18 March 2013

What We Wore in Egypt

This is not based on serious research, only the Internet; but from what I can make out, it seems that...

The Egyptians went round chiefly in white linen. The more wealthy you were, the finer your linen -- which is why garments in Egyptian art are sometimes depicted as transparent.

The Jews wore wool -- shelo shinu es malbusham, we did not switch over to traditional Egyptian dress. And, at least when we had time, we dyed it. Woolen garments, like shepherding, were anathema to the sheep-worshipping Egyptians.

Wool in summer is not as crazy as it sounds -- a light wool is more comfortable than, say, a light cotton.
But I did find this amusing, because even today certain Jews are the ones wearing black wool suits in the summer...


  1. Might this point shed light on the mitzvah of shaatnez?

    (Seems obvious, but you didn't go there...)

    Maybe the point is about assimilation, about not becoming an Egyptian of the Mosaic Persuasion.

    1. Interesting idea. I always thought shaatnez was about something inherent in the nature of linen and wool: I don't like to have my toes trodden upon; I can extrapolate from this that other people don't like to have their toes trodden upon; if I were as sensitive to the nature of textiles as I am to human nature, I would understand that linen and wool, if one could personify them, would not like to be mixed, much as I don't like to have my toes trodden upon: there is something just inherently wrong about such a mixture.
      But, of course, taamei hamitzvah are not mutually exclusive.