Recently, on Shabbat 57, the Talmud discussed what women may wear outside of the home on Shabbat. In particular, the Gemara debated what jewelry and accessories violate the prohibition of carrying from a private to a public domain on Shabbat. Now it is the men’s turn.
While the discussion about women’s accessories led to various interesting intellectual arguments, the vision portrayed by the rabbis as it relates to men’s accessories takes a moral turn that is quite moving.
Male accessories being debated include swords and like weaponry. Interestingly enough, we see later on in the Talmud (Nazir 59a) that women are prohibited from wearing weaponry as this violates the prohibition on crossdressing:
From where is it derived that a woman may not go out with weapons to war? The verse states: A woman shall not wear that which pertains to a man, and a man shall not put on a woman’s garment (Deuteronomy 22:5) which indicates that a man may not adorn himself with the cosmetics and ornaments of a woman, and similarly a woman may not go out with weapons to war, as those are for the use of males.
It seems from here that a man’s outfit was practically incomplete without a designer sword to really make it pop. Initially, the Gemara on today’s page takes a strong stance against carrying or wearing weapons on Shabbat:
The sages said that a man may neither go out on Shabbat with a sword, nor a bow, nor a shield, nor a club, nor a spear. And if he unwittingly went out with one of these weapons to the public domain he is liable to bring a sin-offering.
However, Rabbi Eliezer disagrees:
These weapons are ornaments for him; just as a man is permitted to go out into the public domain with other ornaments, he is permitted to go out with weapons.
So which are they: weapons or ornaments? And why do most sages think they cannot be carried on Shabbat? The Gemara could have debated a variety of halachic issues that might arise with carrying weapons on Shabbat, from simply carrying them to using them for a slew of prohibited activities. The Gemara’s response, however, evinces concern for morality and ethics over legality:
The Rabbis say: Weapons are nothing other than reprehensible and in the future they will be eliminated, as it is written: And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not raise sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:4). The Rabbis said to Rabbi Eliezer (who thought they could be worn on Shabbat): And since, in your opinion, they are ornaments for him, why are they to be eliminated in the messianic era? He said to them: They will not be needed anymore, as it is stated: Nation will not raise sword against nation (Isaiah 2:4). The Gemara asks: And let the weapons be merely for ornamental purposes, even though they will not be needed for war? Abaye said: It is just as in the case of a candle in the afternoon. Since its light is not needed, it serves no ornamental purpose. Weapons, too; when not needed for war, serve no ornamental purpose either.
Ultimately, the aim is to live in a world where there are no weapons — either for slaughter or decoration. Amen to that!
Read all of Shabbat 63 on Sefaria.
This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on May 8, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.