By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times
They appear not only in the headlines of New York City newspapers, but in New York City courthouses. They are two female Orthodox Jewish criminal lawyers, one 40 and one 26, that happen to wear bright pink outfits – even down to their matching Chanel patent leather pink flats. They call themselves, “Double Trouble” and by numerous accounts they are a formidable team. One of them was quoted by the paper as stating, “We comply with Orthodox Jewish rules of modesty, but we like to wear pink.”
It is this last statement to which this article is addressed. Hopefully, the two lawyers will respond positively to this halachic analysis (and not with a lawsuit). Their names are _____ and _____ (we will see if the Five Towns Jewish Times lawyers allow their names to be mentioned in this article). But first the background.
[For those interested in the original article, see http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/double-trouble-law-partners-wear-pink-outfits-court-article-1.3002790]
The Gemorah in Brachos 20a tells us of the self-sacrifice of Rabbi Adda Bar Ahava who encountered what appeared to be a Jewish woman wearing a “karbalusah” in the market place (red scarf). He took it away from her and the woman subsequently took Rav Adda Bar Ahava to court. He lost and had to pay the rather large sum of 400 zuz. He inquired what her name was and when she responded, “Matun” – he responded: “If only I had listened to your name: Matun (translation: be patient), I would have saved myself 400 zuz.”
The Ben Yehoyadah asks why this particular incident constitutes mesiras nefesh or self-sacrifice. He answers that Rav Adda bar Ahavah was unsure as to whether or not she was a Jewish woman or not and felt that it was worth the risk to ensure that a Jewish girl not violate a prohibition.
WHY DID HE RIP IT?
The Aruch and the approach of most commentaries is that Rav Adda bar Ahava ripped the article of clothing on account of its apparent lack of modesty in color (it was an overgarment over other clothing – something like a sign post). The Maharal (Netzach Yisroel chapter 25) understands that he ripped it on account of it being an article that Jews shouldn’t wear on account of it being like the gentiles. In other words the Maharal does not understand the ripping as being on account of it being immodest but because of assimilation.
Regardless as to what the self-sacrifice actually was and why it was ripped, there seem to be four approaches in the commentaries as to what exactly the prohibition would have been in a Jewish girl wearing a karbalusah.
The Aruch and Tosfos in Kesuvos 72a explain that it is pritzus – a breach of decency and brings to sin. The Shach (YD 178:3) further explains in the name of the Maharik (Shoresh 88) that it is not the manner of modest people to go in red, and that this is a tradition in the hands of the Jewish people. It is not the manner of tzniyus and hachna’ah – a humility of dress.
In Teshuvos Binyomin Z’eev Vol. II # 282 “v’kaivan d’hacha” he explains that red is very important and exotic in a sense, and it is not the way of Jewish women to dress in such a manner. Many understand this as complementing the idea of hachna’ah, humility of dress, expressed above.
The Nemukei Yoseph seems to provide a third explanation that red is the color used by the priests of Avodah Zarah and that in wearing red, there is a trace of violating Avodah Zarah.
The fifth approach is that of the Teshuvos Gaonim Kadmonim (#101) who write that he perceived that this article of clothing contained Shaatnez (Klaim) – a prohibited mixture of fibers. Indeed, this is also the approach of the Trumas haDeshen (Siman 276).
The Chasam Sofer has a different approach that the power of Aisav stemmed from red- or Mars. He cites the interpretation of Rabbeinu Bachya on the verse, “Halitaini nah min haAdom hazeh – feed me from this red” – and that is something entirely foreign to and unbecoming of the Jewish nation.
PLUGGING IT ALL BACK IN
There may be a second or corollary issue of Tznius (modesty) in bringing excessive attention to oneself, but for now, we are dealing with the particular issue of wearing red. Starting from the last explanation backward – according to the Chasam Sofer – pink would not be an issue since this hardly evokes the red of Mars or Aisav. Nor would the lawyers’ attire bring up a problem of a specific problem of Shaatnez. Pink was not used in Avodah Zarah, so that would address issue number three. There is also nothing particularly super-important about pink that would make it extremely exotic. The only issue is that of the first one – modesty. This is the view, however, that the Shulchan Aruch seems to adopt.
GUIDELINES FOR RED
The halacha is that the item must either be entirely red or the majority of it visibly red (see 178:1 and commentaries). Rav Elyashiv zt”l had ruled (see Halichos Bas Yisroel p. 92 footnote 7b) the color Bordeaux is not considered red for these purposes. The author extends that to other types of off-red as well.
The origin of the word Karbalusa is explained by both Rabbeinu Chananel and the Aruch as referencing the fleshy red part on top of a rooster or chicken’s head. This would seem to be the type of red that is referenced in the Gemorah.
THE OTHER VIEW
Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Teshuvos v’Hanhagos Vol. I #136) Shlita seems to understand the aforementioned Gemorah that it includes any color that brings attention to oneself. Thus, a bright yellow or bright pink would be included in the prohibition according to Rav Shternbuch. Rav Chaim Kanievsky is also quoted as forbidding any bright color. Other Poskim cite other sources for not bringing excess attention to oneself and forbid any bright or neon color. They do not state that their source is this Gemorah in Brachos, however.
THOSE WHO ARE LENIENT REGARDING RED
In Sefer Mitzvos HaBayis Vol. II page 145, a ruling issued by Rav Yitzchok Elchanan Spector zt”l is cited that states that since nowadays gentile women no longer wear red as a sign of pritzus – the Gemorah is no longer applicable. This view was originally published in a Torah journal in Europe. Clearly, however, Rav Elyashiv and other more contemporary Poskim do not adopt the approach of Rav Yitzchok Elchonon.
The author can be reached at [email protected]