A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
HAIRCUTS AND SHAVING DURING THE THREE WEEKS(1)
The Talmud(2) tells us that only one who has properly mourned the Temple's
destruction will merit to see its rebuilding. Accordingly, the three-week
period between the fast of the seventeenth of Tammuz and Tishah b'Av, known
as Bein ha-Metzarim, was established by the Rabbis(3) as a period of
mourning over the destruction of the two Batei ha-Mikdash. To create an
atmosphere of mourning, they restricted certain activities that are normally
permitted. What are these restrictions? One of them(4) is the injunction
against men, women and children taking a haircut or a shave. These are the
1. It is permitted to trim a mustache that interferes with eating.(6)
2. It is permitted to pluck one's eyebrows or eyelashes.(7)
3. Married women may cut hair that is protruding from their head
4. It is permitted to comb one's hair even though some hair will get torn
out while combing.(9)
5. Nail cutting is permitted.(10)
6. A mourner who completed his mourning period during the Three Weeks may
take a haircut and a shave.(11)
7. The prohibition of haircutting applies even to small children under the
age of chinuch.(12) Thus if an upsheren falls during the Three Weeks, it
should either be moved up or postponed.(13)
8.If absolutely necessary, it is permitted to take a haircut or a shave on
the evening preceding the Fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz.(14)
9. On the day of a baby's bris,(15) the father, the sandak and the mohel may
take a haircut.(16)
QUESTION: In some communities it has become customary to shave or trim one's
beard on erev Shabbos during the Three Weeks in honor of Shabbos. Is there a
halachic source for this leniency?
DISCUSSION: Yes, there is. It is based on the ruling of the Shulchan
Aruch,(17) which permits laundering [during the Nine Days] for Shabbos if
one has no other garments to wear. Magen Avraham, quoted by all later
authorities and the Mishnah Berurah,(18) wonders why a similar leniency does
not exist concerning haircutting as well. He answers that haircutting is not
permitted for Shabbos since people do not take a haircut every week, while
everyone needs clean clothing every week. Thus the Rabbis allowed laundering
for Shabbos under certain circumstances but did not allow haircutting.
Based on this Magen Avraham, it may be argued(19) that this restriction
applies only to taking a haircut but not to shaving. Many men shave several
times a week or even daily, so that shaving is comparable to laundering, not
to haircutting. Accordingly, it would be permitted to shave on erev Shabbos,
and possibly this is the source for those who do so.(20) While those who
have this custom are permitted to rely upon it,(21) most communities did not
accept this leniency.(22) As with all established customs, one may not
deviate from his traditional custom.
QUESTION: Many people involved in the business, academic or professional
world shave or trim their beards throughout the Three Weeks. Is this
DISCUSSION: While Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Berurah do not mention such a
leniency, it is mentioned by several contemporary poskim.(23) Harav M.
Feinstein(24) rules that the custom not to shave during the Three Weeks does
not apply to situations where a monetary loss would result. Accordingly, if
one would incur a loss by not shaving, he may shave. Harav Feinstein writes
that this leniency does not apply to the week of Tishah b'Av itself (i.e.,
from the Sunday before Tishah b'Av until Tishah b'Av), where it would be
prohibited to shave even if a monetary loss would be sustained.
Harav Feinstein further explains(25) that shaving is permitted only if
otherwise a loss would be incurred. If appearing unshaven would merely
engender ridicule [or would cause one to suffer embarrassment], the leniency
does not apply.
Based on Harav Feinstein's rulings, the following rules apply:
A. Before one relies on the leniency of shaving during the Three Weeks, he
must ascertain whether or not doing so would actually cause him a financial
loss. With the relaxed standards of dress prevalent in today's world, it is
difficult to find situations where one would actually lose his job or suffer
monetary loss if he did not shave. When in doubt, one should discuss his
case with a rabbi.
B. The leniency applies only to those days or those times when one must
attend business meetings or discharge professional obligations, etc. It is
not a blanket permit which allows any businessman, academician or
professional to shave any time during the Three Weeks. Nowhere is it
suggested that since it is permitted for a businessman to shave under
extenuating circumstances, he may therefore dispense with the prohibition
altogether. The prohibition remains in full force and it is lifted only when
there is no other choice. Accordingly, a businessman who goes on vacation or
is away from his office for several days over the weekend or a legal
holiday, is not permitted to shave during that time.
C. Some people who became accustomed to shaving during their years of
employment continue to do so even upon retirement. This is not permitted.
1 The Three Weeks period includes another period of more intensive mourning,
called the Nine Days. The halachos of those days - from Rosh Chodesh Av
through midday of the tenth of Av - are more restrictive in several areas.
We are discussing the laws of the Three Weeks only, not the special, more
stringent, halachos of the Nine Days.
2 Ta'anis 31b, quoted in Shulchan Aruch O.C. 554:25.
3 This is the custom of the Ashkenazic community, as recorded by Rama O.C.
551:4. Sephardic communities have different customs.
4 The others are: 1. Getting married or participating in a wedding; 2.
Listening to music and dancing; 3. Reciting shehecheyanu. See The Weekly
Halachah Discussion, pgs. 423-428, for the details. See also Hebrew Notes,
5 These rules apply to the days of Sefiras ha-Omer as well.
6 O.C. 551:13.
7 Bein Pesach l'Shavuos, pg. 241, quoting an oral ruling from Harav S.Z.
Auerbach and Harav S. Wosner.
8 Mishnah Berurah 551:79. When necessary, women may shave their legs; Harav
M. Feinstein (Oholei Yeshurun, pg. 9). See also Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:137 where
he allows women to take haircuts when necessary during the Three Weeks. When
necessary, a girl of marriageable age may take a haircut; Harav S.Z.
Auerbach (Halichos Beisah, pg. 371).
9 Mishnah Berurah 551:20.
10 Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 122:5.
11 Mishnah Berurah 551:87.
12 Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 551:91. Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:31, however, seems to hold
that only children above the age of chinuch are prohibited from taking a
haircut. See also Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:224, who agrees with this opinion.
14 She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 122:1, based on Igros Moshe O.C. 1:168.
15 Or the evening before; Mishnah Berurah 493:13. If the bris is on Shabbos,
it is permitted to take a haircut on Friday; ibid. If the bris is on Sunday,
most poskim do not permit taking a haircut on Friday; see Kaf ha-Chayim
16 Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 122:15; Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 551:4, quoting Chasam
Sofer; Kaf ha-Chayim 551:10; Pischei Teshuvah 551:1; She'arim Metzuyanim
b'Halachah 122:16. See, however, Be'er Heitev 551:3, who rules stringently.
17 Rama O.C. 551:3.
19 See Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 348), who advances this argument.
20 She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 122:5. See also Rav Akiva Eiger and Beiur
Halachah (551:3), who quote the view of Tosafos which even allows
haircutting in honor of Shabbos, just as laundering is permitted.
21 Kaf ha-Chayim 551:66. See also Nefesh ha-Rav, pg. 191.
22 Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42:52. One of the reasons suggested is that
most people who rely on this leniency are not really doing so for the sake
of honoring the Shabbos but rather for their own sake... (Teshuvos Sha'ar
ha-Zekeinim, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah and Kaf ha-Chayim 551:66).
23 A possible source is Chasam Sofer (O.C. 158), who discusses permitting a
mourner who had to attend an important business meeting to take a haircut
during shivah and sheloshim.
24 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:102. See also She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 122:5.