R’ Herzog Letter to R’ Shraga Heiman on Radzyner Techeiles

Recently R’ Avraham Heschel revealed a letter from 1954 where R’ Herzog addressed a letter.



הרב שרגא היימן הי״ו,

בבני ברק.

(אחרי דרישת שלומו הטוב‎) אחדשה״ט,

מכתבו הגיעני, והנה לעצם הדבר אני כבר כתבתי על זה ספר גדול ושם דנתי בכל הצדדים מבחינת ההלכה וכו׳, והספר עודנו בכת״י.

אך זאת אני מגלה לכ״ת תוך אזהרה חמורה שלא יפורסם הדבר בשמי בשום פנים, באיזה עתון שהוא. נתברר לי בבירור גמור ששני הנוזלים משוללי צבע שנותנים לתוך היורה בצביעת התכלת הרדזינית, הם כשלעצמם לגמרי מבלעדי דם החלזון הרדזיני (ספיא אפפיצנליס) נותנים את הצבע הכחול הפרוסי, יותר עמוק במדה ידוע מצבע התכלת הרדזיני, ע״כ אין מה לדבר על התכלת מרדזין. אינני ח״ו מאשים את האדמו״ר הגאון החסיד זצ״ל בעל סדרי טהרות, אך סבורני שהוא ידע סוד איך לצבוע את התכלת בדם החלזון הנ״ל מבלי צבעים הנ״ל אלא בעזרת איזה דבר שאיננו מהווה שום צבע, וזה כבר נשכח. על כל פנים אין שום תולעת בצבע התכלת העכשוי, מכיון שבאופן שהם צובעים אותו אין דם החלזון פועל כלום וכנ״ל.

בברכה וכבוד רב,


Translation (imperfect):

Dear Harav Shraga Heiman HY”V,

Wishing you well,

Your letter reached me, and here on this very thing I wrote a big book and there discussed all aspects of Halacha etc., and the book is still in manuscript form.

On that note, I am revealing to you in writing a strict warning that this will not be published in my name at all, in any paper [i.e. don’t say anything]. I examined this matter in completeness on the two clear liquids that were placed in a beaker, added with the Radziner color, are in and of themselves without the blood of the Radziner chilazon (sepia officionalis) which gives off the color Prussian blue, that is more deeply known from the Radziner color, therefore there’s nothing to speak about on the Radziner techeiles [i.e. the color is synthetic and not organic]. I’m not Chas V’Shalom denigrating the Admo”r HaGaon HaChassid ZT”L author of Sidrei Teharos, but I think [my svara is] that [perhaps] he knew a secret how to color the techeiles with the blood of the Chilazon without the above colors, but with a colorless source, and this has now been forgotten. At any rate, there is no tolaas/worm in/or the current blue color, because in the way they color it, the blood of this chilazon does nothing.

With blessings and respect to the Rav, R’ Herzog.


At first it appears to be pretty much completely against his position on murex Techeiles or any snail for that matter, but with the following items surrounding the letter:

  1. The letter was never sent to R’ Heiman in the end, but instead stayed in R’ Herzog’s “do not send” pile (evidenced by Lo Nishlach written on top).
  2. The letter could have been written either to blow off steam (since he was frustrated with his purple findings of the murex and inconsistency of the Janthina snail) or to try to placate the Radziner Chassidim (since as chief Rabbi and statesman he needed to placate everyone).
  3. R’ Herzog’s life work was on porphyrology. It’s highly doubtful he would say at the end that his life’s work was a mistake.
  4. He put the murex aside since he couldn’t replicate the blue results he succeeded once. It’s like taking candidates 1-10 and later on candidate 3 happened to be the right one.
  5. The larger message is that, bottom-line, the Radziner techeiles as of 1954 was useless. His message of “perhaps the Radziner Rebbe knew the secred” is highly unlikely since why would he give his Chassidim a distorted recipe to make something so holy (this recipe was what a Gabbai of the Rebbe gave R’ Herzog)? The argument that it’s was “so closely guarded” even among relatives is very weak.
  6. Also, if the Radzyner really did know of some way to make the cuttlefish ink blue without using the recipe we have from them, then:
    • It would have to be some blue dye other than indigo – since there is no indigo like molecule in the cuttlefish ink
    • No one in the world has ever discovered that method – no chemist, biologist, etc. This means that the Radzyner discovered something unknown not only to nineteenth century chemistry, but even to 21st century chemistry.
    • Science knows of absolutely no other naturally derived molecule that produces a fast blue dye other than indigo. Somehow, the Radzyner Rebbe found some way to reorganize the organic material of the cuttlefish into a new molecule that has never been observed on this or any other planet. All this using methods that were ostensibly available to and known by the ancient dyers. (sic)

    Bottom line, this doesn’t shtim

Here’s some support on my guess that it was possibly a letter to blow off steam/stress from frustration that he couldn’t find the right Chilazon: