Raboyseyee and Ladies,
Going Commando and Death
Can one lose his life for not wearing underwear to work? Did you know that there are cases -or were- where a person performing certain holy acts without gotchkis (underwear) would be sentenced to death? Is it mamish a capital offense? Is this topic discussed? Nu, believe it or not, the heylige Toirah dedicates not one, but two pisukim to the donning of underwear. As well, it references the importance of underwear in a third. Mamish? Let us begin, ober let us digress for a moment to cover another issue.
This week’s heylige parsha post is being written poolside here at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach where the Ois and eishes chayil are enjoying a shtikel vacation, walking a few miles daily, working the restaurants, and otherwise schmoozing with people they barely speak to when back home; that’s how it goes. So happens that here in Miami, it’s not that unusual to come across people not wearing underwear. Shoin, I said it!
This past Sunday the Ois was confronted by a gentleman who commented on last week’s Weitz – Fenster shoutout. Their children Rikki and Yoni had a baby girl and the Ois wished a hearty mazel tov to the very elated parents and grandparents, both friends of several decades. Ober said the gentleman azoy: “you shouted out the grandparents but you didn’t shout out and wish mazel tov to Mr. Weitz, Moti’s father, the great grandfather whom you see, greet and shake hands with kimat every Shabbis in shul and while walking on Central Avenue?! To which I responded azoy: you are absolutely correct and my bad! And so we begin with a belated mazel tov to Mr. Izzy Weitz; may you continue coming to shul until 120 -at least- and may you enjoy your ever growing family.
According to Healthline (healthline.com) and who knows more or better, “going commando” is a way of saying that you’re not wearing any underwear. The term -so they say- refers to elite soldiers trained to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice. So when you’re not wearing any underwear -you’re- ready to go at any moment — without pesky undies in the way. Is that how the term came about? Ver veyst? Another pshat: the phrase ‘going commando’ dates back to an old army practice where, so you didn’t shit your underwear in battle, you didn’t wear any – and therefore could boast that you didn’t shit your pants. Ober, linguistic jokes aside, going commando may actually have some demonstrable benefits. We shall explore some of the reasons you may want to give an underwear-free lifestyle a shot.
And the questions include these: Do we really need underwear? What are the pros and cons of going commando? What sayeth the genital health experts? As it turns out, historians hold differing opinion as to why humans started wearing underwear in the first place — but most likely, they wanted a barrier to protect their private parts from the elements. Ober, can we rely on these so- called experts? Not! They have seemingly forgotten that the RBSO Himself created the first ever line of clothing when He fashioned and dressed Odom and Chava -such taking place following their sin of eating forbidden fruit which led to them discovering their nakedness. Why neither noticed that each had unique parts that the other would normally desire, ver veyst?
In hyntige tzeytin (todays times) we have pants instead of loincloths, and some may question if the extra layer might seem a little bit unnecessary; is it? A Vanity Fair survey revealed that 25% of participants said that they go commando, or skip wearing underwear, at least occasionally. Who taka coined the term going commando? Ver veyst? Some say it originated during the Vietnam War, when soldiers sometimes avoided wearing underwear to prevent fungal infections when they couldn’t shower. Shoin. And listen to this: according to other gidoilm (luminaries), there’s no real medical reason to wear underwear at all; in some cases, it may do more harm to your genitals than good. Say it’s not so, is it?
According to others, whether one should or shouldn’t wear underwear depends on what’s in your pants. If one has a vulva, some potential pros of skipping underwear include: lowered risk of yeast infections, fewer UTIs, and less irritation. On the other hand, if one has a male organ (b’loshoin-sagi-nohor), going commando might lower the risk of jock itch, reduce the smell of sweat and, listen to this: going without, can potentially increase sperm count. Finally, the experts tell us that going without increases freedom of movement; there’s epes more ballroom in the cathedral, if you chap. Underwear can avada restrict movement, ober going commando allows more freedom during workouts — or just lets you appreciate a fresh breeze as you go about your daily life, if you chap. The boys are free to roam about the cabin. Of course, it’s not case closed as there are cons for both males and females, ober those for another day.
The bottom line: the topic of underwear was of particular interest to the RBSO who in the last posik of Parshas Yisro and again in our parsha -in two consecutive pisukim- gives instructions on underwear. Following last week’s parsha were the RBSO dedicated an entire parsha to the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle and its many accoutrements, our parsha turns its attention to the kohanim, who were to serve and the ensemble they were expected to wear while working. Yes, they had uniforms. Our parsha details the special eight-piece outfit of the kohain Godol and continues with the less restrictive outfits of the regular kohain. And we also learn this: For the kohanim -at least- going commando was verboten. Why? Let us harken back to the very end of Parsha Yisroy to the very last posik (Shmois 20:26) of the parsha were we read this:
שׁמות כ:כו וְלֹא תַעֲלֶה בְמַעֲלֹת עַל מִזְבְּחִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא תִגָּלֶה עֶרְוָתְךָ עָלָיו.
“Do not ascend My altar by steps, that your nakedness may not be exposed upon it.”
Based on this instruction, it does epes appear that the Kohanim (priests) did not wear underpants. Had they, this instruction would not be needed, and for that reason, the mizbayach (altar) must be accessed by a ramp instead of stairs. What? What’s wrong with a staircase? Pshat is azoy: Ascending the staircase without underwear could or would lead to the exposure of the genitals. Exposed to whom? To the staircase, to the stones. Medrish has lots to say about being exposed to the rocks, but for now, veyter. Nakedness? What nakedness? Was the Koihen Godol naked? What’s pshat that the RBSO banned him from walking up the steps to the altar? And if this posik reads epes strange to you, mamish as if you never heard it before, it’s likely the case that you were no longer paying attention or had left shul to join the kiddish club -oy vey- when they read this posik.
Why taka did the RBSO ban steps to reach the mizbayach? Why was a ramp mandated? What we were taught in yeshiva was this: were steps to be installed to reach the mizbayach, the kohanim -endeavoring to get to work- would have to climb the staircase. And? While walking up the steps and given that they seemingly were not wearing underwear – commando mamish- their genitalia might be exposed to the stones of the steps. You read that correctly. The RBSO was specifically against such exposure. What to do? The RBSO commanded that the proper way of ascending to the altar was via a ramp.
Said Rashi azoy: THAT THY NAKEDNESS BE NOT UNCOVERED: because on account of these steps you will have to take large paces and so spread the legs. Ober, while walking the ramp, the kohanim would not be exposing themselves. Case closed?
Not entirely because in our parsha which dedicates 43 pisukim to the wardrobes of the kohanim, the RBSO is back with new instructions. The RBSO specifically delineates every item of the ensemble. The Kohain Godol wore eight vestments. In contrast, the clothing of the regular kohain was much simpler, let’s read the instructions (Shmois 28:40): “And for Aharoin’s sons also you shall make tunics, and make sashes for them, and make turbans for them, for dignity and adornment.”
שמות כח:מ וְלִבְנֵי אַהֲרֹן תַּעֲשֶׂה כֻתֳּנֹת וְעָשִׂיתָ לָהֶם אַבְנֵטִים וּמִגְבָּעוֹת תַּעֲשֶׂה לָהֶם לְכָבוֹד וּלְתִפְאָרֶת.
The very next posik continues with a summary command for Moishe to ritually prepare the kohanim to minister to the RBSO: “Put these on your brother Aharoin and on his sons as well; anoint them, and ordain them and consecrate them to serve Me as priests.”
שמות כח:מא וְהִלְבַּשְׁתָּ אֹתָם אֶת אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ וְאֶת בָּנָיו אִתּוֹ וּמָשַׁחְתָּ אֹתָם וּמִלֵּאתָ אֶת יָדָם וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ אֹתָם וְכִהֲנוּ לִי.
What next: Although the RBSO has concluded the discussion of clothing, by telling Moishe to dress Aharoin and his sons, we get one further instruction; the RBSO introduces underwear as an additional piece of clothing, applicable to all kohanim. They must all wear an undergarment; we call this garment underwear. Fartig! Let’s read that last posik as well: “You shall also make for them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; they shall extend from the hips to the thighs.”
שמות כח:מב וַעֲשֵׂה לָהֶם מִכְנְסֵי בָד לְכַסּוֹת בְּשַׂר עֶרְוָה מִמָּתְנַיִם וְעַד יְרֵכַיִם יִהְיוּ.
The RBSO tells us just how much of the body the underwear must cover. The breeches must reach only until the thighs; mamish like interhoizen (underwear). And listen to this: They are meant to prevent accidental exposure of the priest’s genitalia, which would be a capital offense. Mamish? Let’s read the words in the very next posik (Shmois 28:43): They shall be worn by Aharoin and his sons when they enter the Tent of Meeting or when they approach the altar to officiate in the sanctuary, so that they do not incur punishment and die. It shall be a law for all time for him and for his offspring to come.
שמות כח:מג וְהָיוּ עַל אַהֲרֹן וְעַל בָּנָיו בְּבֹאָם אֶל אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד אוֹ בְגִשְׁתָּם אֶל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לְשָׁרֵת בַּקֹּדֶשׁ וְלֹא יִשְׂאוּ עָוֹן וָמֵתוּ חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לוֹ וּלְזַרְעוֹ אַחֲרָיו.
Let’s read that last line again. The kohanim were mandated to wear underwear so that they do not incur punishment and die; the RBSO means business. As an aside, lest you think this commandment fell by the wayside with the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, you would be dead wrong. Ober, since your interest has been piqued and now you want to know more, you should not be surprised to learn that the concept of men wearing tight pants and underpants is avada discussed and debated in the heylige Gemora and elsewhere where we read this: The heylige Gemora (Perek Kol Hayad) implies that it is forbidden for men to wear pants unless they are made like Batei Shukayim. Like what? What are those you ask? Batei Shukayim are legging shoes that would cover the feet and reach up until the thighs. It would not cover the Erva area. The erva area is the groin area and let’s call the erva, the penis itself. In any event, these leggings are seemingly similar to knee-highs.
Why are tight pants and certain underwear -maybe even tightie-whities- verboten? Because the tightness -if you chap- can lead to spilling of seed. Ok- let’s get ready for one very long run on sentence. Now, although one can explain the heylige Gemora to only refer to temple times when the kohanim needed to be pure in order to eat Teruma, and since there is no temple and no offerings -there is also no teruma- and thus efsher we shouldn’t worry about the spilling of seed which would otherwise render the body impure. That being said, the fact the Rosh records this ruling, implies that it is forbidden even today. The Rama concurs. On the other hand, this ruling only refers to pants that are made with a special pocket that is tightly fitted for the size of the Eiver (male organ), and hence can cause one to be aroused. It also includes a prohibition against wearing pants that are tight around the Erva area due to the friction and arousal that they cause. However, regular non-tight pants that we wear today are not included in this prohibition at all, and it is obvious that throughout all generations people did not walk around without pants.
The bottom lines: It is forbidden to wear tight fitted clothing that cause friction and arousal to the Erva, area, if you chap. In case you’re wondering if one is permitted to wear underwear, boxers and the like, the answer goes azoy: It depends on the tightness of the fit. Tight fitted underwear is forbidden to be worn due to its ability and propensity of causing arousal. The same would apply to tight fitted boxers. However baggy boxers and loose fitted underwear may be worn. It is customary amongst the chasiddim to wear loose boxer style undergarments rather than underwear due to the above reason. Ober what about jeans for the more modern? Many jeans -so we see daily, are tight fitted and hence may not be worn if they cause friction and arousal in the Erva area.
And now you know!
A gittin Shabbis!
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv