What’s your favorite color? That’s a question we love to ask of children, because it’s easy to have an opinion, and there is no wrong reply. Purple? Great answer! We also pose the question in new games—getting to know a stranger by asking something whimsical about them. Oddly, this simple question would often stump me. Sure, I could make it up, but really, why should I like one color more than another? As time went on, however, I did settle on a favorite color, blue. It isn’t that blue is the fairest of them all, but I have come to understand that this color has layers of significance that are not found in the other bands of the spectrum of visible light.
Earth is called “the blue planet,” because the surface water reflects blue. All living creatures depend upon water, so blue alludes to the liquid of life. The sky is blue—but why? That was the subject of an astronomy lecture that I heard in college—it turns out that shorter wave-length light is scattered more often by collisions with atmospheric particles than are the longer length colors. (To read more, see this article). Just today I learned that blue light also has a powerful psychological effect. An article by Eric Taub in the NY Times about LED bulbs explained, “Blue light has its advantages: Blue stimulates a photoreceptor in the eye that reduces melatonin production and helps a person stay awake.” I surmise that our brains associate blue with the color of sky during the day, and thus train us to wake up when we see blue.
How do you say blue in biblical Hebrew? Tekhelet, of course, and we know that this is a special color. Our ritual fringes are supposed to have a blue thread, a petil tekhelet. As we read in the Talmud and in the Midrash, looking at the thread, which resembles the color of the sea, which resembles the color of the sky, which resembles the color of the heavenly throne—reminds a person of God. Continue reading