Tuesday, September 29, 2009

שו"ת עומד לשריפה 1 aka The Shaving Post

It has come to the attention of these quarters that there is a lack of knowledge regarding the important halachos of hashchosas hazokon among קק"ק דבלאגער. To that end we the undersigned have decided to provide בירור in this matter -- at least to those members of the community who can read Yeshiva dialect aramaio-hebraicized English.

crack.

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.

EDIT:
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.
  1. Trimming with scissors. Muttar, leaves enough hair and is not a razor
  2. Depilatory powder or cream. Muttar, is not a razor. The RaMChaL used this method
  3. Crappy shavers sold in Jewish electronics stores. Muttar, they use microscreens not blades at all and leave enough hair
  4. Good shavers. Some may be assur, particularly lift-and-cut models as they use single blades and some even work and give close shaves
  5. 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.
ועל זה באנו על החתום
אנאנימוס

85 comments:

Mottel said...

Dude cut the crap. In Chabad it's assur. period.
We all sin, and I don't judge people who fall through - but at least have the beitzim to admit you're doing something entirely wrong.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Did you read the disclaimer? Halacha only. That being said, I do have a beard.

Mottel said...

The Tzemach Tzedek (Shu"t Yore Deah 93) brings l'halacha that it's assur min hatorah to cut the beard with scissors - the only sofeik is if the person is m'chuyiv in mlakus as well.

That's besides the point that everyone agrees that a yira shomayim shouldn't cur his beard.

What is more, to discount inyanom al pi kabbalah as not having an affect on halacha is ridicules! There are many times that we do pasken like the ba'ali kabalah (k'yeduah the vart of the Alter Rebbe that The fact that we go like the ba'ali nigla over kabbalah is only according to the ba'ali nigla - but according to the mkubalim, halacha is like them over nigla . . .)

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

There is halacha, and there is minhag. The fact that a chassidishe rebbe says that we go by baalei kaballa is no kuntz whatsoever. Once again, I am simply going by poshut halacha. If you tell me "in chabad it's assur" there's no argument. I would even tell you "by me it's assur". That's not the point. To coopt your charming Israeli phrase, some people have the betzim to admit that not every practice they keep is Toras Moshe d'oraisa.

Mottel said...

Again. Halacha is multifaceted -what's mutar for an ashkenazi al pi halacha may be assur for a sephardi al pi halacha. This isn't a minhag - for Lubavitchers the Tzemach Tzedek is the final say on the matter and he says that it's Assur min Hatorah - not al pi kabbalah (which was an aside) not al pi minhag - but al pi nigla.
Your point may apply for others, but for Lubavitchers aka the Crown Heights Underground, we can have no misunderstanding that our poskim forbid it l'halacha.

Dowy said...

No argument here.
i once heard - from a reliable source btw - an interestng letter from the rebbe. the basic jist is that you can take a poison that will be extremely bad for one part of your body, but may be less harmfull to another part. So, those people who consider themseleves lubavitch would be doing more damage than smeone who does not.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

I was unaware of the tshuva. An edit is in order.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Edited, 9:22. Mottel is right.

Cheerio said...

now we need a girl expert to tell us females about covering our hair...

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Why a girl expert? The definitive book (outside chabad, I don't know what you use) is written by a guy.

Cheerio said...

are you talking about the kol kevudah bas melech book? (shudder)
because i think women should know these halachos as well as men do.
yes, you're the ones who pasken, but we're the ones who practice!

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

No *shudder*. I'm talking about oz vehadar levusha which is not quite as bad at all.

As for practice vs. psak, there is a reason nobody paskens their own din torah.

Mottel said...

Covering hair you ask? After consulting with my female scholar is residence the answer was that the Rebbe clearly said that women in Public should wear a Sheitel - no hats, not tichels, no kidding. The Rebbe said that the Chabad standards should be at least as strong as Beis Ya'akov's.

Dovid said...

Ashreinu ma tov chelkeinu that we have Mottel here.
and if TRS would come back, all would be good in the basement.

Dovid said...

or is it all would be well?

Dovid said...

all would be beseder

e said...

Modeh: I'm very unimpressed that you didn't know about the teshuvah of the Tzemach Tzedek. n'nu. Now you do.

Now you can no longer go around saying that the "misconception" that lo silbash "is a statement of passion rather than psak." There is a real source to it, eh?

e said...

Dowy: Was I the source who told you about that letter from the Rebbe? I once bumped into it in Igros Kodesh and haven't seen it since. Nor have i seen it published anywhere. It's been four or five years since I've seen that letter, but I think it goes like this:

The Rebbe gives the analogy of different types of unhealthy food. There are poisons which will kill a person no matter where in the body the poison ends up. Then there are things which are merely unhealthy. (the Rebbe gives the example of potato peels.) If there's a potato peel in your stomach, n'nu. It's not healthy, but it ain't gonna kill you. But if you have a potato peel in your lungs, then you're screwed.

The same applies to aveiros. There are aveiros which are like poison. They'll destroy the soul of any Jew who does them. Then there are the potato-peel aveiros: If your a "stomach-Jew" it ain't gonna kill you. But if your a "lung-Jew" (i.e. mekushar l'chak mu"ch admu"r) then these aveiros are deadly.

Touching your beard is a potato-peel aveirah.

This is a rather explosive letter, which the hit man in the intro to this post would try to hide. Everyone says unequivocally that the tzemach tzedek says that touching your beard is an issur d'oraisa. But in this letter the Rebbe equivocates!

l'chaim!

e said...

Oh. And in case y'all are wondering, since I wrote those old posts on my blog, I took off the rest of my beard.

Mottel said...

-E: Last I checked you still had a little peach fuzz up there . . . For at least cosmetic reasons - one wouldn't want, as in R' Yochanan Gordon's eternal words, panim k'achor!

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

E:
1- why do you think I'm a talmid chochom?
2- The chazon ish said it in a tshuva too. The fact remains that lo silbash does not and by definition cannot include something that is done by men and in fact most men of that particular place. There is a difference between halachic and hashkafic lo silbash.

Dovid: If TRS were here he would be darshening and I would be hocking in the comments.

e said...

Mottel: Not sure when you saw me last.

Modeh: Anybody who can be so proud of his not having smicha must be somewhat learned.

re: lo silbash
That's your opinion. But the Tz"tz and (l'havdil) the chazon ish disagreed. Who are you to argue with them?

Dovid said...

e, we don't make havdala between Jews

e said...

who's we?

e said...

you know the joke, a guy talks about "the rabbis and the priests."

Says his friend, "nu, at least say l'havdil!"

Says the first guy, "Eh, it doesn't matter. The priests are also ganovim."

Dovid said...

we Jews

lol

The Real Shliach said...

Modeh: Moi Darshen? Perish the thought!

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Mottel: panim k'achor is almost as good as the line you told me about posul sifrei torah (though both have kashes if you want to nitpick).
e:Not my opinion it's metzius like saying that a list of inorganic materials includes wood -- it's tantamount to saying that it's lo silbash for a woman to wear a skirt.

re smicha: I'm not so much proud that I don't have it as I am fed up with some ignorami who do.

TRS: yeh. you darshen. Glad to see you back. Wish I could have made it at least to sheve brachos.

Feivel ben Mishael said...

The Chofets Chaim held that the electric shavers of his day (which obviously did not cut as close to the skin as the electric shavers today were borderline issur deoraisa)
The Stepler Gaon held that lfi the Chofets Chaim the electric shavers today (in his time) would be vadai issur deoraisa.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Yes, while others held that the reason the shavers of the ch"ch's day were a problem is that they were basically a razor blade that goes around in circles. Thus our shavers which have different mechanisms would not be a problem.

e said...

aha, so understand the geder of lo silbash better than the tzemach tzedek and the chazon ish. All right.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Chalila. Now are you familiar with the concept of לולי דבריהם?

The Real Shliach said...

Modeh: Nu nu. We still expect you to come to our basement in CH some day (soonish).

Crawling Axe said...

No time to read the whole thing. No time to read all the comments.

It's not only assur for Chabad. It's assur for all Russian Jews. The rest can do whatever they want (e.g., it's not assur for Yekkes).

But, even if it wasn't assur, it would be against common sense. I mean, pishing against the wind is not assur (as far as I know). So what?

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

TRS: Avadeh. I will be in CH iy"H sometime this week for the simchas beis hashoeivah. I may or may not be able to accurately pick you out of the dancing throngs.

CA: All Russian Jews? Really? That's a pretty diverse group with a pretty diverse set of poskim.

Yekkes? What about Dutch, Sephardim, Polish, Galicians, Mizrachim, Hungarians, English (who mostly follow Franco-German), Vienna which is a parsha far zich and all the rest of World Jewry?

e said...

Hey! I live just down the block from the simchas beis. stop by and say hi.

e said...

CA: Dacht zich mir, in the letter I quoted, the Rebbe does not say "Russian Jews." He says "mekusharim to chak much admur."

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

e: THat doesn't really help. I'll email you for details.

BTW: I know chak but what does much stand for?

Mottel said...

Much is r"t Mori v'chomi - my master and father in law i.e. The Frierdiker Rebbe

e said...

mori v'chami.

why are you coming to simchas beis? You like seeing flag wavers, flirters, and kids eating cotton candy after their bedtime?

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Mottel: shkeyech.

e: you talking to me or your FIL? Either way, that's a may come to simchas beis. Number one, because if not exactly a mitzva, which it is after a fashion, it is still quite a good thing, plus if anyone I know is in town there will be some good farbrengens.

e said...

mah zeh "fil"?

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

roshei teivos Father In Law.

Mottel said...

-E: Oh come now, t'aint all bad! If you don't hang by the sides, but go to the middle of the dancing, it can be really amazing. Yidden from all sects are there and rock the night away. [That being said, on the outskirts, it's a sad storry]

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Last year I moved over to the outskirts and found exactly the selfsame flirters I went to CH to escape. Not different flirters. The same individuals.

e said...

Mottel: how much simchas beis hashoevaing do you do?

Mottel said...

E: every time i'm in the shechuna - though not for the pasr few years, I admit.

e said...

Precisely what I had suspected. Your picture of simchas beis hashoeva is based on what you think ought to be and not on what is.

Rambler said...

The yeshivish guy at the beginning of your post asked me to post the following link just to annoy people who shave. ;) www.koshershaver.info Whichever posek you follow, this has a statement from them forbidding shaving.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

You mean the hit man?

WBBeinuni said...

Nore bad news for you (another edit is in order): The Tzemach Tzedek brings the reason for the blanket Torah prohibition as....Lo silbash. Oops.

Warren Burstein said...

The Rebbe gives the analogy of different types of unhealthy food. There are poisons which will kill a person no matter where in the body the poison ends up. Then there are things which are merely unhealthy. (the Rebbe gives the example of potato peels.) If there's a potato peel in your stomach, n'nu. It's not healthy, but it ain't gonna kill you. But if you have a potato peel in your lungs, then you're screwed.

I have no opinions on what anyone should or shouldn't do with their beard, but potato peels aren't "not healthy" in your stomach, in fact the peel is good for you.

e said...

but dirty potato peels?

Crawling Axe said...

Cooked potato peels are not bad for you. Uncooked are. The Rebbe knew what he was talking about. Not only because he gazed into the Primordial Light, but also because he had seen the famine in Ukraine during WWI, when people ate potato peels and got sick.

I love the Rebbe said...

rebbe bcyo znaet!

Crawling Axe said...

Who is arguing?

e said...

warren burnstein

The Real Shliach said...

And who is Warren burnstein?

e said...

The question we are all wondering!

Dovid said...

Until proven otherwise, I always assume new people to be one of e's alter egos.

The Real Shliach said...

e: not all- presumably Warren knows who he is. A quick Google search confirms that there's not too much activity associated with that name, but it does show up a bit in the Jewish world, so who knows?

Dovid: yes, though in this case I think that unlikely.

Crawling Axe said...

You think it’s unlikely for e to get a huge accordion?

Dovid said...

You can never be sure with e, he is a master of deception.

The Real Shliach said...

CA: Frankly, yes.

Dovid: Master?

Crawling Axe said...

What about a small accordion? E.g.

The Real Shliach said...

I can't imagine him in a bow tie.

Crawling Axe said...

Better?

The Real Shliach said...

Only if he grows a mustache.

e said...

1. accordian? huh?

2. At the moment I have quite the mustache, as well as quite the beard.

The Real Shliach said...

1. It's a long story.

2. Please keep it until http://cheeriowelton.blogspot.com/2010/01/but-um.html !!

e said...

Methinks not. I got to look spiffy when I get back to NYC. A new semester and a new residence require that I look my best.

The Real Shliach said...

Will you at least take a pic? Or else ensure that pics of the wedding are posted on FB for all the world to see?

Crawling Axe said...

Accordion.

Your best = looking like a woman? At least keep the mustache.

e said...

I know what an accordion is. I was wondering what its relevance is.

There were lots of cameras there but none was mine. I'll have to wait for someone else to upload pics and tag me.

Crawling Axe said...

Some people suspected you of being Waren Burstein. If you google that name, this comes up.

Dovid said...

CA- that was quite amusing.
TRS- now do you see why I called him a master of deception?

The Real Shliach said...

Frankly, no.

Dovid said...

Just look at the picture of e that CA linked to. e has made himself look totally different! Thus- master of deception

The Real Shliach said...

If e could make himself look like that then yes, he would be a master of deception.

Dovid said...

Are you suggesting that he used photoshop and that his disguise was not originally so deceptive?

The Real Shliach said...

Before making such allegations I'd like to hear from the man himself.

Warren Burstein said...

La suma de los cuadrados de los brazos es igual al cuadrado de la hipotenusa.

Dovid said...

e speaks spanish?!

The Real Shliach said...

Sorry Dovid, that last one wasn't the real Warren Burstein, it was an impersonator.

e said...

I didn't disguise myself to look like that accordion-playing guy.