Dei'ah Vedibur - Information &

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Shvat, 5779 - January 10, 2019 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shatnez is a Bigger Problem than is Generally Recognized

by N Katzin

The Source of the Problem: Mass Usage of Remnants

From where does the modern problem of shatnez materialize [pun]? If we are not talking about a woolen garment and wool is not listed in the label, why should we dream that the garment can have shatnez? Wool is generally considered a component which hikes up the price so why should a manufacturer insert wool in a linen garment?

Rabbi Yisroel Neuman, Official advisor of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in Shatnez, explains over the phone: "At this very moment, I am in a factory in Shanghai, for the second time in two weeks. In the process of production, the raw material used for creating suits is linen. But the reinforcements, such as, like the central front facing or at different corners and places that require reinforcement, consists of various remnants which are liable to include wool. This is the strategy of modern production - in mass production, fabric remnants are used for various purposes. This is our Achilles heel and the reason why I am here - to prevent this pitfall."

The colors hid the shatnez

In addition, there is a common problem in the production of the fabric itself. The use of wool and linen is very widespread in production: Wool-and-Linen has become very popular in recent years, especially because of fashion modes and it now exists in men's suits, women's and children's clothing. There is hardly any self-respecting manufacturer in the world which does not produce fabrics which are composed of shatnez.

All of these shatnez problems, as we see from this sample shown in the picture, exist even with an Israeli manufacturer, as well as even with one who is chareidi.

Rav Neuman says, "If this holds true with one who manufactures in Israel, the solution should be simple and easy - why not start at the beginning by checking the very fabric itself? Why not employ a shatnez supervisor from the start?

"The biggest issue is really the public itself. There seems to be an indifference in this matter, a lack of awareness on the subject which is a not an imaginary nightmare. Not at all! This is a real and existing pitfall. If the public were to demand only garments which were pre-checked and certified as being shatnez-free, the producers and suppliers would surely do it. This must come from the public, however, a demand which would force the manufactures to supply these labels.

"There are some large scale organizations and bodies which order hundreds of suits every year and bargain over price and fashion - and don't even mention the subject of shatnez- free labels. We wish they would take up the issue. I personally guarantee: if such a body were to make a deal with the importer and demand to receive merchandise with such a label, I would travel to their factory to supervise, even without payment, to assure that these labels were forthcoming, even for the reason that it enter the awareness of yeshiva students. If they demand this, the importers would surely seek to acquire such a hechsher!"

It is Not Enough to Test Samples

Rabbi Schloss, a shatnez checker in Modi'in Illit and in Bnei Brak, says: "How is it that the consumer believes the salesperson or the manufacturer, without testing or calling up the laboratory? And even those who do call and receive an answer that `we did make a sample test and found no problems - but we did not test every item. Some people come and have those items tested, but not all.' There is a misguided presumption that a sample test is reliable enough, whereas gedolei Yisroel determine explicitly that one cannot rely on that halachically, and we see this in reality."

Shatnez was recently discovered in a shoulder pad, which is no surprise. "We are talking about a well known brand name. Whenever such suits were brought to us, we saw that the contents of the inner fabric such as shoulder pads etc. is not uniform. Each suit is made up of different material and even within one suit, the left is not always the same as the right. The importer writes: `Shatnez-free', but this is no guarantee or certification. See, in this checkup I found linen in the shoulder pad of a wool suit.

"The importer came to the lab very upset. I asked him why the inner fabric varies. He replied: `It can't be. We issue instructions to the Chinese as to which materials to use.' I understood that the man knew about fashion in general but had not the faintest idea of how a suit looks from the inside. I showed him and he was surprised. To his credit it should be said that he introduced changes since then such as new rules to the Chinese manufacturer regarding the inner fabric.

One out of six identical pants had shatnez

They look like all other pants

"The problem remains that few customers bring these suits in to check, though there is no guarantee that he fulfills these instructions since few customers bring in their purchases for checking. It is possible that there are more suits containing shatnez but they were not brought in for checking."

Here is a story that took place two weeks ago: "Six pants were brought in for checking with a Marks and Spencer label, all bought in England all were from the same manufacturer and were the same design model. The examiner in London told me that people think that if the suit jacket was found clean, there was no need to test the trousers and if one jacket was tested, it means that all similar jackets are ok. This is not true. We tested two identical suits where one pair of trousers had shatnez in the interfacing and the other suit didn't but the jacket did. Of the six pairs of pants mentioned earlier, one did have shatnez. While this is not a common occurrence, it shows that one must be on his toes and that in general, one should upgrade public awareness so as not to stumble."

The last example which Rabbi Schloss refers to is chilling indeed. A shatnez-containing women's suit sold to women from chareidi communities in the U.S. was tested only after they arrived in Eretz Yisroel and found to contain shatnez.

"A family living in Yerushalayim brought me a garment from America, a suit with colored stripes bearing a label: 36% cotton, 32% linen, 26% viscose, 6% elastic. It was bought in a chareidi shop in Flatbush, a model sold in Lakewood as well. One of the colored stripes contained wool: real shatnez.

The label had no hint of wool

"I contacted the Lakewood shatnez laboratory which told me that this model had been on the market for a year but no one had brought it in for checking. Consumers took it for granted that a garment sold in a chareidi store whose label did not mention wool, was O.K. Only here in Eretz Yisroel did someone bother to bring it in for testing. We always maintain that a garment which has several colors must be tested. Similarly for a garment that has appliques or added decoration which should also be tested. The above examples are not commonplace, but come to show that one cannot rely on sellers and must be checked. One must maintain awareness."

The Halacha determines that one cannot rely on sample testing. Thus any questionable garment which does not bear a shatnez-free label must be brought to a reliable checker and may not be worn only on trust of the seller. May our circumspection against prohibitions indeed spare us from stumbling blocks, and may our prayers be accept pleasingly. May Hashem duly answer all of our heart's requests for the good.

Are there any categories of clothing that are known to be without shatnez?

HaRav Moshe Stein, a motz and head of the executive committee of the National Beis Din for Shatnez, says: "What we know is that wool socks and stockings are usually shatnez- free. Similarly for men's and women's wool scarves. Men's sweaters without appliques and also underwear and shirts since most are made of synthetic fibers. The matter is more complex with women's apparel: anything that contains either wool or linen must be tested. The simpler the garment, the less chance of shatnez unless it contains appliques or is color-striped."


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