HaRav Chaim Yisroel Belsky ZT”L

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R’ Belsky ZT”L had a complicated relationship with Tekhelet. Ironically, while both he and R’ Schachter wore Techeiles, while working together for the OU, neither one influenced the other (R’ Hershel Schachter told me that if anything, if he told R’ Belsky one thing he would davka do the opposite – RH). R’ Eliyahu Tavger and his father-in-law R’ Eliyahu Kaufman brought it up initially. R’ Belsky had various questions but he still still supported the idea and encouraged others to wear. Then a kuntreiss call Beis Aharon V’Yisroel came out with a series of anti-Techeiles polemics which caused him to temporarily retract his stance. Yehoshua Yankelewitz then discussed the topic with him at length and clarified all the different points. R’ Belsky even asked Yankelewitz to tie his first Tallis Kottons with Techeiles.

He wore it on his regular Tzitzis when wearing a long frock coat to cover it, as well on his Shabbos Tallis. He didn’t like talking about it much and didn’t wear it on his weekday Tallis (though later on he was more vocal about it).

He was gifted a Shabbos Tallis with Techeiles but never wore that. He likely didn’t want to face negative backlash from the Haredi community and his affiliation with Torah Vodaas which has gone in “that direction.” This is nothing new: my father told me personally that in his time at Torah Vodaas in the mid-late 1970’s when people were starting to research it, the general attitude was that “this is nonsense.” R’ Yisroel Reisman, who is presently one of the Roshei Yeshiva at Torah Vodaas, has been vocal against it, saying there’s a “zero percent chance” that the murex is the techeiles source (which has been addressed by R’ Aryeh Leibowitz since that lecture). R’ Belsky also told his kids that they don’t need to wear it, and they don’t. Ask any Torah Vodaas alumnus in the last 10-15 years for confirmation on the above.

From OUKosher by Rabbi Eliyahu W. Ferrell:

It used to be that wearing Techeiles (the kind that became available around 1990) was unique to the religious Zionist camp. In recent years, it has made inroads into parts of the Chareidi world; although (I am reliably informed that) Maran HaGaon Rav David Feinstein, Shlita, opposes wearing them, (I am reliably informed that) Maran HaGaon Rav Elyah Ber Vachtfogel, Shlita, does wear them. It is no secret that Rav Belsky wore them.

At the request of a friend’s son, I asked Rav Belsky about his approach to Techeiles. Rav Belsky told me, “It’s the real thing…there are Kama V’Kama Rayos…” When I asked him if he recommends wearing them, he said that, in general, he doesn’t tell people what do, and did not want to become the “public advocate” of Techeiles.

In the sefer Nefesh HaRav, Rav Schachter writes that Rav Soloveitchik opposed attempts to restore lost elements of the Mesorah via scientific or other means. The Chilazon, like any other Cheftza in the Mesorah, must be identified exclusivelyby the Mesorah itself. This, reportedly, was the Beis HaLevi’s objection to the Radziner Techeilis. I asked Rav Belsky about scientifically restoring lost elements of the Mesorah. He said that with solid Rayos, it’s “K’Ilu there is a Mesorah.”

R’ Belsky held like Tosafos. R’ Yisroel Barkin, one of R’ Belsky’s nephews, explained that his uncle advised him on two things: two blue/white strings and 5 knots, nothing else. In terms of tying pattern, he explained that Ptil Tekhelet tied the strings for him in their default manner, the Chinuch method. R’ Yehoshua Yankelewitz explained that R’ Belsky had two reasons:

  1. He cared for aesthetic reasons that the Chulyos sets looked even, and Chinuch was one tying method that fit that bill.
  2. He didn’t want to do away with tradition. Tradition of 7-8-11-13 was no less than 7 no more than 13. He also didn’t buy into broken Chulyos, and wanted to keep 5 knots. So three winds of 3-3-3-4 turns into 9-9-9-12 which are between 7-13.

Tying Method

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Additional Images

  • (Courtesy: Yehoshua Yankelewitz and Yisroel Barkin)
    The Tallis Gadol he was gifted but didn't wear.
  • (Courtesy: Yehoshua Yankelewitz)
  • With Ittur separation. (Courtesy: Yehoshua Yankelewitz)
    Notice closely how in rows 1-3 there's a small separation between chulyos. this was done so that the 3 chulyos are equal in length with the 4 at the last row.

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