SHATNEZ HALACHA SERIES
SITTING, WALKING, AND LYING ON A SHATNEZ GARMENT
BY RABBI AVROHOM MILLER
The Torah's prohibition of shatnez primarily refers to wearing of shatnez garments. Sitting, lying, or walking on shatnez would be permitted. There is, however, a Rabbinic decree prohibiting these activities due to the fact that the shatnez material may rise up and cover part of the body. This prohibition will largely depend on the softness of materials used in the construction of the article in question. Due to the complexity of these details, it is advisable consult a Rabbinical authority or your local shatnez laboratory whenever a question arises regarding presence of shatnez in these items. The following are so guidelines to follow.
Chairs: If the shatnez material used in the seat or back the chair is soft or plush, it is forbidden to sit on the chair even if a non-shatnez material is placed over the shatnez fabric:
If the material is not plush, we must examine the stuffing of padding used under the outer fabric. If the fabric is place over a stiff backing, and attached so that it is stretched taut it is permitted to sit on the chair, provided that one's ski does not directly contact the shatnez fabric. The person's clothing preventing skin contact suffices for this condition.
It is also permitted to sit on a chair with stuffing under the outer fabric, provided that the fabric does not bend under the weight of the sitting person. This will depend on how tightly the stuffing is packed inside the chair. Here too, one's skin may not make direct contact with the shatnez fabric. If the fabric does sink under the weight of the person, such as would occur with a foam cushion, then it is forbidden to sit would occur with a foam cushion, then it is forbidden to sit on the chair. Frequently the shatnez will not be found in the outer fabric of the chair but in the padding material, i.e. reprocessed stuffing. In most instances, it would be permitted to sit
Mattresses: Today, the only shatnez problem that exists in mattresses is concerning the stuffing material. The author has personally seen a crib mattress with a layer of recycled material over the innersprings. Due to the firmness of mattresses manufactured today, it would be permitted to lay on any mattress in question, similar to the firm chairs mentioned above. If any doubt exists as to the presence shatnez in the outer fabric or stitching, it would still permitted to lie on the mattress if it is covered with a she or a blanket, since there is no direct skin contact with
Pillows: Inexpensive pillows may be stuffed with recycled materials, and therefore would not present a problem. If one wishes to avoid any doubt, by making a small hole in the pillow through which the contents can be removed, the stuffing is no longer considered "attached"
Carpets: Linen is sometimes used as a backing for carpets and area rugs, therefore wool carpets present a shatnez problem. Walking barefoot or sitting on a shatnez carpet would be prohibited where there is direct body contact." If the carpet is plush and one's feet sink into it, then it is forbidden to walk on it even in stocking feet or to sit on it in any instance. " The same would apply to a shag carpet. Walking with shoes is permitted on any type of carpet. There is one opinion which permits walking even bare foot on a shatnez carpet, as walking was not included in the Rabbinical prohibition of sitting or lying on shatnez.
If one enters another's home and is faced with the possibility of shatnez in the carpets, one may be lenient and walk or sit on the carpet if necessary. There is a well-known incident involving the Steipler Gaon and shatnez. The night before a planned train ride, he had stayed up all night learning, thinking that he could make up the lost sleep on the train. When he entered the train, he realized that the seat cushions could contain shatnez. He therefore stood through the whole journey. Based on the descriptions given by the poskim of the train seats in question, it would seem improbable that the seats were very soft. If so, it would have been permitted to sit on the seat, since there would be no direct contact with the shatnez. It is possible that the Steipler feared that in his sleep his hands would rest upon the seat, thus causing direct contact with the shatnez.
There is one opinion that would permit occasional contact of the hands with the shatnez fabric, as this would not be included in the prohibition of sitting or lying on shatnez. Following this opinion, if a person is sitting on stiff shatnez in a permitted manner, he would be permitted to allow his hands to rest on the chair or carpet.
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