Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purim: Dressing for Success, or Dressing for Trouble? Part II


[Continued from yesterday's post]

Regarding shatnez, the Maharil argued that costumes are not truly “worn.” Just as the gemara (Yevamot 4b) notes that merchants who sell Shatnez goods may drape them on their own bodies for display and we do not consider this an act of “wearing clothing,” so the Maharil considered dressing up in costume as an act of display rather than an act of donning clothing.

Regarding the prohibition against cross-dressing, the Rambam ruled that intent is irrelevant; the phenomenon of cross-dressing is, in itself, an act associated with idolatrous rites. However, other authorities viewed it as an issue of leading to sexual license, and so they argued that it depends on intent, and so Maharil, Rav Yehuda Mintz and other early authorities permitted the cross-dressing costume, so long as it was limited to the special occasion of Purim.

And so we are heirs to a centuries-old tradition of dressing up on Purim, mirroring the events of Purim, inducing joy and marking our transition. We might also mark two other Purim practices described by Rav Klonymus ben Klonymus: “They send portions to each other from the seven species, but gifts to the poor are minimized, like the rest of the year.”

Sending mishloach manot which include the seven species for which Israel is known is an excellent way to connect Purim to our national return from Persia to Israel, which was advanced by the miracles of the day and which we have merited to witness in our own time.

As far as the observation that people stinted on matanot la’evyonim in centuries past, may we merit to see ונהפוך הוא, a Purimesque reversal, such that we will follow the Mishneh Berurah’s advice (694:3) and make sure that our primary Purim expenditure is not on costumes, or even on the feasting and mishloach manot of the day, but on ensuring that we provide for the needy.

Have a wonderful Purim,

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