Shlomo Moshe
This article appeared in Techumim Volume 26 in Hebrew.
Translated Into English in Jewish Year 5768 {Winter 2007 on the Secular Calendar}

High-quality Argaman roughly resembles the look of the blood of an ox. In real life the color of the blood from a bull (that I’ve seen from internet pictures of a bull fight) varies a bit from bull to bull and so too are there minor nuances in color for various items termed ox-blood red.
For those who aren’t squeamish here is a link to pictures of the blood of wounded bulls.

Below are links to pictures of various objects described as Ox -Blood Red in modern English

A. Molluscs Are The Source of Argaman

In Rabbi Menachem Burshtein’s book, HaTekhelet page 248. Rabbi Burshtein brought a letter of the Roman, Gaius Plinius or, to use his English name, Pliny (who lived between year 23 to 79 on the secular calendar) who makes the following summary:
“The Tyrians sold their purple cloths according to their weight in silver. They extracted from the mollusc 14 shades of color, that were defined as being black as sparkling ink to purple and to red and between them  ranging from bright pink  and a sparking bluish color”.
“For they would differentiate among the colors produced by the molluscs, especially, the  red dyes derived from the purpur mollusc and the purple dyes derived from the purpur mollusc (Violacae Purpura). However the two species both had different colors and shades. The red dye of the purpur mollusc came from the mollusc that the Romans called purpura pelagia. The second dye, hyacinth is from the mollusc that hangs upon rocks and promontories {alternately translated as caverns}, which is called in Roman the horn or trumpet mollusc…The shells of both of them are
משרגות וככליריות [translators note: unable to translate term] but the latter mollusc is more ball shaped and the first is more sharply pointed.
It comes out from this that also Argaman was produced by a mollusc and not just Tekhelet.
And so too did Rabbi Herzog establish that Murex Brandaris (one of the types of Purpur molluscs) produces the Argaman dye. [And so wrote Rabbi Kalisher in Drishat Tzion, page 137 of the Jerusalem 5724 edition, and so concurs Kupat Harochlim written by the author of Tifferet Yisrael, that molluscs were the source of Argaman]. So too did Rabbi Shimshon B. Raphael Hirsch hold, however, from his words it is implied that the same mollusc used for producing Tekhelet produces also the Argaman dye.
In various sources we find the word Purpur is linked to Argaman and Tekhelet.
For example, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his commentary to the Torah called The Living Torah, [edition of Jewish year 5745] on Exodus 24:4 deduced from the words of Raavia to Brachot 3b and from Mussaf HaArukh, Erech: Purpura – that the Chilazon [which is well known from various rabbinic sources, as the source of Tekhelet] had to be one of the types of Purpura Molluscs.
He also established that the Septuagint’s translation of the Torah into Greek sometimes translates the word for Tekhelet as oloporphorus, which reveals in the opinion of Rabbi Kaplan that it was produced from a Purpura mollusc.
Rabbi Kaplan continues on by stating, that the Septuagint translation of the Bible translates the word for Argaman into Greek by the name porphura or porporeus.
Rabbi Kaplan established there also, that the word Porphura is not just the name of the dye in Greek but is also the name of the Purpura mollusc that is  called in our days in English, by the name, Murex.
I also asked an expert on History and Greek, Professor Daniel Schwartz [a religious man] what is the definition of the phrase olo, which comes as a prefix to the word, porphorus, in the Septuagint’s translation for the word Tekhelet.
He responded that to be more precise the prefix is holo and not olo, and that the implication of this prefix, is- “entirely” -.That is to say, entirely from the porporeus dye.
According to his investigation of the word holoporphorus, it appears twice in the Septuagint. Once as the translation of Tekhelet to Numbers 4:7 and once  for Numbers 4:13 as the translation of the word Argaman.
Also Rabbi Yisrael Ariel held that in the past they produced Argaman from a living creature, although in his opinion this is not an absolute requirement. And here is a translated quote from Tziphia -Chikrei Hamikdash, Volume 5, page 97:

    For additional reasons it appears that one should prefer Argaman that is extracted from a mollusc. For Yoseph ben Matityahu (Josephus), when he comes to describe the curtain for the gate to the Vestibule of the Temple Sanctuary {Ulam in Hebrew}writes that the curtain {parochet in Hebrew} was made … out of Tekhelet, Linen, Tolaat Hashani {a crimson dye, or according to some an orange-red dye} and Argaman …
to show the image of the world [ built according to ancient outlook from 4 basic elements: fire, wind, water, and earth] and it became part of the {Divine} plan to make the Tolaat Hashani be the symbol of fire, and Linen the symbol of the earth, Tekhelet {which is blue} the symbol of air, and Argaman the symbol of the sea … The Argaman dye [the symbol of the sea] on account of its origin, for it comes from the sea”. That is to say: Argaman according to Yoseph ben Matityahu is extracted from a mollusc that is found in the sea.

Support for this, that the source of Argaman was from a shellfish comes from the verse in Yechezkel {Ezekiel} 27,7: “Tekhelet And Argaman from the isles of Elisha were your awning“, and Radak commented: “garments dyed with Tekhelet and Argaman that come from the isles of Elisha”. Now it is reasonable to presume that near the isles of Elisha, which are situated by the shore of the sea and which are close to the molluscs for Tekhelet and Argaman, the valuable dyes were derived. And so too, were they derived from molluscs that are present on the shores of northern Israel and Lebanon.
Reliance on this mollusc source to derive the Argaman dye also brought about its high price, and so too was the case for Tekhelet; and as pointed out by the midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 12:4) that out of all the components of the Temple curtain {parochet} [namely, Tekhelet, Argaman, Carmil = Tolaat Hashani, and Linen] Argaman was the most important of all of them; for it is the wardrobe of the monarchy as stated in Daniel chapter 6, “And he shall wear Argaman”. And thus wrote the author of Tifferet Yisrael (Keilim 21:1), that the Argaman dye was very highly priced.

B. Is Argaman Red?

Appendix 2:  Rebuild The Holy Temple in JerusalemAn Atonement For America. The following is an excerpt from the article Why G-d Let Bin-Laden Succeed! 

In the responsa of Tzitz Eliezer volume 10, in section 7:7, the author wrote that Rambam and Rashi had a difference of opinion regarding the color of Argaman; according to Rambam it is red, while according to Rashi it is an undefined color, and Raavad has an entirely different viewpoint regarding the meaning of Argaman (and because of this disagreement and for additional reasons he decided that we are not able to construct the wardrobe of the Temple priestshood {Cahuna}in our days. However, from a number of places in Rashi’s commentary, we can deduce that he too holds that Argaman was red and the difference of opinion between Rashi and Rambam is just about the source of the dye – whether it can be derived from anything or whether it has to be derived from molluscs. (And thus seemingly is the understanding of Mishna Lamelech on Klei Hamikdash 8:13, and so too the opinion of Minchat Chinuch to Mitzvah 99).
Behold in Rashi’s commentary to Genesis 49:11 he brought the translation of Targum Unkelos to the words “he washes in wine his clothes”: “let good Argavan be his clothing“. Argavan being Argaman, in accordance to the commentary attributed to Rashi on II Chronicles 2:6. And it is reasonable to presume that the color is like the color of wine, which in general is red (in accordance with the verse “Look not upon the wine when it be red” {Mishlei / Proverbs 23:31}*.)
Additional support that the color red, is the color of Argaman according to Rashi’s viewpoint, comes from his commentary to Shir Hashirim {Canticles 7:6} “And the locks of your hair are as Argaman” – the braids of the hair of your Nazirites {who vow not to cut their hair} are beautiful in their commandment like the braids of Argaman“. Now a color found on the heads of people is red hair and not the color, dark purple. And so too in the book Eitz Chaim (Shaar 13 chapter 5 M”T, clal 3) “Behold the hairs of the head… black as it is written “the tips of his curled hairs are black like a raven” {Shir Hashirim / Canticles 5:11} and of the female, red as argaman, as it is written the locks of your hair (are as Argaman)”.
Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, author of Aruch-Hashulchan (in Aruch Hashulchan Ha’atid, Klei Hamikdash, Siman 28) brings a proof that Argaman is red in color from the Midrash Chazit on the verse “his pillars he made of silver… his chariot Argaman” (Shir Hashirim / Canticles 3:10), where they expounded that this refers to the ark cover whose gold resembles Argaman; and he  brought a proof that the appearance of this gold was red from the Baraita of Yoma 45a “every day its gold had the appearance of the Hebrew color Yaroke (which in Talmudic times included the color, yellow), but on this day it was red”. This red was like the color of the blood of oxen (or bulls) as brought within that section of the Talmud. Proofs of this nature are found in midrashic works a number of times, for example, in Pesikta Rabati (Parsha 20, starting with the words Tanu Rabanan): “he saw men dressed in red garments, and he said to him… this is Argaman“. And from here the ruling of the Rambam (Hilchot Klei Hamikdash 8:13): ” Argaman is wool that is dyed red”, while Raavad objects and states, “it seems to me that Argaman = woven from (in Hebrew, Arug Min) two species or three colors, therefore it is called Argaman”.
Rambam repeated his viewpoint in his commentary to Mishna Bechorot 7:6: “That is red as Argaman“. And most of the Rabbis of the age of the Rishonim followed after this viewpoint. Thus did Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra comment on Exodus 25:4: “And Argaman – is like the appearance of the color red” (and so too did he comment on Mishlei/Proverbs 31:20) And similarly did Ramban {Nachmanides} write to Numbers 4:7, “that the altar for wholly burnt offerings was covered with a garment of Argaman, “which is more red than the first one {Tolaat Hashani}, for there he tosses the blood…”  And so too does Rabbeinu Bachayei (to Exodus 28:6) state: “Argaman is the wool which is dyed red” (and so too again, in his commentary to Numbers 4:5); and Radak (II Chronicles 2:6) “and with Argavan – that is the equivalent of saying with Argaman, and the targum translation  for Argaman is Argavana, and it is the color red. And Carmil is also red, but Argaman is the shade of red called Laca, and Carmil is Tolaat Hashani and it is the Carmi color . And see also Meiri to Yoma 23A and so too in his commentary to 71b.
Regarding the words of Raavad, Mahari Kurkus wrote: “Now I didn’t find someone who holds this way [like the viewpoint of Raavad], just everyone agrees to the opinion of our Rabbi [Rambam] and all the languages agree to this”. And so too did Kesef Mishna write, that the commentators explained as Rambam did. And it is possible that the intent of the Raavad, when he stated, “woven of two kinds or three colors”, is that the Argaman dye is extracted from the bodies of different species of molluscs. For near to Sidon they found many piles of remnants of shells of molluscs. and in these piles they found remnants of the shells of Murex Trunculus alone, and separate piles where the remnants of Purpura Haemastoma and Murex Brandaris shells were mixed together. From here the former Chief Rabbi of the state of Israel, Rabbi Herzog concluded, that these species were used together for the purpose of dyeing Argaman, while the Murex Trunculus was used for the separate dyeing of Tekhelet.

*Rabbi Yirmiya learns from the Biblical verse “Look not upon the wine when it be red” (Yerushalmi, Shkalim 3:2) that it is a mitzva to use red wine for rituals involving wine, and so rules the Shulchan Aruch ,O.C. 472:11.

Appendix: What Some Experts Have Stated Concerning The Production of Red Argaman Dye (this section did not appear in my article in Techumin Volume 26)
I personally have never made Argaman but the following is the comments of several experts which I hope will give dye researchers enough leads in order to reconstruct the dye process.
Among the questions that I asked dye expert, Chris Cooksey several years ago: Do you have the ability to produce a red dye from brandaris molluscs or from purpura haemastoma molluscs? If so , what needs to be done?
He answered me at that time:


The color obtained from Murex brandaris or Purpura haemastoma is much more red than that (usually) obtained from Murex trunculus.   Probably because there is a high proportion of dibromoindigo with just a bit of
monobromoindigo and no indigo, whereas Murex trunculus can give a high
proportion of indigo and monobromoindigo.
If used as a stain, the color from Purpura haemastoma is red-brown as
shown in the attached picture.   This is a drawing of Purpura haemastoma
by Henri Lacaze-Duthier dated 1858 made on paper from the hypobranchial
gland of Purpura haemastoma.

Dyeing is a different matter.   The results of dyeing a multifibre test strip with synthetic dibromoindigo are shown in the second picture.
The fabrics are secondary cellulose acetate, bleached unmercerized
cotton, nylon 66, polyester (Terylene), acrylic (Courtelle) and worsted wool.   Several interesting observations can be made: first there is a big variation in the intensity of color – we see that nylon 66 is the
deepest and polyester (Terylene) is the palest.   Secondly, there are
all different shades with wool being, I think, nearest to red.   The
most surprising is that nylon is deep blue !I think it would be difficult to guarantee to *dye* a red color from a shellfish but for a start, it seems that it would be best to try wool.An interesting problem, is it not ?All the best,
Chris C.

In an article at http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/support/lib/seas/seasQA/QAs/d/dyes.html
One person makes the claim that even today we can produce red from a mollusc
Here is a quote:

    “Is it true that the secret of making purple dye from sea shells has been lost to the modern world?
No. This is a widely-believed historical fallacy. The ancient Tyrian purple dye (which was really carmine or magenta) produced from Murex shells was no longer made after better and cheaper dyes were discovered, but not because this became a “lost art”. Shells of the common oyster drill (Thais**) are used today by some peoples to dye wool. The shells are broken up and the dye material extracted from the meat by boiling in brine and straining. Wool skeins or cloth dipped into the juice assumes a dull, muddy purple color on drying in the sun. This turns to brilliant magenta or crimson after a washing in soap and water or a weak lye solution”. end of quote

In an article on Tyrian Purple in Saudi Aramco World Volume 11 Number 7 which appeared on the internet, the author makes the claim that:

One of the trade secrets of the Tyrians probably was the mingling of the dyes from the two different shellfish; for the Murex, if used alone, produced a dull, dark purple and the Buccinum, a red tone which faded easily. Buccinum red was less in demand—200 pounds of Buccinum dye brought only 111 pounds of the Murex. It was by immersing a cloth, first in the dye of the Murex and then in that of the Buccinum, that the dark, rich color known as Tyrian purple was obtained. It has been described as “the color of coagulated blood, but when held up to the light showing a crimson hue.” end of quote.

Although I suspect that the production methods in the above articles have to be refined, I nevertheless quoted them in order that my readers should abandon the notion that the wool in the wardrobe of the Temple priestshood {Cahuna}dyed to Argaman, was dark purple and I wish to encourage the scientific community {or anyone else} to produce a superb dark red Argaman dye from molluscs found in the middle eastern region.

** Thais is sometimes used as a synonym for Purpura Haemastoma

Appendix 2:  Rebuild The Holy Temple in Jerusalem – An Atonement For America. The following is an excerpt from the article Why G-d Let Bin-Laden Succeed!  

Q: Now that America has already damaged Israel, what do you suggest that America can do to atone?

A: The Talmud (in tractate Baba Batra pages 3 and 4), tells us that a dictator, Hurdus(Herod) murdered most of the sages and blinded a Torah scholar named Baba Ben Buta. Afterwards, King/Dictator Hurdus regretted his actions and asked Baba Ben Buta, what could he do to atone for his sins.

The scholar answered, “Hurdus extinguished the light of the world, for Torah is called light; as it is said in Mishlei(Proverbs) ‘for a mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light’; Hurdus should therefore go and engage in the light of the world, namely, by rebuilding the Temple.” (Baba Ben Buta used a verse in Yishayahu(Isaiah) chapter 2 verse 2 to prove this comparison).

A second opinion states that Baba Ben Buta compared Torah scholars to a person’s eyes based on Numbers 15:24.

He told Hurdus that since Hurdus had blinded the eye of the world he should go and engage in building the Temple, which based on Yehezkel(Ezekiel) chapter 24 verse 21 is also called the eye of the world .

Hurdus replied that this was too dangerous to do since it would anger the Roman empire.

Baba Ben Buta then suggested a clever trick to allow the Temple to be rebuilt without unduly angering Rome and Hurdus accepted this advice and rebuilt the Temple.

If America really wanted to atone for its part in causing the murder of Jews, by means of the Oslo accords, etc., I suggest that America enables Israel to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Rebuilding the Temple would solve several spiritual and political problems simultaneously, given the reaction of the Moslem world to the elimination of the Mosques on the Temple Mount.

Q: I thought that it was the Messiah’s task to rebuild the Temple?

A: Rabbi Avraham Y. Kook, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel stated:

In any case, in my humble opinion if it will be the will of Hashem, that we build the Temple even before the arrival of Messiah and the revelation of prophecy and the display of supernatural miracles, what impedes this matter, would not be so hard to overcome. (see the full source in Mishpat Cohain, Teshuva 94b for more details.)

Historical proof also exists that it is possible to rebuild the Temple before the Messiah rules over Israel as our king. In the Midrash of Bereshit Rabba 64 we learn that in the days of Rabbi Yehoshua son of Chananya, Rome agreed to allow the Jews to rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed during a war fought by Israel against the empire (several decades after the era of Hurdus).

The Jews did not sit idle and say this is not our job, this is the Messiah’s job. Rather they started the building process. They only stopped their building efforts when the Roman Emperor later rescinded his permission.

And even then it entered the minds of the people that they should rebel against the emperor. However, they didn’t go ahead with the rebellion, because Rabbi Yehoshua convinced the masses, that they had no real chance to win in a war against Rome.

Minchat Chinuch on Sefer Hachinuch mitzvah 95, point #9 sums up the story in the following way:

And even today it is possible that if the kingdoms give permission to build the Temple, it is a mitzvah to build. As explained in the midrash [Bereshit Rabba 64:10] that in the days of Rabbi Yehoshua son of Chananya, permission was granted to build and they started to build. And look in the book Capot T’marim [Succah 34b] that our Rabbi, Yechiel, one of the masters of the Tosafot wanted to go and offer sacrifices in Jerusalem. If this is so, so too is the ruling, regarding the building of the Temple. {end of quote}

Minchat Chinuch further states on Sefer Hachinuch mitzvah 152, point #9 that the Talmud Bavli agrees with the Talmud Yerushalmi that the building of the Temple precedes the coming of the son of Dovid(David).

And these are the words of Rabbi Acha in Talmud Yerushalmi, tractate Maaser Shaini chapter 5 halacha 2

“This is to say that the Temple in the future will rebuilt before the kingdom of the house of Dovid(David)”.

Rabbi Yisrael of Shklov, a disciple of the Vilna Gaon, known also as Baal Pe’at Hashulchan is another prominent rabbi that concluded that the Temple would be rebuilt before the establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah. In his letter to the ten tribes, he wrote that indeed the Temple would be rebuilt before the kingdom of the house of Dovid(David) in accordance with the passage from Talmud Yerushalmi that I quoted previously. (See Ge’ula B’Derekh HaTeva of Professor Arie Morgenstern and A. Yaari’s, Igrote Eretz Yisrael, 355).

In Kol Hator (a book mentioned previously in this article) we find an additional source that shows that the Temple could be rebuilt with the aid of a leader of the gentiles before the advent of the kingdom of Messiah.

The book of Yishayahu(Isaiah) chapters 44 and 45 tells us that the Temple would be rebuilt with the aid of a gentile leader called Koresh(Cyrus).

Even though the Biblical book of Ezra already records that we indeed did receive aid to build the Temple from a king named Koresh, Kol Hator contended that perhaps the Koresh prophecy would be fulfilled an additional time by a modern day leader of the Gentiles.

In my humble opinion, this is not such a difficult idea to accept, in light of the fact, that the Talmud (as explained by Rashi) in tractate Rosh Hashana 3b, informs us that the name Koresh is just a nickname and not necessarily, the real name of the Gentile leader mentioned in the book of Yishayahu(Isaiah). Similarly, the simple understanding of Yishayahu 45:4 is that the name Koresh is a nickname.

And now here is a quote from the Vilna Gaon’s disciple in Kol Hator, which both explains the connection between the building of the Temple with the sin of the spies and which concludes with the revelation that the Koresh prophecy applies to the future:

The sin of the spies in the desert in the days of Moshe(Moses) is one of the major general sins that rests upon the nation of Israel for all generations until this day. According to the midrash of our sages the cry for generations was decreed because of the sin of the spies. A cry over the destruction of the Temple, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the desolation of the land. In great measure Israel suffered and suffers in all generations, sufferings and travails of the bitter exile because of the sin of the spies. A major portion of this punishment for the sin was cast in the midst of the days of the act of the sin, namely in the generation of the desert, as explained in the Torah. However, the remainder of the punishment was divided into parts and cast upon all the generations, may the Merciful One protect us.

A great rectification for the sin of the spies can come by the redemption of Jerusalem and its building and by the activities for the ingathering of the exiles. In accordance with the well known principle, of “this in contrast to this did the L-rd make”.

Now measure for measure is applicable both for liabilities and merits. Fix what you damaged; namely, fix every thing in accordance to its place, its time and according to the activity and the publicity of that activity. Now behold, the sin of the spies that brought the cry for generations in accordance to what our sages expounded on the verse “And they cried on that night” took place on the night of the ninth of (the Hebrew month) Av, the same date (years later) on which the Temple was destroyed.

It turns out that the rectification of the sin of the spies has to be by means of building the Temple and before the building of the Temple, there has to be the building of Jerusalem as explained by our Rabbi in accordance with the verse “Jerusalem shall be built and the Temple Sanctuary shall be founded”, (Yishayahu/Isaiah 44:28) which was said concerning the beginning of the final redemption, similar to the days of Koresh.

Q: Aren’t you expecting too much of Americans, when you ask them to sacrifice their economic relationships with the Muslim world for the benefit of building the Temple?

A: Kol Hator chapter 2 section 130 based on the prophecy in Yishayahu(Isaiah) chapter 45 verse 13 concerning Koresh(Cyrus) deduced that we are commanded to try to arouse Koresh to build the Temple. And by what means do we arouse him? The prophecy says with Tzedek, which usually is translated as justice.

Based on this understanding of the Hebrew word Tzedek I have tried to show how justice demands that America supports the rebuilding of the Temple at the expense of the so-called Peace Process.


Q: In my opinion, America has not suffered enough to convince any political leader to support the type of actions that you are advocating. And I include even those leaders who are friendly to Israel.

A: Hashem, who has the power to bring a comet crashing in to Jupiter (or in Hebrew, Tzedek) as took place on the ninth of Av 5754 (1994), certainly has the power to bring more suffering on America, to make my ideas more pragmatic.


comet striking JupiterFrom July 16 through July 22, 1994, fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Tzedek/Jupiter. In the time zone of Jerusalem, the first fragment hit the planet around 10:00 P.M. on the evening of the ninth of Av, Jewish Year 5754


Q: Are you using the comet’s collision with Tzedek as a prediction of the future?

A: I used it only as an example of Hashem’s power.

university bombed
Pictured above is the dining hall of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem after an explosion on July 31, 2002 (22 of the Hebrew month, Av, 5762). The explosion tore through the dining hall at the Frank Sinatra building on the university’s Mount Scopus campus, killing at least nine people and wounding approximately eighty.

At least 5 of the victims were American citizens.

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Written by the author of : Sacrifices As Part of a Course of Redemption Even Though They Don’t Do Teshuva [ Repent ]



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Tekhelet Has Been Rediscovered !

For more information on how to get Tekhelet and why you should wear it, GO TO: http://www.tekhelet.com

Here at https://vilnagaon.org/a-solution-to-fundamental-problems-regarding-tekhelet/we also have an article about Tekhelet
Read:   A Solution to Fundamental Problems Regarding Tekhelet