It Looks Like Shabbos

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

One Shabbos, a woman was at her wit’s end when her baby refused to nurse. Looking for guidance, she went to see the Rogochover Gaon. The Rogochover looked up from his sefer and told her not to worry, “It’s a Yeushalmi.” He then continued learning. Somewhat relieved but totally perplexed, she exited the Gaon’s house. She met Rebbe Chizkiyahu Yosef Meishekovsky in the street and told him what transpired. He told her that he was on his way to the house of Rebbe Meir Simcha and suggested that she come along. She told Rebbe Meir Simcha about the Rogochover’s strange comment. At which point, Rebbe Meir Simcha asked her, “Do you wear a sheitel all week or only on Shabbos?” She said that she only wears a sheitel on Shabbos. She likewise stated that she only wears her jewelry on Shabbos as well. Rebbe Meir Simcha told the mother, “Your baby is bothered by your altered appearance. Remove your jewelry and wig, and the baby will nurse.” The relieved mother went home, followed the directions, and her baby nursed. Rebbe Meir Simcha then commented to Rebbe Meishekovsky that the Yerushalmi the Gaon is referring to is found in Tosfos Bava Kama (37a). The Mishna states that there can be an ox which only has a propensity to gore on Shabbos. The result would be that the owner of the ox would have to pay more in damages if it gores on Shabbos. Rashi explains that a Jewish-owned ox may be more likely to gore on Shabbos, because it has a day off. Yidden are prohibited from having their animals perform labor on Shabbos. Tosfos, though, quotes a Yerushalmi that the ox may be more likely to gore on Shabbos because everyone appears to be a stranger since they are all wearing their Shabbos clothing in the street. This is the Yerushalmi the Rogochover was referring to.

Just like the townspeople in the eyes of the animal, the mother in her wig and Shabbos jewelry may appear to be a stranger to her baby. That would explain why specifically on Shabbos the baby refused to nurse. Rav Eliyahu Fisher, the author of Birchas Eliyahu, points to an anomaly that can be found in the Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch writes (262:2), “A person should make a concerted effort that he should have nice clothes for Shabbos.” The Gra would change every article of clothing he wore during the week, even his belt, l’kavod Shabbos. The Chazon Ish was known to even change his yarmulke, l’kavod Shabbos. Yet in Siman 301, which deals with the laws of carrying on Shabbos, the Rema writes the following comment, “A person should not leave his house on Shabbos the same way he leaves during the week, without something that will remind him that it is Shabbos and he won’t desecrate it.” The Rema cannot be suggesting that someone carry a reminder that it is Shabbos. What if there is no eiruv? This is especially troubling since the Rema’s comment is written in the very siman that details that one should not carry items in the street on Shabbos!

Apparently, the Rema is advising one to wear Shabbos clothes. If so, why didn’t he write his comment earlier in Siman 262? Rav Fisher suggests that in Siman 262, the Shulchan Aruch was discussing the mitzvah of wearing clothes l’kavod Shabbos. In 301, the Rema is advising one to wear Shabbos clothes for a different reason; namely, to remind one that it is Shabbos. What is the practical difference between the two reasons? Rav Fisher suggests that a professional who wears suits all week does not fulfill the dictum of the Rema by wearing a nicer suit for Shabbos. He does fulfill the mitzvah of kavod Shabbos by wearing a nicer suit, but Rav Fisher deems it unlikely that the fact that he is wearing a nicer suit will remind him that it is Shabbos. Does Rav Fisher advocate wearing jeans during the week? Hardly – he is the Rosh Kollel of a Gerrer Institution. His advice for a businessman who wears suits all week: wear a shtreimel on Shabbos! Or the individual who does not wear a hat during the week can wear a fedora on Shabbos. He finds support for his conclusion from the very Yerushalmi quoted above. The ox gored on Shabbos because everyone looked like strangers. Did the people look like strangers simply because they wore the same type of clothes they wore all week, only nicer? That hardly seems feasible. They must have worn different types of clothes on Shabbos. (One can add that if everyone was wearing animal fur on their head, that could certainly incite an animal to gore.) It seems clear, though, from the Rema that there is actually less of a reason to wear Shabbos clothes in shul than during a Shabbos afternoon walk. While in shul on Shabbos, an individual will certainly remember that it is Shabbos. He wears Shabbos clothes simply for kavod Shabbos. However, while taking a leisurely stroll on Shabbos afternoon, one may forget that it is Shabbos. That is when the Rema writes that he needs his shtreimel or Shabbos clothes to remind him.

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow is a rebbe at Yeshiva Ateres Shimon in Far Rockaway. In addition, Rabbi Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead, NY. He can be contacted at

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