Prologue:        Interestingly Chumash Shemos opens a bit earlier then it left off.

Whereas the Sefer terminated with the death of Yosef and the promise of
Pakod Yifkod, Sefer Shemos opens with an enumeration of the names of the
children, HaBaim Mitzrayima,  those who came down with Yaakov. Interestingly
enough, the language of Habaim is similar to the one used in VaYigash when
the Jews actually came down to Egypt. At that time, the children of Yaakov were
actually entering Egypt. However, why stress the same census again with
the prelude HaBaim? Wouldn't a term that stressed past tense be more
correct? After all, the Jews had been in Egypt for at least 2 generations
at the start of the book of Shemos?

The Midrash Rabba points out that the reason for the stress on Habaim at
the beginning of the Parsha relates to the sense of newness that the Jews
felt at the start of the beginning of the book of Shemos. Despite being in
Mitzrayim for a long time, they were as accepted as if they had arrived
the day before. Chezkuni notes that the Jews were still not being welcomed
into the midst of Egypt and as a result were treated suspiciously and
ultimately enslaved. Thus, despite the issue being "old news" the Torah
needs to repeat the history of the beginning of the sojourn in Mitzrayim
in order to appreciate the underpinning of the slavery that followed.

Rav Soloveitchik ztl. (Divrei Hashkafa) noted that this concept of isolation and
separation has been the hallmark of anti-Semitism in every generation.
Those Anti-Semites who try to incite the masses against the Jews do so by
isolating them and not welcoming them. The Egyptians did it by classifying
Bnei Yaakov  as Ivriim. Haman noted the fact that the Jews were different
than all other nations and the Germans did the same in our generation. No
matter how hard the Jew tries to assimilate, the Anti-Semite sets him
apart as a stranger like the first day he joined the country.

One of the praises of the Jew in Egypt was his ability to remain proud of
his heritage. He did not change his clothes, his language or his Jewish
name. This week's Chaburah examines the  Halachic requirements of not
changing. It is entitled:

Lo Sheenu Es Malbusham: Do clothes really make the man or the religion??

One of the most glorious merits of the young Jewish nation was
their ability to withstand the pressures of the long and often treacherous
exile in Mitzrayim. Chazal tell us that it was in the merit of simple
things like not changing their names, language and dress style that they
merited redemption from Egypt (see Torah Shelaima who challenges the
correct text for this Mamar Chazal). Keeping one's name straight and
retaining his mother tongue are clearly part of keeping one's identity even
in a strange land. But what are the parameters of an obligation not to
change ones dress? Are we obligated to look different like the Amish? Or
perhaps merely wear reminders on our sleeves, a yellow mark perhaps, to be
different? What are the obligations of the praise "Lo Sheenu Es Malbusham"?

Interestingly, the major Poskim seem to agree on the source of the
issue but take it along different lines in explanation. Smag (Lo taaseh
50) notes that the obligation of B'Chukoseiheim Lo Seileichu includes a
prohibition against dressing like non-Jews. He notes that the obligation,
repeated three times in the Torah (VaYikra 18:3, 20:23, Devarim 12:30),
come to remind a Jew of the necessity to be different from non-Jews in
dress, style and spoken word.  Rambam concurs (Hil. Avoda Zara 11:1) with
the need for a Jew to be recognizably different from non-Jews in his dress
but adds that this is accomplished if the Jew does not wear clothes that
are specifically made for non-Jews (like a Nuns habit or even an Easter
bonnet). Both the Rambam and the Smag seem to feel that to violate the
dress code of Jews is to violate Biblical law (See Gra who seems to

The problem for both begins with a statement of the Talmud (Bava
Kamma 83a) which notes that the rabbis allowed Avtolmos Bar Reuven to
receive a non-Jewish haircut merely because he was a regular at the
secular royal court. Tosafos asks how this was possible and explains that
the original Gezaira did not apply to those who were involved in political
careers and might need the haircut in order to find favor in the eyes of
the king. Rabbeinu Yeshiah (cited in Shittah Mikubetezes) notes that from
this example in the Talmud  (where a dispensation was offered) we see that
the decree on clothes is not Biblical but rather Rabbinic in origin.
Others (Minchas Chinuch 262, Kovetz Shiurim, Bava Kamma 98, Prisha Y.D.
278:2) try to explain the Gemara differently in accord with the opinions
of  the Smag and the Rambam who both agree that for political reasons the
rules of dress can be relaxed.

What is included in the practice of Chukos Hagoyim? Yerayim (313)
notes that there is a Tosefta (Shabbos 7:1) that spells out all of the
forbidden practices of Chukos HaGoyim. Bach adds that these are related to
the specific practices of Avoda Zara practice and it is these practices
(and these alone) that are forbidden. However, something not on the list
would be Mutar. This opinion is a minority and generally not followed

However, the position of Tosafos (Avodah Zara 11a) is taken a bit
more seriously. Tosafos develops two major criteria for the definition of
Chukos Hagoyim. He notes that either the practices contain direct Avodah
Zara specification or they are Chukim of nonsense. Without these two
criteria, there is no prohibition of Chukos hagoy. Thus, if there is a
reason for a practice that a non-Jew follows and it is not Avoda Zara
related, it would be Mutar to follow that practice. Ran (Rif pages 2b)
adds that when there is no reason for a practice, Avoda Zara is a usual
underlying reason. Otherwise it is Mutar.  Rav Yosef Colonge (Maharik 88,
cited in Kessef Mishneh Hil. A.Z. 11:1) utilizes this reasoning in our
Sugya as well. He notes that unless there is a Tznius or Avoda Zara reason
for the differentiation between Jewish and non-Jewish clothing, there is
no reason for the differentiation and separation in dress from the
non-Jews.  Thus, a doctor may wear his lab coat because there is a reason
for the dress. He is wearing the sign that he is a doctor. (Similarly, it
would follow that one can wear cap and gown as it delineates a graduate so
long as this dress is not recognized as coming from the church.)

This position created a bit of difficulty for the Vilna Gaon
(cited in Biur Gra to Y.D. 178) who cited a prominent Gemara (Sanhedrin
52b) suggesting that Chukos Hagoyim applies even where a reason for the
practice is clear and not Avoda Zara. He concludes that so long as the
clothing is specifically non-Jewish, one may not wear it in order to
prevent the intermingling of Jew and non-Jew possibly leading to
intermarriage. This was his Psak even in instances where the clothes style
was neutral.  Thus, any dress of non-Jews cannot be followed by Jews.

What then does one do today? The Taz (Orach Chaim Siman 8) seemed
to define the Issur to instances when Chok was a legal definition. That
means if the government regulated dress differences, then Jews may not
follow the prescribed dress of non-Jews. Otherwise, there is no problem.
Rav Mordechai Banet (Eleh Divrei haBris, p. 19) applied the same definition
to describe the right of  doctors to wear white coats. It is not a law but
rather a societal issue that doctors wear white coats. That being the
case, doctors (even the Jewish ones) can continue their practice as it is
not Chukos Hagoyim but rather Minhagam. Similarly, statements of fashion
may be followed by Jews as it is not the government that sets fashion
policy but society. Ergo, the term Chukos Hagoy does not fit in describing
this phenomenon. It is not a Chok but rather a practice. (see also Nefesh
HaRov p. 231 for the differentiation that the Rov made between dress of a
country and that of Western Society which would fit into this schema that
Chok implies something handed down by government while fashion is
something that transcends Chukim boundaries.)

L'Halacha, it seems that most Poskim follow the view of the Maharik
despite the position of the Gra.  Accordingly, Rav Moshe (Iggros Moshe
Y.D. 81) allows any dress that has a purpose even if the original purpose
was for Avoda Zara as long as Tznius is preserved. He allowed Polish
immigrants to follow Westrn dress styles because there were those in
America who were already dressing this way and were Jewish. Rav Ovadiah
(Yabia Omer III: Y.D. 24:5) agrees that Halachically one can rely on the
Maharik and follow Western dress as it is not specifically Goyishche.  However, the
position of  Rav Soloveitchik (Divrei Hashkafa, p. 227) should not be discounted;
that the Jewish success in exile has always been in not being
embarrassed of being Jewish. Any attempt to cover ones Jewishness violates
Chukos Hagoyim. Lo Sheenu Es Malbushim Vlo Boshu.