ḥalazūn (= snail), of unknown origin.] Derivatives: חלזן, חֶלְזוֹנִי.

Many Rishonim identify the chilazon as a snail, as seen here:

• Rambam in the Perush Al HaMishnah (Keilim 12:1)

חלזון- והוא כעין צדף עשוי מברזל נועלים בו את הדלתות, ואותו הצדף הוא צדף של בעל חי הימי הנקרא חלזון

Chilazon - It is like a shell made of iron, like the shell of the sea creature that is called Chalzun in Arabic (snail).

• Rabbeinu Gershom (Berachot 38b), Rashi (Avodah Zarah 28b)

״חלזון קורים בלע״ז לימץ״

“The chilazon is called in foreign language, limace (Old French for snail)”

לימ״ץ בלע״ז מין חלזון

“Limace (Old French for snail) in a foreign language is a kind of chilazon”

• Chochmat Shlomo (Shabbat 77b)

שבלול לימצא נ״ב הוא פי׳ של חומט רש״י פי׳ שבלול חומט שקורים בל״א שנע״ק

Shablul is a limace (Old French for snail) and it is the meaning of chomet.

Rashi explained Shablul as Chomet which is called in another language schnecke (snail in Yiddish).

• Radak (Hullin 132a)

שבלול הוא שרץ הנקרא בלעז לימס״א,ויש אומרים קראקו״ל…שבלול שהוא מתכסה בתוך קליפתו שהיא לו כמו לבוש

Shablul is a sheretz which is called limace (Old French for snail) in a foreign language, and there are those who call it “caragol” (snail in Spanish)… The Shablul hides itself inside his shell which is like a garment.

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