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The Basics of the Upsherin

The Basics of the Upsherin

A Boy's First Haircut


A child’s third birthday signals a major transition in his or her education. For the first three years of life, a child absorbs the surrounding sights and sounds and the parents’ loving care. The child is a receiver, not yet ready to give. At the age of three, children’s education takes a leap—they are now ready to produce and share their unique gifts.

For a Jewish boy, this transition is marked with a ceremony. It is an age-old custom to allow a boy’s hair to grow untouched until he’s three years old. On his third Jewish birthday, friends are invited to a haircutting ceremony—called an upsherin in Yiddish, and a chalakah by Sephardic Jews. The child’s peyot (biblically mandated side-locks) are left intact—the initiation into his first mitzvah.

The world now begins to benefit from the Torah study and mitzvot of this young childFrom this point on, a child is taught to wear a kipah and tzitzit, and is slowly trained to recite blessings and the Shema. The world now begins to benefit from the Torah study and mitzvot of this young child.

The Upshernish Venue:

An upsherin is traditionally a modest event, usually held at home or in a local synagogue. Light refreshments and hors d’oeuvres are the standard fare.

Many celebrate their child’s upsherin at the gravesite of a tzaddik (holy individual). In Israel, many make upsherins in Meron, at the burial site of Rabbi Shimon, author of the Zohar.

The Ceremony:

The lad is dressed in tzitzit and kipah, and all attending take their turn at cutting a snippet of hair. The honor of cutting the first lock is often reserved for the rabbi or a kohen (priest).

As always, a Jewish function is graced with some words of Torah.


There are many days on the calendar when haircutting is forbidden or discouraged. If the third birthday falls on one of these days, the upsherin is postponed until the first possible permitted opportunity. As such, speak to your rabbi before scheduling your son’s upsherin.

For customs associated with a girl’s maturing, see our Shabbat candle-lighting instructions.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Anonymous fishkill ny March 8, 2017

what do you give to the 3 year old...... I am going to a 3 year old haircutting ceremony. What is an appropriate gift.... Reply

Malkie Janowski for March 2, 2017

There is no blessing recited specifically for an upshernish. Reply

Anonymous NYC February 28, 2017

Bruchot Are there particular blessings that should be recited? Anything by the rabbi? Thank you! Reply Staff via December 5, 2014

To Tina A gift to the child is perfectly fine although not mandatory :) Enjoy! Reply

Tinah Brown December 4, 2014

I am new to all this. I was not raised in an observant home. I am learning, so someone tell me what is appropriate to bring as a guest to an Upsherin? Is it normal to bring the child a gift? A gift to the parents? Both? Wine or a appetizer to add to the party? All of the above? Thank you! Reply

Malkie Janowski for April 23, 2012

There's no female equivalent of the upsherin, because the main point of the haircutting is to leave the peyot - sidelocks - which a girl does not wear. Girls have their own ritual which begins at age three, traditionally that is when they start lighting a candle before the beginning of Shabbat. According to tradition our matriarch Rivkah-Rebecca began lighting at that age. Reply

Carolyn Barratt Mississauga, Canada April 22, 2012

Do Little Girls Have A Hair Cutting Ceremony?
That is similar to the boys' upsherin? Reply

Rochel Chein for August 24, 2011

Re: So one may cut a girl's hair before age three? Yes, the custom of upsherin applies to boys, and girls can get a haircut earlier than age three. Reply

Melinda Dallas, TX August 23, 2011

So one may cut a girl's hair before age three? I enjoyed this post and the comments. I have a 17 month old daughter whose hair is getting into her eyes. I'm assuming based on the last line of the article "For customs associated with a girl’s maturing, see our Shabbat candle-lighting instructions." that this custom of not cutting hair until age 3 applies only to the boys and not the girls. Is this correct? I read the article on shabbat lighting and understood that this is what a girl does instead for her maturing. Please let me know if I understood correctly. Reply

Marsha Myerowitz Monroeville, PA May 6, 2011

post by J. Krieger, about upsherin, and a question How beautiful, what she wrote! I cried through the whole thing. I am going to my first one in a few weeks. I would like to know if I should bring a gift, and if so, what should it be? Reply

Menachem Posner for Montreal, QC December 17, 2010

To Dvorah Leah There is indeed a custom to hold the upsheren as early as the second birthday. I have seen it traced back to the fact that Abraham made a lavish celebration when Isaac turned two (see Genesis 21:8 and Rashi ad. loc.) and Samuel was first taken by his mother to the Tabernacle at that same age (I Samuel 1:22 and Rashi ad. loc). Reply

Dorene Schwartz-Weitz (Dvorah Leah) Edison, NJ November 16, 2010

"Upsherin" Some of us hold to cutting the hair at 2 years of age, which follows the Squarer custom.

Perhaps you may have more info on this. Reply

Jocelyn Ruth Krieger Boca Raton, Fl. November 15, 2010

The Last First Haircut My third son's upsherinish took place at a Melave Malka (post-Shabbat meal) at Mishkan Israel in Oak Park, Michigan. His golden curls reached beyond his shoulders. I watched as each man snipped another lock, cutting away his babyhood. Overwhelmed with simcha (joy), tears never left my eyes. The reason? Another baby was dancing in my womb. I would soon hold another infant in my arms.
I suffered cardiac arrest after my sixth child's birth. There could be no more children.
Three years later, I watched as golden locks took away the babyhood of my last child. My women friends understood and consoled me as my tears fell with every lock. That night as a I rocked him to sleep, my hand caressed his unfamiliar shorn head. The time had come to take his hand and lead him to Torah and mitzvahs. Today that son is a Chabad rabbi.
His older brother has honored us with the upsherenish of our 2 grandsons. Tradition waters the tree of Jewish life! Reply

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