OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi on black hats

Written and Submitted by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple.



Question.  Why is it considered good to get married on a Tuesday?

Answer.  The Creation story has the constant refrain that when God saw what He had made, He said it was good. On the third day, however, He twice said it was good (Gen. 1:10, 12), and hence Tuesday is regarded as twice blessed. The connection with marriage comes from a verse in the following chapter, where God said it was not good for a man to be alone (Gen. 2:18), and hence getting married provides a person’s missing “good”.

A different approach is recorded by the sages at the beginning of Tractate K’tubot, which states that a maiden is married on Wednesday and a widow on Thursday. The preference for Wednesday for a previously unmarried girl is explained as linked with the tradition that the Beth Din meets on Monday and Thursday, so that if a bridegroom married on Wednesday finds a problem with his bride’s virginity he can go to the Beth Din on Thursday.

Why then not marry on Sunday so that there can be resort to the court on Monday if necessary? The Talmud answers that a bride is entitled to a proper wedding feast, and this takes three days to prepare, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. A Sunday wedding would present problems in relation to the previous Shabbat. Later generations, however, found it possible to have Sunday weddings while still carefully observing Shabbat, and in many communities today the preference is for Saturday night or Sunday.

Another day considered auspicious for weddings is Thursday, which in the Creation story is blessed with fertility: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:22). In some places marriages are encouraged in the first half of a month whilst the moon is increasing, as a token of growing love and blessing.


Question.  Why do Chassidim wear black and look untidy?

Answer.  Looking untidy does not go with the territory. The rule in halachah* is that a talmid chacham* must be neat and clean without a speck on his clothes. Whatever colour a person’s clothes are, an orthodox Jew must not bring the Torah into disrepute by looking dishevelled. Some Chassidim* are scrupulous with their appearance; others are not.

But the same applies to non-Chassidim too. Even the long black coats which are often viewed as a Chassidic practice, with or without a shtreimel*, are not limited to Chassidim, nor are they intrinsically Jewish. The long coats are probably part of a dress code in the colder parts of Europe; the black colour may derive from the black clothes imposed by the Caliph Omar in the 7th century and by Pope Innocent III in 1215.

The problem is not whether one wears a particular colour but whether one is scruffy and unkempt. The orthodox may sometimes need reminding of this rule, but so do the non-orthodox. The latter also need to be reminded of the rules against immodest dress, especially amongst women.

*Explanation of words.
Chassidim – a sect of  Jews which observes a form of strict Orthodox Judaism.
Halachah – Entire body of Jewish law, comprising Biblical laws, oral laws transcribed in the Talmud.
Talmid Chacham –   is an honorific title given to one well versed in Jewish law.
A shtreimel is a hat worn by many married haredi Jewish men, particularly (although not exclusively) members of Hasidic groups, on Shabbat and Jewish holidays and other festive occasions.

Check Also

Whenever I feel afraid – Rosh HaShanah

Julie Andrews made it into a famous song – the notion that whenever I feel …