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A Matter Of Health
‘He Who Rounds The Corners Of A Minor[’s Hair]…’
(Nazir 57b)



The Gemara discusses the extent of the prohibition to shave one’s pe’os, which is derived from the verse, “… 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 receiving the shave) subject to lashes, but Shimon [referred to as the makif – the barber giving the shave] is subject to lashes as well (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 peyos is compared to the prohibition of shaving one’s beard. Since women physically do not grow beards, they are not subject to the prohibition of shaving a beard; consequently, they are not subject to the prohibition of having their peyos shorn [even though they actually grow hair in that region of the temple] (Kiddushin 35a).


Who Is the Barber?

Ada bar Ahava in our daf maintains that a man is permitted to shave a woman’s or minor’s peyos since they are permitted to shave themselves. He is of the opinion that a makif [one who shaves someone’s peyos] is subject to lashes only if the nikaf [the person receiving the shave] is forbidden from taking a shave, for there is scriptural comparison between the nikaf and makif. Therefore, if there is no prohibition for a minor or a woman to shave themselves, there is no prohibition to give them a shave.

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

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 peyos of another – even a minor. However, Rav Huna explains that his wife would shave the children’s peyos because he was of the opinion that the law of makif applies only to men and not to women.


Feeding A Child Non-Kosher

The halachic decisors (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) that states that even if one is not obligated to restrain a young child from eating non-kosher food, it is forbidden to pro-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 peyos. Even if the prohibition of rounding does not apply to a makif who shaves a child (or 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 peyos 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 – by dint of the prohibition incumbent upon him when he allows his peyos to be shorn, violates a prohibition 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 peyos 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 the peyos are both of rabbinic origin, the prohibition is suspended when the child’s health is at stake.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.