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The custom of dressing up in costumes on Purim originated from Ashkenazic communities in Europe and has become a popular custom today for Ashkenazim (cf. Rema in Shulkhan Aruch Orach Chaim 696:8).

Is there anything prohibitive (in rabbinic literature) for a Sephardic Jew (or any other non-Ashkenazic Jew) to dress up on Purim?

From the outset, I would think there are two main challenges for Sephardic Jews in accepting this new custom:

  1. The questionable origins of Purim costuming and the prohibition to not accept the customs of foreign nations, as has been discussed previously, might be inhibitive for someone newly taking on the custom.
  2. By dressing in costumes, Sephardim might be forsaking their already established custom to actually dress in nice holiday clothes (cf. Ben Ish Chai, Hil. Purim #22).

If Sephardim can dress up, I would like to know how this is possible given these apparent issues.

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There are many who dress in holiday clothes for Shul, and in costumes for the rest of the day. –  Gershon Gold Feb 14 '13 at 17:26
    
The Rama just says it was the custom in Ashkenaz, not that it originated there. Do you have a source for this historical claim? –  Double AA Feb 14 '13 at 17:35
    
@DoubleAA: jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12448-purim. In the "Masquerading" section: One of the strangest species of merrymaking was the custom of masquerading, which was first introduced among the Italian Jews about the close of the fifteenth century under the influence of the Roman carnival. From Italy this custom spread over all countries where Jews lived, except perhaps the Orient...The first among Jewish authors to mention this custom is Judah Minz (d. 1508 at Venice) in his Responsa, No. 17, quoted by Isserles on Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 696, 8. –  Aryeh Feb 14 '13 at 17:57
    
@Aryeh So it's Italian not Ashkenazic in origin. –  Double AA Feb 14 '13 at 19:15
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4 Answers

Hazon Ovadia Purim pg. 199

מה שנוהגים להתחפש וללבוש מסיכות בפורים, אין כל איסור בדבר.‏

It is Mutar to dress up Purim.

What is Asur on Purim?

  1. Cross dressing
  2. Inviting magicians
  3. Making fun of the Rabbis on Purim

(All from Yalkut Yosef 695)

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What is the explanation for it being permitted? From the strange language (rather than saying it's mutar), it sounds like R. Ovadia does not personally like the idea of it. Also, the other customs that he's against are also Ashkenazik based. So again, what makes dressing up allowed and these not allowed? –  Aryeh Feb 14 '13 at 15:07
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@Aryeh, I think it's clear what makes dressing up allowed - there's no reason to prohibit it - "אין כל איסור בדבר". H"G didn't quote the reasons given for the other elements being prohibited, but they all look like activities that are generally prohibited. Cross-dressing is proscribed in the Torah, as is magic (whether and when entertainment illusionists fall into this category is another story), and making fun of rabbis, the sages say IIRC, causes a person to lose their share in the World to Come. –  Isaac Moses Feb 14 '13 at 15:34
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@IsaacMoses: Aren't the reasons to prohibit obvious. 1) regarding its questionable origins violating ובחקתיהם לא תלכו (judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/15147/moshes-mask-and-purim/…). 2) Wouldn't Sephardim be forsaking their "Mother's Torah" by not following the Sephardic custom of dafka dressing in nice, holiday clothes on Purim. See, for example, Ben Ish Chai, Hil. Purim, #22 (ילבשו בפורים בגדי שבת או בגדים אחרים שהם חשובים, ולא ילבשו בגדי חול. זה היום עשה ה' נגילה ונשמחה בו) –  Aryeh Feb 14 '13 at 16:20
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@Aryeh, Not obvious; excellent points to edit into the question as its premises! The more of your motivation you make explicit in the question, the more likely that answers will address it. –  Isaac Moses Feb 14 '13 at 16:26
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@IsaacMoses: Thanks, I added the points into the question. –  Aryeh Feb 14 '13 at 17:23
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Likutei Menashe which is a Likut of Sefardi Minhagim says on page 224 - 18 that the Minhag is to dress up on Purim.

Zecher David which is written by Rabbi David Zechus (a Sephardi) published in Livorno mentions a few reasons why we dress up on Purim, which indicates that he had no problem with this Minhag.

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Rav Yosef Messas a"h (he served as Rav in Tilimsan Algeria, Meknes Morocco, and as Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Haifa) held that wearing costumes/disguises on Purim is absolutely forbidden as hukas hagoyim and that its origins stem from an imitation of the pre-Lent festivity of Carnavale which itself has origins in the orgiastic paganism of Bacchanalia. He bdieved permits it for young children who are not yet bar-das in order to not make them feel bad, though advised against if possible.

You can read his teshuva here: Mayim Hayim O.H. #298

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Before the period of mourning between Lent and Easter, during which they abstain from meat, Catholics from New Orleans (Mardi Gras) to Rio (Carnival) continue this wild celebration from old Europe. Besides gorging on meat (the reason for the word root "carni"), one of its old trademark customs from among the aristocratic "elite" of Europe, was the ballroom extravaganza: The "Ball" was a pre-Lent festivity, whose participants came in exotic costumes for disguise. This was a part of a wife-swapping game. The idea was that no woman should know who she went home with (the game was "lost" by one who ended up with one's husband). It also has pagan origins (http://www.novareinna.com/festive/mardi.html).

The first among Jewish authors to mention this custom is Judah ben Eliezer ha-Levi Minz (d. 1508 at Venice - known as the "Mahari Minz") in his Responsa no. 17, quoted by Moses Isserles on Orach Chayim 696:8. He expresses the opinion that, since the purpose of the masquerade is only merrymaking, it should not be considered a transgression of the Biblical law regarding dress.

I suggest the entire klal not to dress up and act irresponsibly with the drinking, causing huge amounts of Hillul HaShem. "What is the nature of our obligation for this feast? A person should eat meat and prepare as attractive a feast as his means permit. He should drink wine until he becomes intoxicated and falls asleep in a stupor (goes to sleep). (Hilchoth Meghilla-Chanukah 2:15)" http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/3a02n.htm#16 Meaning one should drink a little more than he usually doesn for kiddush or what have you and not over do himself as people usually do on purim.

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It is not clear exactly how this answers the question. Should Sephardim not dress up because of these Carnival origins? Obviously, the Rema has no problem with them, but is it the same for Sephardim? Does it matter that this custom is relatively new for Sephardim, who might be ending their custom of dressing nicely? These are the issues I'm trying to solve in the question. –  Aryeh Feb 18 '13 at 10:05
    
You haven't shown that carnival has anything to do with it. –  Double AA Feb 18 '13 at 17:46
    
The whole point to my statement is to show that the Purim costumes are of christian origin, and should not be follow. This new custom came about in Europe and it has nothing to do with the original Purim as was practiced since the time of the sages or even when the event took place. No where is the Megilloh it says the jews put on costumes. It is against holocho. –  MoriDoweedhYaa3qob Feb 18 '13 at 18:06
    
How do you show that they are of christian origin? lots of cultures have customs of dressing up at different times because it isn't such a novel idea. Just because it doesn't say they did it in the megillah DOES NOT mean it is against halacha. If your argument that it is prohibited is really just that the rambam doesn't mention it, that is an absolutely terrible answer. –  Double AA Feb 18 '13 at 18:09
    
As unpopular and horrible as this may sound to many, it seems that dressing up in costumes on and around Purim is none other than the transgression of a negative commandment, "buHuqotheihem lo telekhu" not to imitate gentiles (especially idolators) in their customs or dress. –  MoriDoweedhYaa3qob Feb 18 '13 at 18:27
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