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Thought for the Day: Watches on Shabbos

The only words more chilling than, "But is it in the spirit of Shabbos?", are: "You have to be honest with yourself."  I don't want to worry about spirit or honesty when I am looking for a heter.  Unfortunately, though, the HaShem demands both.

When dealing with a controversial issue, I like to start where there is agreement and then carefully circle till you have closed in on the actual issues.  (Doesn't sound like as much fun as just everyone shouting there opinions using ever more colorful and clever jibes?  Surprisingly, it turns out that frustrating the jibers is even more fun than exchanging witty repartee.)

Siman 301 is where all the fun starts; With which items one is permitted to go out on Shabbos, and which are forbidden.  It's made even more more fun because it is 51 s'ifim; but that's only the beginning.  After a short interlude (Siman 302) about folding clothes on Shabbos, siman 303, Jewelry for women on Shabbos, wraps up with another 27 s'ifim.  The expression "will the fun never stop" was never more aptly applied than to this sugya.  There are lots and lots of details, but some principles stand out.

First, you are certainly allowed to wear clothing that protects you from the environment.  Things gets sticky when you want to wear things that protect your things from the environment.  I'd love to tell you that one can obviously wear jewelry on Shabbos also, but that is not nearly so obvious.  Why?  It seems that we were not always as wealthy as we are today in America, and bling was more of a novelty.  Women, therefore, used to take off their bling to show to their girlfriends.  Once that happens, it is not a stretch to imagine that bit of jewelry getting carried daled amos in a r'shus ha'rabim. Girls squealing, "Oooh!  That necklace is to die for!" could quickly turn literal and messy.  Therefore Chazal outlawed wearing such jewelry in such locales where folks acted such.  Nowadays, of course, we are rich spoiled Americans, so ladies just point out their new baubles, so it's all good.  Mostly.

The Bi'ur Halacha (301:12, d.h. b'zeh l'hatir) discusses wearing a watch.  First, the Mishna Brura says, obviously putting the watch in your pocket is no good.  But even if you attach a beautiful chain that is clearly jewelry, let's be honest (aargh!) -- the chain is batel to the watch, not the other way around.  Further, you want to hang this beautiful gold watch on a chain and put it 'round your neck as a necklace, do you?  Problem here is that we are back to the original g'zeira forbidding jewelry that you are likely to show around.  After all, the reason to have a clock on your neck is to be able to check and show off the time.  You are just too likely to hold that watch in your hand while walking, thus making you and not the chain as the supporter of said timepiece; transforming wearing into carrying in one fell swoop.  No dice.

How about clocks in your cuff-links?  Halichos Shlomo says that is just fine.  Even when you are looking at your local time on one wrist and Jerusalem time on the other, the cuff links are still holding your sleeves together and carrying the clocks.  The cuff-links have to be filled with something, after all; just because it is watch guts and functional doesn't make it worse than blobs of metal and non-functional.

How about wrist watches?  Oooops... ran out of spac

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