Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Zara Succumbs to Jewish Fundamentalism

Or not.

I may be letting my paranoia roam a bit too freely, but it seems to me that the enlightened European press is desperately looking to uncover the threats posed by "religious fundamentalists" to secular culture. I do not mean to dismiss these enlightened fears entirely. But it puzzles me to see headlines, such as this one, in the Guardian: "Zara goes kosher after suit offends orthodox Jews." Apparently the Spanish clothing retailer Zara, a company especially beloved in Israel,
has apologised to ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel for selling men's suits that violate a religious prohibition against mixing wool and linen, a company spokesman confirmed today. It has withdrawn the offending garments from its racks (Guardian).
The article makes it appear as if this were another Danish cartoon controversy in the making - quick, duck before the haredim start throwing Shavuot cheese cakes at you. Shatnez (שעטנז) is the shorthand term used for the prohibition, in Jewish law, against wearing garments made of wool and linen blends. It is based on Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11, both of which refer to shatnez but leave the meaning somewhat unclear - here is the latter verse:
לֹא תִלְבַּשׁ שַׁעַטְנֵז, צֶמֶר וּפִשְׁתִּים יַחְדָּו
Do not wear shatnez - wool and linen together.
According to the Rabbis (Talmud Yerushalmi Kila'yim 9:5), the word is an acronym for שוע, טווי, ונוז, meaning "carded, woven, worsted." The "etymology" given by the Sages is obviously homiletic and not the pshat (i.e., the plain meaning) of the verse. Be that as it may, for religious Jews, wearing garments that contain both linen and wool violates a commandment in the Torah and therefore something to be avoided like other transgressions. Hence, an association of "Shatnez Testers" exists in North America and of course in Israel, which examines clothing and informs people who care whether or not certain garments meet this standard. Approval from them can thus be compared to certifications of kashrut ("kosher-ness").

Obviously, religious Jews will not want to wear garments that do not have this kind of approval. Likewise, a company that sells a significant number of garments to people who happen to follow this commandment, would try to make sure that is clothes do not contain a linen-wool mixture. All this makes perfect sense.

I am confused about where the "offense" in the title of the article came from. I guess the short answer is that it emanated from some uninformed headline writer's mind (it's too bad that the byline cites a certain Dale Fuchs - but reporters rarely have control over headlines). The truth is that the shatnez Zara suit did not "offend" religious Jews. This is not a case of religious people imposing their allegedly ridiculous norms on an enlightened public.

By the way, I have to say that I'm not all that certain how "carding" and "worsting" is different from weaving. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Zara is great, but many people prefer Castro


Eamonn said...

I am not the world´s expert on this but I suspect that carding and worsting are things you do to the surface of the cloth *after" weaving it. Some sort of mechanical brushing or combing maybe...

With regard to the main thrust of your piece I don´t think it´s entirely a a case of the "enlightened European press
< > desperately looking to uncover the threats posed by "religious fundamentalists" to secular culture."

I think it´s more of an attempt to portray all religious people as the same and look for evidence that it isn´t only Muslims who get offended by real or imagined slights to their religion.

Anonymous said...

Carding = improving a woolen or linnen or cotton yarn by passing it or over it with a device that make it straight & take the lint off and make it ready for spinning.
Worstening = a treatment of the wool yarn that make it "tight" and ready for weaving a special type of tight smooth cloth.
Weaving = making a cloth, flat area, by crossing=intrlacing yarns over yarn

Anonymous said...

The problem is "The distance of action-transgression" and the strength =energy of the response, almost like basic Mechanics! Pork, Meat+Milk, Gentile wine, ect "bad" according to Judaism, get into your body. "Right things": Holy wine, maza, the Wine $ Wafer of mass, fruit from the holy land ect also get into your body.
"Wrong" textile, as discussed in the blog or pig skin to a Muslim is in contact with your skin. It seems to me that this contact thing is "out" in christianity and the food-body thing is minimal - see the "eat all" vision in Yafo =Jaffa.
"Right" textile, the head dress of a Muslim woman, Talit & tzizit of a male Jew ect is in contact with your body. But the txtiles carry & broadcast information to other bodies, away from the carrier. This symbolic information may being an action at distance, "bad" or "good". Very similar things can be seen in a great variety in India. See for example the three objects of the Sikk.
Then come things away from the body. Burning a Cross on your front yard, a KKK thing, is a "negative" information, to the household and others within sight. This is "far" from your body but not that far. Seeing the flag of your country or the spire+ cross of your church or the Minerat of your Mosque is the opposit, it may broadcast a call for action, i.e. body crossing of a christian seeing a cross. On a negative response from others.
Hearing the voice of a loved one, even institutional: a preacher, teacher, a Muslim call for prayer, or hated one: a prison guard ? invading army? is also an action, offensive at the second case, at a distance this action may bring a counter action, a curse? a spitting? But what about a cartoon in Scandinavia? what is the right action at such distance from your body? Making all things equal "portray all religious people as the same" is wrong. And it is often, though not always, done for supper evil purposes.

Blam Blom said...

what do you expect from the Gaurdian? They are antisemitic to the core. However, I love the new format of their site, the ways the links light up when you click them.