Whenever I celebrated Purim in Me’ah Sharim, the Haredi epicenter of Jerusalem, I always marveled at the costumes the Haaredim used to wear. Every year, the Haredim participate in cross-dressing. Haredim in drag. What a sight to behold. Haredim and Hasidim literally let their hair down.
Any good Christian bible reader knows that cross-dressing is forbidden in the Torah. Men are forbidden to dress as women, since the proscription reads, “neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment, neither may a man wear a woman’s garment ” (Deut. 22:5).
The law aims to maintain gender distinctions, while preventing potentially licentious behavior. Cross-dressing during Purim is nothing new in Halachic literature; pious Jews have been cross-dressing on this holiday for several centuries.
In the 16th century, somebody asked Rabbi Moshe Iserseles (a.k.a., “Rema”), whether cross-dressing on Purim was permitted or not. Rema cites two opinions, one says, “Yea!” while the other says, “Nay!” (and the cross-dresser says, “Hurray!”). Rema rules that it is permitted to follow the more lenient opinion.  Continue reading “When Haredim go drag”