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Thought for the Day: Eyeglasses on Shabbos

You know me, always shying away from even a hint of controversy.  Therefore I am going to stay away (for now, at least) from the storms of machlokes raging around  carrying/wearing hat covers, wristwatches, and keys on Shabbos in a r'shus harabim.  (Oh yes, and once you can't carry it in a r'shus harabim, you may not be able to wear/carry it in your house either.  Life is fun, no?)  Oh no, I want to stick to something completely non-controversial: eyeglasses.  As usual, though, nothing went according to plan.

First snag was that the Mishna Brura in Siman 310, syef 11, s.k. 44 says that clearly "batei einiyim" cannot be worn on the nose in an area without an eiruv lest they fall off and one comes to carry them.  Up till that point I had been glibly translating "batei einiyim" to myself as eyeglasses.  Apparently I need to be less glib.

Let's take a step back.  You are allowed to wear a shirt outside on Shabbos because it protects you and you are unlikely to take it off.  You need both of those characteristics.  Obviously simply carrying a shirt in your hand is has bad as carrying anything else.  That fact that it happens to be a garment is irrelevant; when it is being carried it is a burden like anything else.

The "batei einiyim" of the Mishna Brura is referring to a pince-nez; lenses in a wire frame, but with no ear pieces.  Those things are certainly likely to fall off one's nose and were often left hanging on a thin silver chain until needed.  The Biur Halacha makes a strong case against considering that chain (or the chain on a pocket watch) as an adornment.  That does not apply to our modern glasses that have spring-loaded ear pieces to keep them securely on your face.  Moreover, those of us who need glasses to see are not likely to take them off (unless we are retiring for the night, taking a nap, or finishing our sleep after vasikin in the summer).

However, the p'sak of the Mishna Brura does apply to reading glasses and sunglasses, both of which you are quite likely to absentmindedly remove and leave them in your pocket or on your head.  (No, stylishly wearing sunglasses on top of your head doesn't make them jewelry.)  Contacts... not simple because Chazal make a g'zeira that a lady shouldn't wear any non-clothing out on Shabbos that she would need to remove in case of t'vila and contacts may be in that category.  Then there's photogray... light inside, dark outside...

Heck, as long as I can't avoid a machlokes, I may just as well jump into hat covers and key belts.


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