Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wearing the Clothing of a Woman

Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said (Daf Yomi: Nazir 59a): How do we know that a woman shall not go out wearing weapons of war? It is because it’s written: A man’s attire shall not be on a woman. And the verse, nor may a man wear a woman’s garment teaches us that a man is prohibited from beautifying himself with the adornments of a woman (included in this prohibition would be the removal of his hair).

The Beis Yosef rules that even according to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov, the Torah only forbade something that is in the open and recognizable to all; however, something that is hidden from the eye, it will only be Rabbinically forbidden. Therefore, he explains, that although the Rambam rules according to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov, it is not Biblically forbidden to shave the hair by the underarms and the pubic area, for that is something that is not seen.

The Bach wonders where the Beis Yosef saw such a distinction in the Gemora.

The Bach himself explains the Rambam as follows: Only things which are done for the sake of beauty is forbidden. This is why it would be Biblically forbidden for a man to wear make-up, eye shadow or wear colorful garments of a woman; however, shaving his body hairs is only removing things that are repulsive to him. That is why the Rambam rules that it is only Rabbinically forbidden.

The Bach rules that it is permitted for a man to wear the clothing of a woman if his purpose is not to appear like a woman. It is therefore permitted for a man to wear a woman’s clothing in order to protect himself from the rain or to shield him from the sun.

The Shach qualifies this ruling to be referring only to the embellishments of a woman; however, if he wears a woman’s garment in a manner that it would not be recognizable that he is a man, even the Bach would prohibit this.

The Darkei Moshe rules that this prohibition is not applicable on Purim. A man may wear the garment of a woman and a woman may wear the garment of a man. He explains: Whenever there is a custom for a man and a woman to wear the same clothing, there is no prohibition. (This is why the Rashba rules that in a place where it was the custom for the men to remove the hair by their underarms, there is no prohibition.) Since on Purim, it became the custom to switch clothing, there is no prohibition. Additionally, since it is being done for the joy of Purim, it is permitted.

The Yereim writes that a man may not wear a woman’s clothing, even if it just temporary and even if it is being done just for fun. The Mishna Berura rules like this.