Have you ever wondered about the origin of the colours in Israel’s flag?

Look around in shul and you will see the answer.

The colours come from the common colours seen on a tallit: blue and white. They were adopted for the flag at the first Zionist Congress in Basle, 1897.

As David Wolffsohn, a prominent early Zionist, wrote:

“What flag would we hang in the Congress Hall? Then an idea struck me. We have a flag—and it is blue and white. The tallit with which we wrap ourselves when we pray: that is our symbol. Let us take this tallit from its bag and unroll it before the eyes of Israel and the eyes of all nations.”

The blue (or sometimes black) stripes on a tallit are a representation of the original techeilet or blue threads that were wound on the lavan or white tzitzit or fringes of the garment. As the final portion of this week’s parasha states:

“You shall attach a blue cord to the fringe on each corner.” (Bamidbar 15:38)

The special blue die had to be manufactured from the aquatic creature known as the chilazon. In the Talmudic period, the blue die ceased to be available. Rather than use the wrong die, tzitzit were made completely white. However, in order to symbolise the original blue threads, blue stripes were placed on the body of the tallit.

The late Rabbi JB Soloveitchik (d. 1993) offered a profound interpretation of the significance of the blue and white threads of the tzitzit. They represent, he said, two ways of looking at the world. In Hebrew, lavan signifies not only the colour white but also clarity or openness. The Torah wants us to understand the world to the best of our ability, using scientific methods to explore natural phenomena and not live in darkness and ignorance. Techeilet, the Talmud says, resembles the sea, which, like the sky, signifies the heavenly throne (Sota 17a). Blue represents distance or unapproachability. It stands for those elements of reality that are beyond our rational understanding.

Blue and white. Two ways of looking at the world. Attempting to understand as much as we can but at the same time recognising that there are areas beyond our comprehension. Techeilet represents our faith in the matters we do not understand.

If we didn’t have faith, there wouldn’t be a State of Israel today.

We must continue to have faith that our current crisis will come to peaceful resolution.

As the late Rabbi Lord Sacks said:

“Faith does not mean seeing the world as we would like it to be. Nor is it a matter of blaming the world for not being as we would wish it. Faith is the courage to see the world precisely as it is while refusing to be intimidated by it.”