Men shaving armpit and pubic hair

Men shaving armpit and pubic hair:[1]

It is forbidden for a man to remove his armpit hair or his pubic hair.[2] This applies even against using scissors to shave the hair to a razor like cut [i.e. Keiyn Taar].[3] [One who transgresses the above has transgressed a Rabbinical command.[4]] In previous times, one who shaved the above areas would have been liable for receiving Rabbinical lashes [i.e. Makas Mardus].

Areas that men also shave:[5] The above prohibition only applies in an area that only women shave their armpits and pubic area. However in an area which is common also for men to shave the above places of the body, then one who shaves it does not receive Rabbinical lashes.[6] Furthermore, in such communities a man may even initially shave these areas of the body.[7] Nevertheless, the scrupulous Jews [i.e. Chaveirim] avoid shaving these areas of the body even in such communities.[8] [Likewise, according to Kabala, one is to abstain from doing so.[9]]

Areas that women do not shave:[10] If a man shaved his pubic hair in a community that even women do not shave their pubic hair then he is not liable for lashes [although a Rabbinical prohibition remains].

Full body shave:[11] One who shaves his entire body, from head [under the Peiyos and beard[12]] to toe, some Poskim[13] rule it is permitted for him to shave also his armpit and pubic hairs.[14]

Itching the armpit and pubic area:[15] It is forbidden to itch with one’s hands the hair of one’s armpit and pubic area with intent to remove the hair. It is however permitted to itch it using his clothing.

Shaving for medical purposes:[16] [It is permitted to shave the armpit and pubic hair for medical purposes.[17] Thus] one who has a painful skin ailment in his armpit or pubic area, and the pain is being aggravated due to the hair, may shave off the hair.

 

Summary:
It is forbidden for a man to remove his armpit hair or his pubic hair even with a scissor. [It is forbidden to trim the armpit and pubic hairs at all, even a very small amount-see Q&A!] The above prohibition only applies in an area that only women shave their armpits and pubic area. However the scrupulous Jews avoid shaving these areas of the body even in such communities. It is forbidden to itch with one’s hands the hair of one’s armpit and pubic area with intent to remove the hair. It is however permitted to itch it using his clothing. It is permitted to shave the armpit and pubic hair for medical purposes.

Q&A

May a man trim armpit and pubic hair?
Some Poskim[18] rule it is permitted to trim down armpit and pubic hair, so long as the final result is not a razor like shave. Other Poskim[19] rule it is forbidden to trim the armpit and pubic hairs at all, even a very small amount. The Chabad ruling follows the latter opinions.

In judging the common practice of men in an area vis a vis pubic shaving, does one follow the gentile or Jewish custom of men?[20]
It is possible to learn that this refers even to gentiles, that if the male gentiles commonly shave these areas then it is permitted for Jewish males to also do so. On the other hand it is possible to learn that it refers to the Jewish male population, that when this is the common practice then they are not to be protested. The Rebbe leans to rule like the former approach.[21]

May one pluck out pubic hair with his finger?[22]
No. However, in areas that it is common for men to shave the pubic hair, then even a scrupulous person may do so.

 

Women growing pubic hair:
It used to be in Temple times that Jewish girls did not grow pubic hair, neither under the arm pit or pubic area. This was an advantage of beauty held by Jewish girls over the daughters of the other nations as the verse states “Vayeitzei Lach Sheim Bagoyim Beyafyeich.”[23] Some [24]explain this to mean that they did not grow any hair at all, while others[25] interpret it to mean that they grew very short hairs. After the destruction of the Temple the girls advantage of beauty was removed and they began to grow hair.[26] Nonetheless, since ideally, they are not meant to have hair in these areas, therefore there is no reason to abstain from shaving it even according to Kabala.[27] Practically, it is customary amongst women of Sefaradi origin to be particular to shave their pubic hair prior to immersion in a Mikveh.

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[1] Michaber 182/1; See Tzemach Tzedek Y.D. 93

[2] The reason: This is forbidden due to the prohibition against Lo Yilbash, that a man may not dress like a woman. The Sages expounded that this verse includes not only a prohibition against wearing actual clothing of a woman but towards doing any action done to the body by women for beauty purposes.

[3] Michaber ibid; Bahag; Tosafus Nazir 59b; Rosh; Rif

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is permitted to use a scissor to shave the armpit and pubic hair to even a razor like shave. [Rabbeinu Tam, brought in Tzemach Tzedek ibid]

[4] Taz 182/6

The reason: Removing the hair of the body does not contain a Biblical transgression of Lo Silbash being that the Biblical transgression only applies to actions that visibly make the person appear like the opposite gender, and thus since removal of private hair is not visible to others it does not fall under the Biblical prohibition. [Taz ibid]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is a Biblical prohibition to shave the armpit and pubic hair using a razor. [Rav in Nazir 58b as explained in Tzemach Tzedek ibid; Semak 33; Conclusion of Tzemach Tzedek 93/4]

[5] Michaber ibid; Tur; Rambam

[6] Michaber ibid

The reason: As the entire reason for the prohibition is so one not enhance his body similar to that of a woman. [Michaber ibid]

[7] Rama ibid; Ran Avoda Zara

[8] Rama ibid; Ran ibid; Nimukei Yosef

[9] Torah Leshma 215 based on Arizal in Shaar Hamitzvos Parshas Kedoshim

The reason: As just as above there is a higher beard with the 13 Tikkunei Dikna, the same applies below by the lower beard. [Arizal ibid]

[10] Taz 182/5

[11] Michaber 182/2

[12] Shach 182/4; Perisha 182; Tzemach Tzedek Y.D. 93-1

[13] Tur in name of Geonim; Tosafus and Rosh Yevamos

[14] The reason: As it is clearly evident that such a shave is not done for beauty purposes. Furthermore, even if the man intends to do so for beauty purposes, since in truth it does not beautify him but rather makes a mockery of him, therefore we ignore his intents. [Sahch 182/5]

[15] Michaber 182/3; Nazir 59a

[16] Michaber 182/4; Rashba

[17] Shach 182/5

[18] Michaber 182/1 that only a razor like shave is forbidden and not a trim; Beis Yosef 182; Kitzur SHU”A 171/2; Torah Leshma [of Ben Ish Chaiy] 215 [However perhaps he refers only to an area that also men shave]

[19] Rashba 1/106; Tzemach Tzedek Y.D. 93 “If the Beis Yosef would have seen the ruling of the Rashab ibid certainly he would have ruled this way”; Semak 33 writes a Baal Nefehs is to be stringent

[20] Perisha 182, brought in Rav Akiva Eiger 182

[21] Igros Kodesh 6/268, [printed in Shulchan Menachem 4/133]

[22] Torah Leshma [of Ben Ish Chaiy] 215

[23] Sanhedrin 21a

[24] 2nd explanation in Ran ibid; Torah Leshma [of Ben Ish Chaiy] 215

[25] 1st explanation in Ran ibid; Mahrshal

[26] Rashi ibid

[27] See Torah Leshma ibid

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