14. Jewelry

As we have seen, the prohibition of Hotza’ah does not apply to items that are secondary to the body. Therefore, one may go out in a reshut ha-rabim wearing all types of clothing. Following this line of reasoning, it would seem that jewelry, which is used to beautify a person, should be considered secondary to the body as long as it is worn on the body or clothes, and should not present a problem of Hotza’ah.

Nevertheless, the Sages were concerned that a woman might want to show her friend her jewelry and thus remove it, hold it, forget about Shabbat, and walk four amot in the public domain, thus violating Torah law. Therefore, the Sages prohibited wearing all jewelry that one might want to show someone else. This includes earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces, and headbands.

However, since the time of the Rishonim, women customarily go out wearing jewelry on Shabbat. The poskim disagree regarding why this has been the case. Some say that while it is true that technically it is rabbinically prohibited, the rabbis did not try to prevent the practice when it became widespread, because they came to the conclusion that even if they were to protest, the women would not change their ways. Therefore, the rabbis preferred not to publicize the prohibition, as it is better that people transgress unknowingly rather than knowingly.

Other poskim try to provide some justification for the practice, explaining that the reason for the rabbinic prohibition was the concern that people would end up carrying four amot in reshut ha-rabim and thus violate Torah law. Nowadays, however, when according to many there is virtually nowhere that meets the criteria of a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law, even if one does end up carrying jewelry, it will not be a Torah transgression. We do not extend the prohibition on going out with jewelry into areas considered reshut ha-rabim rabbinically, as there is a principle that we do not enact a rabbinic safeguard around a rabbinic safeguard.

Others say that since jewelry is more common now, we do not need to worry that a woman will remove her jewelry in the street to show her friends. Therefore, even in an area that is a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law, one may wear jewelry on Shabbat.

Since the entire issue is rabbinic, one may rely on the lenient opinions. Indeed, women customarily go out wearing jewelry even where there is no eruv.[16]


[16]. According to Rif and Rambam, in any area other than a reshut ha-yaĥid, a woman may not wear jewelry that she might remove. This is also the primary position cited in SA 103:18. Accordingly, there is no way to permit going out today wearing jewelry (Rosh and Ran). If so, the reason we do not object to this practice is because it is preferable that people transgress unknowingly rather than knowingly. Ramban and Rashba take this a step further and maintain that one should not wear jewelry even in a courtyard where there is an eruv, because one might forget and wear it in a reshut ha-rabim. In contrast, based on Tosafot, Shabbat 64b, Sefer Ha-Teruma maintains that nowadays, when there are no public domains that meet the Torah’s criteria, there is no prohibition against wearing jewelry. (However, as I explained in n. 8, all would agree that intercity highways are reshut ha-rabim even today. Thus we must ask why those Rishonim were not concerned about this. It would seem that in the times of the Rishonim, women were not accustomed to travel between cities, while in the earlier times of the Sages they had been accustomed to do so. Therefore, the Sages decreed that women may not go out wearing jewelry, but later the Rishonim were less concerned.) R. Shimshon writes in the name of Rabbeinu Sar Shalom that since it has become much more common than it used to be for women to wear jewelry, women are no longer accustomed to removing jewelry to show one another in reshut ha-rabim; therefore a woman may go out nowadays wearing jewelry. This is the common practice. Nevertheless, some maintain that le-khatĥila it is still preferable to be stringent and not wear jewelry in an area without an eruv.It should be noted that there were specific types of jewelry that the Sages prohibited wearing on Shabbat. This was because women customarily immersed in wells and streams to purify themselves after menstruation, and the Sages were concerned that prior to immersion they might remove their jewelry and carry it four amot to the immersion place. However, Orĥot Ĥayim points out (Hilkhot Shabbat §261) that nowadays immersion is done in a mikveh, which is in a reshut ha-yaĥid, so the concern no longer applies. This can justify the current practice of wearing jewelry on Shabbat (SSK ch. 18 n. 55).

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