10. Wearing Clothes Is Not Considered Carrying


One may put on his clothes, shoes, and hat, and then enter a reshut ha-rabim, because clothes are secondary to one’s body. As long as one is wearing them, they do not have independent status but are viewed as part of his body. Thus, he is not viewed as carrying them.

Even clothes that are designed to be worn under specific conditions are considered secondary to the body. Therefore, one may wear a plastic raincoat over a coat or galoshes over shoes, since these are examples of normal rain gear. One may also wear two pairs of socks or two shirts, one on top of the other, since in the winter some people do this regularly. Therefore, if one wishes to bring his friend a shirt via a reshut ha-rabim, he can wear it over his own shirt and walk to his friend’s home, even during the summer. However, if he just picks up the shirt or carries it over his shoulder and then enters a reshut ha-rabim, he violates Torah law.[10]

If a woman wants to carry a blanket or tablecloth through the public domain, she may wrap herself in it the way she would wrap herself in a shawl. Even though these items are not themselves clothes, as long as they are worn in the same fashion as clothes, one may enter a different domain with them. Similarly, one who is going to immerse in a mikveh can wrap himself in a towel and walk through a reshut ha-rabim, and one who wants to carry a kerchief may wrap it around his neck like a scarf, and go out (MB 301:133; SSK 18:48). The underlying principle is that one may wear any item in the normal manner of dressing (SA 301:35-36).

The Sages ordained that one should not enter a reshut ha-rabim wearing an item of clothing that is likely to fall off, out of concern that he will end up carrying it four amot in the reshut ha-rabim.[11] In contrast, one may go outside wearing a yarmulke, even if it is not held very firmly in place. Even if it were to fall off, we are not concerned that he would carry it four amot, since a man may not walk four amot without a head-covering. Therefore, if it falls off, we can assume that immediately after picking it up he will replace it (SA 301:7; MB ad loc. 153).

Some maintain that one should not wear gloves in an area without an eruv. After all, if it becomes warm, he might take them off, put them in his pocket, and walk four amot, thus violating Torah law. Le-khatĥila, it is proper to be stringent, but the custom is to be lenient (SA 301:37; see BHL ad loc.).

The poskim disagree about the status of a plastic cover that is made to protect a man’s hat from the rain. Some forbid wearing this cover, arguing that it is not worn in the same way as clothing, and its sole purpose is to protect the hat. Others permit wearing it, maintaining that it is indeed worn in the same way as clothing. One who wishes may be lenient.[12]

[10]. According to SA 301:36, any item of clothing may be worn outside, even if it is worn in an unusual way. For example, one may wear two belts, one on top of the other. Since each belt is put on in the normal way of dressing – it is permitted. However, Rema maintains that this is only considered the normal way of dressing if there are people who sometimes dress that way. Accordingly, one may wear two shirts, one on top of the other, or similarly layer two pairs of socks. In contrast, since no one wears two belts in the manner described above, one may not go outside dressed this way on Shabbat.

[11]. AHS 301:53 maintains that if there is an item of clothing that is technically permissible to wear in a reshut ha-rabim but was rabbinically prohibited (out of concern that one might carry it four amot if it were to fall off, if people were to make fun of it, or if he were to need to remove it to go to the bathroom), that prohibition is applicable only in a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law. The only type of item that the Sages prohibited one to wear even in a karmelit is women’s jewelry (see section 14 below).

[12]. Igrot Moshe, OĤ 1:108-110 prohibits going out wearing a plastic hat cover. This is based on SA 301:13-14, which states that items designed to protect clothing are not considered clothing, and thus one may not go out wearing them. Since plastic hat covers are meant to protect hats and not people’s bodies, they are not clothing. They are also not decorative, so they may not be worn on Shabbat. This is also the opinion of Minĥat Yitzĥak 3:26. There is also a concern that once the rain stops, one might remove the hat cover and carry it four amot. However, according to R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, a plastic cover that was made especially for a hat and that is not removed when the rain stops can be considered an item of clothing, and one may walk in a reshut ha-rabim wearing it (SSK ch. 18 n. 46). This is also the position of Tzitz Eliezer 10:23 and Yabi’a Omer 5:24. This debate constitutes uncertainty about a rabbinic law, for even those who prohibit agree that it cannot be a Torah prohibition, as this is not the normal way to carry. This is also a melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufah. Moreover, according to many poskim, nowadays there is no public domain as defined by Torah law. Accordingly, one may be lenient.

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