A shot rings out and the writer slumps over his desk in a pool of blood. A man steps through the bedroom doorway, smoking gun in hand. He looks at the old man lying across his notebook, fresh blood dying his gray beard the red of youth, and laughs.
"Once again ignorance is preserved."
Ok. No more leitzonus. ATTENTION: Here is the serious part
I was reading an old post on e's blog about shaving vs. picking when I came across some halachic stuff which I said I'd post about and this is it. (Note: e said I know what I'm talking about! Can you believe it?)
First off, there seems to be a misconception in Lubavitch (and other chasidusin) that shaving falls under the prohibition of transvestism (לא תלבש colloquially). While many authorities including the Chazon Ish among others have said this, upon examination it turns out that this is a statement of passion rather than psak as the Law simply does not stretch that way. (Perhaps another post if interest warrants)
That being said, the prohibition against shaving bears further analysis. Hashkafa, chasidus, and kabballa are beyond the purview of this post (I'm too lazy to look things up) and we will stick to straight halacha. Enjoy the ride.
Before proceeding further, it is important to note that the only readers of this blog to whom this applies are Shriki and myself, both of whom have beards anyway. The Tzemach Tzeddek assurs beard removal or abridgment in any way shape or form, therefore it is assur for his followers i.e. Lubavitchers.
The prohibition against shaving is derived from two psukim, the first states "do not razor the corners of thy beards" (emor) while the second states "he [the kohen] will not destroy his beard" (somewhat earlier in emor). By a combination of mesorah and אסמכתא the gemara derives that one has only committed the sin of shaving if one destroys the beard hair below the length of recognizable stubble, with a halachically defined razor.
A halachically defined razor is an instrument that removes hair at the root with a scraping (single-bladed) motion. The definition of stubble in halacha is a source of debate in its own right, though most poskim hold that a reasonably dexterous person must be able to take the hair between two fingers and bend it.
Following these criteria, we can form a list of permitted and prohibited activities.
- Trimming with scissors. Muttar, leaves enough hair and is not a razor
- Depilatory powder or cream. Muttar, is not a razor. The RaMChaL used this method
- Crappy shavers sold in Jewish electronics stores. Muttar, they use microscreens not blades at all and leave enough hair
- Good shavers. Some may be assur, particularly lift-and-cut models as they use single blades and some even work and give close shaves
- Razors of any sort. Assur gamur. While there has recently been a spurt of kiddush-club halacha going around that safety razors are not razors this is completely unfounded.