The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - RABBI JU­LIAN SIN­CLAIR

THE To­rah pro­hibits the “de­struc­tion” of one’s beard (Leviti­cus 19:27). The Ram­bam ex­plains this pro­hi­bi­tion as shun­ning the ways of idol­a­try. In­deed, the Yid­dish word for priest, goloch, de­rives from the He­brew for shaven. The Chris­tian priests’ smooth face was their dis­tin­guish­ing trait.

The Chatam Sofer (1762–1839) rules that there isn’t any­thing unJewish about shav­ing one’s beard, as long as you do not “de­stroy it”. He ex­plains that Jewish men shaved their beards dur­ing the Cru­sades to avoid stand­ing out and since then, Jews have been shav­ing.

When the two-blade elec­tric ra­zor hit the mar­ket (with the outer screen act­ing as the first blade), Rav Moshe Fe­in­stein (1895–1986) per­mit­ted it be­cause he un­der­stood the ban as specif­i­cally on man­ual ra­zors, which de­stroy the hair.

It may seem hair-split­ting to for­bid shav­ing with a ra­zor. But, it is a fun­da­men­tal of halachah that there are some mitzvot that we obey sim­ply be­cause God com­manded.

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