What number haircut may one take in the area of his Peiyos?

To how short may the hair in the Halachic area of the Peiyos be cut?[1]

Razer versus scissor: It is forbidden to cut the hairs in the Halachic area of the Peiyos with a razor.[2] [It is however, permitted to cut it with a scissor, or haircutting machine, even if the result will be razor like, and no hair will remain.[3]] However, there are Poskim[4] who rule that it is [Biblically[5]] forbidden to cut the hair with scissors if the outcome will be similar to a razor [in which there is no hair at all left near the skin[6]]. Practically, one is to be stringent like their opinion.[7] [According to all, the Peiyos may be cut with a scissor to a non-razer like shave.[8]]

Definition of razor like: Some Poskim[9] rule that each hair must be long enough to be folded over and touch its root, otherwise it is defined as razor like.[10] This is approximately the length of a .5 centimeter[11], which is the equivalent of a number 2 haircut on an American standard machine following the 8th inch system.[12] In the machines following the millimeter system, it is equivalent to a 5-6 number haircut.[13] Other Poskim[14], however, rule that any amount suffices, so long as it does not look like it was cut with a razor. Hence, according to them one may take a number 1 haircut.[15] Practically, the widespread custom is like the former opinion to leave a half a centimeter of hair [number 2 American machine haircut] by the Peiyos, and not cut it any shorter.[16] All the above is from the letter of the law, however, it is a Mitzvah to leave the Peiyos long and visible to show that one beautifies himself with Hashem’s Mitzvos, and they are a testimony for the Jewish people and a good sign for them.[17]]

 

Summary:

The hairs in the Halachic area of the Peiyos may be cut with a scissor or hair cutting machine, but not with a razor. One is to be stringent, and so is the custom, to leave a length of .5 centimeters [5 millimeters] by the hairs in the Halachic area of the Peiyos. This is equivalent to a number 2 haircut in American haircutting machines that follow the 18th of an inch system, while in machines that follow the millimeter system this is equivalent to a number 5-6 haircut.

 

Notice for those who shave their beard:[18]

Those who shave their beard are to be careful not to shave the area of the Peiyos which extends until the end of the ear, known as the sideburns.[19] This area is to remain with a length of .5 centimeters, and may not be shaven razor like as is done with the machine.

 

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[1] Michaber Y.D. 181:3

[2] Stam opinion in Michaber ibid; Tur in name of Rambam Avodas Kochavim 12:6; Ritva Shavuos 3a

[3] So is the ruling of the Stam opinion ibid; Chochmas Adam 89:16

[4] 2nd opinion in Michaber ibid;  Rosh Makos 3:2-3 and Shavos, brought in Tur 181; Tosafus Shavuos 2b and Nazir 41b; Tosafus Shantz Makos; Piskeiy Tosafus Makos 27; Shaareiy Teshuvah [Rabbeinu Yona] 78; Semak 71; Shut Min Hashamayim 28 that whoever is lenient they are lenient with his days; Rabbeinu Yerucham Nesiv 17:5 p. 159 that so is main opinion; Shita Mekubetzes Nazir 41b; See Orchos Chaim 2:22 in name of Ramban; Meiri Makos p. 101; Kol Bo Avoda Zara in name of Rav Yitzchak; Opinion brought in Biur Halacha 251:2

[5] Chochmas Adam 89:16 that one is liable for lashes; Biur Halacha 251:2 “One transgresses a Lav and is liable for Malkus”

[6] Chochmas Adam 89:16 “He cuts near the skin and leaves no hair at all near the skin”

[7] Michaber ibid “One is to suspect for their opinion”; Chasam Sofer Y.D. 139-140; See Zera Yitzchak Y.D. 12, brought in Darkei Teshuvah 181:4, that the Michaber does not rule like this opinion but simply writes to suspect for them. Hence, Beideved if one transgressed and shaved it similar to a razor shave, he does not need to do Teshuvah

[8] Chochmas Adam 89:16

[9] Chasam Sofer 154; Gloss of Kesav Sofer on Y.D. 181 in name of his father ibid; Teshuvas Rav Akiva Eiger 63; Darkei Teshuvah 181:15; Torah Leshma 389; Minchas Yitzchak 4:113-5; See Melamed Lehoil 64; Tzur Yaakov 1:100; Sefer Liba Baiy; Sheal Shaul 99

[10] The reason: As this is the amount listed regarding Tzaraas and Nezirus [Rambam Tzaraas 8:6; Nezirus 5:11; See Mishneh Nida 52b for dispute between Rebbe Yishamel and Rebbe Elazar] and so would apply to all other cases, that hair which is less than this amount is considered non-existent. [Poskim ibid] There are, however, other measurements of hair mentioned which are less than this amount. See Michaber E.H. 155:18 regarding a Gedola for Miun that the measurement is if one can cut the hair with scissors, however, regarding a Gedola for Chalitza we require it to be able to reach its root.

[11] Rav Elyashiv, brought in Sefer Peas Zekanecha p. 19 and Lishcheino Tidroshu 1:301; It is recorded in the name of Rav Aaron Kutler a measurement of 1 fingers width, which is 2 centimeters long. [See Hadras Panim Zakein p. 365 footnote 38 who brings the basis of this ruling from Bach E.H. 155; However, in truth that is not the measurement of bending the hair back to its root, but the measurement for not requiring a groove under the hair, as explained in Beis Shmuel 155:28 and Taz in Pirush on Seder Chalitza 27

[12] In the 1/8th of an inch system machines, the numbers go up by 1/8th of an inch. Thus, a number 1 is 1/8th of an inch [3.3 cm] while a number 2 is 2/8th [1/4] of an inch [5.5 cm]; a number 3 is 3/8th of an inch, which is [] a number 4 is half an inch.

[13] Some machines, especially European [i.e. German] and Asian made, follow the millimeter measurement system, and hence it is imperative when getting a haircut to verify the number system being followed, and that whatever system is used, one leaves a half a centimeter of hair length by the Peiyos.

[14] See Rosh Perek 3:2; Chochmas Adam 89:16 that even the stringent opinion only prohibits if there is “no hair at all left near the skin”; Chidushei Hagriz Nazir 40b; Shaar Hachaim 9; Implication of Biur Halacha 251:2 “One must leave at least a little of a little”

[15] Possibly even a zero, no blade, haircut would be allowed accoridng to this opinion as it usually leaves .5 millimeters of hair on the scalp, and does not remove all the hair.

[16] Darkei Teshuvah 181:15 in name of Kesav Sofer

[17] Torah Leshma 389

[18] Beir Moshe 1:62; Beis Yechezkal 6:189; Mishneh Halachos 7:122; Sefer Hadras Panim-Zakan p. 364 in name of, Sofer Hamelech

[19] Biur Halacha 251:2; Nidcheiy Yisrael 26

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