Does it matter what’s in your clothes?
אין אסור משום כלאים אלא טווי וארוג שנאמר (דברים כב) לא תלבש שעטנז דבר שהוא שוע טווי ונוז רשב”א אומר נלוז ומליז הוא את אביו שבשמים עליו:
No clothing is forbidden as “kilayim” unless [the linen and wool threads] are spun or woven together. For the Torah says (Deut. 22:11), “You shall not wear shatnez”: this means a substance which is shuah (combed), tavui (spun), or nuz (woven). Rabbi Shimon says [that the word shatnez means]: he is naloz, estranged, and he estranges his Father in heaven against him.
Kilayim refers to forbidden mixtures. The Torah prohibits sowing different crops together; sewing wool and linen together; yoking different types of animals to a plough together; and breeding different species together. The synonym shatnez is obscure, making it ripe for wordplay. The Rabbis read it as an acronym, yielding a strict legal reading: any of the three weaving processes makes the cloth banned. Rabbi Shimon discerns a moral hint in the word shatnez, that ignoring the Torah’s dictate causes a rupture in the covenant between God and Israel.
Questions for discussion:
- Do some clothes have the power to estrange people from each other and from God?
- Should we care today where and how our clothes are made?
- What might be a modern form of shatnez?