why blue and white?

No, I’m not talking about Columbia’s colours ((academic gowns are slate grey not blue.)), but why everything Jewish seems to be blue and white.

A couple of weeks ago, the wonderful Yvonne asked me if Chanukkah colours were blue and white (and what accent). I replied that they were indeed blue and white, I preferred a silver accent but gold is also everywhere. I suggested to limit to blue and white.

Look (and please buy) the beautiful result!

Anyway, have you ever wondered, why? I did and I just didn’t have a really good answer. I wanted to talk about a tallit, tekhelet, ((a blue dye from the tekhelet, an animal which is now lost to us, some more info here)) and the sky and sea. But I didn’t have any clue why.

My—as always super shoddy—internet research has told me that
a) The Talmud explains that it is meant to evoke the sea, both in color as well as in source (used to create the dye). The sea’s color reminds us of the heavens’ color (blue), and, of course, heaven reminds us of G-d.

“And the Rabbis said: Why does the Torah enjoin us regarding tekhelet Because tekhelet resembles sapphire, and the Tablets were of sapphire, to tell you that so long as the people of Yisrael gaze upon this tekhelet they are reminded of that which is inscribed on the Tablets and they fulfill it, and so it is written, ‘And you shall see it and remember.'”
(Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 14). ((source: here, will try to confirm text as accurate shortly. er, Columbia’s copy of Mishnat rabi Eliezer is in very fragile condition, I’ll try to check it as I can.))

b) a modern concept of Blue and White for Israel (v’kal yisrael) stem from the poem, Zivei Erez Yehudah also known as Juda’s Farben or Judah’s Colors by L A Frankl.

Anyone have a better answer for me?

Other sources:
wikipedia on the flag
jewish virtual library

Reader interactions

3 Replies to “why blue and white?”

  1. I was raised with the rather vague beliefs that the white was for both purity and holiness and the blue represented divine holiness/ enlightenment – as the tallis has blue stripes, etc. But, it could also be that they’re both pretty colours, and that they were both hard to maintain and procure. White had to be bleached and blue was expensive to dye – it would certainly have set the Levites apart…

    But, I think I’m just going to stick with “they’re pretty” at this point ;D

  2. Thanks for the shout out! I have no idea why the colors are blue and white, but I do know that they are difficult to dye. It is rather difficult to keep the white white and away from the blue, even in modern times. The blue tends to want to bleed onto the white both during dyeing and rinsing. I’m glad you like the yarn though, I think it is really pretty myself, though I might be biased =)

  3. sock yarn. must. not. buy. chanukkah. sock. yarn. toooo many projects. help.

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