Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Scarves and Halacha by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Five Towns Jewish Times   It is cold weather season, and the coats, gloves and scarves are coming out.  Scarves are definitely “in” and constitute a billion dollar industry with such top designers as Burberry, Prada, Missoni, Alexander McQueen, Cole Haan, Chanel, Etro, Lanvin, Hermès, Nicole Miller, Ferragamo, Emilio Pucci, Dior, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton.  These designers manufacture square scarves (mostly for women), triangular scarves, and the most common, rectangular scarves.

It is said that the scarf originated in ancient Rome, where it was called the “Sudarium” – perhaps the origin of the Talmudical term “Sudar.”

Scarf lengths and widths vary greatly as well. Most scarves are over five feet long and often are very wide.  And while there is no question that our practice is not to wear Tzitzis on a scarf, the question arises as to why exactly we don’t.

The Mishna Brurah (16:4) rules that the minimum shiur for a garment to be obligated in Tzitzis is a length of 3/4ths of an Ammah in length and ½ an Ammah in width.  There are various halachic opinions about the Amah too.  Rav Chaim Noeh (1890-1954) zt”l posits an Ammah of slightly more than 18 inches, Rav Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) zt”l proposes an Ammah of 21.25 inches, and the Chazon Ish (1878-1953) zt”l proposes almost 23 inches. [...]

As far as the other two reasons cited in the Bais Yoseph, it could be that the Vilna Gaon and Mogain Avrohom rejected the first ideaof  ha-alah being an exempt type of wearing from the words of Tosfos in Menachos 41a “Tcheiles.”  Tosfos writes that this would also necessitate the wearing of Tzitis.  As far as the second reason, that the scarf is considered a head-garment not a body garment, in the more northern countries, where it is rather cold, we do actually use it on the neck and not on the head.

There may be another rationale to be lenient, and not round off a corner as the Chofetz Chaim seems to recommend.   When one does wear a scarf that is more than nine inches wide, the scarf is often folded in half – width-wise.  If that is the case, there may be another reason to be lenient because it could be that the minimum requirement necessitates that the garment be worn that way as well.

1 comment :

  1. I believe the writer is in error in postulating that since we wear it around our necks it is not a beged rosh. It's pretty clear from the poskim's discussion of how to wear a talis that wearing a talis around the neck is the same as wearing it on the head, which is exempt from tzitzis. Apparently there's nothing about the head specifically - what's chayav in tzitzis is the body alone, and the head and neck are the same WRT this.


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