The same baraita also notes that members of the house of Rabban Gamliel were permitted to sit with the authorities and discuss Greek philosophy. Thus cutting one’s hair in a heathen manner (possibly dressing like them too) and participating in philosophical discussions were allowed, not only to avoid censure, but also to promote the success of their endeavors. (It is also possibly allowed for personal endeavors such as attaining a parnassa since this personal endeavor is an indirect public good inasmuch as it relieves a burden from the communal chest.)
The exact definition of a beloriyoth depends on a dispute among halachic authorities in the explanation of the Mishnah in Avodah Zara 8a. The Mishnah states that the day a heathen cuts his beloriyoth was considered to be a festival for his idolatry. Rashi (s.v. “beloriyoth”) explains that the heathens would, on a regular basis, shave their hair in the front but leave hair in the back. However, once a year they would shave off the hair in the back as well and on that day they would hold a celebration to their gods. The hair in the back was called the beloriyoth. Rashi in Bava Kamma, as we noted above (83a s.v. “midarchei amori”) also mentions the opinion held by Teshuvat Geonim that heathens would shave the hair above their ears. Thus, according to Rashi, it would seem that this prohibition does not refer to growing long hair in the front of the head since this was clearly not the specified practice.
Rambam’s opinion (Hilchos Avodah Zara 11:1) remains a matter of dispute. Some authorities (Beth Yosef, ibid.) maintain that Rambam only forbids shaving the entire head except for the hair in the middle of the crown of the head, or shaving the hair in front and leaving hair in back. There is no prohibition, however, against allowing the hair in front to grow.
The Pri Chadash (Kuntres Mayim Chayyim on Rambam, Hilchos Avodah Zara 11) maintains that according to Rambam, heathens wore their hair long, loose on top and braided underneath, and wearing such a hairstyle would be considered following the ways of the Amorites, and is forbidden. Others (Bach Y.D. 178; Machatzis HaShekel, Orach Chayyim 27) maintain that according to Rambam, someone who grows long bangs or forelocks also transgresses this prohibition.
Some would wish to interpret from the Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayyim 27:15) that he is of the same view. Yet, he mentions hair on the forehead only when discussing whether hair is considered a chatzitzah, an interposition between the tefillin shel rosh and the forehead in placement of the tefillin.
We find that the gaon Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller (Divrei Chamudot to Rosh, Halachot Ketanot, Hilchot Tefillin, found in our Vilna Shas at the end of Menachot), in the course of his discussion of this matter cites a contrary view found in Teshuvot Rashba. Rashba states that there is a view that a hat or head covering (and surely one’s own hair) might not necessarily constitute a chatzitzah under the tefillin shel rosh. He also cites the Jerusalem Talmud saying that we should see what the preponderance of people do (compare B.T. Berachot 45a). Thus, according to this view, one’s own hair would not constitute a chatzitzah, seemingly causing no problems with growing the front of one’s hair. Today we do see that to have some hair in the front is common practice.
(To be continued)