Shaving on Chol HaMoed

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Commemorating the Twentieth Yahrtzeit of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l

Shaving on the Intermediate Days of the Festivals

Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde

Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta, and is a dayan in the Beth Din of America. This article was initially printed in slightly different form in “Shaving on the Intermediate Days of the Festivals,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 33 (1996), 71–94.

I first gave this shiur twenty years ago in Congregation Beth Jacob in Atlanta on the Shabbat after the Rav died, which was the day before his funeral on Sunday, Chol Hamoed day 4, Pesach 1993.

Given the Rav’s landmark work in matters of hashkafa, it is easy to overlook his contributions to contemporary halacha, and I hope that this piece, and the few that I hope will follow (one on the unique view of the Rav concerning a missed yaaleh veyavo), will do a bit to share my view of the Rav as an innovative halachic authority.

Although I was privileged to sit in the Rav’s shiur at YU the last 18 months that he gave such a shiur, the truth is that I did not learn much from shiur because I had a hard time understanding much of what he said. However, I did see something that changed my orientation to life and its struggles: I watched the Rav struggle with his illness and labor to compose himself every day to give shiur, struggle every day to learn more and struggle every day to examine and re-examine the complex, even when he found it difficult to do so. To me, someone for whom Torah learning never came easily and always entailed lots of hard struggle to understand just what the complex material said, watching the Rav struggle allowed me to understand that Torah learning was going to be difficult. I was going to have to work very hard if I wanted to accomplish even a little bit. The image of the Rav struggling to understand and compose and be original always served as a model to me to wake up early, go to bed late, and never waste my time – rather, to struggle with the sources.

The truth is that I saw this as well many years later when I sat a table away from the Rav’s brother, Rav Aharon Soloveichik זצ”ל, in the old YU Gruss Beit Midrash when he engaged, as well, in an enormous struggle with his physical limitations – again watching the struggle to learn. Watching gedolim struggle is a reminder for ketanim like us that it is never easy.

I. Introduction

The Sages of the Talmud frequently enacted rabbinic decrees in order to prevent certain types of activity which they felt was deleterious to the spirit or the observance of a particular holiday. Indeed as noted by Nachmanides in his biblical commentary, absent these decrees one would find it very difficult to keep the holidays or Sabbath sacred.[1] This article will explore one such set of decrees: the prohibition to shave one’s face[2] or cut one’s hair on the intermediate days of the festivals (chol hamoed).[3]

In particular, this article will focus on the application of the prohibition to shave for people who are generally clean shaven and who are residing in a society where Jewishly observant people (and the general society at large)[4] frequently are clean shaven, as that is the cultural norm in modern day America.[5] As has been noted by halachic decisors, this cultural phenomena seems to be unique to America.[6]

II. Talmudic Basis for the Decree Prohibiting Shaving

The Mishnah in Moad Katan recounts:

The following are permitted to shave on the intermediate days of the festivals: One who comes from far away or is released as a prisoner or released from prison or one who was excommunicated and whose excommunication was removed on the intermediate days or one who took a vow not to shave and his vow was rescinded by a Rabbi on the intermediate days or one who is a nazir or a metsorah and who goes from uncleanliness to cleanliness.[7]

The Mishnah continues and states:

The following can wash their clothes on the intermediate days: one who comes from far away and is released from captivity or prison or one who is excommunicated and is now released on the intermediate days or one who swore not to wash his clothes and his vow was lifted on the intermediate days…

The Talmud, in explaining the rule of the Mishnah, states that a decree was enacted by the Sages that one should groom oneself and wash one’s garments prior to the onset of the holiday so as to insure that one looked dignified and neat for the festival.[8] The Talmud adds that in order to give this decree some teeth and assist in compliance, the Sages further decreed that one may not shave or wash one’s clothes during the intermediate days so as to insure that one be careful to shave and wash on the eve of festival.[9] The rules mentioned in the Mishnah concerning people who were permitted to shave during the intermediate days and were granted a dispensation from this in terrorem decree are limited to cases of people who could not shave prior to the holiday.

The Talmud questions the rule by asking:

One who loses an object [which he is looking for] prior to the holiday so that he is duressed into not shaving prior to the holiday [because he is looking for his object] may he shave on the intermediate days? Or perhaps since it is not apparent to others why he could not shave it is not permissible for him to shave? Abayei replies to this question by stating: “Can we say that all of the garments may not be washed except for a particular person’s garment.”[10]

While the Talmud is not categorically clear that the normative halacha is like Abayei, almost all early and late authorities accept his opinion and limit the dispensation to shave not merely to those who were duressed, but mandates that only those who were publicly duressed so that their special status would be known to one and all may shave on the intermediate days. All others may not.[11]

However, there are two basic ways to understand this talmudic discourse. The overwhelming majority of the rishonim[12] rule that a rabbinic decree was enacted and the nature of the decree was as follows:

1) One may not shave during the intermediate days of the holidays. The reason for this decree was in order to induce a person to shave prior to the onset of the holidays.

2) An exception to this decree was made for those who could not shave prior to the holidays due to duress or a compelling circumstance and this duress or compelling circumstances were obvious to the casual observer, like a person who is released from prison. A person who was duressed, but in a private way that would be unknown to others, is prohibited by rabbinic decree from shaving.

Rabbenu Tam, however, provides a different framework for discussing this dispute.[13] He ruled that the decree was as follows:

1) One who does not shave in preparation of the holidays may not do so on the intermediate holidays as the Sages penalize this person for not preparing himself for the holidays.

2) This penalty provision was waived for a person who – it is clear to the casual observer – could not shave prior to the holidays due to public duress.

3) This penalty provision was inapplicable to a person who, in fact, does shave prior to the holidays.

Thus, Rabbenu Tam ruled that one who does shave prior to the holidays in preparation of the holidays may shave during the intermediate days of the holidays. Rabbenu Tam argues that there is no point in preventing a person who had shaved in preparation for the holidays from also shaving during the intermediate days.

While apparently analytically logical, Rabbenu Tam’s position can be critiqued – as noted by Tur – since if Rabbenu Tam were right, the Mishnah should have included a person who shaved prior to the holidays in preparation for the holiday in its list of people who may shave. In addition Tur notes that Rabbenu Tam’s reasoning would defeat one of the purposes of the decree of the Sages – which was designed to create a significant encouragement to shave on the eve of a holiday by preventing one from shaving for a week after that day – as who would know who shaved and who did not. Bearded people could then shave on the intermediate days of a festival and claim that their conduct is permissible, by stating that they shaved on the festival eve.[14]

III. The Opinion of the Codifiers

While there are some authorities who attempt to demonstrate that both Rambam’s and Rashi’s opinions were, in fact, in agreement with the opinion of Rabbenu Tam,[15] the overwhelming majority of authorities rejected his approach based on the Tur’s critique. Rabbi Jacob ben Asher, writing in the Tur, states the law as follows:

One may not shave on the intermediate days of the festival and the reason is that one should not enter the festival un-groomed. The explanation for that is that if one could shave on the intermediate days of the festivals people would not be careful to shave on the eve of the festival and there is an obligation upon all to shave prior to the festival in its honor. Since it is prohibited to shave on the intermediate days, one will be careful to shave on the eve. Rabbenu Tam asserts that since this is the reason, one who does shave on the eve of the festival can shave during intermediate days. It is very difficult to accept this as permissible and it also does not appear to be correct from the text of the gemara, since if this had been true, it would have been appropriate to list this exception in the Mishnah . . . [as it does a person who has only one shirt].[16] Also, who will know if one shaved prior to the festival? Thus it appears that one should not permit shaving except to those listed in the Mishnah explicitly.[17]

Both Beit Yosef and Bach discuss this issue and indicate their agreement with the opinion of the Tur.[18]

The Shulchan Aruch does not even mention the opinion of Rabbenu Tam. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 531:1-3 states:

1) It is a mitzvah to shave on the eve of the festival.

2) It is prohibited to shave on the intermediate days even if one shaved on the eve of the holiday.

3) Even one who is duressed and thus cannot shave on the eve of the holiday cannot shave on the intermediate days.

Rabbi David Halevi (Taz) explains the rationale for rules two and three by stating that this is prohibited because “who will know that one shaved prior to the festival.”[19] Indeed, Shulchan Aruch itself expands on the list of those who may shave mentioned in the Mishnah to include other people who cannot shave in preparation for the festival and whose reason for being unable to do so is obvious and apparent to all. The classic example of this is the Rama’s ruling that one who returns from apostasy to observing Judaism – which in earlier times was demonstrated by shaving and haircutting – may do so even on the intermediate days, since such a person could not cut their hair prior to their return to tradition.[20] A similar example might also be the Shulchan Aruch‘s ruling that one who a minor may be given a haircut on the intermediate days; the rationale for permitting a child’s haircut is that all will know from looking at this small child that he or she is not obligated in the commandments.[21]

In sum, the overwhelming majority of classical decisors reject the opinion of Rabbenu Tam and prohibit a person from shaving on the intermediate days even if they shaved prior to the festival; indeed the classical commentaries only mention Rabbenu Tam’s approach to assert that it is not accepted as proper. However, they accept the principled rule of the Mishnah and rule that a person who has a widely known excuse for being unable to shave in preparation for the holiday – even if it is not one elaborated on explicitly in the Mishnah – may shave on the intermediate days. Indeed, other examples of cases where there is public duress of a different type than that found in the Mishnah, and yet shaving is permitted abound.[23]

The reverse is true also. One who is exempt according to the text of the Mishnah, but in our modern times that same activity would not cause the type of public discussion that would classify this person’s travels as public, is not exempt. Thus, one who arrives from overseas, which the Mishnah exempts, is no longer exempt, since crossing transnational boundaries and oceans is now a common event unlikely to inspire people to widely discuss that persons travel’s or prevent them from shaving.[24]

IV. Shaving as a Prohibited Form of Work

Having addressed the parameters of the rabbinic decree, one other fundamental issue needs to be discussed: does shaving[25] violate the prohibition to work (“melacha“) on the intermediate days of the festivals?

The Talmud recounts[26] that the general rule is that work is prohibited on the intermediate days and there is a dispute as to whether that prohibition is biblical or rabbinic.[27] Whatever the nature of the prohibition, the rule is that work that is prohibited on the festivals is also prohibited on the intermediate days unless one of five (relatively broad) exemptions are present. They are:

(1) Work, if not done will lead to a significant financial loss;[28] (2) Work done to produce food for the sake of either the intermediate days or the holidays;[29] (3) Work where the action is of benefit to many people;[30] (4) Work done by an amateur, rather than a professional, or in a amateurish way rather than a professional way, for the sake of the holiday;[31] (5) Work done by a person who does not have money to buy food or other necessities.[32]

Thus, a discussion of shaving or haircutting as a form of prohibited work involves a discussion of the various possible exceptions which permit work on the intermediate days.

Tosafot, addressing the issue of haircutting, states that “even though this action [shaving and haircutting] is work [and thus should be prohibited] the Sages would have permitted it for the sake of the holiday [if not for the rabbinic decree]. “[33] Tosafot also gives an alternative answer and states that “there are some forms of work that involve no real effort or exertion like parkiamatri ,[34] nonetheless, that which is done for the sake of esthetics, it is appropriate to permit it on the intermediate days.” According to both approaches, shaving in one’s home with an electric shaver is not a form of prohibited work on the intermediate days when done in the privacy of one’s own home in the manner that all adults groom themselves nowadays (as opposed to prior times, when people were shaved by a barber. Tosafot, in essence, maintains that except for the rabbinic decree not to shaving, shaving would be permitted, and is not subject to some independent prohibition.

As noted by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein,[35] it seems that the final insight of Tosafot creates nearly a new category of permissible work – prohibited activity done merely for aesthetic reasons, which then becomes permissible. Indeed, elsewhere, Tosafot appears to rule that shaving one’s facial hair is generally a permitted form of work and is only prohibited because of the rabbinic decree discussed above.[36]

Although this issue might seem unimportant at this point – as what difference does it make whether shaving is prohibited by both a rabbinic decree and as a form of prohibited work, or merely as a form of rabbinic decree – the consensus of halachic authorities accepts that shaving is not a prohibited form of work, or if it is, it is typically covered by one of the enumerated exceptions to prohibited work.[37] A small minority of halachic authorities rule that shaving is forbidden work, even in a case where the rabbinic decree is not applicable.[38]

V. The Controversy between Rabbi Landau and his Colleagues

Rabbi Yechezkal Landau, writing in Nodah Biyehuda 1:13, adopts a novel interpretation of the dispute between Rabbenu Tam and his colleagues. Indeed, he completely reinterprets and harmonizes Rabbenu Tam’s view with that of other rishonim and concludes that there are many circumstances in which it is completely permissible to shave on the intermediate days of the festival.[39]

Rabbi Landau accepts the position of Tosafot that hair cutting is a forbidden form of work on the intermediate days[40] which would have been permissible in theory as a matter of Torah law if done for the sake of the holiday.[41] The rabbinic decree discussed in Moed Katan 13b, according to this analysis, essentially returned hair cutting on the intermediate days to the status of work that is not needed on the festival, and therefore biblically prohibited. Thus, according to Rabbenu Tam as explained by Rabbi Landau, hair cutting or shaving is biblically forbidden to all, whether one did or did not shave on the eve of the holiday.

However, there is a crucial difference between the case of one who has taken a haircut or shave prior to the festival and one who has not according to Rabbi Landau. The one who has shaved already is only prohibited to shave as it is “biblically prohibited work”; one who has not shaved prior to the holiday is caught between in two separate problems: the prohibited work rule and the decree of the Sages penalizing one who has not shaved.

Rabbi Landau then adds that one who is in the category of permitted to do any work – such as a poor person who has no money for food[42] – may cut hair during the intermediate days of the festival, and one who has had his hair cut prior to the festival may have such a person cut his hair or shave his face. Rabbi Landau defended this ruling a number of times in his response[43] and while it has been reported that he retracted this decision later in life, that assertion is difficult to defend.[44]

A number of preeminent authorities disagree with the premise of Rabbi Landau and thus reject his conclusion. The most forceful of those who disagree is Rabbi Moshe Schreiber, writing in Chatam Sofer,[45] who states clearly that Rabbi Landau’s basic analysis is incorrect. Chatam Sofer states that it is clear that the true issue is the nature and scope of the rabbinic decree prohibiting shaving and not whether that physical activity is a form of prohibited work on the intermediate days of the festival.

To prove this, he notes that the model used by the Talmud for the decree concerning the intermediate days was the ancient decree that priests who work in the Temple may not have their hair cut or be shaven during their tour of duty in the Temple so as to prevent them from entering their service period unkempt (i.e., if they needed to be groomed, they must do it prior to the start of their service). This decree has no basis at all as a form of prohibited work – and Chatam Sofer states, neither does the rabbinic decree concerning grooming oneself during the intermediate days. Thus, Rabbi Schreiber rules that the rabbinic decree prohibits shaving and haircutting by all, independent of whether one is or has found a poor person in need of work, since the crucial issue is not “work.” Most authorities appear to agree with the approach of the Chatam Sofer although a number agree with Rabbi Landau.[46] As noted by Rabbi Neuwirth in Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata:

One does not cut one’s hair or trim one’s beard on the intermediate days, not even on the eve of the final days of the holiday, even if one had one’s hair cut or removed one’s beard prior to the festival.[47]

Even if one were to accept the insights of Rabbi Landau (and most do not), its applicability in America would be limited to extremely poor people or people who know extremely poor Jewish barbers.[48]

VI. Clean Shaven Men in a Clean Shaven Society

Modern secular society has changed, to some extent, the social reality concerning shaving. While there was a time when most observant people were not clean shaven – and indeed it was difficult to remain clean shaven and function in accordance with halacha – such is no longer true. A clean shaven person in a clean shaven society creates a new halachic question vis-a-vis shaving on the intermediate days of the festivals. A person who has no beard, even if he shaves in preparation of the holiday, nonetheless will look unkempt during the holiday and it will be visibly apparent to all that this person shaved in preparation of the holiday and yet still needs to shave again.[49] The fact that the person shaved prior to the holiday does not, in any way, insure that this person will look proper during the intermediate days. The only way for a clean shaven person to look neat during the intermediate days is for him to shave during that time. The presence of many such people insures that this fact is common knowledge.

In light of the change in societal norms, an examination of the rabbinic literature indicates three different approaches have been taken to the topic of a clean shaven person in a generally clean-shaven society shaving every day during the intermediate days of the holiday.

A number of authorities, including Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, adopt the simplest halachic position and they rule that the decree made by the Sages of the Talmud has only the delimited exceptions given in the Mishnah and cases identical to them. Thus these authorities rule that even if it might perchance have been logical for the Sages in the time of the Mishnah to exempt a clean shaven person in a clean-shaven society, for whatever reason, they chose not to do so and they enacted a broad decree without any exemption – except for one who is clearly duressed and did not shave on the holiday eve out of duress. Rabbi Yosef states:

Even if one shaved his beard on the eve of the festival it is prohibited to shave again on the intermediate days of the festival; this is true even if one is accustomed to shaving every other or third day. There was one who permitted one who shaved prior to the festival to shave on the intermediate days through a poor Jewish barber who has nothing to eat. Most authorities argued with him and the consensus is that it is prohibited.[50]

This approach is also found in Rabbi Neuwirth’s modern classic Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata.[51] Thus it is prohibited for even a clean-shaven person to shave on the intermediate days of the holidays according to this approach. Indeed, these authorities rule that accepting the argument that one who shaved prior to the holiday is definitionally duressed during the holiday is tantamount to accepting Rabbi Landau’s or Rabbenu Tam’s approach – which were clearly rejected by normative halacha two hundred and five hundred years ago, respectively. Those authorities who are strict on this matter would argue that one must assume that the decree found in Moed Katan 13b-14a is applicable to all those who shaved prior to the festival (and even if an exception might appear logical for clean shaven men, absent an indication that the Sages who made the decree made such an exception, the decree is binding even where it appears logically inapplicable).[52]

Of course, even these authorities admit that a person who will suffer a significant financial loss (certainly the loss of his job) if he does not shave himself may do so, as the Sages did not prohibit either haircutting or shaving in the case of significant loss.[53]

The second approach, which is found in the responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, rules that it is permissible for a clean shaven person to shave on the intermediate days if the person does so regularly in a society where many others are also clean shaven, and the person shaved on the festival eve.[54] Essentially, Rabbi Feinstein argues that since it is common knowledge and visibly apparent that people who do not wear beards shave frequently and regularly and have certainly shaved on the eve of the festival (this can be verified in a glance), such a person is the equivalent of the visibly duressed person who may shave. Just like one who is publicly released from prison may shave since his plight is widely known, so too the bearded person recognizes that the un-bearded person is in a visibly different situation and will not be confused with the bearded person. This is similar to the assertion of the Ritva that women are permitted to adorn themselves on the intermediate days with jewelry as:

This is needed for one’s body and is like food preparation since it is normally done with little effort. It was not prohibited by the Sages under the rubric of ‘least one enter the festival dishevelled’ as this activity is done daily and it is not the custom of people to delay it.”[55]

Rabbi Feinstein adds that the objection by the Tur that this category of clean shaven people is unmentioned in the Mishnah or talmud is not relevant to a society where many are clean shaven, as that society was unknown in the time of the Mishnah.[56] This social situation – where many people are clean shaven – would, according to Rabbi Feinstein, eliminate the possible problems of suspecting a person of not shaving on the eve of the holiday, as anyone can tell when a clean shaven person last shaved, and such knowledge is common.

However, the two final paragraphs of Rabbi Feinstein’s responsa state:

Thus, it is clear that, in my opinion, in our era and in this country – where those who shave their face do so every day or every other or third day – there is no prohibition [to shave on the intermediate days].

Nonetheless, my custom is not to permit shaving on the intermediate days except for one in significant need or great pain. If one wishes to rely on this line of reasoning for mere aesthetic reasons alone, one should not rebuke him, since the halacha is in accordance with that conduct in my opinion.

Thus, according to this analysis, shaving is permitted, but not encouraged, on the intermediate days of the festival.[57]

The third position is taken by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Based on the analysis similar to that of Rabbi Feinstein discussed above, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and his son-in-law, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, rule that since it is permissible to shave during the intermediate days it would seem logically compelling that one who is clean shaven must shave on the intermediate days and particularly on the last day of the intermediate days since there is an upcoming festival.[58] Shaving during the intermediate days, for a clean shaven person, is a fulfillment of the rabbinic commandment to look dignified and proper during the intermediate days and on the final days of the festival.

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, in his intellectual biography of Rabbi Soloveitchik, Nefesh HaRav, recounts Rabbi Soloveitchik’s reasoning as follows:

To those who shave every day, it is obvious that they may shave on the intermediate days too, since it is clear from the explanation of the Mishnah given in Moad Katan 14a that every case where it is obvious to all that a person is duressed, and thus cannot shave, that person may shave on the intermediate days. All know that a clean shaven person cannot shave on the eve of a holiday those hairs that have not yet appeared. [Thus, this person’s unkempt appearance is considered a product of duress, and he is permitted to shave.(59) ] One can also add that in the case of a person permitted to shave on the intermediate days must shave, so as not to be disgusting on the intermediate days and so as to avoid entering the last days of the festival repugnant.[60]

Thus, these authorities argue that once one accepts that the rabbinic decree found in Moed Katan 13b-14a are inapplicable to a clean shaven person, one has no choice but to rule that one who is clean shaven must shave at least in honor of the final days of the festival, like one must for any other festival.[61]

It is important to understand that the approaches of both Rabbis Feinstein and Soloveitchik are not predicated on the correctness of either Rabbenu Tam or Rabbi Landau. Rather, it accepts that even those who argue with these two approaches would agree that shaving is permissible on the intermediate days in a case where it was obvious to all that the clean shaven person had shaved in preparation for the holiday, and yet was still unkempt because of the growth on new hair which could not be removed prior to the holiday. Those who argue with this reasoning would assert that the talmudic leniencies found in Moed Katan 14a concerning those who may shave on the intermediate days is limited to those who did not shave in anticipation of the holiday,[62] unless one accepts the rulings of Rabbi Landau or Rabbenu Tam.

VII. Conclusion

Both the technology on how to shave, and sociology concerning when one shaves, have changed considerably in the last century, particularly in the United States. Until recently it was unusual to encounter an observant Jew who was routinely clean shaven, and finding a halachically acceptable way to remain clean shaven was no easy task. Certainly, until very recently, there were no societies where most of the observant Jewish community was generally clean shaven. This has changed. Technology created a halachically permissible way to shave; for social and economic reasons many religious Jews choose to be clean shaven. This article explores one halachic manifestation of this change in reality: shaving on the intermediate days of the festivals. As discussed in this article, some see in the change of technology and sociology no change in the normative halacha concerning shaving on the intermediate days; others argue that shaving on the intermediate days – which was prohibited in societies where Jews did not generally shave – as becoming permissible, but discouraged. Yet others argued that a person who shaves generally – if they shave in anticipation of the holidays – fulfills a mitzvah when he shaves again on the intermediate days in expectation of the final days of the festival.

[1] Nachmanides (Ramban), Commenting on Leviticus 23:24.
[2] Of course, even when shaving is permissible, it must be done without a razor in accordance with the requirements of halacha; see generally Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 181.
[3] This prohibition is equally applicable to men and women; see Pri Megadim OC 546:9 and Gra 546:5 each of whom accept that men and women are both governed by this law, but for different reasons; see also Maharsham, Dat Torah 531:2 who notes a practical difference between these two approaches.
[4] One author writes:

There exists in our culture a subtle yet pervasive prejudice against those who choose not to shave their faces, perhaps best evidenced by our language. The term used to describe those males who adhere to the preferred standard is “clean-shaven.” The reasonable inference, if not the clear implication, is that the unshaven must also be unclean.

Anti-beard sentiment seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, at least in America, perhaps due in part to the post-1960s association of beards with nonconformity or rebellion, as well as to the perceptions that beards are unclean or that their wearers are trying to hide something. Before the invention of the safety razor, beards were more socially acceptable, largely because few men were willing to use the dangerous “straight razor.” Professionals, able to pay the daily cost (in terms of both time and money) of a shave at a barber shop, and not as likely as laborers to benefit from the protection from the elements that facial hair provides, probably fostered the development of the association between “clean- shaven” faces and professionalism that survives to the present day.

James M. Maloney, Suits for the Hirsute: Defending Against America’s Undeclared War on Beards in the Workplace, 63 Fordham L. Rev. 1203, 1205 (1995) (footnotes omitted).
[5] Historically this was very difficult because there was no simple permissible manner for a person to shave themselves without violating the prohibition of shaving with a razor found in Shulchan Aruch Y.D 181:1-2. The recent invention of electric shavings has changed that reality and thus many completely observant individuals are clean shaven or shave bare part of their face (such as a goatee). Nearly all rabbinic authorities accept that shaving with an electric shaver is permissible and this is the custom in all but chasidic communities; see Iggerot Moshe OC 4:111, Har Tzvi YD 143, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Or Torah (Tevet 5749) but see comments of Biur Hativ on Yoreh Deah 181:5 and Chelkat Ya’akov 3:79. The reason many observant Jews wear beards is undoubtedly that suggested by Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim 159. (For a modern “scientific” confirmation of one of Chatam Sofer’s observations concerning beards, see Michael S. Wogalter & Judith A. Hosie, Effects of Cranial and Facial Hair on Perceptions of Age and Person, 131 J. of Soc. Psychol. 589, 590 (1991).)

As noted by Ralbag (and Radak) commenting on 2 Samuels 2:26 this custom dates from biblical times; but see Rav Pe’elim 4:5.
[6] Rabbi Feinstein Iggerot Moshe OC 163 makes repeated mention of the fact that his approach is limited to “this country [America] and this particular time.” Rabbi Feinstein’s approach is discussed in section V; see also note . For a similar example of the unique issues raised by societal norms concerning shaving, see also Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, “Shaving in Honor of Shabbat during Sefirat ha-Omer [for clean shaven men],” Daf Kesher 2(133):54-56 (5748). As noted by Rabbi Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe OC 2:96), the rules related to shaving on chol hamoed and the rules concerning shaving during sefira are unconnected; but see Mishnah Berurah, Biur Halacha 493 s.v. nohagim.
[7] Moed Katan 3:1.
[8] See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 531:1 where it states that “it is a mitzvah to shave on the eve of a holiday.”
[9] Moed Katan 14a.
[10] Moed Katan 13b-14a.
[11] See Shita Mekubetzet on Moed Katan 14a as well as Tur and Beit Yosef on 531. The Ravya (836) resolves this matter leniently, as apparently does Rabbenu Chananel on Moed Katan 14a. Bach OC 534 also appears to resolve this matter leniently. The crucial question is whether this is a case of doubt as to a biblical prohibition or doubt as to a rabbinic prohibition and that seems to be the disagreement between Bach and Beit Yosef.
[12] See Beit Yosef and Tur on Orach Chaim 531 in the name of many rishonim.
[13] Rabbenu Tam’s opinion is not found in the works of the ba’ali tosaphot. It is however recorded in Tur O.C. 531, Hagaot Maymoniat Yom Tov 7:40, and Hagaot Ashre, Betzia 14a; This also appears to be the opinion of Maharam Me’Rothenberg, in his Semachot 9.
[14] See comments of Tur quoted in text accompanying note and comments of Taz, Shulchan Aruch 531:1.
[15] See e.g. Rabbi Aaron Pinchik “Shaving on Chol Ha-Moad,” Noam 12:82 (5729) and Rabbi Yitzchak Pacha, “Shaving on the Intermediate Days,” Techumin 2:116, 133 (note 35) (5741).
[16] See Moed Katan 13b-14a.
[17] Tur OC 531.
[18] Beit Yosef and Bach commenting on Tur OC 531.
[19] Taz O.C. 531:2. This comment is supposed to be on Shulchan Aruch 531:2 and not 531:3 as it is marked in the standard Shulchan Aruch. Similar sentiments are found in Magen Avraham 531:2 and Aruch haShulchan 531:1-4.
[20] Rama OC 531:7. For more on the custom of cutting one’s hair when one returns to observance, see Rama YD 268:2; Shach YD 268:17 and Terumat HaDeshen 86.
[21] Shulchan Aruch OC 531:6. This also explains Magen Avraham’s statement that a child who looks like he or she is past bar or bat mitzvah age should not be publicly given a hair cut lest people misinterpret that activity; Magen Avraham 531:9 quoted by Mishnah Berurah 531:16; Aruch Hashulchan 531:6 and Kaf Hachaim 531:29.
[22] See comments of Magen Avraham, Taz, Kaf Hachaim, Aruch Hashulchan and Mishnah Berurah cited in notes and . Rabbenu Tam’s approach is also rejected by Yalkut Yosef 5:516 and Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 66:23.
[23] For example, see Shita Mekubetzet Moed Katan 14a (s.v. de’ika lemamar) who asserts that one who is publicly involved in redeeming captives on the eve of the holiday and thus cannot shave, may do so on chol hamoed; Meiri, Moed Katan 14a permits a merchant whose business is widely known and who cannot shave because he is looking for a lost object and everyone knows he is looking for it, to shave on the intermediate days. For more such cases, see Encyclopedia Talmudit, Chol hamoed 13:209-210.
[24] Mishnah Berurah 531:13; Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 66:26 n.119.
[25] For the purposes of this article, it is assumed that a person who shaves does so in the privacy of his own home using an electric shaver and does not go to a barber or other skilled professional for assistance while shaving.
[26] Chagigah 18a; Moed Katan 29a; Rambam, Laws of Yom Tov 7:1; Shulchan Aruch 530:1.
[27] According to those who rule the prohibition to biblical, this biblical prohibition is different from others in that its precise boundaries were given to the Sages to define; see Shulchan Aruch O.C. 530 and Biur Halacha 530 s.v. umytar and Encyclopedia Talmudit “Chol Hamoed” 13:104-113.
[28] The precise definition of financial loss varies from society to society and person to person (Mishnah Berurah 544:6). Notwithstanding that fact, certain guidelines can be given. Loss of (significant) capital is almost always considered a financial loss. On the other hand, mere loss of interest or profit is not considered a true financial loss, and thus only allows rabbinic prohibitions. One who owns a store that sells items of use on chol hamoed (food, for example) may unquestionably remain open on chol hamoed. One who is not selling any such items may only keep the store open if the general good will necessary to run the business requires that the business be open each day during the general work week.

A person who is an employee should strive to take vacation on chol hamoed if possible; if one cannot, one may work, since taking that improper vacation will jeopardize one’s job. There is an interesting dispute between contemporary decisors as to whether a worker who wishes to take his vacation in order to do a specific vacation activity that cannot be done on the intermediate days (for either halachic or practical reasons) must nonetheless take them on the intermediate days, and forsake that vacation. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, in a responsa published in Sefer Zichron Shlomo #18, states that such conduct is permissible (and merely the pious avoid it). In the same volume (responsa 41) Rabbi Moshe Stern avers that such conduct is prohibited and states that employees must save up vacation days to use on the intermediate days whenever possible. Rabbi Neuvert, writing in Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 67:(n.47) suggests a compromise position. He states that an employee who has a finite number of vacation days in the year need not save them to use on the intermediate days, but if he has them available during the intermediate days, he must take them. Rabbi Neuvert observes that if one were to accept this ruling, a person whose vacation days accrue at the beginning of the secular year must use these days for the intermediate days of Passover, but may then take a summer vacation with the understanding that he will have no choice but to work on the intermediate days of Sukkot.
[29] The parameters of the exception permitting work for the sake of the holiday includes any actions — lighting fires, harvesting plants or turning on lights — needed either for yom tov, chol hamoed or the upcoming Shabbat’s food needs; O.C. 533:1-3; Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 66:6. This exception permits every activity needed for food preparation, provided that it could not be done prior to moad; Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 66:17 and note 78 of that work.
[30] Shulchan Aruch OC 544:1. The rationale for this exception is that public works are best done at a time when many are available; see Mishnah Berurah 544:1. Most rule that amateurish work of benefit to many is permitted even if not for the sake of the holiday and skilled work is permitted only for the sake of the public and the needs of the holiday; Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 65:1-4.
[31] Amateurish work of any type may be done for the sake of the needs of the holiday or the shabbat that follows; thus, for example, one may turn on a light during chol hamoed when one needs light to read, or turn on the radio to listen to recreational music for pleasure on that day.
[32] A person who has no money to pay for the basic needs of himself or his family (Biur Halacha 542 s.v. al yedai) may work even in otherwise prohibited work, and it is preferable to do such work than to accept charity (Ashel Avraham 542). It is preferable that such work be done in a private, rather than a public, way.

For an excellent review of the principles used to determine if work is permissible, see Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Chol hamoed on Agricultural Settlements, Techumin 2:79 (5743).
[33] Moed Katan 14a “veshar kol adam.”
[34] A form of traveling salesman.
[35] Iggerot Moshe O.C. 163.
[36] Tosafot s.v. shar.
[37] Particularly since shaving is no longer a skilled activity, but is done by almost all people in the privacy of their own home without any specialized training one is very much inclined to rule that — in cases not covered by the rabbinic decree prohibiting shaving — there is no “prohibited work” problem. Indeed, even those modern authorities who are absolutely firm in their ruling that the presence of a clean shaven society has no impact on the prohibition to shave during the intermediate days of the festival concede that shaving is not a prohibited form of work (except because of the rabbinic decree); see Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, Yalkut Yosef 5:526 and Rabbi Shalom Masas “Shaving on chol hamoed” Techumin 3:517-528.
[38] Rabbi Shabtai Shlomo Vigdor, Likutei Halchot al Chol hamoed at pages 12-13. The essential position of those who argue that shaving is a prohibited form of work is that, in fact, shaving daily even for a clean shaven person is not a form of beautification (yofi), since the Sages in the time of the talmud did not think it was needed on a daily bases to look proper. This argument appears unpersuasive to this author, as an examination of Tosafot above indicates that the reason shaving is not a form of prohibited work is exclusively dependent on the intent of the person who is shaving or the effort it entails. This would strongly incline one to accept Rabbi Feinstein’s assertion that in America shaving is not a form of work, as it is done for aesthetic reasons and with little effort.
[39] There is some discussion as to what motivated this responsa by Rabbi Landau. This is particularly interesting, as Rabbi Landau initially notes that the reason for the publication of this teshuva will remain concealed. However, in Nodah biyehuda Orach Chaim 2:101, he states that the rationale for this ruling was to insure that Jews who shaved did so from a Jewish barber. He notes that Jewish barbers shaved people in a matter permitted by Jewish law, but on the intermediate days of the festival, when these barbers were closed, some Jews surreptitiously would use the services of Gentile barbers, who shaved them with a razor. Thus, permitting a poor Jewish barber to remain open prevented some Jews from violating a torah prohibition. (In that era “shaving with a razor was — tragically — so common for many that they did not ever consider it really prohibited;” Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Responsa 96.)

Chatam Sofer Orach Chaim 154 suggests a different rationale, that casts the Nodah biyehuda’s ruling in a very different light. Rabbi Schreiber states:

will recount a tale and reveal a secret. Because of the sins of our generation, there are many who shave with a razor regularly, and if they do not shave on the intermediate days, there will be enough facial hair on these people that their hair can be doubled over [the minimum amount of hair needed to violate the biblical prohibition of shaving with a razor] and after yom tov these people will shave with a razor, and violate many biblical prohibitions; thus it was better to permit these people to violate the rabbinic prohibition of shaving on chol hamoed [than the biblical prohibition of shaving with a razor].

This author finds Rabbi Schreiber’s understanding of the basis for Rabbi Landau’s ruling extremely difficult, particularly since Rabbi Landau himself explains his reason in 2:101. It is an axiom of halachic discourse that when a rabbinic authority publishes a responsum which provides a detailed technical argument grounded in rishonim and achronim explaining why a particular conduct is permissible, one must assume that this argument is genuinely accepted as proper by the halachic authority who advanced it; to not do so comes perilously close to violating Maharshal’s (Bava Kama 38a) comments relating to falsification of torah rules. Most likely Chatam Sofer wrote his rationale prior to the publication of Rabbi Landau’s assertion of reason in 2:101.
[40] See section III.
[41] See section III.
[42] See text accompanying notes to for a discussion of the various times such work is permitted.
[43] See also Nodah Biyehuda O.C. 2:101 and 2:99.
[44] See Sedei Chemid, Chol hamoed 8:5. To accept such a proposition would be to posit that the responsa published posthumously by his son in Nodah Biyehuda 2:101 — which contain a defense of this liberality — are inaccurate.
[45] O.C. 154.
[46] See Mishnah Berurah 531:2; Aruch Hashulchan 542:2; Orchot Chaim 531:1 Sha’arim Metzuyanim Behalacha 104(13) and the authorities cited in Sedai Chemed id. There are those who agreed with Rabbi Landau’s ruling, however; see for example Olat Shmuel 72 who permits shaving for sake of the last days of yom tov based on Rabbi Landau’s analysis.
[47] Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 66:23.
[48] An alternative rationale that would generally permit shaving on chol hamoed can be found in Machatzit HaShekel 531:10 who appears to rule that the talmudic decree prohibiting shaving is limited to the head, and is completely inapplicable to the facial area. This perhaps can also be found in Magan Avraham 531:12. However, both Mishnah Berurah (Biur Halacha 531 s.v. kol adam) and Kaf HaChaim (531:39-42) indicate that the analysis of the Machatzit Hashekel is not correct.
[49] Such is not the case for a bearded person, where it is extremely difficult to tell when exactly such a person has last shaved. So too, a person who has a beard does not need to trim his beard every day or every other day to look nice, and thus once one shaves or trims one’s beard in preparation of the holiday any other trimming not really necessary until after the holiday. When looking at a person who is clean shaven one can immediately tell if that person has not shaved recently since the depth of the shadow reveals the length of time from one’s previous shave.
[50] Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, “Laws of Chol hamoed,” Kol Sinai 7:2(181-192), at pages 186-187 (5723); see also Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef quoting his father Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Yalkut Yosef 5:516 in which nearly the same rule is cited; see note for more on the differences between these two sources. Similar such sentiments can be found in Rabbi Shalom Masas, Tevuot Shemesh 1:55-56 and Likutei Halachot al Chol hamoed 12-13. So too, these authorities rule that the minority opinion of Rabbenu Tam (and to a lesser extent Nodah Biyehuda) since it is rejected by normative halacha it may not be relied on even in circumstances where such an opinion might be logical to follow.

In the case of nail cutting — which is not mentioned in the talmud as something mandated on the eve of yom tov out of respect for the holiday, but which many rishonim strongly encouraged (see Rama 532:1) — the halacha accepts the approach of Rabbenu Tam and rules that one who cut his nails in honor of the holiday may also cut their nail on the intermediate days; Magen Avraham 532:3.
[51] Quoted and cited in text accompanying note .
[52] Rabbi Shabtai Shlomo Vigdor, Likutei Halchot al Chol hamoed at pages 12-13. (It is also possible that the Israeli poskim, living in a society where it is much more common for observant Jews to grow beards feel that Israel society is sociologically different given the much smaller percentage of clean shaven observant men, something Rabbi Feinstein notes to be very persuasive.)
[53] See Shita Mekubetzet on Moed Katan 18a. This rationale is used by the Mishnah Berurah (531:21 and Biur Halacha s.v. kol adam) to justify shaving in the case of a health need, which is itself only permitted because all health needs are considered a davar ha’avad — an item which if not acted on now, is lost — just like a financial loss; see also Shulchan Aruch OC 534:2 which permits the washing of an item (linen) on chol hamoed that will be destroyed if not washed immediately.
[54] Iggerot Moshe O.C. 163.
[55] Ritva, Moed Katan 8b.
[56] Iggerot Moshe O.C. 163. Finally, Rabbi Feinstein disagrees with the analysis of Rabbi Landau concerning whether shaving is work, and rules shaving is prohibited exclusively by the rabbinic decree, which he feels is not applicable to a clean shaven person. Particularly when facial shaving is so routine and requires no particular skill, states Rabbi Feinstein, there is no problem of prohibited work when one shaves.

The force of Rabbi Feinstein’s reasoning appears very persuasive to this writer. Washing one’s garments on chol hamoed is prohibited by talmudic decree for the same reason that haircutting is prohibited — to insure that one enter the holiday with clean clothes; Shulchan Aruch OC 534:1-2. However, Rabbi Feinstein notes, the Talmud permits one to wash one’s garment on chol hamoed if it is the only one a person has (and he cleaned it in anticipation of the holiday). Such a person is a special case, since all will see that this person is unique, as he is washing his one and only shirt while wearing his undergarments; see Mishnah Berurah 534:9-10. A person who is clean-shaven and in a clean shaven society is exactly analogous, as all will see that his situation is different from his bearded colleagues. It will be clear that he shaved prior to yom tov and is none-the-less still unkempt.
[57] An approach similar to Rabbi Feinstein’s can be found in Rabbi Yekuteil Greenwald’s Kol Bo al Avelut 2:131. The position of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is unclear. Rabbi Neuvert, in Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 66:23(n.107) states that Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is uncertain about “a king who shaves every day if Rabbi Landau would permit such a person to shave since Rabbi Landau only permitted shaving through a poor Jew who does not have what to eat”. Although his words are unclear, it is quite possible to understand Rabbi Auerbach as being in agreement with Rabbi Feinstein that one who shaves every day may shave on chol ha-moad too, and the only problem is one of the technical issue of prohibited “work,” which Rabbi Auerbach suggests can be solved without any difficulty in the case of a king. Indeed, other have related to this author that Rabbi Auerbach indicated that Rabbi Feinstein’s responsum was persuasive on this issue. This understanding of Rabbi Auerbach also explains the sequence of ideas discussed in the Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata, where the approaches of both Rabbis Feinstein and Auerbach are presented after the phrase עין עוד, which in the Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata means “for an alternative view, see.”
[58] As with many of the rulings of Rabbi Soloveitchik, this one was never placed in writing by him. These rulings are recorded in Rabbi Yitzchak Pacha, “Shaving on the Intermediate Days,” Techumin 2:116, 133 (note *) (5741) and Rabbi Shmuel Sprecher, “Shaving on the Intermediate Days,” Noam 21:252-253 (5738).
[59] See the reasoning cited in note .
[60] Nefesh HaRav 189-190.
[61] For an approach similar to Rabbi Soloveitchik’s see Rabbi Moshe Malka, Mikva Hamayim 2:20. In this author’s opinion, additional support for the rulings of both Rabbis Feinstein and Soloveitchik can be found in the dispute between the Beit Yosef and Bach, discussed in note , as to whether shaving is a biblical prohibition on the intermediate days, or not. The essential argument of Beit Yosef is that the normative halacha should generally be strict and accept the ruling of Abayei that private forms of duress (such as searching for a lost object) are not grounds to permit shaving or haircutting on the intermediate days according to halacha, since this is a case of possible biblical prohibition and silence by the Talmud as to which opinion to accept should be resolved in favor of strictness. However, once one comes to the conclusion that in modern day America shaving is never a biblical prohibition (see section III of this article which shows that most accept that argument), it might be plausible to accept that the ruling of Bach that the halacha should be lenient in Abayei’s case of doubt, which is now about a rabbinic prohibition. In such a case, all those who were duressed — publicly or privately — may shave (although not get a haircut, as that is still an action done in our society by a professional, unlike shaving).
[62] See Rabbi Shabtai Shlomo Vigdor, Likutei Halchot al Chol hamoed at pages 12-13. It is worth noting that many of those who reject the approach of Rabbis Feinstein and Soloveitchik do not reply to their talmudic arguments, but instead rely on the tradition not to shave on chol hamoed; see for example, the differences between Rabbi Yosef own words in Kol Torah 7:2 at 187 which ends (after summarizing the approach of Rabbi Feinstein) with the following remarks: “Even though, in truth it is difficult to correct those who are lenient, none-the-less, fearers of heaven should be careful for the opinions of those later authorities who are strict, and will be rewarded by heaven for that conduct.” Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, writing in Yalkut Yosef 5:516 at note 61, after quoting his father, adds “see also the opinion of Rabbi Shalom Masas . . . who collects many sources from gemera as well as early and late poskim who accept the ruling of Shulchan Aruch who prohibits shaving, and rejects with considerable force one who wants to be lenient. This approach is normative.” See also Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 67:n.107. Indeed, Rabbi Feinstein — but perhaps not Rabbi Soloveitchik — recognized this tradition as sufficient grounds to decline to permit this conduct lechatchila.

About Michael Broyde


  1. In footnote (5) it is noted “Nearly all rabbinic authorities accept that shaving with an electric shaver is permissible and this is the custom in all but chasidic communities”.

    I believe especially in Israel this not to be the case, the electric shaver has always been a contentious topic over there, with I would argue the majority of Poskim in Israel being against it. In America, things are different where the the majority of clean shaven jews to the best of my knowledge use an electric shaver.

  2. Rael, I’d be curious to know your sources or experience. Speaking for myself, shaving with an electric shaver was very common among many of my friends and colleagues in the more modern Dati Leumi community. I never once heard of any serious objections to it. Maybe it was ‘contentious’ among more haredi types, I don’t know; but not among the large Religious Zionist segment.

  3. See here for a list of poskim who were opposed to electric shavers.

    It should be noted that one of the supposed precedents for the anti-electric shaver position, namely the words of the Chofetz Chaim in Likkutei Halachos, are not actually referring to electric shavers at all, which hadn’t yet been invented.

  4. Rael and Mordechai:
    In the charedi community, it is a very prevalent opinion to forbid shaving with a regular electric shaver – many people use a haircutting machine without the plastic piece.

  5. J. – it is true that in the time and place of the Chafetz Chaim there were no electric shavers; however, there were mechanical shavers which worked on the same principle as electric shavers do nowadays, so the Chafetz Chaim’s opinion is indeed relevant.

  6. To quote Rav Yehuda Pfeuffer in the hakdama to his sefer on the subject:

    ובספר ליקוטי הלכות שכתב הח”ח אודות משינקע חדשה לדון לאוסרו, כבר כתב הגרמ”מ קארפ בקונטרס בירור דברים, שפשוט מכל לשונו שבא לאפוקי מרב חיים הירשזון שהתיר מכונה משום דין רהיטני, ומפורש שם דקאי על מכונה חדשה הנקרא “סעפטי רייזור” והוא מגלח ע”י סכין, כמו שהארכנו להוכיח בקונטרס זה. ואין לו ענין למכונות גילוח חשמליים כל עיקר

  7. why wont he clearly pasken?

    “yes, one can shave on chol hamoed” is that so hard?


  8. a haircutting machine without the plastic piece..

    Are any of the discussions rooted in how these things actually work? E.g. the difference between a rotary electric razor, a film electric shaver or a “haircutting machine”? Or, for that matter, between a modern 5-blade manual safety razor and a single-blade Barber Straight Razor?

  9. “To quote Rav Yehuda Pfeuffer in the hakdama to his sefer on the subject:”
    I know that the Chofetz Chaim’s nephew, Reb Dovid Leibowitz ztz”l, understood that the Chofetz Chaim was talking about a mechanical shaver, and on that basis Reb Dovid himself started to prohibit electric shavers as well.

  10. “To quote Rav Yehuda Pfeuffer in the hakdama to his sefer on the subject:”
    I know that the Chofetz Chaim’s nephew, Reb Dovid Leibowitz ztz”l, understood that the Chofetz Chaim was talking about a mechanical shaver, and on that basis Reb Dovid himself started to prohibit electric shavers as well.

  11. David Zalkin – I have no idea what you’re talking about.
    The CC’s great nephew, R. David Leibowitz, z”l, founded Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in NY in 1933.
    He never forbade using an electrical shaver.
    To the contrary, he and his son / successor R. Henoch Leibowitz, z”l, encouraged their talmidim to look their best and keep well-groomed.
    I learned in YCC and its affiliates for over 10 years, and never once heard the RHY try and Assur using an electrical shaver.
    Remember, Radin was not Slobodka.
    While the CC in Radin may have encouraged boys to grow beards, that was absolutely not the case in Slobodka.
    When RDL left Radin for Slobodka, he took on all of the hanhagos of the Alter of Slobodka.

  12. thank you Rabbi Broyde for a typically elegant and trenchant shiur.
    I would only offer one correction. Illuminated manuscripts from Spain and Italy, clearly show medieval and early modern Jews (and Rabbis) without beards, and yet the first controversy only arises in the eighteenth century.
    Any thoughts?

  13. I would point one overlapping issue which is the minhag to not shave during Sefirah (obviously only a relevant consideration for Pesach). RYBS and RAL see sefirah as equivalent to yud beis chodesh and thus can shave once you look unkempt. So there would be no sefirah issue in addition to no YT issue. But according to RMF (as I always understood him although haven’t seen this inside recently) would not le’chatchila permit shaving during sefirah because of the nihugei aveilus. It would thus seem to me that this heter of YT would be mitigated for one who keeps the “first sefirah”.

  14. Abe G.
    I also learned in Chofetz Chaim – the Reb Dovid ztz”l never prohibited using an electric shaver, but after hearing the Chofetz Chaim’s psak he also refrained from expressly permitting it. In addition, before Reb Henoch ztz”l grew a beard he shaved with cream – he did not use an electric shaver (I heard this from him personally). My actual point was, of course, how Reb Dovid understood the Chofetz Chaim, not whether or not he himself agreed with the psak.

  15. Abe G.
    I also learned in Chofetz Chaim – the Reb Dovid ztz”l never prohibited using an electric shaver, but after hearing the Chofetz Chaim’s psak he also refrained from expressly permitting it. In addition, before Reb Henoch ztz”l grew a beard he shaved with cream – he did not use an electric shaver (I heard this from him personally). My actual point was, of course, how Reb Dovid understood the Chofetz Chaim, not whether or not he himself agreed with the psak.

  16. Abe G.
    I also heard from Rav Moshe Dov Harris shlit”a that many years ago (I learned in CC from 1985 – 1991) there were many talmidim who didn’t use an electric shaver – in later years it became universally accepted to rely on Reb Moshe and permit them.

  17. This article seems to be stating that the only types of facial hair are full beards and clean-shaven.

    What if I’m rarely, if ever, clean-shaven, but regularly TRIM my beard Erev Shabbat? Can I trim it Erev Yom Tov?

  18. Larry Lennhoff

    Does this also apply to laundering? One is normally expected to show up in clean clothes – doing so for the concluding two days of Pesach would not be unusual. Contemporary laundering is often done at privately at home, not requiring skilled professionals.

    If I owned only two pairs of shul suitable pants am I required to re-use them for the last two days of Yom Tov, or may I wash them on chol hamoed?

  19. shachar haamim

    Jeffrey R. Woolf on March 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    thank you Rabbi Broyde for a typically elegant and trenchant shiur.
    I would only offer one correction. Illuminated manuscripts from Spain and Italy, clearly show medieval and early modern Jews (and Rabbis) without beards, and yet the first controversy only arises in the eighteenth century.
    Any thoughts?

    Scissors? Something else which scraped the hair but wasn’t considered a “taar” or “haschata” (somethingg like the viewipoint expressed by R. Haim Hirschenson when it came to the development of the safety razor)?

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