Although R. Eliezer attested that the words "Kodesh Lashem" were
written on one line on the tzitz that he saw in Rome, the Rambam paskins
that the words "Kodesh Lashem" should be written on two lines and
holds like R. Eliezer (that one line is also "kasher") only b'deved (see
Hilchos Klei HaMikdash 9,1 and the Kesef Mishneh there). Why doesn't
the Rambam hold like R. Eliezer l'chatliah -- after all he saw the actual
tzizt! [For one explanation see Michtav MaEliyahu chelek 4, page 57, ed.
note 1. ]
More generally -- when, if ever, may we determine the Halacha based
on the metzius thatexisted in the past that we later re-discover? Or can
we never determine Halacha in that fashion but still be able to rely on
such rediscoveries as proof of what the Halcaha is.
For example, the S'mag and the Mordechai (and I believe the Rambam
himself) brought proof to the Halacha of the order of the parshiyos in
t'filin in accordance with Rashi (as opposed to Rabbeinu Tam) from the
discovery of an old pair of (Rashi's shitah) t'filin at kever Y'chezkel.
Others did not agree that such t'filin could be relied on as "proof" of the
Halacha. See, e.g., Bach on Tur, OC 34. Similarly, there are those
today who bring "proofs" re: the "real" color of t'cheiles based on
tzitzis found at Masada. Is that a legitimate approach in terms of p'sak?
Any m'koros that you have regarding archeological finds and their
significance, if any, on p'sak Halacha would be much appreciated.
(a) Halacha cannot be determined by things such as archaeological finds, because it is impossible to know all of the details of the issue based on archaeology. One example is from our Sugya of Tzitz. The Rambam himself writes that it was occasionally written (for whatever reason) entirely on one line, and perhaps the one that Rebbi Eliezer saw in Rome was one such Tzitz. Even though such a Tzitz was valid, it was preferable to have it written on two lines.
(b) We find in Bava Basra (78a) that the Rabanan rebuked Rabah bar bar Chanah who had been traveling in the desert and found the bodies of the Jews who had died in the desert after the Exodus, and he failed to count the knots on their Tzitzis in order to determine whether the Halachah is like Beis Shamai or Beis Hillel (who argue concerning the number of knots on the Tzitzis). Rabah bar bar Chanah, on the other hand, may have maintained that no proof can be adduced from such finds, and therefore he did not bother counting them.
(c) In the book "Midos u'Mishkalos Shel Torah" (Rav Yosef Weiss), the author cites the Nodeh b'Yehudah who wrote (with regard to measurements based on the size of an egg) that eggs have changed and have become smaller than they used to be. Rav Weiss points out that in the pyramids and in Pompei, eggs from early generations were found (from the times of the Tana'im and earlier), and they were all the same size as they are today. However, he himself writes that those eggs that were found may have been smaller eggs than the normal egg of that time (similar to what we wrote above in (a)).
In reply to Rabbi Kasdan question on the practical layout of the Tzis and
how it was made. It is always intruiging when there is a dispute of what
happened in practice, especially for the shape of an article or as in this
case, how the wording was arranged on the actual Tzis. It is impossible to
have an arguament on a practical application, unless it can be viewed from
two different aspects and dimensions. There might be , for example, an
arguament between three people about the actual size of a book. But in
actual fact, they are all are correct. One gives the width, one the breadth
and perhaps the third person states the depth of the book.
Taking this further to our example of the Tzis, and to coincide the Rambam
with our Gemoro, and the reasons stated therein why Hahem should be on a
higher level, then it is a suggestion that the tzis looked as follows.
HASHEM KODESH L
were the Hashem was on a higher level than the Kodesh L, and it was still
as if it was writen on two lines, one below the other in level, but on one
line in that the wording continues in one direction .
David Leitner, BSC, Manchester.
That is a possible explanation. Tosfos suggests that the Tzitz looked like that (as we drew in Figure #1), but from the Rambam's words it does not seem that he was of that opinion.