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How Should Ashkenazim Tie Techelet Tzitzit?

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We regularly get inquiries from customers who want to start putting techelet tzitzit on their tallit or tallit katan, and are uncertain which tying custom to adopt. For example, this week we received the following question sent from South Africa:

I am little bit confused about the tzitzit tying methods. I usually have Ashkenazi tying on my tallit, but I want to include the blue colour thread. I'm wondering what you would recommend as a tying option for Ashkenazi with techelet tzitzit.

According to Rabbi Mois Navon of the Ptil Tekhelet Association, Ashkenazim are advised to choose Vilna Gaon, Sefer HaChinuch, Raavad or Arizal.

  • Vilna Gaon - The most common choice among Ashkenazim
  • Sefer HaChinuch - Very similar to Vilna Gaon; recommended by Rabbi Eliyahu Tavgar of the Ptil Tekhelet Association
  • Raavad - Has exactly the same windings as standard white Ashkenazi, except that it alternates white-blue-white-blue etc.
  • Arizal - Often preferred by those who lean toward Chassidus and Kabbalah; looks just like standard white Ashkenazi from some angles, but has a ridge running along the side
You can see photos of all of them here.

Why do we not recommend stardard Ashkenazi tying with techelet? As Rabbi Navon writes, "The way one ties tekhelet has really nothing to do with the way one ties white. There are many different ways to tie white only strings, and they are all essentially based on the fact that tekhelet was lost."

The Gemara provides a number of instructions on how to tie with tekhelet, and from these few remarks, the poskim throughout the generations have derived various methods (see B. Sterman’s guide to tying). They all fulfill the words of the Gemara and they all fulfill the mitzvah as required by the Torah."