Can I Wear Plastic Gloves On Shabbos?

Many have been wearing gloves on the street as a precaution against coronavirus. Is one allowed to wear them on Shabbos? Rabbi Michoel Lerner answers the question.

By Rabbi Michoel Lerner for Anash.org

These days, there are many people who are wearing plastic gloves on their hands to help protect them from contracting the Corona virus. In this article we will address the permissibility of wearing plastic gloves on Shabbos, in a locale where there is no eruv

First, we need to introduce the general rules, as to when one is permitted to wear an item on Shabbos. There are two categories of items one is permitted to wear: a garment – malbush and jewelry tachshit. Any item which falls under one of these categories, is permitted to wear on Shabbos min hatorah

However, miderabonon some of these items are ossur to wear. One of main the concerns of Chazal were items that can easily fall off. They were concerned that if it indeed were to fall off, one would inadvertently and instinctively, pick it up and carry it. [There are other concerns as well, however they are not applicable in this case].

Therefore, in addressing any specific item, two steps need to be determined: 

1) It has the halachic status of a malbush or a tachshit, thus permitting it to be carried min hatorah

2) It does not easily become loose, thus permitting it miderabonon.

Winter Gloves

To address whether or not plastic gloves fit into this category, we seemingly need not look far. The Shulchon Aruch (Simon 301, 37) addresses the issues of wearing gloves during cold weather. All opinions agree that those gloves have the status of a malbush, since they protect one’s hands from being cold. This is similar to wearing a coat or a sweater. They are therefore definitely permitted to wear min hatorah

However, there is an opinion (the Shibolei Haleket) which holds that it is ossur to wear miderabonon, since there is a possibility that one will remove the glove to scratch oneself and inadvertently carry it. The Shulchon Aruch paskens that due to this opinion, it is preferable not to wear them, and that is indeed the common custom. 

Plastic Gloves/Approach One

The same logic can seemingly be applied to wearing plastic gloves on Shabbos. Since they protect one’s hands from coming in contact with virus particles, they should have the status of a malbush. In regards to the concern, that one would possibly remove them, this should not be an issue, since one can easily scratch oneself without removing the plastic gloves from one’s hands. 

The concern is even more diminished, in light of the fact that the wearer is specifically wearing it, in order to be extra cautious in coming in contact with virus particles. Thereby making it less likely, they will remove the gloves to touch various surfaces.

To note, there is a slight difference between the two types of gloves, in relation to their malbush status. In the case of winter gloves, the objective is to protect one’s hands from becoming cold. However, plastic gloves are a bit different. Although the immediate objective is to keep one’s hands clean. The ultimate objective is to ensure the virus particles do not enter one’s mouth or eyes, through the hands.

However, seemingly this difference is inconsequential, since their direct purpose is to keep the hands clean. The wearer’s ultimate intent should seemingly not play a role. Even if this difference would indeed be proven consequential, there is another approach to explain why plastic gloves are muttar to wear, as will be explained.

Plastic Gloves/Approach Two

There is another way to explain, how plastic gloves have the status of a malbush. The previous approach was based on the fact that the gloves protect one’s hands and are therefore considered a malbush. However, the definition of a malbush in the halachos of hotzoah – carrying, is actually quite broad. One is permitted to wear garments which are worn for other purposes, other than protection. Many garments are worn for style or modesty. For example, a necktie is not worn to protect one’s body from rain or cold, rather it is fashionable. 

The general rule is, that anything which serves to benefit one’s body, is considered a malbush and a tachshit (Alter Rebbe SA, Simon 303, 17). However, if one is wearing the item to protect one’s clothing from becoming soiled, it does not have the status of a malbush (AR SA, 301, 10), since it is not being worn for the benefit of one’s body. 

Furthermore, if something becomes the norm to wear, it is considered a malbush, even if it does not provide bodily benefit. The Mishna in meseches Shabbos (Daf 65a) mentions a case, which halachically is considered a malbush, although it does not seem to be a malbush in the conventional sense.

Case in discussion, is in regards to young girls piercing their ears, so that when they are older they can wear earrings. In order the hole should not close up, they would place in it threads or tiny chips of wood. The Mishna says, it is muttar on Shabbos for girls to go outside, with these wood chips or threads in their ears. This is somewhat difficult to understand; seemingly they are neither a malbush or a tachshit. Rashi explains that since it was normal to wear (at that time), it was not considered to be carrying. This din is codified in Shulchon Aruch (Simon 303, 20).

There is another case, brought in meseches Eruvin (Daf 95a), that brings out this point even stronger. The din is that if a pair of Tefillin were found outside on Shabbos and it can be disgraced there, a man is allowed to don the Tefillin in their normal manner, and then proceed to walk with them to a place where they can be safely deposited (Shulchon Aruch 301, 42). Now, Tefillin are definitely, not your typical Malbush (garment) – it does not (physically) protect your body nor is it worn for style. What is then the rationale behind this din?

The reasoning follows the same rationale mentioned before in regards to the ear piercing. Since Tefillin are normal attire for men to wear throughout the week, it is considered a malbush (Shabbos Daf 61a). For this reason, only a man is permitted to do this, however for a woman it is ossur, since this is not normal attire for her and therefore she would be considered to be carrying on Shabbos.

Conclusion

Let us return back to our original discussion. We can now provide another reason, why plastic gloves are permitted to wear on Shabbos. Being that currently it is very common for people to wear them in public, all around the world, they are now considered normal attire to wear. Therefore, even if you would not be using them for protecting your hands, it would be permitted to wear. It is not important as to why you personally decided to wear them, since it has become normal attire worldwide.

:מראה מקומות 

שש”כ פי”ח, הע’ קיג. שו”ת אגרות משה או”ח ח”א, קיא (באו”א קצת מהשש”כ). וראה בשו”ת להורות נתן או”ח ח”ד, סי’ כו, מה שהקשה עליהם. אבל עי’ מה שהוסיף השש”כ במהדורה חדשה (שם), הראי’ מתפילין (שאינו להגנת הגוף), ועפ”ז לא קשה מידי. ויותר יש להתיר בנדו”ד, דלובשים הבתי ידים רק בתורת מלבוש ולא לשם תשמיש, ועשויים במיוחד עבור תכליתים כאלו. עי’ בשו”ת חלקת יעקב ח”א, סי’ סז, אות ד’. ושם סו”ס צ’ בנוגע לשעוני יד. ועייג”כ בשו”ת מהרש”ג ח”ב סי’ מח (ואכ”מ להעיר בדבריו). ראה מש”כ אדה”ז במהדו”ב לסי’ שא, (ד”ה אבל, בשיטת הרמב”ם). ובנדו”ד י”ל שהוה אורחא בהכי, ולא נחשב כמקרה. משום שבזמנינו, בכל מדינות המלך נוהגים מליוני אנשים ללבוש כן. 

Discussion
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  1. B”H.

    Thank you very much for this most interesting article, however, I would like to take issue with this article.

    1. It is highly questionable whether gloves really play much of a role, in the prevention of the transmission of this virus.

    2. It is questionable whether it is common for people to walk around outside with gloves. As a matter of fact, here in NY, any person can see that the number is quite low (unlike those wearing masks).

    3. I would like to take issue with the assertion, that people would most probably not remove these gloves. I myself have worn these gloves and have worn gloves meant to protect one’s self from the cold, and I have found myself removing these sorts of gloves a lot more frequently then gloves which are supposed to keep the hands warm against the biting cold.

    That may be my personal experience, however, on the other hand, I have seen no evidence, that as a matter of fact, people would not remove these gloves.

    4. In regards to the common custom of wearing gloves on shabbos. It should be pointed out, that while according to Chabad Psak, the common custom is not to wear gloves outside on Shabbos, it should be noted, that there are many Frum communities that take a different Halachik position, and do in fact wear gloves outside on Shabbos.

    5. I would just like to make a general comment in regards to masks on Shabbos. I had originally felt like this author that one can wear them on Shabbos. However since I started going outside on Shabbos, I have noticed countless people wearing their masks on their chin. Wearing the Mask on the chin would pose a serious issue with the prohibition of carrying on Shabbos. Since there are countless people, who would at some point when they are outside wear the mask on their chin, this may pose a serious issue Mi’Derabbonon, which may forbid one to go outside and wear various articles, which we are concerned will be removed while outside.

     I don’t see this being any different than sunglasses, which most Poskim consider to be issue Mi’Derabbonon.

    Once again thank you for your article.

    1. משקפיים הצ”פ מתיר בפשטות משום דהוי קמיע מומחה, לפי זה גם המסכה מותר בכל אופן אפי’ אם מורידה לפעמים על הלסת. ופשיטא דלע גרע משן של שועל, או אבן תקומה או משקל האבן שלא תפיל ואפי’ לא מעוברת מותר שמא תתעבר ותפיל, וזה אינו צריך לפנים.
      אחד מאנ”ש

    2. BH

      People have reached out to me privately, and pointed out, that in many fields it is very common to wear gloves (like people who fly for instance), and it rises to at least the level of shepherds clothing.

      I accept that point, and I retract comment 1.

  2. Yasher Koach for addressing practical questions. However I want to point out one point about gloves why it might not be a תכשיט.
    פוק חזי מאי עמא דבר…
    Wearing gloves in our frum communities has become (definitely at this point) quite unpopular. (Honestly speaking, when many of us see someone in full gear mask and gloves, we assume him to be a “coro** freak”. ) It seems a very likely scenario that someone who does wear it would remove it at some point seeing that he is the only one around wearing it. Regarding wearing only one shoe the Chashash is mentioned (Shabbos, 60a, 61a and Rashi) that out of embarrassment he may take it off ואתי לאתויי ברה”ר. [Unless there’s a wound etc. I’m thinking we can differentiate between a physical wound where a shoe brings about tangible results, to gloves where there are no clear results from wearing it, and seeing the rest of the community going about without, he’ll glean that maybe he can stay safe without it as well. And coupled by the “embarrassing element” he’s very close to removing it באשר הוא שם..)
    וגם לדעה (רש”י שבת שם, וטור סימן ש”א סעיף ז) שבמקום מכה מניח את הסנדל היחיד על הרגל שאין בו מכה, שאני התם דלכולי עלמא ליכא מכה זו, וכולם רואים שיש לו מכה זו ובגלל זה לא יניח נעלו במקום מכה. או בגלל צער הרב לא ישים הסנדל במקום מכה גם אם כן יחייכו עליו. אבל הכא, לכל העולם יש אותו חשש של מכת הקורו**, ואם רק הוא הולך כן, בוודאי יש חשש שיתבייש בזה. )
    So practically speaking I wouldn’t be so quick to walk around with gloves. (Neither mask, for other reasons too)
    But I am not a practicing Rabbi, so double check with someone if you’d like to be “מחמיר בעניני פיקוח נפש”…

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