Archeological Finds on Rambam Tekhelet Strings

In support of the Rambam’s method of dyeing one half of a string, I would like to point out that the Moznaim (Hebrew – English) edition of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah (Hilchot Tzitzit, Vol. 7, p. 199) has a footnote that states that there have been archeological finds of Tzizit from Bar Cochbah’s Soldier’s – that had half of one string dyed, as the Rambam holds.

The so called tekhelet that was found by archaeologist Yigal Yadin is very questionable. I was privileged to see the find with my own eyes, and three points must be made clear: 1.

  1. The find consists of a purplish piece of wool wrapped with a string of linen. Yadin explained that the combination of wool and linen was only allowed for tzitzit and therefore this must be tzitzit. This is a specious conclusion.
  2. The dye used on the wool was tested was found not to be of snail origin. Yadin explained that since it was important for the Jewish rebels to have tekhelet and yet they had no access to the sea it must be that they used a counterfeit to get this purple (Yadin assumed tekhelet was purple, probably because he relied on a poor translation of the Bible). In any case this conclusion is also specious since it was well known that counterfeit tekhelet was absolutely forbidden by Jewish Law.
  3. The find did not include any “strings” that might have been used for tzitzit other than the linen sting wrapped around the wool tuft – and the dye was not well absorbed by this string. Our explanation of Yigal Yadin’s find is that the people at Masada were simply dyeing tufts of wool for non-tzitzit purposes. In order to dip the wool in to the dye-bath, they wrapped it with a piece of linen which absorbs little to no dye and thus doesn’t waste any of the precious dye.

– Joel Guberman