The Talmud, at Shabbos 138b, presents the opinion that one may not wear a siyana -- which Rashi defines as a wide-brimmed hat — on Shabbos if it has a brim that is one tefach (hand-bredth) wide because it is like erecting an ohel (tent). Tosafos cites Rabbi Chananel for the principle that this is only where the brim is stiff, and Rashi adds that we are concerned that the wind will pick the hat up and blow it off, causing one to pick it up in violation of the issur to carry in a public domain. So Rashi would hold that it is only prohibited if the hat does not fit tightly on one's head.

So, the question comes up — the black snap-brim Borsalino fedora has now become a staple for men in the Yeshivish world. The brim on most hats is easily a tefach wide, and the snap-brim makes the brim tight enough to become an air-foil. On what basis can we claim that this type of hat is not a siyana and therefore forbidden to wear on Shabbos? Could this be a concern for other types of felt hats common in the Haredi world (the names of these hats are unfamiliar to me)?


2 Answers 2


There are two distinct issues to deal with in this question:

  1. The question of ohel due to the size of the hat brim.
  2. The question of wearing a hat that can be blown off and thus lead to possible carrying.

It is important to bear in mind that in both issues we are dealing with a d'rabbanan issue, which leaves us open to be more lenient than if we were dealing with an outright melacha d'Oraisa. (A hat is not considered a genuine ohel d'Oraisa (MB 301:152).)

Brim Length and Ohel

With regard to the question of ohel, the first issue to deal with is the length of a tefach. According to the handy little chart in the back of R' Aryeh Carmell's סייעתא לגמרא, R' Moshe Feinstein holds a tefach to be 3.5 inches. (The Chazon Ish holds about 10% longer, and R' A. C. Noeh holds about 10% shorter.) (Moreover, if I understand the halacha correctly, the issue is not the actual length of the brim but how far it extends from the head. Thus, a curved brim will be significantly shorter than a straight brim.)

While it is perfectly possible to get yeshivish black hats that have brims that are well below the length of a tefach, hat brims that are more than a tefach are apparently quite common and popular in the frum world. This therefore does raise a serious question.

The Mishneh Berura (301:152) discusses the question of hats of this sort that were commonly worn on Shabbos, and cites a variety of different justifications for the leniency. Although not all of these explanations would apply to modern fedoras, the most basic answer is that people rely on the opinion of Rashi that there is no prohibition of ohel with regard to hats in the first place. Thus, the MB concludes that in a place where people are generally lenient on this issue, we should not protest (אין למחות), however in a place where they are not accustomed to being lenient, it is certainly proper to be stringent.

So, with regard to ohel it would seem that there are certainly valid reasons to be lenient, but it would be best to just buy a hat with a 3 inch (or smaller) brim.

A Hat that Can Be Blown Off

The issue here is that the rabbis enacted a decree prohibiting wearing a hat that can be blown off in the wind because if that happens we are concerned that the person will pick it up and carry it for four amos. In his discussion of this issue (301:41), the Mishneh Berura explains that this issue only applies to hats that are worn on top of smaller hats. The reason for this is that a religious Jew will not walk in public with a bare head, so there is no risk that he will inadvertently carry his hat for four amos after he picks it up if that is the only hat he is wearing.

This, of course, raises the question about our current practice of wearing hats on top of a yarmulka. If our hats qualify as hats that can blow off in the wind (and, in my opinion, they clearly do), then one should certainly avoid walking in a reshus harabbim with a yarmulka under the hat as the MB rules. (This happens to be my personal practice. When I was a student in the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, I observed that when R' Shmuel Birnbaum zatzal arrived for shacharis on Shabbos morning, he would walk to his seat with his hat on, take a yarmulka out of his tallis bag, remove his hat, and put on the yarmulke.)

Those who are lenient presumably maintain that, as a general rule, our hats are sufficiently firmly attached to our heads that they are unlikely to blow off from a normal wind. Of course, this would vary from case to case, so it is difficult to give an absolute rule.

Moreover, it would seem that this prohibition would only apply in a reshus harabbim d'Oraisa, which is fairly uncommon except in densely populated metropolitan areas like Brooklyn, NY.

  • 2
    Why would it only apply in RHR deoraita? And some hold most modern cities are all RHR deoraita.
    – Double AA
    Apr 17, 2013 at 2:15
  • @DoubleAA Because we are speaking of a shvus - a rabbinic restriction to avoid coming to a Biblical prohibition. The issur of carrying in an area that is not RHR d'Oraisa is also a shevus. As a general rule we don't apply a shvus to a shevus, so this issue would only be relevant in a RHR d'Oraisa.
    – LazerA
    Apr 17, 2013 at 4:32
  • 2
    That's not clear at all. See OC 303:18
    – Double AA
    Apr 17, 2013 at 4:54
  • 3
    Interesting about the yarmulke and hat. R' Aharon Lichtenstein, when I was a student at Gush, would wear a hat and yarmulke separately. I noted on several occasions that he removed one and replaced it with the other. I could never figure out why, and I didn't have the nerve to ask. Now I wish I had.
    – Seth J
    May 21, 2014 at 4:00
  • 2
    Rav Avigdor Nevenzahl shlit"a also does this as well, many times I saw him take yarmulke off before putting his hat on, always found it interesting , I may ask him why May 12, 2015 at 7:11

It is not a concern , halacha is talking about a hat that serves a protection either from the sun or rain,but for stylish hats there is no problem. see the Shulchan Aruch 301:40-41 Mishna Brurah 151-153.

  • Al pi savarah if one wears those special plastics over their hat when it rains it seems the hat is now a protection hat,but I could hear the other way that it is mutar.
    – sam
    Apr 14, 2013 at 17:24
  • 1
    Which is why many people forbid those plastic covers for hats on Shabbos.
    – Ariel
    Apr 14, 2013 at 19:13
  • This is only talking about the carrying issue not the building a tent issue. In 301:40 (where he discusses the tent issue) he does not make a distinction what the hat is for.
    – Double AA
    Apr 14, 2013 at 19:20
  • @Ariel: I don't think that's the reason plastic hat covers are forbidden. The ones that forbid it do so because since it is made to protect the hat, not the person, it is not considered a garment and would be considered carrying. See here: shemayisrael.com/parsha/ostroff/archives/shabbos4_35.htm
    – Menachem
    Apr 14, 2013 at 20:08
  • @DoubleAA , I don't understand, did you read Mishna Brurah 152 brings many kulas and one is if it is not used לצל ?
    – sam
    Apr 14, 2013 at 23:40

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