As we trace the crystallization and evolution of specific Jewish laws, we risk missing important points if we ignore historical facts. This comes to the fore in what to many will seem a surprising debate — the permissibility, or not, of wearing eyeglasses on Shabbos. Most people take for granted that people may wear glasses outside on Shabbos even where there is no eruv. Yet, as we will see, the major halakhic codes forbid it. How did it become allowed?

Blurry Shabbos

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I. Glasses on Shabbos

As we trace the crystallization and evolution of specific Jewish laws, we risk missing important points if we ignore historical facts. This comes to the fore in what to many will seem a surprising debate — the permissibility, or not, of wearing eyeglasses on Shabbos. Most people take for granted that people may wear glasses outside on Shabbos even where there is no eruv. Yet, as we will see, the major halakhic codes forbid it. How did it become allowed?

In order to be permissibly worn outside on Shabbos, an item must be classified as a garment or an ornament. Ornaments, however, are sometimes rabbinically forbidden due to the concern you might take it off to show someone or that it might fall off and you will lift and carry it. Do eyeglasses fall in either of these categories?

The Rema (Orach Chaim 301:14), quoting the Beis Yosef, forbids wearing an ornamental glasses case because the glasses inside the case are not part of the ornament. This ruling raises the question why the wearing of glasses was not addressed. Is this because it is obviously allowed as a garment or ornament, or forbidden as a utensil? The Chayei Adam (56:3) forbids “wearing glasses on the nose” because they may fall and you may carry them. Clearly, he considers them to be an ornament subject to that consideration.

II. Glasses in Halakhah

The Kitzur Shulchan Arukh (84:3) and Mishnah Berurah (301:44) follow the Chayei Adam‘s ruling. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (Orach Chaim 301:61) adds a different concern. He considers glasses to be a tool for eyesight, not an ornament. Even if made fancy, it is still a tool. You are never allowed to carry a tool on Shabbos and the Arukh Ha-Shulchan struggles to permit it if it is sewn into one’s clothing.

Yet, contemporary halakhic works permit the wearing of eyeglasses for those who always wear them (but not reading glasses). R. Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemira Shabbos Ke-Hilkhasah 18:16), wrote in 1979 that one may wear them. R. Dovid Ribiat (The 39 Melachos, vol. 4 p. 1402) in 1999 and R. Shalom Yosef Gelber and R. Yitzchak Mordechai Rubin (Orechos Shabbos, vol. 3 28:127) in 2009 wrote similarly. How did we get from the absolute prohibition of the Chayei Adam to today’s broad permission?

III. Permissive Views

I think there are two steps that answer this question. The first is that along the way, some important authorities disagreed with this strict ruling. R. Ya’akov Ettlinger (Binyan Tziyon Ha-Chadashos, no. 37 – link), writing in 1862, permitted, or at least did not object to those who permitted, wearing glasses that are tied from ear to ear. Decades later, in a responsum published in 1922, R. Chaim Elazar Shapiro (Minchas Elazar vol. 3 no. 4 – link) confirmed R. Ettlinger’s ruling. And not long after, R. Ya’akov Chaim Sofer (Kaf Ha-Chaim 301:65 – link) allowed it, but recommended that the pious refrain. More recently, R. Gedaliah Felder (Yesodei Yeshurun, vol. 5 p. 216 – link) in 1966 and R. Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Ha-Levi, vol. 8 no. 48 – link) in 1992 permitted wearing eyeglasses on Shabbos.

IV. History and Glasses

The second is recognizing the history of spectacles. Why was the Chayei Adam so concerned about glasses falling off? That rarely happens. And what did the Binyan Tziyon mean when he referred to glasses that are tied from ear to ear? The answer lies in the evolution of glasses, not halakhah. In the seventeenth century, glasses did not have sides. They were two lenses connected by frames with a bridge that was held on the nose (link). People wearing them had to walk with their heads tilted back to keep them from falling (see the picture above). Sides began to appear in the second quarter of the eighteenth century (link).

R. Avraham Danziger, who published Chayei Adam around the turn of the nineteenth century (perhaps in 1810), was almost certainly speaking of the glasses without sides. Presumably, the latest fashion in spectacles had not yet penetrated the Jewish community in Vilna. That explains his great concern for glasses falling off. 50+ years later, R. Ettlinger was familiar with both kinds of glasses and permitted those with sides — not those with the sides tied around the back of the head but simply with sides.

V. Glasses Today

If eyeglasses serve an ornamental purpose, which the styles of frames currently available seem to confirm, then the Chayei Adam would permit wearing glasses with sides on Shabbos. As this style became standard, the appropriate ruling changed. While the stringency was once correct, it would now be wrong to apply it. I eventually learned that R. Dovid Tevele Efrati reached the same conclusion. The Minchas Shabbos on Kitzur Shulchan Arukh (84:6 – link) quotes a responsum of his with the same analysis.

However, the Arukh Ha-Shulchan‘s objection still stands. If eyeglasses are tools rather than ornaments, then even those with sides may not be worn on Shabbos. This seems to be a minority opinion. Those who quote the Chayei Adam consider glasses to be ornaments. However, there are those who prefer to be strict. For this reason, R. Ya’akov Kamenetsky reportedly refrained from wearing glasses outside on Shabbos, although told others that there is room to be lenient (Bi-Mechitzas Rabbeinu Ha-Ga’on R. Ya’akov Kamenetsky, p. 126).

In the case of eyeglasses on Shabbos, the core halakhic ruling did not change. Rather, the reality changed and a different ruling had to be applied. Only by studying the history could we determine that the seemingly new permissive ruling is really an extension of the previous stringency.

UPDATE: R. Yehudah Leib Graubart, the former rabbi of my grandparents’ town in Poland, permitted wearing glasses on Shabbos in 1918 — Chavalim Ba-Ne’imim vol. 3 no. 11: link. He holds that glasses are a garment.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

56 comments

  1. Great article!

    And I just thought of a great business opportunity. Setup a Lasik shop in a Charedi neighborhood run by Charedim in a fully tznius manner. Then get the local Rabbi to teach this part of S”A and inform the tzibur that glasses are assur on shabbos. And immediately thereafter you’ll have tons of business.

    🙂

  2. What is the first source that says that glasses are ornamental and therefore can be worn on Shabbat?

  3. Mark,
    Dont assume Haredim follow “Daas Torah” or even Halacha. Youu would be surprised how many people become individual thinkers when there is financial loss at issue.

  4. I remember growing up in Crown Heights during the 60s & 70s and seeing many Lubavitcher chassidim who didn’t wear their glasses on shabbos. These days, I’m told, it’s the exception rather than the rule.

  5. Moshe Shoshan

    nice post. it would be great to get more info on the spread of glasses with sides in eastern europe.

    What about wearing reading glasses outside as a way of transporting them with out an eruv?

  6. Shachar Ha'amim

    excellent piece. gives one pause for thought regarding the chassidic leaders who insist that their flock wear simple standard eyeglasses that are not fashionable. could they be creating a shabbos problem by pushing this into the realm of a “tool” as opposed to an “ornament”?

  7. Why does Halacha change based on based on change in historical practice in this case, but not in the case of the prohibition of taking medicine on Shabbos, even though nobody grinds medicine anymore?

  8. Joseph: I believe the Chayei Adam is the first to imply that glasses are ornamental but therefore forbidden. Just about everyone accepts his premise.

    Moshe Shoshan: I’ve seen many sources that forbid wearing reading glasses because the concern you might remove them and carry them is much greater. I think standard practice today is to forbid it.

    Moshe: Grinding medicine is a prohibition of Chazal and requires a Sanhedrin repeal it.

  9. A Little Sanity

    “Grinding medicine is a prohibition of Chazal and requires a Sanhedrin repeal it.”

    The prohibition on grinding would not have to be repealed. Rather, the act of taking medicine itself, in consonance with reality, would be deemed changed, in that it no longer involves grinding by he who consumes [or even sells] it.

  10. (sarcasm on) Well, there are so many heterim for medicine on Shabbat, that doing the simple thing (considering the truth of a change in technology) would put a lot of good poskim out of work. Practically, the issur has gone away, but by the same token, people feel they have to ask rabbis about it, who tell them about this or that heter, which increases the rabbi’s standing in the questioner’s eyes (my rabbi is so clever…) Why would they want to recognize reality? It makes their job simpler, hence less impressive.
    (sarcasm off)

    WRT glasses, does anyone use the rationale of handicaps remedied by devices? E.g, hearing aids are not even considered a problem of carrying, because they are effectively part of the organ of sensation. Or, a handicapped person who cannot walk on Shabbat without a cane or wheelchair, can use that cane or wheelchair on Shabbat because again, it’s part of their body, in that it brings the disabled part of their body up to normal function.

    My vision has been so bad for the last 30 years that I can’t practically read without glasses – I used to read by holding the book up to my head, but now the focus of my eyes is so close to the eyeball that even that is impractical. Even with glasses, my right eye doesn’t focus beyond about 5.5″ from my eyeball (there is a practical reason for not fully correcting my right eye). I put on my glasses in the morning when I wake up, and take them off at night when I go to sleep. Walking without them is somewhat hazardous – I can’t always see obstacles on the sidewalk, cracked paving blocks, etc.

    So it seems to me that you wouldn’t have to get into questions of ornaments (implying that the glasses aren’t strictly necessary) or tools (which might exist for an assur purpose, e.g. far-sighted glasses being essentially lenses for starting fires, contra the misinformation in Lord of the Flies). It falls into the category of devices needed to restore normal function to the body.

    Which might fall back into my sarcastic point above – glasses are so self-evidently a help for a handicap that it would be too easy to recognize that, at least for people whose vision is as bad as mine, so they come up with rationales for people for whom glasses are not a strict necessity, and then willy-nilly seem to apply them to those who need the glasses to see, and then have to use creative heterim to restore normal halachic function.

  11. Samuel Trepper

    It is interesting to note that even a benign halachic article such as this attracts the usual anti-“Chareidi” comments, including the very first one, on this site.

  12. WRT glasses, does anyone use the rationale of handicaps remedied by devices?  E.g, hearing aids are not even considered a problem of carrying, because they are effectively part of the organ of sensation.  Or, a handicapped person who cannot walk on Shabbat without a cane or wheelchair, can use that cane or wheelchair on Shabbat because again, it’s part of their body, in that it brings the disabled part of their body up to normal function.

    R Gedaliah Felder, linked in the post, quotes poskim who accept that logic. But the comparison isn’t a slam dunk because most people can see something without glasses. A cane or wheelchair are only for people who cannot otherwise walk at all.

  13. R Gil-perhaps, the unwritten sevara that you are stating is that, eyeglasses have evolved from a purely decorative object that were not accessible or available on a readily available basis to a state where the same are easily acessible or available.

  14. R Gil- WADR, for someone who either is legally blind or needs glasses all the time, regardless of whether they wear glasses for reading why aren’t glasses considered an ornament, as opposed a tool? Perhaps, the issue is how the AS understood tool versus ornament, and how the other Poskim quoted by you understood the same.

  15. “use that cane or wheelchair on Shabbat ”

    I’ve heard multiple rabbis pasken that a Jew is not just permitted, but SHOULD carry his/her asthma or diabetes medication on Shabat even when there is no eruv.

  16. From this post it would seem that you regard R. Yehoshua Neuwirth as a “writer of contemporary halachic works” whose views may not be independently relied upon, but see R. Shmuel Wosner as a posek who may be relied upon.

    Where is the line dividing these two groups, and what basis does it have?

  17. And my family wonders why I refused to continue in their path. The idea that we have to consider whether or not eyeglasses are acceptable for shabbos. To lose the goal in the minutia of details. Before you question my premise: I ask you, what is your goal?

  18. Mark: not everything we do has to have immediate gratification.

  19. “R. Avraham Danziger, who published Chayei Adam around the turn of the nineteenth century (perhaps in 1810), was almost certainly speaking of the glasses without sides. Presumably, the latest fashion in spectacles had not yet penetrated the Jewish community in Vilna.”

    why presume? temple spectacles – those having short, stiff side pieces that pressed against the temples above the ears – where available in the early to mid 1700s. even before that – 1600s -many spectacles attach ribbons of silk or strings to the frame and loop them over the wearer’s ears(a spanish innovation even reached china via missionaries). bifocals were invented in the late 1700s already. one would presume that by 1810 everyone had either framed glasses with sides to behind the ears or using strings.

    also, why by the time of the kitzur and misneh berurah(1900) – the mitziut has certainly changed but not the ruling. there is a silence in the post around this fact.
    so the statement: ” As this style became standard, the appropriate ruling changed. ” is really not correct. you have left out the most important item in the post – what did religious jews do ? that may have an influence on the halacha even though it is not acknowledge in the writings.

  20. post at 1:36 should read – an important item – not the most important.

  21. not that anonymous

    A Little Sanity on September 5, 2011 at 9:05 am
    “The prohibition on grinding would not have to be repealed. Rather, the act of taking medicine itself, in consonance with reality, would be deemed changed, in that it no longer involves grinding by he who consumes [or even sells] it.”

    Obviously, what Gil meant to say is that the prohibition on taking medicine is a decree of Chazal, which they enacted on account of the Biblical prohibition on grinding. Since it was enacted by the Sanhedrin, it can only be repealed by another Sanhedrin even though the reason for the decree no longer applies, as per Beitzah 5a.

  22. at the risk of echoing ruvie…
    perhaps the number of people wearing glasses all the time and finding it indispensable had an effect on the halachic process

  23. “In the case of eyeglasses on Shabbos, the core halakhic ruling did not change. Rather, the reality changed and a different ruling had to be applied.”

    R’ Gil- is your thesis that Halacha never changes just the circumstances/reality change and it belongs n a different halachkic category? And this just an example of that?

  24. A Little Sanity

    “the prohibition on taking medicine is a decree of Chazal…”

    OK, so let’s put it that the “medicine” known by chazal (ground and also, very likely, largely ineffectual), was not the same thing that we call “medicine” ( not ground and largely effectual). Hence , the decree does not apply today.

  25. “Hence , the decree does not apply today.”

    Says an anonymous poster. Any poskim who concur?

  26. R’Gil,

    how do you understand the g’zeira against women wearing jewelry outside on shabbos? How about dancing/clapping? Eating garlic Friday night? Or the whole scale of things that one is prohibited to read on shabbos?

  27. Shimon S: Poskim grapple with this. I think the general consensus is that if Chazal gave an explicit reason for the decree at the time of the decree then it can become nullified.

    However, I don’t think your examples are good. There are three explanations give for jewelry, none of which are the above. Clapping/dancing is still forbidden. And garlic is not a gezeirah.

    Ruvie: No, I was only talking about *this* halakhah. In the past I have discussed the evolution of other laws.

  28. Mark Upshaw: I think you raise an important point. Any system of law or organized religion will have to go beyond what each individual finds intuitively compelling. Otherwise it’s just each person’s idiosyncratic religion. And while some find off-putting the idea that religion relates to even the most minor aspects of life, others see it as a sign of the significance of every little thing we do.

  29. Shlomo: It is obviously a subjective decision of who is a first tier posek and I meant no disrespect for R. Neuwirth, who is a great talmid chakham. However, when was the last time you heard him quoted on an issue outside of Hilkhos Shabbos? And even there, his most important rulings come from R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. R. Wosner is an independent posek who rules on all four sections of Shulchan Arukh. You can disagree. I’m just explaining my thinking,

  30. Hirhurim:

    “I think the general consensus is that if Chazal gave an explicit reason for the decree at the time of the decree then it can become nullified.”

    I disagree. Some are carefully showing that way, but there is definitely no general consensus.

    “However, I don’t think your examples are good”

    Examples of what? I did not try to build a real argument there.

    “And garlic is not a gezeirah”

    It is takanas Ezra and there is little practical distinction from a G’zeira for the purposes of our discussion.

    “Clapping/dancing is still forbidden”

    Not so fast. See Minchas Elazer 1:29 and Igros Moshe O.C. 2:100. This is the very case where some of the most important psakim on our discussion come from. Tosfos, Beitzah 30a and Ramo O.C. 338:2 and 339:3.

  31. A Little Sanity

    Shimon S; “Says an anonymous poster. Any poskim who concur?”

    I was not purporting to render a psak. I was merely suggesting an analog approach on another issue to that taken in the eyeglasses post. But I appreciate the ad hominem, because if my logic were deficient, it surely would have been the subject of your comment.

    Hirhurim: “And while some find off-putting the idea that religion relates to even the most minor aspects of life, others see it as a sign of the significance of every little thing we do.”

    And others did not object to regulating the minutiae, but at the same time claimed that such regulation was not the be all and end all, but rather was just part of avodat Hashem. We often refer to these people as neviim. Those disturbing men had the strange idea that the essence of avodat Hashem was not actually the minutiae themselves, but rather was treating others as one himself would want to be treated, pursuing justice, loving mercy and proceeding modestly in one’s avoda. They judged lacking he who obsesses over minutia, but does not similarly obsess over the maltreatment of fellow human beings. Even when, nay, especially when, those who inflict the maltreatment are themselves meticulous minutia minders.

    Of course, we believe that the neviim did not speak merely their own words, but that their nevuah came from HKBH Himself. Thus, by the standards that often pass today for frumkeit, one would have to conclude that Hashem Himself does not seem to be a particularly “religious” person (c”v).

    So to Mr. Upshaw, I would say that I share your concerns, and that I firmly believe, based upon what I have learned from the Neviim, and from many similar passages in chazal, that Hashem also shares them. His goals for us are to be holy people, a light unto the nations, and to thus help hasten the redemption of all mankind. We do that, not in the abstract, which would be ineffectual, but by observing (not idolizing) halacha. All in the spirit of modesty and concern for our fellow human beings that Hashem related to us through his prophets.

  32. Hirhurim:

    “I think the general consensus is that if Chazal gave an explicit reason for the decree at the time of the decree then it can become nullified.”

    You think that way bc thats what youve heard rav shcachter say a thousand times.

  33. Rav Moshe had a fascinating chidush calling a physicians pager a “beged rofeh” and therefor he could carry it on Shabbat.

  34. I think that this post is terrible, in the sense that it shows – once again – the really unhappy place we are today as a people. We fret about things that are so inconsequential, so narrow-minded, and so wrong. I have no doubt that, as a result of this post, some people will decide that they shouldn’t wear glasses on Shabbos; it is very likely that some of them will come to harm because of their diminished ability to see. A standard walk to Shul today, in the era of speeding cars, is often no picnic. Does anyone really think that Hashem is going to ask you if you wore glasses on Shabbos? I believe the question that He will put is “no’sossoh v’nosattah be’emuna” – which b’derech drush might be addressed to those who pursue these absurdities: did the learned she’eilos that you discussed in the give and take of the beis medrash – were they be’emuna? Did they have the klal in mind, or your own petty need to take Halacha to places it was never meant to go…

    • Binyamin-

      You are completely taking the post the wrong way. The greatness of the post is its demonstration of the development of halacha — not whether or not you can wear glasses on Shabbos.

      …and yes, you can wear glasses on shabbos. not to worry.

      Ari Enkin

  35. r’ concerned
    well said and there’s little doubt that r’hs is 100% convinced it is a davar pashut and that is why he states it as a fact (kdarko bakodesh) rather than an opinion which he believes to be the best explanation of the data.
    KT

  36. Concerned: I saw it in acharonim long before I heard R. Hershel Schachter say it. I’m pretty sure R. Elchanan Wasserman and the Malbim say it, as well as others.

  37. Shimon S: That’s just a limud zekhus for Chasidim, not something a frum Jew should do lechatkhilah.

  38. r’ gil – according to the post – chayei adam, kitzur, misnah berurah, arukh hashulchan say its assur to wear glasses on shabbat. by the early 1900s its only r’ ettlinger that doesn’t object to wearing glasses (as opposed to saying its muttar). so we have rov poskim by the early 1900s against wearing glasses.

    why do you not dismiss r’ ettlinger as the daat yachid as oppose to the arukh hashulchan later in your post?the misneh berurah was oppose because one may carry – all eyeglasses were on the nose -and had frames to the ears- unless we speaking of monocles. does one assume that religious jews till the early 1900s did not wear eyeglasses in the street on shabbat? doubtful.

    it would seem – not that the category has changed as you claim in the post- but that rabbis found away to justify current jewish practice that was opposed by earlier rabbis. this is no different than tosafits explaining jewish practice in the middle ages that were contrary to the halacha in the gemera.
    a hint of this is in r’ ettlinger’s teshuva -אבל מכ״מ הטולם
    נוהגים היחר ואין לחפוס למי שסומך על הי ח ר — the people found a heter and it seems it was not rov poskim and the rabbis followed the people with reasons why it should be ok. it also appears that you reading back into the chayeii adam with assumptions that may or may not be correct (historically as well as religiously – since the misneh berurah used the same logic around 1900 when no such glasses existed).
    therefore the statement “In the case of eyeglasses on Shabbos, the core halakhic ruling did not change” is problematic. the core ruling is yes or no in wearing such glasses. the reasoning and assumptions are secondary and speculative depending on how convincing the data and logic are. the facts are that at one time rabbis did not permit wearing eyeglasses on shabbat and now they do – the question remains on how and why we got there.

  39. A Little Sanity:

    “I was not purporting to render a psak.”

    Would you write “Hence , the decree SHOULD not apply today”, I wouldn’t write my comment.

  40. Ruvie: I assume the Mishnah Berurah merely copied the Chayei Adam without comment, which he sometimes does.

    The point is not that the Binyan Tziyon disagreed with the Chayei Adam but applied his position to a different reality. In other words, there is no disagreement. By the way, there were others who ruled leniently in the 19th century, like R. Yehoshua of Kutna.

  41. r’ gil – maybe (he just copied the c”a) but the mishnah berurah’s time the glasses are not the same (according to your post) and should not apply. odd that he would quote the chayei adam to a situation that doesn’t exist in his time.

    did the others who ruled leniently disagree with the chayei adam? it could be a different reality or that certain rabbis believed it belong in a different category in the same reality. i always found it strange – when i was younger- that we try – or is it need- to make all rabbis’ opinions agree and that they were talking about different situations. why can’t they just disagree?

  42. ruvie: My suggestion about the Mishnah Berurah is precisely that — he just copied the Chayei Adam without updating it’s pesak. It isn’t common but it sometimes occurs in the MB. That is what the majority of his work consists of.

    Some rabbis who ruled differently disagreed with the Chayei Adam and considered glasses a garment or similar to a cane. Others agreed with him but held that the reality had changed.

  43. why exactly would glasses be considered an ornament vs. tool; i would thing the majority of glasses wearers would not wear them if they were broken / didn’t need them. I would think glasses would be distinct from watches, which i would consider more of a form of accessory (as seen by classification in department stores). a really nice watch may be worn even if the time is off, but you wouldn’t wear glasses if you had perfect vision/the prescription was wrong.

  44. Obviously Rav Schachter didnt make it up. Others have said it before but we clearly do not practice this way or else we would be taking medicine on shabbos, be blowing shofar on rosh hashana which falls out on shabbos, and do mitzvos after alos before neitz. I am not sure what Rav Elchanan youa re refering to, but the Malbim you are most likely refering to goes even further than waht you said. in artzos hachaim he states taht any time the gemara did not call something a davar shebeminyan we can assume it was not a davar shebeminyan adn tehrefore does not need a beis din to be matir it.

  45. A Little Sanity

    Shimon S: “Would you write “Hence , the decree SHOULD not apply today”, I wouldn’t write my comment.”

    I thought it was evident from the thread, but fair enough. I amend.
    BTW, here is a similar take I just found in a quick web search, by a posek:

    Taking Pills On Shabbat

    By: Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen

    Date: Wednesday, January 05 2011

    Question: May someone take prescription drugs on Shabbat if instructed to do so by his doctor?

    Response: … Taking pills on Shabbat nowadays is very different. The patient doesn’t need to do anything to the pills; all he has to do is swallow them. The only problem is the general edict (gezera) prohibiting taking medicine on Shabbat lest someone mash up ingredients and make medicine from scratch (s’chikat sam’manim). Since, however, the patient in our case is not doing any prohibited action to the medicine itself, coupled with the fact that he already started taking the medicine on Thursday, there is reason to permit him to continue taking the medicine on Shabbat. In other words, perhaps the sages never imposed a prohibition in such a situation. (See Kovetz Teshuvot, siman 40, ruling cited in the name of HaRav Shlomo Kluger. Sefer HaChaim, 328:10.)

  46. wierd: Actually, people used to wear glasses without prescriptions precisely for the style. I’m not sure if I saw that in the history or the poskim. Even today, surely there is an ornamental aspect to the frames, even if you would not wear it if you didn’t have to.

    concerned: If I recall correctly, the Malbim holds that you can can assume that Chazal included the reason for the gezeirah within the original language if it the gezeirah prevents one from performing a mitzvah. That’s just a vague recollection. I’d have to look all this up before saying anything definitive. I believe the Reb Elchanan is either in Beitzah or in the essays in Kovetz Shiurim.

  47. Perhaps, this is simply one of many cases in Halacha as RHS points out constantly where that which was Assur decades ago is Mutar today and/or vice versa. IMO, when one reads between the lines, the manufacturing of eyeglasses and their use is different than it was in the 19th Century.

  48. As an aside, while the consensus seems to be that reading glasses may not be worn in a reshut harabbim/carmelit where there is no eruv, sunglasses seem to be more controversial.

    While Rav Auerbach, zt”l did not permit them and there are others who also prohibit going out into reshut harabbim/carmelit where there is no eruv, many people do wear sunglasses in this situation. (I am not discussing prescription sunglasses).

    Perhaps they rely on Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Menashe Klein and Rav Feinhandler (Avnei Yashpe) among others.

  49. R’ Ari, with all due respect: I have no objection to a post that explores “Wearing Glasses in Halachic History; An Excursion into the Past”. The views of the poskim through the centuries are instructive, fascinating, and are definitely worthy of study. The problem is that R’ Gil goes through the history in order to arrive at some sort of “Halacha l’maaseh” , and summarizes the different views as such. He says that the Halacha hasn’t changed – it’s reality – that is, the nature and construction of eyeglasses (they don’t fall off now, some are quite ornamental, etc.)

    Rabbi Student is wrong. As other commenters noted above (though they didn’t phrase it quite this way) it is our culture that has changed. The way society today as a whole regards many things – including wearing eyeglasses – is very different from the way they were viewed in the world of yesteryear. Glasses are seen as part of a persons body; no one who needs glasses today is ever without them. They are neither ornaments (though they are sometimes ornamental ) nor tools (though I once used the temple to fish something out of a crack) – they have become ‘us’. If I were a posek I would tell my congregants (a large majority of whom need to cross a six lane major thoroughfare to get to Shul) that they MUST wear glasses on Shabbos – the number of speeding cars is simply too dangerous to even contemplate an alternative.

    This is why posts like this are foolish. I am sure that there will be some who will stop wearing glasses based on the information they’ve gained from the post. But it’s bad information, in that it does not respond to the real changes that have taken place – the changes that inevitably occur in society. One day laser vision correction may become the norm in society – it will finally be proven safe and effective beyond all shadow of a doubt. By then, people who insist on wearing glasses on Shabbos may need to find recourse in the opinions you’ve quoted. But not now…

  50. I’ve always had a question about SUNglasses. When I started wearing contact lenses, I gained a complete intolerance for UV light. We have high levels in Australia. Instinctively, I would immediately put on sun glasses if I went outside, otherwise I found it almost painful. There is also mounting evidence to suggest that sunglasses are important for cancer prevention.

    I’ve been meaning to learn through this for years and never got around to it. Accordingly, I haven’t worn sun glasses.

    A secondary question would be: in a place where there is an established Eruv, but a person doesn’t use it because they are Choshesh for shitas HaRambam, is there any more leniency in wearing sunglasses as above.

  51. Isaac: Ask your local rabbi. If you look through some of the more recent links, such as Yesodei Yeshurun, or the contemporary compendia I listed above, they permit sunglasses even more than eyeglasses because sunglasses protect the eyes.

  52. “If I were a posek I would tell my congregants (a large majority of whom need to cross a six lane major thoroughfare to get to Shul) that they MUST wear glasses on Shabbos – the number of speeding cars is simply too dangerous to even contemplate an alternative.”

    The alternative is not coming to shul. Or are we Conservative Jews now, for whom coming to shul overrides the prohibitions of shabbat?

  53. Isaac: Gil’s advice to ask your local rabbi is appropriate. For those who are interested – Gil cites the Yesodei Yeshurun regarding sunglasses. If you actually look at this citation, Rabbi Felder, z”l actually is quoting the Sho’el U’Meishiv. Unfortunately, Rabbi Felder gives a wrong citation. The responsum of the Sho’el U’Meishiv is the third edition, Vol.1 (not Vol. 3 as cited). There Rabbi Nathanson, z”l permits sunglasses for medicinal purposes essentially because we really don’t have a real Reshut HaRabbim today. In our days, however, Manhattan, Brooklyn? and other places may indeed be considered a Reshut HaRabbim. Furthermore, does the average person wear sunglasses because he was so advised by his doctor. If you are relying on this Teshuva, you do indeed need to discuss this with your Rav.
    As previously posted, however, there are poskim who are lenient.
    These and other questions should be discussed and Teshuot Chen Chen to Gil for giving us the opportunity to visit these issues.

  54. I have always intended to ask a posek, but don’t like doing that unless I’ve gone through it myself first. Thanks for the links. I’d likely ask R Schachter

  55. MiMedinat HaYam

    if his name is danziger, he did not live in vilna. in fact, the title page says danzig. (relevant because of a discussion he has regarding polish vs german kitniyot customs, without mentioning potatoes. persumably, he held of the german custom.)

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