Jewellery in the bathroom? Ask the rabbi

March 28, 2016 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Can you wear specific jewellery in the bathroom?  Ask the rabbi.


Rabbi Raymond Apple

Rabbi Raymond Apple

Q. My husband gave me a necklace with the Hebrew words, “Dodi Li” (“My beloved is mine”). May I wear it in the bathroom?

A. Religious objects and Biblical verses, even without the Divine name, must be treated with respect and in general must not be taken into the bathroom.

Maimonides ruled that a tallit with a b’rachah or Biblical verse on the collar must not be worn in the bathroom (Shulchan Aruch,Yoreh De’ah 284:2). One should not wear t’fillin in the bathroom unless they have two coverings (Mishnah B’rurah on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 282:4).

The whole or part of a verse (e.g. “Sh’ma Yisra’el”) must not be taken into the bathroom unless it is a phrase like your “Dodi li” (the source is Shir HaShirim 1:13) which is a common expression of love.

More problematical is “Mitzpah” (“a watchtower”, which is part of a phrase, “The Lord watch between me and you” (Gen. 31:49), though it could be argued that some people do not realise that it is part of a Biblical passage.

If a person has an amulet bearing the letter “heh”, which is a symbol of the Divine name, they should not wear it to the bathroom.

An associated issue is the question of how to dispose of religious texts which as a general rule must be placed in a g’nizah (storage receptacle the contents of which will be buried in due course).

Most views are strict and say that any Torah material in English – even if the name of God is not spelt out in it – must not be discarded in the garbage, etc., though if it has not been used for prayer, study, etc., some allow it to be placed in a paper recycling bin.


Q. People often quote Blu Greenberg’s assertion, “Where there’s a rabbinic will, there’s a halachic way.” Do you think she’s right?

A. I understand what she’s getting at: “If the rabbis really wanted to, they could find halachic loopholes.” But putting it like this makes a mockery of halachic principles.

There certainly are situations in which the halachah allows for leniency, but you cannot go to a rabbi and challenge him, “Rabbi, you’ve just got to turn treif into kosher!” The fact is that halachah, like any legal system, has its firm principles, and rabbis are pledged to uphold them.

Blu Greenberg, like every rabbi and every Jewish lay person, is desperate to solve the problem of the recalcitrant person (male or female) who is unwilling to agree to a gett for an ex-spouse. But each case has to be handled quietly, and on its own merits, without implying that rabbis somehow do not care or that if there is no gett the halachah can find a way of declaring one unnecessary.

Rabbis continue to work on the issue, but the cause is not helped by sloganism or rabbi-bashing.


Q. Why do we have a celebratory meal when a baby boy is born?

A. It probably began with Abraham and Sarah who made a feast to mark their son Isaac (Gen.21:8).

Any happy event has a Jewish celebration associated with it, originally because childbirth was associated with danger and there was no guarantee that the mother and child would survive.

There was also a spiritual and intellectual danger. The unborn child is said to have learnt a great deal in the womb but at birth everything was lost, so that subsequent education was like re-learning. Having a party to mark the birth was to console the baby for his loss of knowledge, and it reassured him that the family and community welcomed his arrival nonetheless.

All this applies when the baby was a boy, but many circles extend the celebration to the birth of a girl. The source is said to be the Talmudic report (Bava Batra 91a) that Bo’az had 120 children, 60 boys and 60 girls, and he believed in celebrating the birth of both sexes.

Rabbi Raymond Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem.


3 Responses to “Jewellery in the bathroom? Ask the rabbi”
  1. Neil Irwin says:

    If we start with the premise that G-d made us, then natural bodily functions are divinely planned.
    I couldn’t think of a better time of peace and solitude to be reminded about the awe-inspiring design of G-d.
    I would have thought that smoking cigarettes or abusing other substances that damage the wondrous body that G-d gave us was far more worrisome.

    How is it possible to observe Shabbat when you shirk work?
    You might as well discard the first few verses of Bereshit.
    Each time someone sits around doing nothing to provide for themselves and their family, they repeat Adam’s mistake inviting a flood of poverty. It condemns their family to be drowned in wretchedness and mediocrity.

    Devising silly instructions about jewellery and other items, is the work of the wicked.

  2. Gillian Miller says:

    It is sad that modern orthodox Jews STILL do not regard women as equals. That mostly the birth of boys are celebrated despite the birth of a child, any child, being a miracle. I can remember my father telling me how wonderful it was for a woman to be married to a scholar so that she could work full time, have children and run the home whilst the husband sat on his backside contributing nothing to the home.

    I’m aware that it is important to study and teach others but there is more to life than that and it is of at least equal importance otherwise there would be no doctors and the saving of life, no engineers so no building or transport and no farmers to grow food.

    Men and women were both created in God’s image. Whilst there is a statement that women should be a helpmate, life and society have changed and that definition has also changed. Nowhere does it say that a woman should be a slave. And whilst the stories tell us about women being property and owned by men, our way of life has changed and our attitude towards women must do so too. My father didn’t give me to my husband with a dowry and that is already a change from the past. Why shouldn’t other attitudes and behaviour do so too?

  3. Eleonora Mostert says:

    No disrespect intended… but are you people real?? You seem to have so many rules and regulations there just isn’t time to spend with God or even contemplate what He is trying to teach us. Really a baby inside the womb has learnt a lot and all is lost at birth??? Why would God do that. Ok… His ways are not our ways etc. etc. Life is difficult at the best of times full of confusion, why would God confuse us more when hHe is tring to bring us closer to Him in so many ways??? Sorry Rabbi Apple, could we please have rabbi Micoel back, he make so much more sense to me being a Messianic Jew.

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