Raavya on Purfirin Prasinan


In case one was wondering if a Rishon was explicit in what Techeiles and the source is, to me the most explicit one is the Raavya (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliezer_ben_Joel_HaLevi) to explain Brachos 1 Halacha 2 in the Talmud Yerushalmi . While more recent editions came out with it written “bein purfirin ubein prifinan,” prifinan being a gibberish word, the original manuscript reads “bein purfirin ubein prisinan,” which makes a lot more sense now. Both words are from Greek. Purfirin is that which is derived from the purfira/purpura, aka murex snail. Prasinan means leek green, and even today, Prasa is used in Greek and Greek ladino to refer to the leek vegetable.

One manuscript was preserved in microfilm (thanks to David Ben Gurion) and sold by the Beis Din of London Manuscript Library to Israel. There it explicitly says Prisinan.

The second Girsa is more explicit. This is from a manuscript that recently went up on sale called the Sefer HaASufos from the grandson of the Raavya with extensive quotations, and a tremendous scholar by the name of Rav Mordechai Honig was preparing an article about it for the auction house, where it says in English:

“When is the earliest time one recites Krias Shma in Shacharis? When one sees the difference between Techeiles and Lavan. R’ Eliezer says, between Techeiles and Kartan. And I was Mekabel (V’Kibalti) that there’s a certain type of dye that’s called Kartan, and is similar to Techeiles. As opposed to the other potential explanation that it’s a vegetable (V’Chen Ikkar). For we have a Girsa in the Yerushalmi that reads, between Techeiles and Kartan, and more clearly, between Purphiron and Prisinan.”

For reference, in Greek even today, the murex/hexaplex sea snail is referred to as purphyra, the purple snail (which can also produce blue in that family) and prisinos has always meant green. Even moreso, prasa is a direct Green translation for Karti which means leek.

Also see:

Additional Images

  • Highlighting for reference
  • Another version, with additional text clarifying that it's blue and green wool being talked about in the mishna.
  • Side by side comparison of the different Girsaos.
    (H/T Yehoshua Yankelewitz)
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