July 22, 2024
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As Yom Tov approaches, many people are buying new clothes, and with it they have to deal with the prohibition of not wearing shatnez—a wool and linen garment. The Torah stipulates twice that shatnez is prohibited, and Chazal explain that the prohibition applies to both wearing shatnez as well as to receiving pleasure from shatnez. Therefore, even a rug that contains wool and linen is prohibited for us to walk barefoot on, or a tie that is shatnez, that one does not receive pleasure from, is forbidden to be worn. As someone who checks for shatnez in Teaneck, I will outline some of the most common questions I receive regarding this prohibition.

What garments do I need to get checked for shatnez?

The general rule is that any garments that contain wool or linen should be checked. While at times it may seem obvious that a wool or linen garment does not have shatnez—such as a pure wool scarf or linen shirt—a shatnez checker should always be consulted. Additionally, sometimes garments should be checked even if they don’t seem to contain either wool or linen. The most common case of this is men’s jackets. For instance, the felt on the back of the collar could be wool, and the canvas underneath it could be linen. Also, silk ties should be checked if they’re made in Europe since the interlining could contain wool and linen (a percentage of silk Brooks Brothers ties have been found to have shatnez).

How often do I find shatnez?

This is by far the most common question I receive. The answer is simply that it depends on the brand. When it comes to men’s jackets (which is the majority of what I check), there are some brands that almost always have and some brands that almost never have. There are also some brands that have about half of the time. However, the words “never” or “always” do not exist with regard to shatnez. Below is a list (by no means exhaustive) of common men’s suit brands that often or almost always have shatnez:

Hugo Boss

Banana Republic

J. Crew

Canali

Armani

Brooks Brothers

Z. Zegna

Ermenegildo Zegna

Suit Supply

Brioni

Ralph Lauren Black Label

Is Shatnez removable?

In men’s wool jackets, the shatnez is usually behind the collar. In such cases, the shatnez is easily removable and a new canvas and felt can be sewn back on. It is important to go to a tailor who has experience sewing on collars since it can be a tricky job for someone inexperienced in this. It is also important that a shatnez checker be the one to actually remove the collar, even if the person fully trusts the tailor, since there are often small pieces of linen that a tailor may not even notice. If the shatnez is elsewhere, which is often the case with linen jackets, the process of removing and replacing the shatnez can be much more complex and sometimes very expensive. In such cases, it sometimes makes more sense to return the garment.

Why is it important to check garments even if the brand does not have a history of containing shatnez?

Since each garment is made individually, each one has the potential of having shatnez. Below are a few cases that I have had that would not have been caught had the individuals relied on past experience.

A jacket from a brand that did not have a history of shatnez was labeled to be half wool and half silk. After examination, it turned out that there was linen in the fabric as well, rendering it shatnez and irreparable.

A wool jacket from another brand that did not have a history of shatnez had linen material reinforcing the darts. The darts are the lines that run up from the side pockets halfway up the jacket. Almost every jacket has fabric reinforcing those darts. Even brands that rarely have shatnez have been found to contain linen in these dart reinforcements.

A pair of pants was labeled 100 percent wool, yet the entire waistband and all the pockets were pure linen.

Linen in the shoulder pads have been found in several brands that usually do not contain shatnez.

Does checking for shatnez ruin the garments?

When it comes to checking suits, everything could be checked by just opening the seams, which can be easily sewn back together. However, most people would not even notice that the seams were open had they not known about it. If shatnez is ever found, the customer is always notified first and given the option of returning the garment before anything is removed.

How do I check, and how long does it take?

Most garments can be checked relatively quickly—often the day of. A lot of checking relies on something called “teviat ayin,” which is the halachic concept that something can be recognized by familiarity. It would simply be impossible to check every fiber under the microscope, so most of the time a checker can tell what it is made out of just by looking at something with his naked eye. Sometimes a microscope needs to be used. Some people ask about using chemicals to identify different fabrics. While there is such a method, it is rarely used nowadays, and microscopes are the most common way to identify fabrics that cannot be identified by teviat ayin.

Shatnez is a “chok,” which means that the Torah does not give a reason for the mitzvah. In terms of severity, it is similar to the prohibition of eating non-kosher food. However, unlike eating something not kosher, a person violates the prohibition of shatnez every moment that he or she is wearing it—not just the one moment he puts it on. There are halachic implications for this as well. Moreover, a person does not get any physical benefit by wearing shatnez, as opposed to most Torah prohibitions, which is another reason why it’s so important to be careful about it. There is simply no “yetzer hara” to violate the prohibition of shatnez. While even shatnez checkers can make mistakes and miss things, we all have an obligation to do the most we can to keep this mitzvah to its fullest.For appointments or any shatnez-related questions you can call: 201-245-5836.

Ariel is certified to check by the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory.

By Ariel Herzog

 

 

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