May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of a Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel Ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

 

This week we learned Bava Metzia 52. These are some highlights.

Bava Metzia 52: May a man wear jewelry?

Our Gemara discusses coins. If a coin, through frequent usage, lost a lot of its weight, the Gemara taught that actions must be taken to ensure that the coin not be used. Such a coin might be accepted at its face value. The customer might not realize that it is lighter than it should be and therefore no longer as valuable. The Gemara taught that the person who has the worn-down coin should make a hole in its center, string it on a string, and hang the necklace on the neck of his son or daughter. This Gemara is striking. Is a boy allowed to wear a necklace?

The Torah states (Devarim 22:5): “Lo yihyeh kli gever al isha, v’lo yilbash gever simlat isha ki to’avat Hashem Elokecha kol osei eileh”—“Male garb shall not be on a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman’s garment, for anyone who does so is an abomination of Hashem.” A necklace is a woman’s garment. How can our Gemara state that a father can put it on his son’s neck?

Rashi has two comments on the verse. First, he states that male garb may not be worn by a woman to prevent a woman from appearing as a man. A woman who wishes to present as a man is acting in an immodest fashion. The Torah prohibits it. For this reason the Torah also enjoins a man from dressing as a woman. Such an outfit would enable the man to sit with the women and immodesty would result. Secondly, the verse is prohibiting a man from performing a feminine act such as shaving under his armpit or removing his private hair.

The Torah seeks to keep man from sin. It prohibited acts that would lead to sin. It prohibited cross-dressing to prevent immodest mixing of the genders. One might claim that perhaps only a complete makeover is prohibited. Perhaps, when a man will clearly be seen as a man and is merely wearing one feminine item, he is not violating this Torah law. A man who, based on his clothes, is clearly a man, but is wearing a necklace, will not find it easier to mix with the women, immodesty will not necessarily happen.

This claim is not correct.

Rashi made two comments. His first was a reason for the law. However, his second comment stated that a man may not shave under his armpit. A man who shaves under his armpit still looks like a man. Apparently, even though it is a private act, he still may not do it since it is the behavior of a woman. Rema (Yoreh Deiah 182:5) rules that a man may not wear even a single feminine garment. Even though his other clothes indicate he is a man, “lo yilbash” prohibits wearing an article that women wear. If so, our Gemara is difficult. How did it recommend a boy wearing a necklace? What happened to “lo yilbash”?

Kiryat Melech (Commentary to Rambam Hilchot Avodat Kochavim, Chapter 12) proved from out Gemara that if an item is worn equally by both men and women, each gender can wear it and would not be in violation of “lo yilbash.” Apparently, in the days of Gemara, both men and women would wear necklaces. Therefore, the jewelry was not unique to one gender. Both a man and a woman could therefore wear a necklace.

In regard to a single male garment on a woman, Levush (Artzot Hachaim, Siman 17) ruled that a woman may not don a tallit or tefillin because of the prohibition of “lo yilbash.” He proved this point of view from the Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel on Devarim 22:5. The Targum wrote that a woman may not wear the garment of a man such as a tallit and tefillin. However, Elya Rabba disagreed. He held that only adornments and items of beauty of a man are prohibited to a woman. However, the Talmud in Eruvin states that the Sages did not protest when Michal, the daughter of Shaul, wore tefillin, so he ruled that a woman wearing a tallit or tefillin would not be a violation of the rule of “lo yilbash.” (Alon Yomi Lelomdei Daf Hayomi Mi’midrashiyat Hadaf Hayomi, Petach Tikvah)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

 

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