Shatnez

The Biblical prohibition against mixing wool and linen.

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To study the mitzvah of shatnez. . . can lead us to examine labels for firms practicing oshek [oppression] through sweatshop labor or payments of a sub-minimum wage.

In a speech to the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in 2001, Rabbi Brad Artson argued that Conservative Jews should reclaim the mitzvah of shatnez as a ritual means of expressing the Jewish principle of distinction between the holy and the profane:

If we want to retain a religion in which ritual is harnessed to the energy of moral depth...we're going to have to go back to those apparently meaningless rituals and demonstrate their moral base. Separating linen and wool is about making distinctions…It's about separating a holiness that is inherited simply by being from a holiness that is a holiness of striving and of effort.

While shatnez may never become the most popular or well understood Jewish practice, some modern Jews are attempting to reclaim this practice as a means of expressing ethical commitments, realizing the human potential for holiness, or reminding themselves constantly of their connection with God.

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Rabbi Jill Jacobs

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. She previously served as the Rabbi-in-Residence for the Jewish Funds for Justice.