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SHA'AṬNEZ ():

Fabric consisting of a mixture of wool and linen, the wearing of which is forbidden by the Mosaic law (Lev. xix. 19; Deut. xxii. 11). The Septuagint rendering is κίβδηλον (something false, adulterated, or drossy). In the Coptic or Egyptian language "sasht" means "weave" and "nouz," "false"; the compound "sha'aṭ-nez," therefore, signifies a, "false weave." The Mishnah explains the word as the acrostic of three words, ("carded," "woven," and "twisted"; Kil. ix. 8).

The combining of various fabrics in one garment, like the interbreeding of different species of animals, or the planting together of different kinds of seeds, is prohibited as being contrary to the laws of nature. The cabalists regard such combination as a defiance of God, who established natural laws and gave each species its individuality.

Views of Maimonides.

Maimonides bases the prohibition on the general law against imitating heathen customs: "Ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you" (Lev. xx. 23), and says, "The heathen priests adorned themselves with garments containing vegetable and animal materials, while they held in their hand a seal of mineral. This you will find written in their books" ("Moreh," iii. 37). Other critics consider the prohibition of sha'aṭnez from a hygienic point of view,and reason that the elements of wool and linen are diametrically opposed to each other, since the wool has an absorbing and shrinking nature while linen is resistant and non-shrinkable, these conflicting tendencies neutralizing each other and causing disorder in connection with the effusion of perspiration from the body.

It appears, however, that sha'aṭnez was permitted in the case of the priest's girdle, which was interwoven with purple, blue, and scarlet wool (Ex. xxxix. 29); it may be used also in the case of the purple and the blue cord entwined in the ẓiẓit, or the woolen ẓiẓit on a linen garment (Yeb. 4b, 5b), as the sacredness of the purpose is supposed to protect against any evil effect. The phrase "lo yaḥgeru ba-yaza'" ("they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat"; Ezek. xliv. 18) is interpreted in the Talmud to mean "they shall not gird themselves around the bent of the body, where sweat effuses most" (Zeb. 18b). Rabbi is of the opinion that the girdle of the ordinary priest was of sha'aṭnez; R. Eleazar says it was of fine linen. The high priest wore a linen girdle on Yom Kippur and a girdle of sha'aṭnez on all other days (Yoma 12b).

By the Mosaic law sha'aṭnez is prohibited only after it has been carded, woven, and twisted, but the Rabbis prohibit it if it has been subjected to any one of these operations (Niddah 61b). Hence felt cloth, of mixed wool and linen, is forbidden (Kil. ix. 9). On the other hand, the Rabbis recognize only sheep's wool as wool, the finest being that of lambs and rams (comp. II Kings iii. 4); they exclude camels' hair, the fur of hares, and the wool of goats. If any of the excluded wools is mixed with sheep's wool, or spun with it into thread, the character of the material is determined by the proportion of each. If the greater part of it is sheep's wool, it is reckoned as wool; if the contrary, it is not so regarded, and may be mixed again with linen (Kil. ix. 1).

Exceptional Cases.

A woolen garment may be worn over a linen garment, or vice versa, but they may not be knotted or sewed together. Sha'aṭnez is prohibited only when worn as an ordinary garment, for the protection or benefit of the body (Sifra, Deut. 232), or for its warmth (Beẓah 15a), but not if carried on the back as a burden or as merchandise. Cushions and tapestry with which the bare body is not in touch do not come under the prohibition (Kil. ix. 2). To lie on sha'aṭnez is permitted by the strict interpretation of the Mosaic law, but the Rabbis feared lest some part of the sha'aṭnez might fold over and touch part of the body; hence they went to the extreme of declaring that even if only the lowest of ten couch-covers is of sha'aṭnez one may not lie on them (Yoma 69a). Pillows, if of a kind that leaves no likelihood of their folding over and touching the body, are permitted to be of sha'aṭnez. Felt soles with heels are also permitted (Beẓah 15a), because they are stiff and do not warm the feet.

In later times the Rabbis were inclined to modify the law. Thus sha'aṭnez was permitted to be used in stiff hats ("Sefer ha-Ḥinnuk," section "Ki Teẓe," No. 571). Silk resembling wool, and hemp resembling linen, which formerly were forbidden "for appearance sake" (Kil. ix. 3), were later permitted in combination with either wool or linen, because "we now know how to distinguish them." Hempen thread was manufactured and permitted for use in sewing woolen clothing.

A linen admixture is detected during the process of dyeing cloth, as wool absorbs the dye more readily than does linen (Niddah 61b). Wool is distinguished from linen by three tests—feeling, burning, and smelling; linen burns in a flame, while wool singes and creates an unpleasant odor. There were special experts employed to detect sha'aṭnez ("Ha-Karmel," i., No. 40).

The observance of the laws concerning sha'aṭnez was relaxed in the sixteenth century; and the Council of Four Lands found it necessary to enact (1607) a "taḳḳanah" against sha'aṭnez, especially warning women not to sew woolen trails to linen dresses, nor to sew a velvet strip in front of the dress, as velvet had a linen back (Grätz, "Gesch." vii. 36, Hebrew ed., Warsaw, 1899).

Bibliography:
  • Maimonides. Yad, Kilayim, x.;
  • Ṭir Yoreh De'ah;
  • Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 298-304;
  • Israel Lipschütz, Batte Kilayim. appended to his commentary on the Mishnah, section Zera'im: Ha-Maggid (1864), viii., Nos. 20, 35;
  • M. M. Saler, Yalḳuṭ Yiẓḥaḳ ii. 48a, Warsaw, 1899.
W. B. J. D. E.
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