New clothing while in mourning
Rabbanit Surale Rosen
She'elaCan I purchase and wear new clothing while in mourning?
The details of purchasing new clothing during the mourning period relate to the laws regarding washing and ironing clothing during the Shiva, Shloshim, and 12 month mourning period for a parent.
Since the question focuses on purchasing and wearing new clothing, we will briefly mention the halakhic context that is the framework for this issue:
The baraita in Moed Katan (23a) explicates the laws of laundering and ironing during the Shiva and Shloshim:
During the entire thirty-day period of mourning, it is prohibited to wear ironed garments, whether they are new garments or old garments taken out of the press.
Rabbi says: The Sages prohibited wearing only new garments.
Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, says: They prohibited wearing only new white garments.
The Tur (Laws of Mourning, Yoreh De’ah 389) rules like R. Elazar , and permits a mourner to launder and wear old clothing, whether white or colored, as long as it is not ironed.
According to the baraita above, a mourner is prohibited to launder clothing throughout the Shiva. This prohibition includes not only the act of laundering, but also wearing clothing that was laundered before Shiva began. The Shulhan Arukh concludes that clearly, based on this, a mourner is prohibited from wearing brand new clothing during the Shiva (Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 389:1).
As to the Shloshim (the 30 days of mourning), The Shulhan Arukh (389:1) prohibits wearing a new white ironed garment during this time but permits a mourner to wear a laundered and ironed old white garment. Regarding the mourning period for a parent, which lasts 12 months, the Shulhan Arukh prohibits a mourner from wearing new garments until the first chag (Pesach, Shavuot, or Sukkot) after the initial 30 day mourning period, when people ‘scold’ the mourner for looking unkempt, enabling him/her to wear new clothes for chag.
The Tur (Yoreh De’ah 389) cites the Sefer Hamitzvot’s position that while old white laundered garments may be worn immediately following Shiva, the prevalent custom is to wait until after Shloshim; until that time, another person can wear the mourner’s fresh clothing for 2-3 days, after which the mourner may wear it.
The Rema rules as follows: “The custom is to prohibit (wearing an old laundered garment within 30 days), and the custom is to have another person wear it first, and then it may be worn by the mourner, and the custom is the correct position; this is the custom in these lands after the Shiva, and if another wore them even for one hour, that is sufficient” (Yoreh De’ah 389:1).
Contrary to Sefer Hamitzvot’s position that another person should wear the garment for 2-3 days, the Rema suffices with one hour to enable the mourner to wear the garment.
New Garments after the Shloshim
As explained above, according to the Shulhan Arukh a mourner may not wear new clothing until the first chag after the Shloshim.
The Rema (sec. 3) adds that one may not sew new clothing during the 30 days of mourning; furthermore, while strictly permitted after the initial four weeks, it is customary to avoid sewing new clothing during the entire year of mourning for a parent.
Permitting New Garments after Shloshim
Beer HaGolah cites the Kolbo’s position (sec. 17) that once the Shiva is over, freshly laundered and ironed garments may be worn during the Shloshim on condition that another person has worn them for 2-3 days.
The Arukh Hashulhan (Yoreh De’ah 389:11) divides clothing into different categories, and argues that undergarments that are worn under clothes do not have to be previously worn by another, since most people would find this repulsive. Furthermore, regarding the Rema’s custom to prohibit sewing new clothing for the entire year of mourning, the Arukh Hashulhan explains that this is referring to “important new garments, which are certainly prohibited; but simple clothes such as pants, and everyday clothes that are necessary – these are permissible, since they are not important clothing.”
The Arukh Hashulhan also cites the Kolbo’s position, “if another person can wear it for two or three days – a new garment can be worn” (Beer Hagolah). This indicates that after the Shloshim, the Kolbo also permitted ‘important’ clothing, and this position can be relied upon when there is a need (see also Imrei Barukh 18:11).
Since today clothing is generally purchased and not tailored, these laws apply to new clothing, or to wearing old clothing purchased before the onset of the mourning period.
The Igrot Moshe (Yoreh De’ah IV 61:18) argues that the permissibility of purchasing new clothing during the mourning period depends on the extent of joy induced by the purchase. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein initially writes that if the Rema only prohibited sewing new clothing, we should not add new layers of stringency. However, sometimes second-hand clothing that fits one well can awaken greater joy than a new garment that is an imperfect fit. In this case Rabbi Feinstein argues that there is no justification to permit purchasing second-hand garments if they are the cause of delight to the mourner.
Conversely, if the joy stems from finding a cheap substitute to an expensive new garment (such as second-hand designer clothes), and not from the perfect fit, the joy of the economic benefit is not significant enough to prohibit buying and wearing a garment, and in this case the mourner may purchase the second-hand garment.
· Shulkhan Aruch: Mourners may not wear new clothing throughout the Shiva and Shloshim.
· After the Shloshim, the Shulhan Arukh permits the mourner to wear new clothing on the first chag (Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot), once his peers ‘scold’ his unkempt appearance.
· The Kolbo permits wearing new clothing after the Shloshim if is first worn by another person for 2-3 days. The Arukh Hashulhan explains that this leniency refers to simple everyday clothing, but can also be applied to more important clothing when there is a need.
· Undergarments can be purchased and worn immediately.
· Rabbi Moshe Feinstein prohibits wearing second-hand clothing that awaken excitement and joy because the clothing is a perfect fit, but if the excitement is more about the bargain than the clothes, they may be purchased and worn