|THE RETURN OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL to the land of Israel continues to inspire the rediscovery of ancient scientific, cultural and practical knowledge, all necessary for the reemerging sovereign nation of Israel, the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, and the renewal of the Divine service. The Temple Institute plays a formidable role in these efforts as the recreation and renewal of Temple vessels and priestly garments requires a working knowledge of the materials and methods commanded by Torah. Knowledge lost over two millenia of exile must be relearned. This rediscovery is itself part of the redemptive process that we are experiencing in our day. The following words describe once such leap forward toward the redemption and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. The feeling of all who took part in the events described was one of being an active participant in G-d's unfolding plan for mankind.
ON THE AFTERNOON OF THE 13TH OF TAMMUZ (JULY 16TH), the Temple Institute organized an historic event: the first tola'at shani - crimson worm - harvest in the land of Israel in perhaps 2000 years. The location of the harvest was the Samarian hilltop village of Neve Tsuf. The immediate purpose for the event was the need to gather the crimson worms for the purpose of creating the avnet - the sixteen meter long belt for the bigdei kehuna - the priestly garments now being produced by the Temple Institute. The long-term goal was to educate a new generation about the elusive tola'at shani, how to harvest it, and how to produce from it the crimson dye prescribed in the Torah for a number of Temple related purposes, including the priests' avnet - belts, the scarlet wool tied onto the se'ir l'azazel - the scapegoat - on Yom Kippur, and one of the essential ingredients for producing the ashes of the red heifer.
WEDNESDAY'S GATHERING BEGAN with a fascinating lecture delivered by Professor Zohar Amar, of the Bar Ilan University, researcher and world expert in the ancient dye and incense ritual and industry of the Middle East, focusing on their application in the Holy Temple. Professor Amar described his own odyssey with the tola'at shani, which he has been intensely researching for ten years. Studying ancient texts, including Torah and Talmudic literature, as well as ancient Greek, Latin and Aramaic works, and more recent Arabic texts, the professor began to re-identify and re-discover the unique properties and characteristics of the tola'at shani. He travelled the world in search of the worm, and indeed, discovered the worm being harvested in the mountains of Turkey, and being grown on plantations in South America, where they are used commercially as food color (E120). Ironically, it was only after his travels abroad that he discovered the tola'at shani worms he had been so diligently studying, literally 50 feet from his own front door, in their favorite nesting ground in Israel - the common Israeli oak tree.
THE SHANI - RED DYED WOOL OF THE ANCIENT WORLD, along with the biblical techelet and argaman, (blue and purple), was among the most prized and valuable fabrics of its day. Naturally, it fulfilled an important function in the Holy Temple, where, aside from the ritual purposes mentioned about, it was copiously employed in the various curtains and tapestries that adorned the Holy Temple.
PROFESSOR AMAR EXPLAINED TO HIS AUDIENCE, which included representatives from the Temple Institute, and well as fifty students from two nearby yeshivas, the art of identifying and removing the five millimeter tola'at shani from the bark of the oak trees to which it attaches itself. The worm is actually not a worm at all, but a tiny insect. The female attaches herself to the trunk and branches of the oak, and as its eggs develop during the early summer it grows from the size of a pinhead to its maximum of five to seven millimeters in diameter. It is essential to harvest them at this point, before the red eggs hatch and leave the mother, taking with them their red pigment.
THE PROFESSOR CONCLUDED HIS LECTURE with a demonstration, dissolving worms previously harvested and dried, in a glass of boiling water. The results can be seen in the photographs above.
FINALLY THE TIME HAD ARRIVED to take to the trees and being what we hope will be the first annual harvest of the tola'at shani in the land of Israel. Although many worms were gathered, it was still short of the amount needed for the dying of the wool to be embroidered onto the avnet - belts - of the 120 priestly garments that the Temple Institute is currently producing. To supplement the supply of tola'at shani the Institute has sent an emissary to Ankara, Turkey, to purchase the tola'at shani that are native to the mountains of Turkey.