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The Bavli, Shabas 62 amud 1, as explained by Rashi, continues a long discussion regarding what objects are considered clothing (or adornments), so may be worn outside (an eruv) on Shabas, and what objects are not clothing/adornment, so may not be worn outside on Shabas:

  • It quotes the mishna as saying that a signet ring cannot be worn by a woman, but a non-signet ring can. (I'm writing here about divinely imposed prohibitions. As a practical matter, and even as discussed in the text there, there are rabbinically imposed prohibitions in some of these cases. So please don't take any of what I write here as practical permission; consult your rabbi with any practical questions.)

  • Ula then notes that the reverse is true for a man: a signet ring can be worn by a man, but not a non-signet ring.

    • Rav Yosef notes that Ula seems to hold that whatever is considered clothing/adornment for one person is not necessarily clothing/adornment for another (as, otherwise, any ring permitted for women or men would be permitted for everyone). He attempts to refute this position from a piece of Tosefta that says that anyone can go out wearing sack because shepherds do (implying that what's clothing/adornment for shepherds is permitted for anyone).

      • Rav Yosef answers his own question: Ula indeed holds that what's permitted for one is permitted for all — but not between the sexes, as "women are a nation unto themselves".
  • The g'mara then asks why a woman's wearing a signet ring outside should be forbidden. After all, the prohibition is carrying — but she's carrying it on her finger, which is an unusual part of the body for carrying things with. The action should be permitted for that reason (כלאחר יד).

    • Rabi Yirm'ya answers that treasuresses frequently carry around signet rings on their fingers. Thus, that method of carrying a signet ring is considered usual.

Okay, so treasuresses usually carry around signet rings on their fingers — that is, they wear them. So why doesn't the logic of the shepherds' sack apply to the treasuresses' rings? Recall that anyone can wear sack because shepherds wear sack. So why can't any woman wear a signet ring because treasuresses wear signet rings?

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Shepherds do not merely carry sacks, they use sacks as clothing/adornments by using them as raincoats, as Rashi indicates (see ד"ה בשקין and אלא).

Women do not wear signet rings as clothing/adornments, period. R. Yirmiah is simply observing that when women occasionally carry signet rings, they do so by wearing them on their fingers.

Therefore, while signet rings are not considered clothing/adornments for women, wearing them it is still a normal way of carrying them, even for women.

  • @msh210 Dov F Is saying good. I will be mosef svara. The shepherd is not taking his sack that he needs for whatever purpose by draping it on his body. This odd item is his clothing. As such it is now called clothing. The ring's sole purpose was to be used for stamping, its mode of transportation is by looping it around your finger. Imagine a hammer with a string loop at the end to carry it by. Now you slip your hand into that loop. Are you wearing that hammer? – user6591 Jun 15 '15 at 18:51
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I think the distinction is how and when the item is functioning. The shepherd's sackcloth raincoat is functioning as a garment when worn over the body (e.g. by protecting from the rain). For a woman, a signet ring has no aesthetic value when worn and wearing it is just a way to get it from point A to point B.

  • How is the signet ring a way to get from point a to b? – Scimonster Jun 15 '15 at 15:22
  • @Scimonster I take it as granted that it's a magic signet ring;) – Loewian Jun 15 '15 at 15:23

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