Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us

Shatnez: A Mixture of Wool and Linen

Shatnez: A Mixture of Wool and Linen

Parshat Kedoshim

Advanced Advanced
 Email

Leviticus 19:19 states that it is forbidden to wear shatnez—a mixture of wool and linen. In the words of the Torah: “You shall observe My statutes: . . . and a garment which has a mixture of shatnez shall not come upon you.” (This mitzvah is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 22:11.)

The reason for this prohibition is not clear. As the verse says: “You shall observe My statutes . . .” This means that this mitzvah is a chok—a divine statute that defies (full) comprehension. Nevertheless, the commentaries attempt to somewhat explain this mitzvah. Maimonides says that shatnez garments were worn by idolatrous priests, and we are forbidden from following in their ways.1 Others say that mixing wool and linen is akin to mixing, and unleashing, the spiritual forces associated respectively with Cain and Abel, and can have damaging results. (Cain brought a sacrifice of flax, from which linen is made; Abel sacrificed sheep, producers of wool.)2

Some of the laws governing the observance of this mitzvah are:

  1. Even if linen threads were used to sew buttons onto a wool suit, or to reinforce shoulder padsShatnez is forbidden whether the mixture of wool and linen occurred at the stage of combing, spinning or weaving. Even if linen threads were used to sew buttons onto a wool suit, or to reinforce shoulder pads, this is forbidden as shatnez.3
  2. If purchasing a suit that contains either wool or linen, you should have the garment inspected by a shatnez expert, to establish that it does not contain shatnez. These experts take appropriate samples from the garment (without ruining the garment) and send the samples to a shatnez laboratory. At the laboratory, the sample is examined under a low-powered microscope, and the materials are identified.
  3. According to experts in the field, even if the label says that the garment is 100% wool, it may possibly contains shatnez. A label that states that a garment is 100% wool may contain as much as 2% of other materials. In addition, the label describes only the shell of the garment, and not the padding and ornamental threads. For more on this topic, see The Mysterious World of Shatnez.
  4. In these matters, one may trust only a Jew who is observant of the shatnez laws and who is specially trained in this field.4
  5. One may try on a suit to see if it fits, despite the fact that it may contain shatnez.5
  6. One may wear a woolen jacket over a linen shirt, or vice versa, as long as it is possible to take off one without taking off the other.6
  7. The prohibition of shatnez extends to all types of materials, including soft curtains, tablecloths and towels.7
Footnotes
1.

Guide for the Perplexed 3:37.

2.

See commentary of Rabbeinu Bechayei to Leviticus, ibid.

3.

See Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh De’ah 300.

4.

Ibid. 98:1, 118, and 119:1.

5.

Ibid. 301:6.

6.

Ibid. 300:4.

7.

Ibid. 301:9.

Rabbi Aryeh Citron was educated in Chabad yeshivahs in Los Angeles, New York, Israel and Australia. He was the Rosh Kollel of The Shul of Bal Harbour, Florida, and is now an adult Torah teacher in Surfside, Florida. He teaches classes on Talmud, Chassidism, Jewish history and contemporary Jewish law.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
14 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Yisroel Cotlar Cary May 23, 2016

When one tries on clothing in a store, it is not being worn in the regular manner and protecting one from elements, etc. Since you are not benefiting from this item many (who follow the opinion of the Ramah) allow this even one knows the item in Shatnez.

There are others who hold this can only be done when there is a doubt but not of the item certainly has Shatnez.

Trying for extended amount of time is certainly not allowed. Reply

Brian Sandridge Simsbury May 14, 2016

Ahhh but For how long can one try on a suit of shatnez "for size"? What constitutes checking for size? Say the man plans to ask his mother and aunt how they think it fits, and they are in a restaurant within the department store? And maybe the restaurant is the site of his cousin's wedding party? And if he also wants his cousin' s opinion but can't to him until after the Vienese Table? Then his cousin says it is baggy on the butt. And he returns to the tailor and says "no, I don't think this suit fits me. And besides the need for a new suit, his cousin's wedding party has been mooted.
Ludicrous. This expansion of time to try on a shatnez suit is of a piece with the expansion of one's dwelling to include a whole neighborhood on Shabbat that allows unlimited travel within the big home.
It is this legalistic approach to Torah that undermines the larger picture. Reply

Thomas Pique USA July 25, 2015

Spare Me The Details If I may borrow from Wikipedia, linen is made from flax and is very absorbent. If you get it wet the water evaporates out and we all know that evaporation is a cooling process.

In those days a person did not have a closet full of garments that he would select from after watching the day's weather forecast. In one days travel, on foot, a traveler could go from mild to very hot temperatures.

Wool is known for keeping us warm in the winter and is also absorbent but imagine being in the desert and having wool woven into your garment.

Hashem didn't explain every little detail of every single commandment. Through Torah studies we discover some of His wisdom for some commandments.

Why is it that in one sentence we speak of His infinite wisdom and in another sentence we question His reasoning. Are we judging Hashem? What if, in His infinite wisdom, He gave us some commandments just to see where our hearts are? Reply

Aryeh Citron Surfside November 12, 2014

linen Linen is material made from the flax plant. It is not the same as cotton. Reply

Ezra San Diego November 10, 2014

What is Linen? What is linen made out of?
Is cotton Linen? Reply

Aryeh Citron Surfside April 22, 2013

Kohen Gadol Good question Moyshe.
As you quoted, the Torah explicitly states that the Kohen Gadol should wear a combination of wool and linen. So this is obviously an exception to the rule.
As far as why G-d made this exception, the Rabeinu Bachaye (a 14th century Spanish commentator on the Torah) explains that the reason for Shaatnez on an esoteric level is that everything in nature has its own spiritual force. By mixing certain items together, these forces are compromised and cannot perform their assigned task. In the Holy Temple, however, all of the spiritual energies are united just as they are joined in their original source. On this level, it is a mitzvah to have (this form of) shaatnez, rather than a sin. Reply

Moyshe Phila. USA April 18, 2013

In Exodus 27:6 and 27:15 a description of the Kohen Gadol’s Ephod and Chosen is described. Both descriptions include:

6. and they shall make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and crimson wool, and twisted fine linen, the work of a master weaver.

15. You shall make a choshen of judgment, the work of a master weaver. You shall make it like the work of the ephod; of gold, blue, purple, and crimson wool, and twisted fine linen shall you make it.

Considering the prohibition of shatnez why is it that the Kohen Gadol's clothing are made of wool and linen? Reply

Aryeh Citron Surfside, Florida May 2, 2012

Wool and other materials This prohibition only applies to wool and linen and does not apply if wool is mixed with other materials.
All the best, Reply

Jack Midland Park May 1, 2012

Shatnez Does this prohibition also refer to wool mixed with other materials other than linen ?
Thanks for your reply. Reply

Anonymous March 3, 2012

wool & linen My mom once gave me shirt made in Scotland that was made of cotton and wool. Although it was cozy and comfortable it lasted for only one season. Wool threads are serrated and will saw other threads if mixed. Therefore any clothing made of a mix with wool will not last for long. Reply

Aryeh Citron (author) Surfside, Fl March 9, 2011

Jacket A wool jacket should be examined by an expert in the Shatnez field. That person will check if there are linen threads in the lining and elsewhere.

Shatnez only applies to wool and linen, not to cotton. Reply

Anonymous potchefstroom, south africa March 7, 2011

Jacket I want to know: the inside of some wool jackets is lined out with lining, is the jacket kosher or un-kosher (shartnez)?

Can I wear a wool jersey over a cotton shirt ? Reply

Aryeh Citron Surfside, Fl November 2, 2009

Shirt & Jacket The Shach in Yoreh De'ah asks your question. He answers that it is possible to remove one arm from both the shirt & jacket sleeves, to then put back the jacket sleeve on that arm & then do the same w/ the other arm. This means that as long as you can remove one without completely removing the other, that it's ok. Reply

gershon mcgreevy November 2, 2009

Shirt and Jacket?? The author writes that one may wear a linen shirt with a woolen jacket as long as you can remove one without removing the other. The problem is that you CAN"T remove your shirt without removing your jacket. So what is he talking about!?

I will take my response from the author in the comment section and do not expect an email. Reply

Related Topics
This page in other languages