Kedoshim – Why Jewish Men Can’t Shave Their Beard with a Razor

 In this week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim we learn: “You shall not round off the edge of your scalp and you shall not destroy the edges of your beard” (Vayikra/ Leviticus 19:27). This is the source of the mitzvah of not cutting off one’s peyus [side locks]. Indeed, many authorities specify that the shortest amount that sideburns are permitted to be trimmed is to the length of a ‘number 2’ on a standard electric hair clipper. This pasuk [Torah passage] is also the source of the mitzvah for one not to use a razor on his face to shave, thereby destroying the hairs. However, using a scissor or a properly checked electric shaver which only closely trims the hairs of the face, is permissible according to many authorities.
The Ibn Ezra explains the reason behind this Jewish Law: “In order to be separate from the actions of the gentiles and since the hair of one’s head and beard was created to glorify the person it is unbefitting to destroy it”. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
The Gemara in Shabbos 152a states that ‘the splendor of one’s face is his beard,’ as there seems to be an aura of grandeur and majesty or maybe saintliness to one who has a beard. The Ibn Ezra says that G-D specifically created hair in that fashion, to glorify a person. It is interesting to note that this negative commandment does not apply to a woman. Chazal say that since the commandment about a beard doesn’t apply to women, for the overwehelming majority of women do not grow facial hair, so to the commandment for the hair on their head does not apply since the laws are juxtaposed in the same verse (היקש). Based on this Ibn Ezra, women inherently seem to have an appreciation for there G-D given gift of hair on their head.

It would seem that many gentiles don’t have this degree of appreciation for the magnificence of hair, as, for example, we find monks specifically cutting the corners. Parenthetically, if you look at many world leaders in recent history you will find the same; for example, North Korea’s dictator.

If one truly internalizes the existence of G-D, along with a true recognition that he created the world and all that is within it, and accepts that there is a purpose for every single detail in this intricate world, than that individual would come to appreciate all that has been given to him, to the last detail; even one’s hair has a purpose. It can be used to glorify one’s self. To destroy that which does something so positive for you would be unappreciative therefore Hashem created a negative mitzvah in order for us to focus on this appreciation which helps us strengthen our belief in Him.

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