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Selling Immodest Clothing

In regards to the halacha about not making business with davarim ossurim. Would it be ossur to own a womans clothing store that sells clothing that is not considered “tznius” (the majority of the store is tznius clothing, however a part of the clothing is not so tznius and perhaps ossur to wear al pi dinei tznius).

If this is ossur what would be the din for someone who has a job simply working in the store (that they need the job for parnasah)? If it would be ossur to sell the clothing what would be the din in regards to working in such a store (please cite any relevant sources…)?


An owner of a store may not sell immodest items (to Jews), where it is not ordinary to wear the items in a modest way (e.g. with a shirt under them). This is especially severe when there is no non-Jewish store in the same town that sells the same items.

A person should also avoid working in such a store, though there is some room for leniency in this matter, if a person is desperate for a job and does not find anything else.

Please see below for more details.


According to many opinions, a store owner who sells immodest clothing will be infringing the prohibition of lifnei iver lo titen michshol.

This depends on the question of whether the prohibition of lifnei iver applies even when the clothing can be obtained in other stores.

In Isarel, the other stores are also under Jewish ownership, so that in any event somebody will be transgressing the prohibition of lifnei iver lo, and several poskim (see Mishnah Le-Melech, Halva’ah 4:2; Minchas Chinuch 232:3; Toras Chesed (Lublin) 5:7; Benei Chayei Choshen Mishpat 34:7; among others) maintain that on account of this, the principle of “trei/chad ivrei nahara” (the fact that people can in any case obtain the clothing) does not apply (this idea is derived from Tosafos, Chagigah 13, concerning teaching Torah to a non-Jew).

[The Mishnah Le-Melech writes an additional reason: because the other lenders (in his case) are Jews, perhaps they will change their minds about lending with ribis. This will not apply in our case.]

The Kenesses Ha-Gedolah (Yoreh De’ah 159, Annotations to Tur 13; Choshen Mishpat 34:36) writes that even under these circumstances, lifnei iver does not apply, and cites that this is the ruling of Rabbi Aharon Sasson (see also Penei Moshe 2:105; Kesav Sofer, Yoreh De’ah 83) — but one should not rely on these authorities in this question of a potential Torah prohibition.

Even where there are non-Jewish sellers, it is not simple that the ability of a buyer to buy in a different store relieves the prohibition of liflei iver, and it is possible that only when the person can take the issur by himself, without having to buy it from somebody else, is there no prohibition (see Pischei Teshuva, Yoreh De’ah 151:2). However, this is the ruling of the Rema (151:1), and therefore if there are non-Jewish stores in town that sell the same clothing, there will not be lifnei iver (see Tosafos, Kiddushin 56a; Beis Yitzchak 29:4).

However, both for the owner of the store, and for a seller in the store, there remains an issue of (the rabbinic prohibition of) mesaye’a li-dvar aveira: aiding and abetting the seller to sell non-tznius clothing (as found in Tosafos, Shabbos 3a, and Rosh and Ran). Note that some dispute the existence of this prohibition (see Ran, end of first perek of Avodah Zarah), but most poskim accept it as a clear rabbinic prohibition (see Erech Ha-Shulchan, Yoreh De’ah 151:5 and Choshen Mishpat 34; Birchei Yosef, Choshen Mishpat 9).

There is room to consider whether the prohibition of walking in the public domain is a Torah prohibition, or a rabbinic prohibition of das yehudis: If it is a Torah prohibition, there will be an issue of mesaye’a, but for a rabbinic prohibition some write that there is no issue of mesaye’a. On this question, see Shevet Halevi 2:62, who writes as simple that the prohibition is a Torah-mandated issur, in particular because it will cause hirhurim for others.

Another question that requires consideration is the ruling of the Shach (Yoreh De’ah 151) whereby there is no prohibition of mesaye’a for a “yisrael mumar”: It is possible that this applies even to a mumar for the matter of wearing immodest clothing alone.

For the reasons above, an owner of a store should not sell immodest clothes, and where there is no non-Jewish store in the same town that sells the same immodest clothing, this can be a full violation of liflei iver. Even if there are other stores selling the same clothing, and even for the seller in the store (and not the owner), it is certainly proper to avoid working in such as place. However, if there is no other job, there is some room for leniency in working in the store.

Note that the analysis above applies only to clothing that cannot be worn in a tznius manner. It does not apply, for instance, to sleeveless items, which can be worn with a shirt under them, and will not necessarily be worn in a non-tznius manner.

The conclusion above is similar to that reached by the Shevet Ha-Levi (Yoreh De’ah 62) and by Rav Ovadyah Yosef (Yecheveh Da’as 3:67; many of the sources above were taken from the latter).

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