Shabbos Clothes

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

The Gemara Shabbat (113a) teaches us, that if one can afford to, he should have separate garments for Shabbat, and separate clothes for weekdays, and if not, he should “unroll his garments”. What the Gemara means by that is very unclear, for there is a machloket [dispute] regarding its meaning. Rashi explains that by unrolling his garments, he is following the practice of the wealthy and leisurely people, who wear long, flowing clothes, because they did not need to worry about soiling their clothing in the field. Rashi understands that a person’s Shabbat attire should be more elegant than his weekday clothing. If one cannot afford different clothing, then on Shabbat he should wear his clothing in a more dignified manner.

Rambam, however, in Hilchot Shabbat (30:3) seemingly understands this obligation differently. He writes that “ones weekday attire should not be the same as ones Shabbat attire, and if he does not have [clothing] to change, he should lower his tallit so that his attire is not the same as during the week”. The Rambam doesn’t stress that his Shabbat attire be more elegant, rather, the essential idea is that it be noticeably different than what he wears during the week. By setting aside garments to wear specifically on Shabbat, even if they are not necessarily superior to his weekday clothing, we demonstrate that Shabbat is singular and holy, set aside from the rest of the week.

People mistakenly believe that we put on our best suits for the synagogue, or to honor the solemn prayers, but this is incorrect. We wear a distinctive dress in honor of the day itself, and whether we are in the synagogue, in our homes or on the street we must demonstrate that Shabbat is unique, and unlike any other day.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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