Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone

Avodah Kochavim - Chapter Twelve

Avodah Kochavim - Chapter Twelve

E-mail
Halacha 1

We may not shave the corners of our heads as the idolaters and their priests do, as [Leviticus 19:27] states: "Do not cut off the corners of your heads."

One is liable for each corner. Therefore, a person who shaves both his temples - even if he were to do so simultaneously and had received only a single warning – is [liable for] two measures of lashes.

[This prohibition applies equally to] one who shaves off only the corners of his head and leaves the remainder of his hair, and to one who shaves his entire head at once. Since he has shaved the corners, he is [liable for] lashes.

To whom does the above apply? To the person who shaves. The person [whose head] is shaven is not lashed unless he assists the one who is shaving him. One who shaves [the corners of] a child's [head] should be [liable for] lashes.

Halacha 2

A woman is exempt if she shaves the head of a man or has her own head shaven. [Since Leviticus 19:27] states: "Do not cut off the corners of your heads and do not destroy the corners of your beards," [an association between the two prohibitions is established]. Whoever is liable for shaving is liable for cutting off the corners. Therefore, because women are not liable for shaving - since they do not have beards - they are not liable for cutting off the corners [of their heads]. Accordingly, slaves are forbidden to cut off the corners of their heads, since they do possess beards.

Halacha 3

All the Torah's prohibitions apply equally to men and women, with the exception of the prohibition against shaving, cutting off the corners of one's head, and the prohibition against priests contracting impurity through contact with a dead body.

Women are not obligated with regard to all positive commandments which apply from time to time and are not constant obligations, with the exception of the sanctification of [the Sabbath] day, eating matzah on Pesach night, eating and offering the Paschal sacrifice, hakhel, and the festive peace-offering for which they are obligated.

Halacha 4

The status of a tumtum and an androgynous is doubtful. Therefore, the stringencies applying to both a man and a woman are applied to them, and they are obligated by all [the mitzvot]. If, however, they transgress, they are not [liable for] lashes.

Halacha 5

Although a woman is permitted to shave the corners of her own head, she is forbidden to shave the corners of a man's head. She is even forbidden to shave the corners of a child's [head].

Halacha 6

The Sages did not determine the amount [of hair] which must be left in the corners of our temples. We have, however, heard from our elders that one must leave at least forty hairs.

One may remove the [hairs from] the corners [of our heads] with scissors. The prohibition applies only to total removal with a razor.

Halacha 8

It is customary for pagan priests to remove their beards. Therefore, the Torah forbade the removal of one's beard.

The beard has five "corners": the upper and lower cheek on both the right and left sides, and the hair on the chin. One is [liable for] lashes for the removal of each "corner." A person who removes them all at the same time is [liable for] five measures of lashes.

One is liable only when one shaves with a razor, as [implied by Leviticus 19:27]: "Do not destroy the corners of your beard." [We can infer that this applies only] to shaving which utterly destroys [one's facial hair]. Therefore, a person who removes his beard with scissors is exempt.

A person who allows himself to be shaved is not [liable for] lashes unless he provides assistance. A woman who has facial hair is allowed to shave it. If she shaves a man's beard, she is exempt.

Halacha 8

It is permitted to shave one's mustache - i.e., the hair on the upper lip, and, similarly, the hair which hangs from the lower lip. Even though the removal [of this hair] is permitted, it is customary for the Jews not to destroy it entirely. Rather, its ends may be removed so that it will not interfere with eating or drinking.

Halacha 9

The Torah does not forbid the removal of hair from other portions of the body - e.g., the armpits or the genitalia. This is, however, prohibited by the Rabbis. A man who removes [such hair] is given stripes for rebelliousness.

Where does the above apply? In places where it is customary only for women to remove such hair, so that one will not beautify himself as women do. In places where it is customary for both men and women to remove such hair, one is not given stripes. It is permitted to remove hair from our other limbs with scissors in all communities.

Halacha 10

A woman should not adorn herself as a man does - e.g., she may not place a turban or a hat on her head or wear armor or the like. She may not cut [the hair of] her head as men do.

A man should not adorn himself as a woman does - e.g., he should not wear colored garments or golden bracelets in a place where such garments and such bracelets are worn only by women. Everything follows local custom.

A man who adorns himself as a woman does, and a woman who adorns herself as a man does, are [liable for] lashes. When a man removes white hairs from among the dark hairs of his head or beard, he should be lashed as soon as he removes a single hair, because he has beautified himself as a woman does. Similarly, if he dyes his hair dark, he is given lashes after dyeing a single hair.

A tumtum and an androgynous may not wrap their heads [in a veil] as women do, or cut [the hair of] their head as men do. If they do [either of the above], they are not [liable for] lashes.

Halacha 11

The tattooing which the Torah forbids involves making a cut in one's flesh and filling the slit with eye-color, ink, or with any other dye that leaves an imprint. This was the custom of the idolaters, who would make marks on their bodies for the sake of their idols, as if to say that they are like servants sold to the idol and designated for its service.

When a person makes a mark with one of the substances that leave an imprint after making a slit in any place on his body, he is [liable for] lashes. [This prohibition is binding on] both men and women.

If a person wrote and did not dye, or dyed without writing by cutting [into his flesh], he is not liable. [Punishment is administered] only when he writes and dyes, as [Leviticus 19:28] states: "[Do not make] a dyed inscription [on yourselves]."

To whom does this apply? To the person doing the tattooing. A person who is tattooed [by others], however, is not liable unless he assisted the tattooer to the extent that it is considered that he performed a deed. If he did not perform a deed, he is not lashed.

Halacha 12

A person who gouges himself for the dead is lashed, as [Leviticus 19:28] states: "Do not gouge your flesh for the dead." This [prohibition] applies both to priests and to Israelites.

A person who makes a single gouge for five dead people or five gouges for a single dead person is [liable for] five measures of lashes, provided he is given a warning for each individual matter.

Halacha 13

Gashing and gouging oneself are [governed by] a single [prohibition]. Just as the pagans would gouge their flesh in grief over their dead, they would mutilate themselves for their idols, as [I Kings 18:28] states: "And they mutilated themselves according to their custom."

This is also forbidden by the Torah, as [Deuteronomy 14:1] states: "Do not mutilate yourselves." [The difference between the two is that if one gouges himself in grief over] the dead, whether he did so with his bare hands or with an instrument, he is [liable for] lashes; for the sake of idols, if one uses an instrument, one is liable for lashes. If one does so with one's bare hands, one is exempt.

Halacha 14

This commandment also includes [a prohibition] against there being two courts which follow different customs in a single city, since this can cause great strife. [Because of the similarity in the Hebrew roots,] the prohibition against gashing ourselves [can be interpreted] to mean: "Do not separate into various different groupings."

Halacha 15

A person who creates a bald spot [on his head] for a dead person is [liable for] lashes, as [Deuteronomy 14:1] states: "Do not make a bald spot between your eyes for a dead person." When either a priest or an Israelite makes a bald spot [on his head] for a dead person, he is [liable for] only a single measure of lashes.

A person who makes four or five bald spots for a single dead person is [liable for] a measure of lashes equivalent to the number of bald spots he made, provided he received a separate warning for each bald spot. There is no difference whether one created the bald spot with his hands or with a potion. If a person dipped his fingers into a potion and positioned them in five places on his head at the same time, since he created five bald spots, he is [liable for] five measures of lashes even though only a single warning was given, for they were all created at the same time.

One is liable [for creating a bald spot] on any part of the head, [not only] "between the eyes" [as is inferred from Leviticus 21:5]: "Do not make a bald spot on your heads."

What is the measure of a bald spot? An area on one's head the size of a gris which is free of hair.

Halacha 16

16. A person who makes a bald spot on his head or gouges his flesh because his house falls or because his ship sinks at sea is exempt. One is lashed only [if he carries out these acts] for the sake of a deceased person or if he gashes his flesh for the sake of an idol.

[The following laws apply] when a person creates a bald spot on a colleague's head, makes a gash on a colleague's flesh, or tattoos his colleague's flesh while his colleague assists him. If they both intended to violate the prohibition, both receive lashes. If one violated the prohibition inadvertently and the other did so intentionally, the one who performed the act intentionally is [liable for] lashes, and his colleague is exempt.

Commentary Halacha 1

In this chapter, the Rambam describes several prohibitions which comprise rites that do not involve the actual worship of idols. The Torah forbids them, however, because they are connected with ceremonial practices performed by idolaters. Note also the Guide for the Perplexed, Vol. III, Chapter 37, where the Rambam mentions this concept.

The Tur (Yoreh De'ah 181) takes issue with the Rambam's statements, noting that there is no statement in the Bible, the Mishnah, or the Talmud, which mentions this point. He objects to the association of the mitzvot with any particular rationale. From a halachic perspective, the mitzvot should be fulfilled because they are God's decrees, independent of any rational explanation.

The Beit Yosef (Yoreh De'ah, ibid.) defends the Rambam's statements, based on the ending of Hilchot Me'ilah, where the Rambam states:

It is proper for a person to meditate on the judgments of the holy Torah and know their ultimate rationale to the extent of his capacity.

There are other authorities who draw out halachic concepts from the association of these prohibitions with idol worship. For example, based on this connection, the Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 251) and Sefer HaKovetz forbid the removal of facial hair even when the prohibition against shaving is not violated, as mentioned in the commentary on Halachah 7.

We may not shave - The Torah's prohibition applies only to shaving. One may cut this hair with scissors, as explained in Halachah 6.

the corners of our heads - The definition of this term is found in Halachah 6.

as the idolaters and their priests do - Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 251) explains that this is a particularly severe prohibition, since its violation involves making a sign for idolatry on our own bodies.

as [Leviticus 19:27] states: "Do not cut off the corners of your heads." - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 43) and Sefer HaChinuch (ibid.) consider this prohibition to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

One is liable for each corner. Therefore, a person who shaves both his temples - even if he were to do so simultaneously and had received only a single warning - is [liable for] two measures of lashes. - In Sefer HaMitzvot (ibid.), the Rambam explains that although this prohibition involves two different activities (shaving the right corner and shaving the left corner), it is not considered to be two mitzvot, because the Torah's expression forbidding such shaving includes both sides in the same phrase. Had the Torah mentioned both the right and left sides, it would be considered to be two mitzvot.

[This prohibition applies equally to] one who shaves off only the corners of his head and leaves the remainder of his hair - As mentioned in Chapter 11, Halachah 1, this style of cutting hair is referred to as a blorit and was practiced by the gentiles.

and to one who shaves his entire head at once - in which case, he does not resemble the gentiles (Sefer HaMitzvot, ibid.).

Since he has shaved the corners, he is [liable for] lashes. - From this, we see that the mitzvah is not dependent on the rationale mentioned above.

To whom does the above apply? To the person who shaves - either his own head or a colleague's head. When, however, a person shaves a colleague's head,

The person [whose head] is shaven is not lashed - The Ra'avad maintains that this person is not punished because he did not perform a deed. He is, however, considered to have transgressed the Torah's prohibition. The Kessef Mishneh disagrees and maintains that since he did not perform the deed of shaving, he is not considered to have violated the prohibition at all. This applies even when he specifically ordered the person who shaved him to do so. The Ra'avad's opinion is, however, supported by the Lechem Mishneh and other authorities.

unless he assists the one who is shaving him - by moving his head so that it is easier to shave.

One who shaves [the corners of] a child's - a minor below the age of 13

[head] should be [liable for] lashes. - A child would not be held responsible if he shaved himself, because a child is not held liable for the violation of any of the Torah's prohibitions until he reaches majority. Nevertheless, an adult is responsible for shaving the child's head (Nazir 57b).

This point is not, however, accepted by all authorities. The Beit Yosef (Yoreh De'ah, ibid.) mentions other opinions which do not hold a person liable for shaving a child's head.

Commentary Halacha 2

A woman is exempt if she shaves the head of a man - who would be liable if he shaved his own head

or - assists the shaver while she

has her own head shaven. - The Kessef Mishneh differentiates between these two instances. With regard to shaving a man's head, he explains that although a woman is exempt, she is, nevertheless, forbidden to do so (Halachah 5). With regard to shaving her own head, there is no prohibition whatsoever.

[Since Leviticus 19:27] states: "Do not cut off the corners of your heads and do not destroy the corners of your beards," [an association between the two prohibitions is established]. - This association also teaches other concepts - among them, that one is liable only when one removes the hair with a razor.

Whoever is liable for shaving is liable for cutting off the corners. Therefore, because women are not liable for shaving - since they - generally

do not have beards - Although Kiddushin 35b mentions several ways to derive this concept through Biblical exegesis, the Rambam chooses to rely on the simple fact of the matter.

they are not liable for cutting off the corners [of their heads]. Accordingly, slaves - whose performance of mitzvot is generally equated with that of women (Chaggigah 4a)

are forbidden to cut off the corners of their heads, since they do possess beards. - Had the Rambam derived the above point from the exegesis of a Biblical verse, this conclusion would not be acceptable. Since, however, he derives the concept from logic, the same logic leads to the conclusion that slaves be held liable for this act (Kessef Mishneh).

Commentary Halacha 3

This halachah can be understood within the context of the Rambam's conception of the Mishneh Torah as a guide to the Oral Law in its entirety, as he states in his introduction to that text:

Directly after reading the Written Law, one will read this text and understand from it the entire Oral Law, without requiring to read any other text.

Thus, although the subject matter of this and the following halachah are of a far greater scope than the particular prohibition discussed previously, the Rambam mentions these principles for the sake of the text's more encompassing goal.

All the Torah's prohibitions apply equally to men and women - Kiddushin 35a derives this concept from Numbers 5:6, "When a man or a woman commits any of the transgressions that men commit...."

with the exception of the prohibition against shaving, cutting off the corners of one's head - as mentioned in the previous halachah,

and the prohibition against priests contracting impurity through contact with a dead body. - The verse prohibiting such contact, Leviticus 21:1, begins, "Speak unto the sons of Aharon...."Kiddushin 35b explains that this expression excludes women.

Women are not obligated with regard to all positive commandments which apply from time to time and are not constant obligations - This refers to mitzvot which are applicable only on certain days - e.g., the blowing of the shofar and the taking of the lulav and etrog - and also mitzvot that are applicable during the day and not the night - e.g., Tefillin.

with the exception of the sanctification of [the Sabbath] day - through the recitation of kiddush. Since women are obligated by the prohibition against working on the Sabbath, they are also obligated by the positive commandment of sanctifying its holiness (Berachot 20b).

The restriction of this mitzvah to the Sabbath follows the opinion of the Lechem Mishnah, who maintains that the sanctification of the festivals is a Rabbinic injunction. There are, however, other opinions, which consider the mitzvah as applying to the festivals as well.

eating matzah on Pesach night - Since women are obligated by the prohibition against eating chametz, they are also obligated by the positive commandment of eating matzah (Pesachim 43b).

eating and offering the Paschal sacrifice - Pesachim 91b explains that the Torah uses the expression (Exodus 12:4): "According to the number of souls [in a household]... individuals should be designated for the lamb," to include women in the observance of this mitzvah.

hakhel - The gathering of the entire Jewish people to hear the reading of the Torah by the king which is held every seven years. (See Deuteronomy 31:10-13.) Here, the Torah explicitly mentions that women should attend.

and celebration of the festivals - Though in a larger sense this refers to all forms of celebration, in particular it refers to the offering of peace sacrifices in connection with the festival. (See Hilchot Chaggigah 1:1.)

In this instance as well, the Torah specifically mentions the obligation of women to participate in the celebrations, as Deuteronomy 16:14 states: "And you shall rejoice, you, your son, your daughter, your male and female servants...."

for which they are obligated. - Similarly, women are obligated to fulfill most positive commandments whose observance is not associated with a specific time - e.g., the belief in God, mezuzah, and Tzedakah. There are, however, several positive commandments whose observance is not associated with a specific time which women are not obligated to fulfill - e.g., Torah study, the redemption of the first born, and the remembrance of Amalek. (See also the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Kiddushin 1:7.)

Commentary Halacha 4

The status of a tumtum - The word tumtum has its roots in the word atum, which means "a solid block." It refers to a person whose genitalia are covered by skin, and it is impossible to determine whether he is male or female. (See also Hilchot Ishut 2:25.)

Should a tumtum undergo an operation and it be revealed that he is either male or female, he is bound by the laws which apply to that gender.

and an androgynous - Androgynous is a combination of the Greek words meaning "man" and "woman." It refers to a person who possesses the sexual organs of both genders. (See also Hilchot Ishut 2:24.)

is doubtful - i.e., it is doubtful whether they are governed by the laws applying to a man or those applying to a woman. The doubts are, however, different in nature. With regard to a tumtum, we are doubtful what is his true gender. With regard to an androgynous, however, the question revolves around the Sages' failure to define his status.

Therefore, the stringencies applying to both a man - The obligation to perform all the positive commandments that are associated with time, and the various other commandments which men are obligated to perform, but women are not.

and a woman - Bikkurim 4:3 explains that this refers to the prohibition against being alone with men (yichud), and the laws of ritual impurity that apply to women.

are applied to them, and they are obligated by all [the mitzvot]. If, however, they transgress - any of the three commandments for which men are held liable and women are not

they are not [liable for] lashes. - Punishment is not administered when we are in doubt of the person's obligation.

Commentary Halacha 5

Although a woman is permitted to shave the corners of her own head - as mentioned in Halachah 2

she is forbidden to shave the corners of a man's head. - As stated in that halachah, she is not punished for doing so. The Ra'avad and the Kessef Mishneh maintain that this prohibition is Rabbinic in origin. Other authorities, however, state that the prohibition stems from the Torah itself.

She is even forbidden to shave the corners of a child's [head]. - Though the child himself would not be held liable, an adult is liable for shaving the corners of his head, as stated in Halachah 1. Therefore, even a woman is forbidden to shave the corners of his head. Rabbenu Yitzchak Alfasi, based on Nazir 57b, does not accept the Rambam's view, and maintains that a woman may shave a child's head.

Commentary Halacha 6

The Sages did not determine the amount [of hair] which must be left in the corners of our temples. - The Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 181:1, defines "corners" as referring to the place where the skull is joined to the jaw. The Beit Lechem Yehudah writes that the area which the Ari zal would leave uncut extended slightly above his ears.

We have, however, heard from our elders that one must leave at least forty - The Tur's text of the Rambam stated "four" instead of "forty."

hairs. - In one of his responsa, the Rambam writes that the forbidden area is about the size of a thumb.

One may remove the [hairs from] the corners [of our heads] with scissors. - In one of his responsa, the Rambam writes that he would trim the corners of his head. He explains that - in contrast to the law applying to a Nazarite's hair - there is no positive commandment to allow this hair to grow and no need to do so. In many Jewish communities, however, it is customary to allow this hair to grow. Since its removal involves the violation of a Torah prohibition, they consider the growth of this hair as a sign of Jewish identity.

The prohibition applies only to total removal with a razor. - As is explained in the commentary on the following halachah, there is a debate among the Rabbinic authorities if it is permissible to remove this hair using scissors or even using implements whose effectiveness is equivalent to that of a razor.

Commentary Halacha 7

It is customary for pagan priests to remove their beards. - Note our commentary on Halachah 1. In Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 44), the Rambam notes that even in his time, it was customary for Christian monks to shave their faces.

Therefore, the Torah forbade the removal of one's beard. - Sefer HaMitzvot (ibid.) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 252) consider this prohibition to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

The beard has five "corners": the upper and lower cheek on both the right and left sides, and the hair on the chin. - The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 181:11) writes that there are many opinions with regard to the definition of these five "corners." There, "anyone who fears heaven should fulfill all the opinions and not shave any portion of his beard with a razor."

One is [liable for] lashes for the removal of each "corner." - As implied by the verse's mention of "the corners of your beard," and not merely "your beard" (Sefer HaMitzvot, ibid.).

A person who removes them all at the same time is [liable for] five measures of lashes. - Nevertheless, as explained in the commentary on Halachah 1, the prohibition is considered to be a single mitzvah, and not five.

One is liable only when one shaves with a razor, as [implied by Leviticus 19:27]: "Do not destroy the corners of your beard." [We can infer that this applies only] to shaving which utterly destroys [one's facial hair]. Therefore, a person who removes his beard with scissors is exempt. - From the Rambam's expression, it appears that the removal of facial hair with scissors is forbidden. One is not, however, punished for such an act (Sefer HaChinuch, ibid.; Ma'aseh Rokeach). The Beit Yosef (Yoreh De'ah 181) differs, and maintains that it is permitted to remove one's facial hair as long as one does not use a razor.

In addition, as mentioned in the commentary on Halachah 1, the Minchat Chinuch and Sefer HaKovetz explain that by mentioning the fact that gentile priests remove their facial hair, the Rambam implies that removing such hair violates the prohibition of following "the paths of the gentiles." (See Chapter 11, Halachah 1.) In the context of this prohibition, the means used to remove the facial hair are of no consequence.

Other authorities (Rashba, Vol. IV, Responsum 90; Shibbolei Leket; Tzemach Tzedek, Yoreh De'ah, Responsum 93) forbid the removal of one's facial hair within the context of the prohibition against a man's adorning himself in the same manner as a woman. (See Halachot 9 and 10.) In this context as well, it makes no difference how one removes the hair.

Many contemporary authorities have explained that in addition to all these points, growing a beard has been accepted as a sign that a person is God-fearing and precise in his observance of the mitzvot. Accordingly, anyone who desires to be viewed as such should not remove his beard even if he does not use a razor.

A person who allows himself to be shaved is not [liable for] lashes unless he provides assistance. - Note our commentary on Halachah 1.

A woman who has facial hair is allowed to shave it - since this is not the norm. Kiddushin 35b derives this concept from the exegesis of the verse from Leviticus quoted above.

If she shaves a man's beard, she is exempt. - It is, however, forbidden for her to do so, as explained in Halachah 1.

Commentary Halacha 8

It is permitted to shave one's mustache - i.e., the hair on the upper lip, and, similarly, the hair which hangs from the lower lip. - Mo'ed Katan 18a allows the shaving of this hair because it is not one of the five "corners" of the beard.

Even though the removal [of this hair] is permitted, it is customary for the Jews not to destroy it entirely. - This statement reinforces the interpretation mentioned in the previous halachah, that maintains which the Rambam did not allow one's facial hair to be removed by means other than shaving.

It must be noted that there are authorities who object to the shaving of the mustache. Rabbenu Chanan'el explained that the corners of the mustache are the two lower "corners" of the beard. Others (among them Rabbenu Yonah and the Bayit Chadash) associate its removal with the prohibitions against following the "ways of gentiles" and adorning oneself as does a woman.

Rather, its ends may be removed so that it will not interfere with eating or drinking. - The Rabbis have explained that it is proper manners to remove the hair which interferes with eating. Even the Kabbalists who would not touch their beards at all would trim their mustaches (Ben Ish Chai).

Commentary Halacha 9

The Torah does not forbid the removal of hair from other portions of the body - e.g., the armpits or the genitalia - which are often shaved by women.

This is, however, prohibited by the Rabbis - as an extension of the prohibition against a man beautifying himself in the same manner as a woman does. The classification of the removal of such hair as a Rabbinic prohibition is not agreed upon by all authorities. The Tzemach Tzedek (Yoreh De'ah, Responsum 93) brings opinions which maintain that shaving this hair is within the scope of the Torah prohibition.

The Kessef Mishneh explains the distinction between the Torah prohibition and the Rabbis' decree as follows: The Torah prohibition involves any adornment which is openly detectable. The Rabbis extended the scope of the prohibition and included even acts of beautification which are private.

A man who removes [such hair] is given stripes for rebelliousness. - The punishment given for violating any Rabbinic ordinance.

Where does the above apply? In places where it is customary only for women to remove such hair, so that one will not beautify himself as women do. - Which is prohibited, as mentioned in the following halachah.

In places where it is customary for both men - The Prisha (Yoreh De'ah 182) states that the word "men" refers even to gentiles. Even if gentile men follow this practice, a Jew is not punished for doing so.

and women to remove such hair, one is not given stripes. It is permitted - The expression, "one is not given stripes," and the contrasting statement, "It is permitted," lead to the conclusion that, even in these communities, it is forbidden for men to remove this hair. The Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 182:1) differs, and grants permission for men to remove such hair in these communities.

When there are medical reasons requiring the removal of such hair, even the more stringent views allow it to be shaved off (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 182:4).

to remove hair from our other limbs with scissors - but not with a razor (Siftei Cohen 182:3).

in all communities.

Commentary Halacha 10

A woman should not adorn herself as a man does - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 39) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 542) consider this prohibition to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Curiously, with regard to this and the following prohibition, the Rambam departs from his usual custom and does not mention the Biblical proof-text, Deuteronomy 22:5, for these prohibitions.

e.g., she may not place a turban or a hat on her head - Needless to say, a hat that was styled for women is permitted. As the Rambam states later in the halachah, everything depends on local custom.

or wear armor - Many sources (e.g., Nazir 59a; Targum Onkelos on Deuteronomy, ibid.) directly associate this prohibition with a woman's donning armor or carrying weapons. Significantly, in the listing of mitzvot which precedes these halachot, the Rambam defines the mitzvah as prohibiting a woman from wearing "armament or a man's apparel."

or the like. She may not cut [the hair of] her head as men do - i.e., a woman's coiffure may not resemble a man's. The Yemenite manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah read יגלה, "reveal," instead of יגלח, "cut." According to that version, the Rambam is saying that when a woman goes out without covering her head, in addition to violating the basic laws of modesty (see Hilchot Ishut 24:11-12; Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 21:17), she is also transgressing this Torah prohibition.

A man should not adorn himself as a woman does - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 40) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 543) consider this prohibition to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

In Sefer HaMitzvot (ibid.), the Rambam mentions two rationales for this and the previous prohibition:
a) Such behavior would lead to licentiousness;
b) The pagans would often dress in this manner for their rituals.

e.g., he should not wear colored garments or golden bracelets in a place where such garments and such bracelets are worn only by women. Everything follows local custom. - Accordingly, the definition of the pertinent rulings changes according to the norms of the society. Garments which might have been forbidden for men or women in one era may be permitted in another, depending on the standards set by the particular society.

A man who adorns himself as a woman does, and a woman who adorns herself as a man does, are [liable for] lashes. - Note the Ramah's statements, Orach Chayim 696:8, which state that on Purim or at a wedding, this prohibition may be waived for the sake of adding to the festive mood of the celebration. The Bayit Chadash and others, however, do not accept this leniency.

When a man removes white hairs from among the dark hairs of his head or beard - to prevent the process of aging from being detected

he should be lashed - for violating this prohibition. The Ra'avad (see also Sho'el UMeshiv, Vol. I, Responsum 210) differs, and maintains that such an act violates only a Rabbinic prohibition. His opinion, however, is not accepted by the later authorities (Darchei Teshuvah 182:15).

as soon as he removes a single hair, because he has beautified himself as a woman does. - Women are accustomed - and therefore, allowed - to hide their age, but not men.

Similarly, if he dyes his hair dark, he is given lashes after dyeing a single hair. - The prohibition applies only when one attempts to look younger. Dyeing one's hair grey is not forbidden (Turei Zahav 182:7).

A tumtum and an androgynous - whose status with regard to gender is doubtful, as explained in Halachah 4.

may not wrap their heads [in a veil] as women do, or cut [the hair of] their head as men do. - As the Rambam states in that halachah, "the stringencies of both a man and a woman are applied to them." Hence, they are not allowed to clothe themselves in a manner which is distinct to either a man or a woman.

According to the Yemenite manuscripts mentioned above which substitute יגלה, "reveal," for יגלח, "cut," this clause also must be amended accordingly.

If they do [either of the above],they are not [liable for] lashes - because we are unsure of their gender. Accordingly, it cannot be definitely said that a prohibition has been violated.

Commentary Halacha 11

The tattooing which the Torah forbids - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 41) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 253) consider this prohibition to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

involves making a cut in one's flesh and filling the slit with eye-color, ink, or with any other dye that leaves an imprint. - The Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 253) states that the order mentioned by the Rambam is significant. If it is reversed and the ink is placed on the skin before an incision is made, one is exempt. TheSiftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 180:1), however, does not accept this view.

This was the custom of the idolaters, who would make marks on their bodies for the sake of their idols - branding themselves

as if to say that they are like servants sold to the idol and designated for its service. - In Sefer HaMitzvot (ibid.), the Rambam states that certain sects in Egypt followed these practices in his time as well.

When a person makes a mark with one of the substances that leave an imprint after making a slit in any place on his body, he is [liable for] lashes. - The Tosefta (Makkot 3:9) adds that one must have the intent that the inscription is made for the sake of idol worship. This point, however, is not accepted by the halachic authorities.

[This prohibition is binding on] both men and women. - The Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 180:4, states that one is exempt for branding a servant. The Ramah, however, explains that it is, nevertheless, forbidden to do so.

If a person wrote - by cutting into his flesh

and did not dye, or dyed without writing by cutting [into his flesh], he is not liable - for punishment. The Rambam's expression implies that although the person is not lashed, both of these acts are forbidden.

The Minchat Chinuch (ibid.) explains that the prohibition against writing on one's flesh applies only when the imprint left by the ink or dye is permanent. If it is removable, it is not forbidden. In this manner, he justifies the acts of people who jot down notes on their flesh when they have no paper available.

[Punishment is administered] only when he writes and dyes, as [Leviticus 19:28] states: "[Do not make] a dyed inscription [on yourselves]." - The two words "dyed inscription" imply that both activities must be performed for the person to be held liable.

To whom does this apply? To the person doing the tattooing - on himself or on a colleague.

A person who is tattooed [by others], however, is not liable unless he assisted the tattooer to the extent that it is considered that he performed a deed. If he did not perform a deed, he is not lashed. - The Kessef Mishneh compares this to the prohibition against shaving the corners of one's head (Halachah 1). Based on this comparison, there are authorities who maintain that although punishment is not administered - because punishment is administered only when a person commits a deed which violates a prohibition - the person who is tattooed is still considered to have transgressed this Torah prohibition.

Commentary Halacha 12

A person who gouges himself for the dead - The prohibition applies only when a person makes such gouges as a sign of bereavement over the dead. Even when he gouges himself as an expression of grief for other matters, he is not liable, as stated in Halachah 16. Nevertheless, as stated in the following halachah, one is also liable for gashing or gouging oneself for idols.

is lashed, as [Leviticus 19:28] states: "Do not gouge your flesh for the dead." - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 45) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 467) consider this prohibition to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

This [prohibition] applies both to priests and to Israelites. - Though Leviticus 21:5 specifically forbids the priests from expressing their grief in this manner, that injunction is not considered to be a separate commandment. This prohibition applies to both men and women.

A person who makes a single gouge for five dead people -Makkot 20b and the Sifra derive this concept through the exegesis of the verse from Leviticus cited above. Although he performs only a single activity, the verse teaches us that he is held responsible for each person he has in mind.

or five gouges for a single dead person is [liable for] five measures of lashes - Each separate act warrants retribution.

provided he is given a warning for each individual matter. - Note Halachah 15, which explains an instance where one is liable for five measures of lashes even though only a single warning is given, Seemingly, the same law would apply in this instance (Turei Even).

Commentary Halacha 13

Gashing and gouging oneself - Based on Makkot 21a, it appears that gashing is done with an instrument, and gouging with one's bare hands. Nevertheless, they

are [governed by] a single [prohibition]. - Thus, regardless of how one performs the act, if one mutilates oneself in grief over the dead, one is held liable. There are opinions (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 180:7), however, which allow one to beat one's flesh in grief until blood flows.

Just as the pagans would gouge their flesh in grief over their dead, they would mutilate themselves for their idols - TheKessef Mishneh explains that this mutilation was not part of the rites used to worship the false deity - for if so, a violator would be executed - but rather a voluntary act, intended to attract the deity's attention.

as [I Kings 18:28] states - regarding the prophets of the Baal who engaged in the confrontation with the prophet Elijah at Mount Carmel:

"And they mutilated themselves according to their custom." - This implies that this was not an isolated occurrence, but rather the routine followed by the Baal's priests.

This is also forbidden by the Torah, as [Deuteronomy 14:1] states: "Do not mutilate yourselves." - This injunction is not considered to be a separate commandment, but rather a further explanation of the mitzvah stated previously.

[The difference between the two is that if one gouges himself in grief over] the dead, whether he did so with his bare hands or with an instrument, he is [liable for] lashes; - Since the verse from Deuteronomy also concludes "for the dead," it appears that both gashing and gouging are forbidden essentially as mourning rites. There is, however, an added dimension to the prohibition against gashing; doing so

for the sake of idols - In such an instance

if one uses an instrument, one is liable for lashes. - Since that is the normal practice, as the verse from Kings continues: "With their swords and lances."

If one does so with one's bare hands, one is exempt. - Doing so is, nevertheless, forbidden (Tzemach Tzedek).

Commentary Halacha 14

This commandment also includes [a prohibition] - In Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 45), the Rambam explains that the interpretation which follows is an allegory, and the simple meaning of the verse is to prohibit gashing oneself in grief. Nevertheless, it is significant that the Rambam includes this "allegory" in a text which is, as he states in his introduction, "halachot, halachot." Thus, he emphasizes how important unity is to the Jewish people.

There is an important halachic dimension to the Rambam's explanation in Sefer HaMitzvot. One of the principles of Torah law is that punishment is never administered for the violation of a לאו שבכללות ("a prohibition which includes within it several different injunctions;" see Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:2-3). If this allegorical interpretation of the mitzvah were considered to be included in the simple meaning of the mitzvah, this principle would also apply regarding this mitzvah, and lashes might not be administered when one gashed oneself in mourning (Kessef Mishneh).

against there being two courts which follow different customs in a single city, since this can cause great strife. - This decision has been the subject of much discussion among the Rabbis, because it appears to run contrary to one of the accepted principles of halachah.

The Rabbis concluded that whenever there is a difference in opinion between Abbaye and Ravva, the halachah follows Ravva, with the exception of six specific instances (יעל קגם). In the present case, the Rambam quotes Abbaye's opinion even though Ravva differs, stating that the prohibition applies only when one follows a divergent opinion without the support of a formal Rabbinical court (Yevamot 14a). When, however, there is a Rabbinical court which advocates each of the differing opinions - e.g., the differences of opinion between the School of Shammai and the School of Hillel - there is no prohibition against following either view until the halachah is determined by the supreme Sanhedrin.

Many authorities have advanced different explanations for the Rambam's decision. The most straightforward is that of the Radbaz (Vol. V, Responsum 1384), who explains that the Rambam favored Abbaye's view because of the emphasis on unity. Furthermore, selecting it over Ravva's in this instance does not represent a break with the accepted tradition, since the difference of opinion here does not center on positions adopted by Abbaye and Ravva independently, but rather on their interpretation of Resh Lakish's statements.

[Because of the similarity in the Hebrew roots,] - The Hebrew גדד means both "gash" and "group."

the prohibition against gashing ourselves [can be interpreted] to mean: "Do not separate into various different groupings." - It must be noted that the Shulchan Aruch does not quote this halachah as law. It would appear that while many of the subsequent Rabbis appreciate the ideal of unity this halachah espouses, they felt that compelling people to conform to a uniform standard would create more strife than would result from the existence of different views.

One of the practical applications of the issues under discussion is the issue of differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazic religious practices (and similarly, the variety of different approaches that exist within these two major groupings). All of the contemporary authorities agree that it is desirable for each group to adhere to its native customs without change. This plurality of halachic perspectives is an expression - and not a negation - of the all-encompassing unity that permeates Torah Judaism. (See Ezrat Cohen, Responsum 103.)

Commentary Halacha 15

A person who creates a bald spot [on his head] for a dead person - Even today, we find the colloquialism, "tear out his hair in grief."

is [liable for] lashes - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 171) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 468) consider this prohibition to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. It is significant that the Rambam did not list this prohibition together with the previous ones in Sefer HaMitzvot.

as [Deuteronomy 14:1] states: "Do not make a bald spot between your eyes - Menachot 37b explains that here the intent is not the area which is literally "between the eyes," but rather the center of the head.

for a dead person." When either a priest or an Israelite makes a bald spot [on his head] for a dead person, he is [liable for] only a single measure of lashes. - Although, as the Rambam quotes below, Leviticus 21:5 states specifically that a priest may not create a bald spot on his head, that verse should not be understood to be a separate commandment, but rather a further elaboration of this prohibition.

In Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 171), the Rambam elaborates on this subject, explaining that since the mitzvah cannot be derived in its entirety from the verse in Deuteronomy, the verse in Leviticus is not considered to be a second mitzvah applying to priests alone, but rather a further definition of that same command.

A person who makes four or five bald spots for a single dead person is [liable for] a measure of lashes equivalent to the number of bald spots he made, provided he received a separate warning for each bald spot - as explained in Halachah 12. If, however, he creates a single bald spot for five individuals, he is [liable for] only a single measure of lashes. In contrast, were he to gouge himself once for each of these individuals he would receive a commensurate number of measures of lashes.

There is no difference whether one created the bald spot with his hands - pulling his hair out

or with a potion - that removes the hair chemically.

If a person dipped his fingers into a potion and positioned them in five places on his head at the same time, since he created five bald spots, he is [liable for] five measures of lashes - because it is considered as if he performed five different activities.

even though only a single warning was given - That warning can be applied to each of the bald spots he created

for they were all created at the same time.

One is liable [for creating a bald spot] on any part of the head, [not only] "between the eyes" - as mentioned in the verse from Deuteronomy quoted above.

[as is inferred from Leviticus 21:5]: "Do not make a bald spot on your heads." - Makkot 20b explains that this verse is used to define the scope of the prohibition for everyone, both priests and Israelites.

What is the measure of a bald spot? An area on one's head the size of a gris - Nega'im 6:1 defines a gris as an area which encompasses 36 hairs as they stand naturally on one's head. Contemporary authorities explain that this is approximately the size of an American dime or slightly smaller than an Israeli telephone token.

which is free of hair. - Rabbenu Asher disagrees and maintains that one is liable even if he removes two hairs. Furthermore, even the removal of a single hair is forbidden. (See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 180:9; Gilyon HaMaharsha.)

Commentary Halacha 16

A person who makes a bald spot on his head or gouges his flesh - for sources of grief other than a person's death - e.g.,

because his house falls or because his ship sinks at sea is exempt. - Though it is forbidden to do, punishment is not administered.

One is lashed only [if he carries out these acts] for the sake of a deceased person - as mentioned in the Biblical proof-texts

or if he gashes his flesh - with a utensil

for the sake of an idol - as explained in Halachah 13.

[The following laws apply] when a person creates a bald spot on a colleague's head, makes a gash on a colleague's flesh, or tattoos his colleague's flesh while his colleague assists him. - As explained above, the person who performs these activities is held liable. In contrast, the person to whom these acts are done is held liable only if he assists in the performance of the deed.

If they both intended to violate the prohibition, both receive lashes. - Each is held liable as if he performed the prohibition himself in its entirety.

If one violated the prohibition inadvertently and one did so intentionally, the one who performed the act intentionally is [liable for] lashes, and his colleague is exempt. - Apparently, he is not required even to bring a sacrifice. The obligation to bring a sacrifice is a sign of Divine mercy, intended to allow a person to gain atonement. Since his colleague is [liable for] lashes for the transgression, he is not given the opportunity to atone for his part in the sin merely through offering a sacrifice.

Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.
To purchase this book or the entire series, please click here.
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
E-mail
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG