L. Identification of the Tekhelet-hillazon as Described by Maimonides.

Michaelis identifies Maimonides’ hillazon with Sepia loligo.1 Lewysohn apparently unaware of Michaelis’ attempt explains the description as applying to Sepia officinalis, commenting at the same time very adversely upon Maimonides’ view: the colour obtained with the Sepia secretion is brown or black-brown whereas Tekhelet according to the Talmud was sky-blue; the colour of the shell of Sepia officinalis is white throughout, that of the body is whitish punctuated red.

Thus, says Lewysohn, neither the colour of the dye of Sepia officinalis nor that of its body or shell answers to the identifications given in the Talmud.

Auch die weitere Angabe Maimunis’, (Also the further indication of Maimonides)’, ” Lewysohn declares, 


“that the blood of the squid is black is inaccurate, because its blood is white, and only in the abdomen is the bladder filled with black liquid. – Finally, this fish, although most common in the Mediterranean seas, but also in all lakes ‘he is much less precious; then Zebulun would not have possessed such a valuable sea treasure as is shown in the possession of the snail.” “dass das Blut des Tintenfisches schwarz sei, ist ungenau, denn sein Blut ist weiss, und nur im Unterleib befindet sich die mit schwarzer Flüssigkeit angefüllte Blase. – Endlich ist dieser Fisch, obwohl am häufigsten im mittelländischen Meere, doch auch in allen Meeren vorhanden; er ist viel weniger kostbar; es hätte dann Sebulon keinen so werthvollen Meerschatz, wie er im Besitze des חלזון dargestellt wird, besessen.”

Anent2  the colour of Sepia, I should mention that the identification with Sepia loligo, adopted by Michaelis, enjoys the advantage of being able to point to Voigt (Mollusken) as the authority for the statement that the animal is “blau rot punktiert (blue red dotted).” In charging Maimonides with exactness for saying דמו שחור וכו׳ “its blood is ink-black” shows clearly that he has misunderstood the codifier’s meaning. In the Talmud as in Maimonides’ code the dye secretion is termed דם “blood.”3

Having identified Maimondes’ Tekhelethillazon with Sepia officinalis Lewysohn was fully within his rights when he tried to point out the untenability of what he thought to be the Maimunistic theory, but when, however, he ventured to suggest the source of Maimonides’ “error” he must have forgotten that he was dealing with one of the deepest and most careful thinkers that ever lived. 


“Then, as Landau rightly pointed out, a reading place in LXX hivizu would have given permission. These translate namely B.M. 4: 7 blue by oloporhyron d.i. very purple; another reading but loud oloporphyron, and allerdings means the juice”. “Alsdann möchte, wie Landau richtig bemerkt eine Lesort in LXX hivizu Veranlassung gegeben haben. Diese übersetzen nämlich B.M. 4:7 תכלת durch oloporhyron d.i. ganz purpurn; eine andere Lesart aber lautete oloporphyron, und allerdings heisst der Saft des Tintenfisches olos.”

One feels almost amused. In the first place it is extremely doubtful whether Maimonides had a first hand acquaintance with the LXX. Granting that he read the LXX in Greek, would he have allowed himself to be guided by a single exception? Would it not occur to him that the Greek text might be corrupt?



  1. Michaelis, Lexicon, ״תכלת״.
  2. (concerning)
  3. Cf. Aristotle, Pliny and Vitruvius.