Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Shaving in Honor of Shabbat During the Omer" Based on a shiur by Harav Aharon Lichtenstein

      "Shaving in Honor of Shabbat During the Omer"

      Based on a shiur by Harav Aharon Lichtenstein

                Summarized by Yair Yaniv
       Translated and adapted by Rav Eliezer Kwass

For other Sefirat Ha-Omer related articles, see our website:

      Our  earliest sources make no mention  of  a  ban  on haircuts  during Sefirat ha-Omer (the days  between  Pesach and  Shavuot).  The Ritz Giat, for example, refers only  to marriage:
"All  of  Israel is accustomed to not marry between  Pesach and  Shavuot.  This is because of mourning, not because  of any  prohibition...[The  mourning  is  restricted  to  not] marrying  ("nisuin"), for the main joy  is  at  the  bridal canopy ("chuppa") and the marriage itself, but there is  no restriction    on    "erusin"   and   "kiddushin"    (legal engagement)...  So ruled the Geonim."

      The   custom  to  refrain  from  having  a   haircut ("tisporet") during the Omer appears in the Tur  (OC  493); according to the Beit Yosef, its source is Rav Yehoshua ibn Shuib's "Derasha for the First Day of Pesach."
      In  order to deal with our question, whether one  can shave before Shabbat during this period, we must relate  to three different issues:
1.  Does "tisporet" including shaving, or just cutting  the hair on one's head?
2.  Is  this custom part of the existing laws of  mourning, and, if so, which stage of mourning?
3.  Does  the  obligation of honoring Shabbat override  the custom forbidding tisporet.

     We find (Ta'anit 15b) a prohibition against "tisporet" in the rules for the participants in the ma'amad (shifts of Israelites who made a pilgrimage to the Temple to represent the  nation  during the communal sacrifices).   Though  the parameters of the prohibition are not stated here, some  of the  sources regarding laws of mourning relate directly  to this issue.
      Masekhet Semachot (7:11) reads: "What is the rule  of "tisporet?"  Cutting all hair is forbidden - the head,  the mustache, the beard and all other hair."  In contrast,  the gemara  (Mo'ed  Katan  24a) derives  the  prohibition  from Vayikra 10:6: "You (Aharon and his remaining sons after the deaths  of  Nadav and Avihu) should not let your hair  grow long [as normal mourners do]."  Ostensibly this refers only to cutting the hair on the head.
     The Rambam rules (Hilkhot Evel 5:2):
"How   do  we  know  that  a  mourner  is  prohibited  from 'tisporet?'  The sons of Aharon were commanded "Do not  let your  hair grow long" - implying that any other mourner  is prohibited from cutting his hair and must let it grow wild. Just as the mourner is prohibited from cutting the hair  of his head, so too is he prohibited from cutting the hair  of his beard and all other hair."
     The Rambam implies that the basic prohibition of hair- cutting only applies to the head, based on the verse, while shaving is merely an extension of that prohibition.
      Aside  from  the  semantic question of  defining  the specific parameters of tisporet, we must discuss the nature of  the custom of refraining from haircuts during the Omer. It  is  most likely not an independent one, but  is  rather part  and  parcel  of  the  laws  of  mourning  which   are appropriate to this time period.
      There are different levels of mourning: the seven-day (shiva),  thirty-day (sheloshim), and twelve-month periods. It  seems  obvious  that the level of  mourning  in  effect during  the  Omer  is parallel to that of the  twelve-month period,  for all the prohibitions included in the custom  - festive gatherings, marriage, and hair cutting - are  those that  extend  beyond the thirty day period.  On  the  other hand,  none of the prohibitions that last only thirty  days are included in the custom.
     During the twelve-month period, both getting a haircut and  shaving are prohibited, but only "until one's  friends scold him [to tell him that his hair is too long]" ("ad she- yig'aru bo chaveirav": Moed Katan 22b; Rambam Hilkhot  Evel 6:3).
     Someone  who goes a day or two without shaving  would certainly  deserve  a reminder from his friends  to  shave. However, the Acharonim argue about whether one can cut  his hair only when his friends ACTUALLY scold him, or when  the TIME for scolding arrives, regardless of whether anyone did so.  If we accepted the second opinion, there would be room to  permit  one who reached that stage - usually  within  a very few days, definitely after a week - to shave.
      The Ramban, in his extensive discussion in Torat  Ha- adam  about  whether the laws of mourning are  biblical  or rabbinic   in   origin,  proposes  a  distinction   between different  types  of  prohibitions.   Those  that  bar  the mourner  from indulging in luxuries are Torah  laws,  while those   that  thrust  upon  him  distinctly  uncomfortable, substandard conditions are rabbinically mandated.  So,  for example, washing in hot water is considered a luxury and is biblically  prohibited,  but  not  washing  at  all  causes discomfort and is rabbinically prohibited.
      It is possible, at least according to one opinion  in the   Rishonim,  to  infer  that  the  same  is  true   for "tisporet."  The Rishonim debate whether a mourner can trim his  mustache  if  it  interferes with eating:  The  Ramban permits  it  even during the first seven days of  mourning, whereas the Ra'avad prohibits it all thirty days.  The Ritz Giat (who is followed by the Shulchan Arukh YD 390:1) takes a  middle  approach;  during the first  seven  days  it  is prohibited, but afterwards it is permitted.
      The  Ramban and the Ra'avad are clear: they  disagree whether  the  need  for  eating is a legitimate  cause  for permitting  trimming one's mustache during  mourning.   The Ritz  Giat's  hybrid  opinion, distinguishing  between  the seven-day  and  the thirty-day periods, needs  explanation. He  might,  like  the Ramban in Torat Ha-adam,  distinguish between  shiva, when discomfort is mandated, and  sheloshim when  only luxuries are prohibited.  During the first seven days  he  must let his mustache grow even if it  interferes with  eating;  afterwards only hair-cutting in  general  is prohibited, but not that which causes actual discomfort.
      One  might apply the Ritz Giat's distinction  to  our issue  and permit shaving without resorting to the rule  of "ge'ara" (scolding). One who shaves regularly does not view his  shaving  as  a  luxury, to look  his  best;  he  feels uncomfortable and unkempt if he does not shave  for  a  few days.  Therefore, there is no reason to distinguish between trimming a mustache, the case he spoke about, and shaving a beard.   We  may distinguish, though, based on the  Rambam, between haircuts, which are the basic prohibition, and  the others,  which are extensions thereof.  When  the  Rishonim spoke  about "giluach," they had trimming a beard in  mind.
Trimming  a  beard is similar to a haircut; it is  done  to look   good,   not  to  avoid  looking  ugly   or   feeling uncomfortable.   Based  on  the  Ritz  Giat,  it  would  be permitted  to  shave  once  every  several  days,  for  the mourning of the Omer is certainly not on the level  of  the shiva.
      If  shaving, for a clean-shaven man, is analogous  to trimming  a  mustache that gets in the way of eating,  then even during "sheloshim" one could permit shaving every  few days.  This is certainly not the prevalent custom (although I  know of a case where Ha-gaon Rav Moshe Soloveitchik z"tl ruled  leniently - though I do not know what  rationale  he relied  upon - that a lawyer could shave for his livelihood during   sheloshim).   With  regards  to  the  twelve-month period, though, which is less stringent, one could rely  on this leniency.
     The above two reasons, a) having reached the situation where people would tell the mourner to cut his hair and b)  discomfort being a feature only of shiva and not of the periods which follow, permit shaving during the week,  once every   few  days.   Before  Shabbat,  though,  there   are additional  reasons  to  be lenient  maybe  even  to  REQUIRE shaving for one who is accustomed to shave daily.
      Honoring ("kevod") Shabbat includes preparing oneself through washing and wearing clean clothing.  Nowadays,  for people  who shave daily, shaving is a regular part of  pre- Shabbat preparations.  The gemara speaks of a case where  a prohibition  against  shaving clashes  with  kevod  Shabbat (Ta'anit  15b):  "The men of the 'mishmar' (kohanim-priests on  rotation  for  Temple  service)  and  the  men  of  the 'ma'amad'  (as explained above) are forbidden to  cut  hair and  to  wash  clothes, but on Thursday they are  permitted because of kevod Shabbat."

      One  might  reject this source as irrelevant  to  our discussion  by  pointing out that the prohibition  of  hair cutting for the men of the mishmar and the ma'amad  is  not connected to mourning, but was made in order to insure that they  shave earlier, similar to the prohibition of  shaving during chol ha-mo'ed (Ta'anit 17a).
      The  gemara  on  Ta'anit 26b,  though,  is  certainly relevant:
"During  the  week  on  which  Tisha  Be-av  falls,  it  is prohibited  to  cut  hair  and  to  wash  clothes,  but  it permitted on Thursday for kevod Shabbat."
      The  commentary  ascribed to Rashi comments  that  if Tisha  Be-av falls out on Shabbat one can wash on Thursday. Here, breaking mourning is explicitly permitted because  of kevod Shabbat.
      Tosafot's position (Ta'anit 30a s.v. Ve-tarvayhu  le- kula)  is  more extreme than Rashi's.  They permit  washing and  cutting hair on Thursday even if Tisha Be-av comes out on   Thursday  -  even  though  one  could  do  all   these preparations  on erev Shabbat!  Because of the  "burden  of Shabbat  preparations  one  should  not  wait  until   erev Shabbat."   Although the Beit Yosef was astounded  by  this radical  opinion and therefore ascribed it  to  a  mistaken student, the fact that the same comment appears in  Tosafot Ha-rosh makes his doubts implausible.  Even if one does not go  as far as the Tosafot, permitting mourning prohibitions on  Tisha  Be-av itself because of kevod Shabbat, there  is certainly  firm  basis to permit shaving  during  the  Omer because of kevod Shabbat.
      True,  the Or Zarua writes that only washing  clothes was  permitted  because of kevod Shabbat, but  not  cutting hair.   However,  the  Magen  Avraham  explains  that   his reasoning  is that one washes clothes every week  but  does not  cut one's hair every week.  If that is the case,  then in a situation where one does shave every week, even the Or Zarua would permit shaving for kevod Shabbat.
     The mourning customs of the Omer are much more lenient than those of the week of Tisha B'Av.

There  are two reasons to permit those who shave  daily  to shave during the Omer on a normal weekday:
1.  After  several days one reaches the level of  "ge'ara," where   friends   would   scold  him   because   he   looks un-presentable (according to those who say that one does not have to actually be told by people).
2.  The  level  of not shaving which causes discomfort  and looks  undignified  is  mandated  only  during  shiva,  but probably not during sheloshim and certainly not during  the twelve-month period that the Omer parallels (Ritz Giat).       Hence,  since  kevod  Shabbat takes  precedence  over mourning customs of the Omer (based on Ta'anit 26b), it  is not  only  permissible,  but  obligatory  to  shave  before Shabbat.

This article originally appeared in Daf Kesher #133, vol.
2, pp. 54-56, Yom Yerushalayim 5748.
This article was not reviewed by Harav Lichtenstein.

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