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Is it proper to have a barber or hair stylist of the opposite sex?



In answering I’m assuming that what is at question here is the physical interaction between the two parties, in this case the customer and the hair stylist.

This issue becomes more complicated given the fact that until rather recently most doctors including gynecologists were male and most nurses were female and the question could then also be asked whether this interaction (which in many cases only involves routine examinations) is proper.

In my opinion, what is at stake here is whether one can permit these acts since they represent only a professional interaction with no personal implications. The Talmud in fact tells a story of Rav Acha who would dance with the bride at her wedding and lift her on his shoulders. Indeed, there are also reputable poskim who would allow one, for professional reasons, to shake hands with the opposite sex to avoid any embarrassment. Obviously, there is a difference between personal touching and professional interaction which might involve touching. Therefore, what is proper or not becomes ambiguous.

I would therefore advise anyone seeking advice to the above query to try to choose someone of the same sex to cut their hair, as this would keep them above ridicule from different sects of our community who might disagree with the analysis made above.

However, if it is a matter of parnassa, or a matter of the excellence of the particular hair stylist, I would permit it, advising people once again that one is entering a question where there could be conflict as to the correctness of one’s actions, and therefore they should be prepared for the possible criticism.

– Rabbi Mordechai Weiss lives in Efrat, Israel, and previously served as an elementary and high school principal in New Jersey and Connecticut. He was also the founder and rav of Young Israel of Margate, N.J. His email is [email protected].

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The Gaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein discusses in his responsa (Igros Moshe, Even Ha’Ezer II, 14) matters where opposite genders physically touch each other, which would normally be forbidden but in certain situations are permissible.

A husband whose wife is in her state of impermissibility to him may nevertheless check her pulse or the like even though it means they touch each other. He notes that it also common accepted practice for a male Jewish physician (or other health professional) to touch a female patient, Jew or gentile, to check her pulse, or surely for any other life-saving procedures.

Women and men are usually very keen on going to the best physician obtainable even if they are of the opposite gender. As such, the use of such services as Hatzalah or municipal supported EMS is not only permitted, even when the service provider will be of the opposite gender, but the fool will object to their lifesaving service at that most critical time in their life.

But what of discretionary situations like a haircut? The way I see it, cutting a person’s hair does not involve much touching – it’s only the scissor or electric hair cutter that is really doing the touching. Even so, many go to lengths to refrain from such situation, yet if one is in a place where there are only barbers of the opposite gender and there is no other option, it would seem that there is room to permit.

Yet as always, the Jewish people are holy and they are presumed to maintain that sanctity, thus if one is careful in that regard, then such an encounter is merely one of a service – a haircut – being rendered by a provider to a customer.

– Rabbi Yaakov Klass is chairman of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America; rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn; and Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected].


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