Blue Tallit – The Significance of the Blue Threads
In order for tallitot to considered Kosher, they must be made to strict specifications. It cannot be made of a mix of wool and linen. It should be created out of one type of fabric, for example all wool or all cotton. It must have four corners from which to hang the tzitzit and it must be big enough to cover the body. While traditional tallit are white with black horizontal strips there is no specific color requirement so you could get a blue tallit if you wanted. 613 knots must be tied into the tzitzit as a reminder to keep God’s commandments and, in the past, there had to be one thread of blue in each of the tassels.
The blue tallit tzitzit strand is specifically prescribed for in the Jewish bible (Numbers 15:38). Known as the tekeleth, the blue strand is to serve as a reminder of the main Ten Commandments because they were written on blue sapphire. In the beginning the dye for these threads were created from snails so rare that the dye was considered gold. It was used mainly by the royalty of Media, Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Ancient Jews used it on the tzitzit to denote their royal stature as the sons of God.
Unfortunately, the Romans took control of the production of the dye. To no one’s surprise they issued a law that stated only members of royalty could wear that color blue and banned others from using it. Production of this rare dye was relegated to Imperial dye houses. With access to the dye needed to make the blue tallit tzitzit strand cut off, Jewish leaders at the time waived the requirement to include it in the tzitzit. Eventually knowledge of how to make the dye was lost.
There has been a revived interest in color that was used for the blue tallit tzitzit strand. It is believed that the actual color was not a standard blue but a cerulean purple which is a color between blue and purple. The blue strand has not been reintroduced into the tallit and some people question whether or not it is even Kosher for it to be a part of the tzitzit anymore. Today only a few Chassidic groups continue to wear prayer shawls with the blue thread in them. Whether you choose to include the blue strand on your tzitzit or not always make sure that your tallit has been made to current specifications so that it is Kosher for use.
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