Clothing Store Apologizes to Israel

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In its “Recommended Reading” section the Forward has noted The Independent‘s report that the Spanish clothing store Zara recently apologized to Jews in Israel for selling a suit made with “a mix of materials that are considered non-kosher to some strict religious Jews.”

But did The Independent butcher the story?

The prohibited “mix of materials” — known as shatnez — is discussed in the latter portion of Leviticus 19:19: “…Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind; thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed; neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together.”

As far as I know, this has always been understood as a prohibition on mixing wool and linen in a garment. But according to the newspaper: “The suit contained a combination of cotton and linen which some rabbinical authorities class as an ‘unnatural’ blend, known as shatnez to ultra-Orthodox Jews.”

Aside for the reference to cotton, the reference to “some rabbinical authorities” classing it as “an unnatural blend” is also puzzling.

So what’s the story here? What was in the suit? Wool and linen? Or cotton and linen? Is it possible that shatnez is traditionally understood as wool and linen, but that “some rabbinical authorities” prohibit cotton and linen as well?

If I had to guess, I’d say that The Independent got the story wrong, and this is supported by the way the Guardian and other media outlets (I, II) reported the story (specifically referring to wool as the offending fabric). Plus, wool and linen make more sense from a theoretical point of view because it’s a mixture of animal product and plant product (i.e. different species).

But cotton has been mentioned elsewhere in regards to the Zara story, so if anyone knows of a position that considers cotton and linen to be shatnez, please post it in the Comments.

Posted on June 1, 2007

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