Sappir (Lapis Lazuli)
Lapis lazuli is a blue gemstone, which most scholars identify with the Torah’s “sappir.” It was mined in ancient times in Afghanistan and was highly valued, especially in the Near and Middle East. Lapis is the color of the sky, and so it is often portrayed as the floor of the heavens.
“And they saw the God of Israel and under His feet there was the likeness of a pavement of sappir, like the very sky for purity.” (Shemot 24:10)
The Midrash tells us that Tekhelet is the color of sappir and the Luchot – the tablets of the 10 Commandments – were made of sappir. When we look at the Tekhelet on our tzitzit, we are reminded of Hashem’s commandments.
The Sumerian term for blue meant “the color of lapis lazuli.” The Akkadian translation was uqnâtu, used to describe the sky. Uqnâtu is a synonym of the Akkadian ta’kiltu, (Hebrew tekhelet). This indicates a color equivalency among lapis lazuli, the sky, and Tekhelet.