Rivka Olenick
The following article provides some interesting information from the Torah, regarding shatnes, as well as some basic facts. Hopefully this will lessen some confusion about what is/is not considered shatnes.
Torah, in Leviticus 19:19, Jews are forbidden to wear shatnes, defined as "a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together." In Deuteronomy 22:11, such cloth is specifically defined as "wool and linen together." Rabbinical authorities in the past have questioned what constitutes "wool" or "linen." The Mishnah and Talmud clarify the meanings. "Wool" is understood to mean the shearings from sheep or lambs. "Linen" is made from flax fiber.
Maimonides explains that priests of religions engaged in idol worship wore garments of linen-wool blends (shatnes). Even in his time, Maimonides writes, the priests of Egypt wore what the English today call "linsey-woolsey" a hodgepodge of different materials," specifically linen and wool. One must avoid garments similar to those worn in the practice of false religion. In ancient times sorcerers, performing witchcraft and communicating with demons, frequently wore garments made of wool and linen. The Torah prohibits wearing shatnes so that we are not associated at all with these evil practices." These clothes worn at any other times or places would be considered profane. He continues by saying Cain offered flax (linen) while Abel brought an offering from his sheep - his "wooley" sheep. Mixing these two materials, Maimonides says, would remind us of the sin Cain committed and prevent us from having hate leave our minds." Yet, the Kohein wore shatnes in the Bais Hamikdash, Holy Temple only while performing the avodah, Divine Service.
In an interesting explanation by Rabbeinu Bachya, says that: "Shatnes is related to Cain and Abel, who represented human beings being the opposite extremes of good and evil. Wool, which represents the sacrifice Abel brought, and linen representing that, which the Medrash says Cain brought, cannot be mingled, as it led to the destruction of both Cain and Abel. The combination of wool and linen is symbolic of joining two opposing forces in the world."
Here are basic, practical shatnes facts to be used as a guide, provided by The National Committee Of Shatnes Testers and Researchers (1-800-SHATNES):
Questions of any kind regarding shatnes can be inquired about by phone. Only a certified shatnes laboratory can answer these questions, check your garments and attach an authentic label stating that the garment is "shatnes free."
  • Any permanent attachment between wool and linen in the same garment is prohibited, as the Torah states.
  • All lined garments with any wool content listed on the label should be checked. This applies to men's, women's and children's clothing, and outerwear.
  • Men's 100% wool pants, made in United States do not need to be checked.
  • Many garments made outside the United States are often mislabeled or have handwritten labels. Regardless of what they are made of, they should be asked about.
  • Shatnes can be removed from any garment provided it is not in the fabric itself.

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