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Many of the finer felt hats (especially antique ones) are made of felt created from animal fur, such as beaver or rabbit. The fur is initially harvested from the pelt of a dead animal before it is made into felt.

Does not handling or wearing such a hat qualify as touching the corpse of a dead unclean animal, as forbidden in Leviticus 11:8?

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya! – mevaqesh Oct 1 '17 at 18:35
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    Well, you specifically ask for Karaite answers, but I will say that many of the hats that we Rabbinic Jews wear are made from rabbit fur. :) And as @mevaqesh said, the only Karaite user I know on here is A Blue Thread. He runs a blog under the same name and so you might check that out and contact him for an answer. He seems very competent in questions relating to Karaite Judaism (he is a real Karaite from a real Karaite family). – ezra Oct 1 '17 at 21:20
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    The basic rabbinic response is that once a hide is processed it is no longer consider a dead animal but rather a material. – Double AA Oct 1 '17 at 22:10
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    @hbenth as far as I know it's the only one. Moreover the Bible itself regularly refers to leather implements, eg Num 31:20 – Double AA Oct 1 '17 at 22:23
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    Also in rabbinic thought there's no prohibition to be unclean. Just if you want to do something which requires being clean, such as eating a sacrifice, you need to bother to ensure you are clean. But ordinarily nearly everyone would be unclean because why bother. Verses which speak negatively about becoming unclean are about people who are participating in the "holy" activities. Then it's like how dare you make yourself unclean when eating an offering! – Double AA Oct 1 '17 at 22:25
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I don't know what source you would accept as far as Kaaraite opinions, but there is a Sedducee/Kaaraite opinion quoted in Ibn Ezra (which he dismisses) that might shed some light on the subject. He says the Karites believed that these animals cause impurity even when alive!

See Leviticus 11 26:

Every animal that has true hoofs but without clefts through the hoofs, or that does not chew the cud. They are unclean for you; whoever touches them shall be unclean.

Upon which Ibn Ezra writes:

Whoever touches them i.e., the above mentioned carcasses, becomes ritually impure in the manner mentioned above — until the evening. One Sadducee [a derogatory reference to a Karaite — Translator] heretic has read this verse to mean “Whoever touches them while alive becomes ritually impure”. There is no need to answer words of lunacy. Scripture prohibited only their flesh, and specified, “do not touch their remains ” [:8].

There is no purifying act mentioned for these items so we can assume once impure, always impure. But I guess that is up to you to decide.

(The translation of the verse and Ibn Ezra are from Sefaria as linked.)

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Since your comment says that you do want the Rabbinic reason why fur is allowed, the answer appears to be the Rashi on that pasuk. This prohibition applies only to the Festivals when the people enter the Temple and have to bring karbonos. We also see from the answer to Acceptable to receive transplant of organs grown inside pigs? that one is only forbidden to sell (pig as an example) that leads to it being eaten. Thus, fur for a hat is like pig skin for a football (see quote at the end of this post). Another example is Can I wear pigskin shoes? which also uses Rashi to show that it is allowed.

Also we see

Now, the above is true regarding the flesh of the animal. Animal hide, however, does not carry impurities, especially when it is tanned.

This also includes the fur. Thus there is no impurity in the hat.

Rashi on Leviticus 11:8

and you shall not touch their carcasses: One might think that Israelites are prohibited to touch a carcass. Scripture, however, says, “Say to the kohanim …[(a kohen) shall not defile himself for a (dead) person among his people]” (Lev. 21:1); thus, kohanim are prohibited [from defiling themselves by human corpses], but ordinary Israelites are not prohibited. Now a kal vachomer can be made: Since in the more stringent case of defilement by a human corpse, only kohanim are prohibited, then in the more lenient case of defilement by animal carcasses, how much more so [should only kohanim be prohibited! If so,] what does Scripture mean by, “you shall not touch their carcasses”? [It means that Israelites may not touch animal carcasses] on the Festivals [since at those times they deal with holy sacrifices and enter the Temple]. This is what [the Sages] said: A person is obligated to cleanse himself on Festivals. - [R.H. 16b, Torath Kohanim 11:74]

As an example from Acceptable to receive transplant of organs grown inside pigs?

[Rashba][1] (Responsa: 3:223) writes that there is no universal prohibition to benefit from pigs; only a rabbinic injunction against engaging in commerce with them.

אם החזיר מותר בהנאה, במה שהתרת ליקח אותו בחובו? חדא: שהוא בעצמו אינו אסור בהנאה, דבר תורה, ואפילו לעשות בו סחורה, אלא מדבריהם


According to most authorities this limit on commerce is a rabbinic injunction. (Cf. Bartenura in Sheviit there, and Beit Yosef YD 117). They specify that this prohibition only applies when the commerce may lead to consumption of the food. (Cf. [Shach][2] YD 117:2). This would be another reason why the rabbinic injunction against commerce would not apply to a transplant; the transplant would not lead to consumption of pig.

Accordingly, even in cases where there is no danger to life, there would be no prohibition on using pig organs.

  • Have there ever been a belief that it is forbidden to touch the entire corpse of an unclean animal, but not forbidden to touch items made of its fur but which do not include the skin? – hbenthow Oct 1 '17 at 22:09
  • @hbenthow I added the quote from chabad.org that the hide (and therefore the fur) are not forbidden. – sabbahillel Oct 1 '17 at 22:39

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