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Jun 17, 2013

Interesting Psak: Men shouldn't wear a wrist-watch

Kikar is reporting about a very strange psak by Rav chaim Kanievsky, assuming it is true.

According to the report, Rav Chaim Kanievsky has recently begun adding to his brachos given to visitors a comment that they should stop wearing a wrist-watch. Rav Kanievsky used to commonly make comments to visitors that they should grow a beard, grow longer peyyos, and the like. Recently this new comment has been his focus.

The reason Rav Kanievsky is telling men to not wear a wrist-watch is because in his opinion a watch is a woman's garment and when a man wears one he is transgressing the prohibition of men not wearing womens garments.

According to the report, his talmidim say this is not a new psak or opinion of his, but he has only just started telling to to visitors who come asking for a bracha. Somebody even recently showed him a picture of Rav Elyashiv, his father in law, in which it can been that he is clearly wearing a watch, as well as a picture of Rav Shach as well in which his watch can be clearly seen. Rav Kanievsky responded saying he knows they wore watches, and he himself used to wear a watch as well, until he found out definitively that the Chazon Ish had been of the opinion that it is prohibited.

I sometimes wonder what makes something into a "kli gever" or a "begged isha". Looking around it is clear that watches are worn by men as much as they are worn by women. And it has always been so. So, why is a watch considered "begged isha"? Are eyeglasses also going to be categorized as kli gever or begged isha? Some items are obviously one or the other, depending on their common use, but other items are commonly used by both genders so how is it determined that such an item is dominantly male or female in its usage?

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  1. Most interesting of all is that Rav Chaim had heretofore not known of a definitive psak from the Chazon Ish and, once he heard about it, would accept it as so reliable that the entire world needs to follow it.

  2. I would guess that at the time the CI issued this psak, 70-80 years ago, wrist watches were quite rare and primarily for ladies -- and wealthy ones at that. They were probably very expensive -- and men wore pocket watches instead. Most men probably had neither,as they were too expensive.

    I would guess that it was not until wrist watches could be produced more cheaply that they were commonly worn by men. At that point, the issue of begged isha would no longer apply.

    I would guess that the CI's psak was made before this occurred and even speculate that not only did Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shach recognize this, but the CI as well, which would account for why the psak was forgotten. For, it was no longer relevant.

  3. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_watches#1920.E2.80.931950_Wristwatches:

    Patek Philippe created the first wristwatch in 1868. In 1880, Constant Girard (Girard-Perregaux) developed a concept of wristwatches, made for German naval officers and ordered by Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany. Two-thousand watches were produced, which represents the first important commercialization of wristwatches for men; wristwatches were mostly worn by women until the First World War.

  4. interesting. so, the first men to wear it, if Jewish, might have transgressed the prohibition. since then it has been as common among men as among women and would not have such a status any longer. The only time it might still apply is if a man wore a style of watch that was clearly for women only.

  5. Now, go go explain to Rav Chaim that the world has changed and that the CI's psak no longer applies.

    Good luck with that.

    While you're there, you can explain to him as well about electrical appliances, techeiles, and a whole bunch of other things.

  6. So we should all go and buy smartphones to keep track of time and zmanim?

  7. Can't you just see some fem fatale wearing this baby...

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  9. Actually, some Chasidim are particular to use pocket watches rather than wristwatches. That may be related to this, as wristwatches are a 'new thing', as related above, and they pride themselves on not changing from what their forebears did.

  10. 1. Wrist watches were originally designed for soldiers (obviously men) starting in the 1920s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_watches
    2. I would assume that later they were specially designed for women.
    3. My understanding is that the Kle I'sha should be defined by design and not by the object itself, just like socks.
    Please correct me if I am wrong.
    Thank you.


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