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A Matter Of Health
‘He Who Rounds The Corners…’
(Nazir 57b)



The Gemara discusses the extent of the prohibition to shave one’s pe’os which is derived from the words, “and do not round the corners of your head” (Leviticus 19:27).

If Reuven has his pe’os shorn by Shimon, not only is Reuven (referred to as the nikef – the one shaved) subject to lashes, but so is Shimon (referred to as the makif – the one shaving) (Makkos 20b).

This rule, however, does not apply to minors and women. Minors, obviously, are excluded from all mitzvos, and shaving is no exception. Women, on the other hand, are permitted to shave the corners of their head because the prohibition of shaving one’s pe’os is compared to the prohibition of shaving one’s beard. Since women do not grow beards, they are not subject to the prohibition of shaving a beard; therefore they are also not subject to the prohibition of shaving pe’os (even though they actually grow hair in the pe’os region) (Kiddushin 35a).

Who Is The Barber?

R. Ada bar Ahava on our daf maintains that a man is permitted to shave a woman’s or minor’s pe’os since they are permitted to shave themselves. He is of the opinion that a makif is subject to lashes only if the nikaf is forbidden from shaving, for there is scriptural comparison between the nikaf and makif. Therefore, if there is no prohibition for minor and women to shave themselves, there is no prohibition for a man to shave them.

To prove his assertion, R. Ada bar Ahava notes that it was commonplace in his times to shave children’s pe’os. Rashi (Nazir 57b, s.v. “Amar lei R. Ada b. Ahava…”) explains that this was done for health reasons.

R. Huna disagrees with R. Ada and maintains that it is forbidden for an adult male to shave a minor. Since he is liable for shaving his own hair, he is liable for shaving the pe’os of another – even a minor’s. However, Rav Huna explains that his wife would shave the children’s pe’os. He is of the opinion that the law of makif applies only to men and not to women.

Feeding A Child Non-Kosher

Poskim (Rabbi Akiva Eger, Yoreh De’ah 181; She’ar Hamelech [Hilchos Avodas Kochavim, chapter 12]; Responsa Beis Ephraim, Yoreh De’ah 62; and Beis HaLevi, Vol. 1:15) find difficulty with R. Huna’s view in light of the Gemara (Yevamos 114a) which states that even if one is not obligated to restrain a young child from eating non-kosher food, it is forbidden to actively feed a child non-kosher food or to directly cause him to violate other prohibitions.

Accordingly, it is difficult to understand why R. Huna permitted his wife to shave the children’s pe’os. Even if the prohibition does not apply to a makif who shaves a child (and does not apply to women at all), it should be forbidden for an adult to cause a child to violate the issur of having his pe’os shorn.

Sitting by Passively

The Beis Ephraim (Yoreh De’ah vol. 1:15) explains that shaving a minor is not akin to causing him to eat non-kosher food since the minor who takes a haircut sits passively and does not actively perform an issur. However, an adult – though he too sits passively – violates a prohibition when he allows his pe’os to be shorn by virtue of his consent. A minor cannot possibly violate this issur because he lacks the required mental competence; therefore his “passive” consent has no legal significance.

A Suspension

Alternatively, the Bais HaLevi (vol. 1:15) explains that R. Huna permitted his wife to shave the children’s pe’os only because it was necessary for health reasons, as Rashi indicates. Since, according to many opinions, the prohibition to feed a child non-kosher food or to cause him to violate the law of rounding one’s pe’os are both of rabbinic origin, the prohibition is suspended when the child’s health is at stake.

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RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at [email protected]. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.