Shearing, the av melachah of gozez, is forbidden on Shabbat, and involves cutting or uprooting hair, nails, or anything else that grows from a person, animal, or bird.

The Biblical prohibition of gozez is only transgressed if one uses an instrument meant for that purpose, like a pair of scissors or a nail clipper.1 Pulling out hair with one’s hand is not the way hair is typically removed and therefore not prohibited by gozez. Likewise, biting one’s nails is not included, since it is not the typical way to cut one’s nails. Nevertheless, the Sages prohibited these activities because they closely resemble the Biblical prohibition.2 In a scenario where pulling out hair with one’s hand is normal, however, like tweezing (which is considered using one’s hand), doing so is considered Biblically forbidden.3

Gozez is prohibited even after the skin has been removed from an animal.4 As such, one should not pull out fur from a fur coat.5

Cutting away dead skin, warts, or pimples is also forbidden under gozez.6

Gozez in the Mishkan

Wool was needed to make certain cloth coverings for the Mishkan. The melachah of gozez stems from the shearing of this wool.

Common activities to avoid:

  • Combing hair is a common example of gozez.7 Often while combing, one inadvertently pulls out hair. Brushing one’s hair can also be problematic and is only permitted if performed with a soft brush that is only used on Shabbat.8 Even then, the brushing should be done gently with the intention to just neaten the hair and not undo any knots.9
  • Removing a band-aid from an area of the body where hair would be uprooted by the adhesive. If one needs to take off the band-aid on Shabbat, he should try to unstick the adhesive part (with water or oil) and then remove it.
  • Biting one’s nails.