Monday, April 27, 2009

Yom haZikaron: Remembering and Honoring our Techelet

(I always get melodramatic around Yom haZikaron, so please excuse my purple prose as I anticipate tonight's annual Memorial observance.)

“Techelet resembles the sea. The sea resembles the sky. The sky resembles the Divine throne.” (Sotah 17a)

“And you shall see the strings and remember all of the mitzvot of HaShem your Gd, and fulfill them.” (Bamidbar 15:39)

Since the twelfth century, the biblical techelet dye has been lost; in some parts of the Jewish world its last appearance was centuries earlier. Numerous attempts to reclaim this bluish color - key ingredient of the tzitzit, the tallit, the uniform of the kohanim - have been launched; some have claimed success.

But, for me, none have managed to reclaim the message of that marine color: A fish, a snail, some lowly sea creature may yet resemble the Divine throne. Flesh and blood, mortal, material life, can reflect the light of the Divine Throne itself.

Perhaps some look at the murex identified by the Techelet Institute, or the indigo dye identified by the Radziner chassidim before them, and are indeed inflamed with the knowledge that we, too, can reach such great heights. Perhaps they become more aware of the mitzvot surrounding us, and fulfill them.

But I am not so sensitive, or I have not seen the right color; this dyed wool does not move me in the same way.

I have my own techelet, though. My techelet are the chayyalim of the IDF, who fight for our nation, who stand guard against attacks and defend the lives of our families.

I do not glorify war, or violence, or martyrdom. I do not suggest that every soldier, or any soldier, is a perfect model of Judaism and its ideals. I certainly do not endorse every decision made for the frontline soldier by Knesset politicians.

But the chayyal who stands guard on the border, the soldier who inspects bags at a shopping center, the officer who leads a platoon, or parachutes, or drives a tank, these flesh and blood human beings convey the message of techelet.

This techelet, too, was lost for a long period in Jewish history. Due to circumstance rather than lack of will, the past millenium saw relatively few examples of Jews who defended the lives of their brethren with their own.

This techelet inspires with the message that we can mirror Gd, providing great chesed as does the Creator, protecting life as does the Creator.

This techelet calls to mind the mitzvot, reminding us that a human being can accomplish so much, can achieve greatness.

With this techelet, we again see that flesh and blood, mortal, material life, can resemble the Divine throne itself.

May we always remember the techelet who have fallen, and honor the techelet living among us.


  1. This looks good but can you translate it to English?

  2. Anonymous 2:19 PM-
    I assume you mean the specific Hebrew words used within?
    Techelet - explained in the piece
    tzitzit and tallit - the strings we are instructed to add to the corners of four-cornered garments, in the Torah
    kohanim - staff of the Jerusalem Temple
    mitzvot - commandments of the Torah
    Which other words?