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The Principles of Tachshit (ornaments) (abridged)
MBY Siman 303 The literal definition of tachshit is ornament. However, in the context of Hotza’a (i.e. carrying), tachshit refers to any accessory on a person’s body, whether ornamental or otherwise. A tachshit is any ornament or accessory attached to, or fixed upon a person’s body, that is not intrinsically a garment, either because it is made of non-garment materials, or because it does not serve to cover the body in any significant way (as would a garment.)

Wearing a tachshit (in the street) is permitted on the same general principle by which clothing is permitted. Like garments, a tachshit is considered subordinate to a person, almost as though it were a part of the person himself. However, unlike a garment, a tachshit is not permitted unless it is needed, either as an ornament, or to protect his body, or provide physical comfort.

1) Ornamental: Jewelry (earrings, necklaces, bracelets, etc.), decorative berets worn in hair, decorative pins, a feather in a hat, a necktie (a necktie is NOT considered a malbush – garment!) 2) Protective: a bandage or a dressing over a wound, cotton in an aching ear, rupture belts, orthodontic braces or dental bite plates.

In some cases, a tachshit may serve ornamental and protective functions at once.
Examples: dentures or artificial limbs.

Why a tachshit is more restricted than a malbush:
As explained earlier, a tachshit may only be worn if it serves as an ornamental or physical enhancement, whereas a garment may be worn even if it serves no purpose at all (e.g. a heavy coat on a hot day.) The reason for this is as follows: A garment is intrinsically an accessory to the human body, even if it serves no specific purpose. The mere fact that an item can be regarded as an article of clothing confers upon it the status of malbush, which, by its very definition, is a human need. This is because any garment is considered an accessory to a human being, who, because of his elevated stature in the world of creation, is dignified only when attired, disgraced when unclad.

However, an item which is not a malbush must be needed to serve as an ornamental or physical enhancement before it can be considered subordinate to the person. In effect, an item does not attain the status of tachshit unless it is a physical or ornamental enhancement. An item that is not a physical or ornamental enhancement is actually a masui (burden), and going out in reshus harabim (public domain) with it is no different than carrying an object in one’s pocket.

Jewelry is perhaps the most typical example of the tachshit. Since jewelry enhances a person’s appearance, wearing it is technically not Hotza’a. (Ed: See our notes on MBY 303:18 for an explanation of the rabbinic decrees related to jewelry and their applicability today.)

There are three important factors to consider before wearing jewelry can be permitted in reshus harabim:
1) The item must serve as jewelry. To be halachically classified as jewelry, the item must be designed and worn for the primary purpose of enhancing the wearer’s personal appearance or the garment he is wearing. However, if it is primarily functional (or even just equally functional) for other purposes as well, it can no longer be classified as jewelry, but rather as a functional utensil…
2) It must not be carried in one’s hand, even if that is its mode of adornment; for example, an ornamental walking stick or a stylish handbag which is made to match an outfit.
3) It must not be an item likely to be removed (e.g. to show others). An item of jewelry that is likely to be removed to show friends, etc., should not be worn on the street for fear that one will absent-mindedly remove and display it, and forgetting that it is Shabbos, carry it some distance in reshus harabim. To make this mistake would be a serious Shabbos violation.

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