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SUMPTUARY LAWS:

Laws that restrict individual expenditures as to food, clothing, etc. In the Mishnah several expensive customs are abolished by reason of evil times which had come over Israel (Soṭah ix. 9): "During the war of Vespasian the use of crowns by bridegrooms and the beating of the drum [at weddings] were forbidden; during the war of Titus the crowns of brides, etc., were forbidden; during the last war [the revolt of Bar Kokba] it was ordered that the bride should not be carried through the city in a palanquin [hung with curtains]; but our masters [supposed to mean R. Judah, the patriarch, and his school] permitted her to do so." In the Gemara (ib. 49b) one teacher claims that the bridegroom's crown is forbidden only when made in the old fashion of rock salt and brimstone; but he permits a wreath of myrtles and roses. Another forbids even such a wreath, but allows one made of canes and reeds. A third teacher forbids even this. The bride's crown is explained as having been a golden image of a city wall. The use of the palanquin in which the bride was conveyed to and from the wedding is said to have been reintroduced from motives of modesty, to guard against the gaze of the crowd.

The preceding section of the Mishnah has a wider bearing: "R. Simeon ben Gamaliel on the authority of R. Joshua says: 'Since the day when the Temple fell into ruins there has not been a day without its calamity. The dew no longer comes down for a blessing; the taste of the fruits is gone.'" Not here only, but in many other passages of the Mishnah and the Gemara, the view is expressed that, with the Temple in ruins, there should be to the Israelite no unmixed enjoyment; hence no display in raiment, in food, or in drink. Although this is not a sumptuary law, it represents a tendency stronger than law.

The change in burial customs in Mishnaic and Talmudic times—from the elaborate processions and costly scaffoldings and hangings, cerements, and coffins which had been the custom since early Biblical times—is treated in Jew. Encyc. iii. 436a, s.v. Burial, where the most important reference is that to Yer. M. Ḳ. 32b. Here may be added what is said in a baraita (M. Ḳ. 27a): "Formerly they brought the [bodies of the] rich to the house of mourning in nettings of silver and gold, but those of the poor in baskets of wickerwork; thus the poor were put to shame. Accordingly the rule ["taḳḳanah"] was made that every one should bring [his corpse?] in a basket of wickerwork." Again: "Formerly [at funerals], in serving drink white glass was used in the houses of the rich, and colored [dark] glass in the houses of the poor, which shamed the poor. The rule was therefore made that drink should be served everywhere in dark glass. Formerly they were accustomed to lay bare the faces of the rich, but cover the faces of the poor, because the latter looked blackish from scanty nourishment; so the rule was made to cover the faces of all corpses." In other words, the customs were changed in all cases to those which of necessity prevailed among the poor.

In the later Middle Ages sumptuary laws were often made by the Rabbis or by the communal authorities of cities or districts; and sometimes they were imposed on the Jews of this or that country by the king or other ruler, who begrudged them the pleasure of seeing their wives and daughters in rich attire. Israel Abrahams, in his "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," gives examples of sumptuary laws proceeding from the latter as well as from the former source; e.g., on p. 144, a decree by the Jewish community of Forli limiting the number of guests at a wedding or a "berit milah"; p. 145, a limitation of the weight of silver goblets; p. 181, a limitation in Italy on the number of finger-rings; p. 277, a reproof by the King of Castile concerning the rich dresses of the Jewesses; p. 291, reproofs by Italian rabbis relating to the rich attire of the men, even on the Sabbath; pp. 2-4 and 295, regulations, also in Italy, against jewelry and pearls, worn both by men and by women. Regulations like those of the baraita were sometimes made to lessen the gulf between the rich and the poor, but oftener to disarm the ill-will of the Gentile oppressor.

W. B. L. N. D.
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