A Golden City - Shabbat 59
In our original Mishnah text, we read that women should not go out wearing “a golden city” [ir shel zahav] – in other words, a golden ornament so bulky that it crosses the line from ornament to burden! What city? Of course, “a golden Jerusalem” [Aramaic yerushalayim d’zahava], just like Rabbi Akiva made for his wife (that story is in Nedarim 50a). This kind of an ornament is often referred to in rabbinic literature, and it became the basis for the very famous Naomi Shemer song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav [Jerusalem of Gold] written after the Israeli victory in Jerusalem in 1967. You can read all about the song, including more on rabbinic sources, at http://www.jerusalemofgold.co.il/.
Rabbi Meir would hold a woman going out with such an ornament liable for a sin-offering, but the Sages exempt her unless she takes it off in order to show it and thus carry it in the street. And Rabbi Eliezer tries to reason that the only kind of woman who would have such a piece would be an “important woman” [ishah khashuva], and such a woman wouldn’t remove it for display. Interestingly enough, any considerations of modesty, decorum, or tact in terms of how large a piece of gold jewelry can be on Shabbat are not explored. For me, any piece of jewelry that is so large that there is even an argument about whether or not it is a burden is too large for my tastes.
Rabbi Adam Chalom