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רש"י במדבר ט"ז:א' ד"ה דתן ואבירם. ... מֶה עָשָׂה? עָמַד וְכָנַס ר"נ רָאשֵׁי סַנְהֶדְרָאוֹת — ... וְהִלְבִּישָׁן טַלִּיתוֹת שֶׁכֻּלָּן תְּכֵלֶת, בָּאוּ וְעָמְדוּ לִפְנֵי מֹשֶׁה, אָמְרוּ לוֹ טַלִּית שֶׁכֻּלָּהּ שֶׁל תְּכֵלֶת חַיֶּבֶת בְּצִיצִית אוֹ פְטוּרָה? אָמַר לָהֶם חַיֶּבֶת, הִתְחִילוּ לִשְׂחׂק עָלָיו, אֶפְשָׁר טַלִּית שֶׁל מִן אַחֵר חוּט אֶחָד שֶׁל תְּכֵלֶת פּוֹטְרָהּ, זוּ שֶׁכֻּלָּהּ תְּכֵלֶת לֹא תִפְטוֹר אֶת עַצְמָהּ?! (תנחומא):

... What did he [Korach] do? He arose and assembled 250 men, fitted to be heads of the Sanhedrin... and he attired them in robes of pure purple wool. They then came and stood before Moses and said to him, “Is a garment that is entirely of purple subject to the law of Zizith or is it exempt”? He replied to them: “It is subject to that law”. Whereupon they began to jeer at him: “Is this possible? A robe of any different coloured material, one thread of purple attached to it exempts it, and this that is entirely of purple should it not exempt itself (i.e. ipso facto be exempt) from the law of “Zizith”? (Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 2).

Why are Korach and his followers asking whether it is Chayav in Tzitzis? There is no reason why it shouldn't be Chayav in Tzitzis (strings at the corner). All that they've proved is that it should be Patur from Techeiles. Why don't they ask him whether a Beged that is completely Techeles should be Chayav in having Techeiles strings?

  • 1
    The Lubavitcher Rebbbe has a Sicha that addresses this question. I can't remember the details, but I think it is this one: wikisicha.com/… . Also see R' Jonathan Sacks take on it here: chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/1880794/jewish/… – Menachem Jun 22 '17 at 5:40
  • Often the Talmud calls the whole fringe "Tekhelet". Seemingly, the loose interchange of the names is based on a perspective that they are one Mitzva, not like we tend to think of them as "Tzitzit" and "Tzitzit+Tekhelet". Wearing just white is sorta like wearing just your Tefillin shel Rosh because your arm is in a cast. Yes, that's what you have to do and you get some reward, but you're really missing out on the full experience of Tefillin. – Double AA Jun 22 '17 at 13:51
  • @Menachem Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' essay does not address this question. – Eliyahu Jun 22 '17 at 16:00
  • @Eliya the Midrash shows how Korach challenged the basis of Moses’ & Aaron’s leadership. The Israelites were “all holy; & G‑d is among them.” They were like a robe, every thread of which is royal blue. And just as a blue robe does not need an additional fringe to make it bluer still, so a holy people does not need extra-holy people like Moses & Aaron to make it holier still. The idea of a leadership hierarchy in “a kingdom of priests....” is a contradiction in terms. Everyone is like a priest. Everyone is holy. Everyone is equal in dignity before G‑d. Hierarchy has no place in such a nation. – Menachem Jun 22 '17 at 17:49
  • @menachem The logic he uses only explains why it shouldn't need Techeiles. – Eliyahu Jun 22 '17 at 17:53
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While it is impossible to know with certainty what the Tanhuma was thinking, I think that the following is a likely explanation.

Numbers (15:38-9) states:

וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת עַל-כַּנְפֵי בִגְדֵיהֶם, לְדֹרֹתָם; וְנָתְנוּ עַל-צִיצִת הַכָּנָף, פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת: וְהָיָה לָכֶם, לְצִיצִת, וּרְאִיתֶם אֹתוֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם אֶת-כָּל-מִצְו‍ֹת יְהוָה, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם

That they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue.

And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them.

After describing the tekhelet, verse 39 states that it shall be tsitsit, and you shall see it and remember all the mitsvot.

This could be interpreted as saying that the tekhelet in particular serves as the reminder of all the mitsvot.

Now, this remembering of the mitsvot is presented as being the reason for the mitsvah. It seems likely that the originator of the arguement regarding a garment fully dyed tekhelet, read the verses thusly. Accordingly, since the whole reason for the mitsva is remembering the mitsvot, and since it is particularly the tekhelet which serves this purpose, it follows that a fully dyed garment should be fully exempt from the entire mitsvah! Not just just from tekhelet.


There is some corroboration for the above reading of the verses (although not evidence that this was the reading of the originator of the above argument) see the commentary of Rashbam to verse 39, who may be explaining that the singular it refers exclusively to the tekhelet:

והיה לכם לציצית - [פתיל] הציצית הזה יהיה לכם לראייה שתראו אותו. כמו מציץ מן החרכים. וכן מצאתי בסיפרי. [וגם] פתיל תכלת פירשו רבותינו לפי שהתכלת דומה לים וים דומה לרקיע ורקיע לכסא הכבוד

However, I am not sure if that is his intent, and it is difficult to determine given different versions of this passage, (note Sefarias minor variations).

  • Note also the Zohar: זוהר כרך ב (שמות) פרשת תרומה דף קנב עמוד ב: מאן גרים לון לדחלא מקמי קודשא בריך הוא ההוא נחש ההיא רצועה דמסתכלן בה, אוף הכי תכלת (במדבר טו) וראיתם אותו וזכרתם את כל מצות יי' – mevaqesh Jun 22 '17 at 2:40
  • It should be noted that many other Hazalic passages are bothered by singular usage in the verse, and give varying explanations, e.g. the Sifrei: ספרי במדבר פרשת שלח פיסקא קטו: ר' מאיר אומר וראיתם אותם לא נאמר כאן אלא וראיתם אותו מגיד הכתוב שכל המקיים מצות ציצית מעלים עליו כאלו הקביל פני שכינה שהתכלת – mevaqesh Jun 22 '17 at 3:05

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