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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Shatnez

It is a little-known fact that according to Jewish law, even your clothes have to be "kosher." I don't know why it's little-known. Unlike kashrut, the laws of shatnez aren't hinted at or requiring of Talmudical gymnastics. It's written right there in your Bible: "You shall not wear shatnez, wool and linen together" (Deut. 22:11). There's no reasoning given for this. It seems to be one of those laws that prohibits unlike kinds from being used together. You know, like using a ram and a cow to plow, or wearing one black sock and one blue sock, or mixing the Hellman's with the Miracle Whip...I could go on ad nauseum.

Here's my dark little secret: I've never had my clothes checked for shatnez before. Sure, I've checked the "ingredients," but I've never had them formally inspected. I've always felt a little bad about it. The reason was that I could never figure out exactly how to do it. The logistics didn't really work for me. Trying to find a way to get a suit off to some mystical "shatnez lab" sometime between purchase and alterations seemed impractical. And I was too embarrassed to ask anyone, seeing as how that would spill the beans on how I hadn't done it up to now. Er...like I just did here. But I'm sure by now nothing surprises you about me. Whereas in my community, people still see me as an upstanding citizen (snort).

Anyway, this changed recently, since one of the local kollel guys hung up his shatnez-checking shingle. I thought, "great! I can finally do this right!" So we heard about a new "fashion superstore" which had just opened, and my wife took me and my 15 year-old son out to buy new suits. She came along as a sort of "international observer," ostensibly to make sure we didn't buy anything that made us look stupid. In reality, she kept trying to steer me into buying this metallic, emerald-green suit that most likely would have gotten me picked up for pimping. I was able to resist and come up with something more conservative.

If you ever want to feel bad about your body, go to one of these superstores to find an off-the-rack suit. I remember, a week before my wedding, going down to Syms and buying a black suit off-the-rack. No more. Now I have to choose between buying something that's a little too small and letting it out, or a little too-big and taking it in. Anything with the word "atheletic" in it is right out. Actually, if they could come up with a "non-atheletic" or "couch-potato" fit I think there'd be a big market. But I digress. (My skinny-as-a-rail son bought one off-the-rack). She also brought over the store Tie-Nazi to make sure that I picked out the appropriate non-matching tie and shirt.

Armed with our ill-fitting suits, we went over to the shatnez tester and dropped them off. 30 minutes later, they were pronounced kosher. I asked him what to do about the alterations. He recommended a local guy who has been doing work for the Jewish community, not-named Jimmy Woo. Fortunately, he works out of his basement, so I was able to get in for a fitting at 7pm on a Sunday night, before having to drive my son back to Yeshiva.

We went down into his basement. There were huge posters of Hong Kong everywhere, which I was able to correctly identify only thanks to the Hong Kong track in Gran Turismo 4 (again proving the value of video games). Jimmy Woo had a tendency to speak a little quickly, so the effect was like having a conversation over a digital cell phone. A little gap to process what he was saying before we replied. He kept saying things like, "You want me shorten the sleeves? I know you guys like to save money." Then asked if I knew all the other Jews in the community. But he tried to do that by showing me their clothes. "You know this woman (shows me dress)? She comes in all the time." "How about this man (shows me pair of pants)?" "Oh, yes, I sit next to him. Yes I remember that stain." Nice guy, if a little stereo-typical. My son was entertained.

I feel pretty good about myself now. This was one area of deficiency for me, and it turned out to be pretty painless. Going into Pesach, I can now feel good and look good.

1 comment:

PsychoToddler said...

I also recently decided that the very next time I purchase a suit I'll get it inspected - yes, I too am a shatness virgin.

Mazel tov on your new, kosher suit.
texasmensch | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 12:00 pm | #

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Well done. Now I feel (more) guilty.
Doctor Bean | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 12:53 pm | #

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At least I'm accomplishing something.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 12:56 pm | #

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I really did get a good laugh from that story. Another great post.
I must digress that I usually don't have my suits checked for shatness.
As it turns out it's generally the more expensive suits, $300
and above that have this problem ( as listed by the shatnes lab themselves) any suit more expensive that I own was bought somewhere they check for it inside the store (boro park of course).
I can never afford alterations so I usually end up using a scissors and
scotch tape, it looks wired but it's cheaper.
Jewish Blogmiester | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 1:43 pm | #

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Now you tell me.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 2:22 pm | #

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Psychotoddler, if you have managed to convince the good doctor to inspect for shatness...Great Jorb!
ball-and-chain | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 8:11 pm | #

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I like how you spell "Shatness". Like there's a certain..."shat"...quality to the clothing, and only a certain level of shatness is permissable.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 04.15.05 - 9:53 am | #

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Normally the wife tries to steer the husband AWAY from the gaudy suits, although even I wouldn't dare to buy a suit with Washington Redskins colors.

-A Gentile neighbor of Inland Empress (usually Type 4)
Ontario Emperor | Homepage | 04.15.05 - 11:11 am | #

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Also, I think the term "Shatness" should be reserved only for comparisons to William Shatner.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 04.15.05 - 11:26 am | #

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Danny Crain........
Shloimy | Homepage | 04.15.05 - 1:15 pm | #

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Who's Danny Crain?
psychotoddler | Homepage | 04.15.05 - 2:09 pm | #

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Kosher clothes. Oy. Just when I think I'm almost getting the hang of this religion, I learn something else I'm doing wrong.

I give up. Do Buddhists have to get their clothes inspected? How about Hindus? I love saris. That's it, I'm a Hindu.

Namaste, everybody.
Anne | Homepage | 04.15.05 - 6:24 pm | #

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Like my grandmother used to say, "it's always something."
psychotoddler | Homepage | 04.15.05 - 8:03 pm | #