During which holidays or times of mourning on the Jewish calendar year can I not shave? Also, when a family member passes away, for how many days/months is the mourner forbidden to shave?
Before responding to your question, a few prefatory comments:
- It is always forbidden for a man to shave his beard with a razor, or a razor-like implement (that completely removes facial hair)—as per Leviticus 19:27: "You shall not destroy the corners of your beard." If you shave, speak to your rabbi to determine which shavers are halachically permitted for use.
- There are Halachic authorities (including the Tzemach Tzedek, third Chabad Rebbe) who opine that cutting any part of the beard, even without a razor-like implement, falls under the prohibition of cross-dressing. This opinion is especially followed by Chabad chassidim.
- Though there may be halachically acceptable ways to shave, Kabbalah attaches great importance to the beard, and teaches that growing a beard makes one a beneficiary of G‑d's infinite compassion. (For more on this, see Why don't chassidic men shave their beards?)
As you pointed out in your question, there are certain days and periods on the Jewish calendar when shaving and trimming (or taking haircuts) is not permitted.
First and foremost, it is forbidden to shave on Shabbat and biblical holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, first and last days of Sukkot and Passover, and Shavuot). Cutting hair on these days falls under the category of gozez (shearing)—one of the 39 forbidden categories of work. There is no leniency whatsoever with regards to this prohibition.
On the following days we also don't shave. Nevertheless, if there is pressing reason to shave (such as potential loss of a job) a rabbi should be consulted:
- Chol Hamoed, the "intermediate days" of Sukkot and Passover.
- The Omer period observed between Passover and Shavout when we mourn the death of the students of Rabbi Akiva. Exactly when this mourning period begins and ends depends on community custom, click here for more on this topic.
- The "Three Weeks" between the seventeenth of Tammuz and midday of the tenth of Av, when our nation mourns the destruction of the Temples and Jerusalem. Many Sephardim, however, shave until the actual week of the Ninth of Av.
- It is also customary not to shave on Rosh Chodesh (the one or two day semi-holiday marking the beginning of the Jewish month), as per the instructions of Rabbi Yehudah Hachassid.
- One who is, G‑d forbid, mourning a deceased next of kin – sibling, spouse, or child – doesn't shave for the first thirty days. There are different customs regarding one who is mourning the passing of a parent (when the mourning period is extended); a rabbi should be consulted to ascertain the prevailing community tradition.
I hope that I've been helpful today. Please feel free to reply.
Rabbi Menachem Posner