You’ve heard of kosher food, but what about kosher clothes? Just like it is forbidden to eat a mixture of milk and meat, so too the Torah prohibits wearing a mixture of wool and linen. It’s called shatnez.
Why the Torah prohibits this mixture remains a mystery. Some write that the combination of these two materials confuses vital energies. Nevertheless, the matter still lies beyond our comprehension.
Based on manufacturing norms, most clothing can be presumed shatnez-freeAny cloth that might cover a person—including blankets, and even shag rugs—must be shatnez-free. Problem is that “100% wool” garments may still contain up to 5% of other materials. Also, labels often only describe the shell of the garment, ignoring padding and ornamental threads.
Nevertheless, based on manufacturing norms, most clothing can be presumed shatnez-free. Principally, you need to check your suits, skirts, woolen coats and imported pants. Call a shatnez laboratory to find out whether a particular garment requires shatnez testing.
Clearing Up Suspicion
A shatnez lab is where trained testers take appropriate samples from a garment (without ruining the garment) and examine them under a microscope to identify the fibers. Most major Jewish communities will have such a lab. They also will receive and return garments by mail. Your rabbi can direct you to the closest laboratory.
In most cases, a garment that contains shatnez can be fixed in the laboratory for a minimal cost. It’s a minor tailoring job. There is the rare case, however, when the operation just can’t be done. So hold on to your sales receipt!
- The rules of shatnez also apply to borrowed or rented garments, such as a tuxedo.
- Simultaneously wearing one piece of linen clothing and another of wool is permitted—as long as the two are not connected, so that one can be removed without removing the other. (Otherwise, they are considered one garment.)
- It’s wearing that’s forbidden; owning shatnez is okay.
- No need to worry about camel wool, mohair, angora, cashmere, alpaca or vicuna. For the purposes of shatnez, “wool” refers only to wool from sheep or lambs.