Certain halachot are based in ascertaining contemporary societal practices -- I learned (though I don't have a source) that the issue of "do her nails" regarding a female captive (Dev. 21:12) is related to doing whatever the opposite of the current societal notion of beauty is. I also have read that stipulations of beged ish and simlat isha also are variable, depending on what a culture has decided is appropriate. That idea is discussed in this answer and the comment on it and in this answer.

What happens when what society decides upon (and which then might have halachic implications) contravenes evidence from the chumash itself?

The linked question asks about the propriety of certain jewelry, including earrings for men. However, Shemot 32:2 makes it clear that earrings were not at all a beged isha issue.

Aaron said to them, "Remove the golden earrings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters and bring them [those earrings] to me." ב.וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם אַהֲרֹן פָּרְקוּ נִזְמֵי הַזָּהָב אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵי נְשֵׁיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם וְהָבִיאוּ אֵלָי:

How can we decide that earrings for men are even up for discussion if there is textual proof that the article of clothing was appropriate for either gender? I would think that we would apply a community standard argument to items not explicitly allowed or forbidden, when only a category is delineated. But here, the item, itself, was accepted textually and never listed as a forbidden practice.

Can halacha apply a standard which then turns that which the text allows, into "no longer allowed"? Would this be the equivalent of making chicken into "meat"?

  • 2
    hebrewbooks.org/52069 The most famous source about this is so famous, there's a book about it just called "the known [opinion of the] Taz".
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 19:11
  • 1
    Can you elaborate why you think the Torah's incidentally mentioning what the common standards were at the time should be relevant for determining what they are today? It could be earrings were not female-only clothing then, they are now, and they won't be again in 10 years, and then they will be for another century, and they won't be for 150 years, etc. Why is that at all troubling?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 20:05
  • @DoubleAA At first I thought I was troubled because I saw that the intent of the law cannot be to outlaw earrings as they were not solely a woman's item, but then I just generalized it -- what happens when that which the text does not include in a category eventually becomes included. Can the subjective category supersede the textual point.
    – rosends
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 20:24
  • 1
    I'm still not sure what the problem is. The Torah never said "earrings are forever a man's garment". It said "nowadays earrings are acceptable as a man's garment". Why is that a troubling statement?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 20:31
  • 2
    It's not prohibiting that which is explicitly listed as acceptable in the text. A) any application of the law today is not making a claim about the law then. B) the text never claims that earrings are by definition permitted for men. If you want to ask about Aseh Doche Lo Taaseh and the Tzitz, that's fine. I just don't see what the problem is with the earrings at all.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 21:30


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .