Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shaving on Chol HaMoed

See the guest post on Hirhurim by Rabbi Michael Broyde on this topic.

This post is not halacha lemaaseh, but just some of my own musings on the subject.

The Mishna in Moed Katan 13b-14a reads:

מתני' ואלו מגלחין במועד הבא ממדינת הים ומבית השביה והיוצא מבית האסורין והמנודה שהתירו לו חכמים וכן מי שנשאל לחכם והותר והנזיר והמצורע מטומאתו לטהרתו ואלו מכבסין במועד הבא ממדינת הים ומבית השביה והיוצא מבית האסורין ומנודה שהתירו לו חכמים וכן מי שנשאל לחכם והותר מטפחות הידים ומטפחות הספרים ומטפחות הספג הזבין והזבות והנדות והיולדות וכל העולין מטומאה לטהרה הרי אלו מותרין ושאר כל אדם אסורין:
Thus, only a subset of people may מגלחין during the chol hamoed. The straight implication is that most Israelites may not.

However, what does מגלחין mean? The verb encompasses both shaving and hair-cutting. But since most Israelites in the time of Chazal did not shave their beards, since it was forbidden, this Mishna would not be coming to forbid shaving, but rather what Israelites did, namely hair-cutting.

What I am saying is that we can treat מגלחין as a homonym, meaning both shaving and hair-cutting, and take care not to select the wrong one of the two meanings. (I get the sense that in modern Hebrew giluach means only shaving while tisporet means a hair-cut. Is this correct?)

What was the reason for the rabbinic prohibition of hair-cutting during the moed? The gemara elaborates (Moed Katan 14a):

גמ' ושאר כל אדם מאי טעמא אסורין כדתנן אנשי משמר ואנשי מעמד אסורין לספר ולכבס ובחמישי מותרין מפני כבוד השבת ואמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר ר' אלעזר מ"ט כדי שלא יכנסו למשמרתן כשהן מנוולין הכא נמי כדי שלא יכנסו לרגל כשהן מנוולין

So that they should not enter into the Regel when they are unkempt. And note the two activities לספר ולכבס, to cut hair and launder clothing.

Hair-cutting is typically a maaseh uman, done by a professional barber. And indeed, the barbers stayed open until chatzos on Erev Pesach. In the Mishna in Pesachim perek 4:
ד,ז  [ו] רבי מאיר אומר, כל מלאכה שהתחיל בה קודם לארבעה עשר, גומרה בארבעה עשר; אבל לא יתחיל בה כתחילה בארבעה עשר, אף על פי שהוא יכול לגומרה.  וחכמים אומרין, שלוש אומנייות עושין מלאכה בערבי פסחים, עד חצות--החייטים, והספרים, והכובסין; רבי יוסי ברבי יהודה אומר, אף הרצענין.
Thus, both professional launderers and barbers were open on erev Pesach.

Why? Because כל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים, הרי זה משובח. :)

People nowadays do not seek to get their hair, on the top of their head, cut on chol hamoed. The only question is shaving. And shaving nowadays is typically self-administered and done quickly, without any particular skill of precision. It is a maaseh hedyot rather than maaseh uman.

And it is something you need to do daily to look kempt. It is akin to showering or combing your hair. Had electric shavers existed in the time of Chazal and people used them as part of their daily grooming, it stands to reason that Chazal would not have gone out of their way to include it in their decree.

That is, it was not part of the initial decree and further, given the reason behind the ban of giluach, they would not have wanted to include it.

[I am saying something different than the Rav here. As I understand it, he would say that shaving was part of the original gezeira but that since societal norms and what is being done have changed. to the extent that shaving before the moed and refraining from shaving during the moed accomplishes the very opposite of Chazal's intent, the gezeira does not apply. And that this is different from the typical simple case of batla taam, where it appears to be a machlokes whether the decree falls automatically, because there it is just neutral, rather than counter to their very purpose.]

Someone also pointed out the following. The Mishna lists laundering and hair-cutting together. The Rambam in Mishneh Torah, hilchot Shevitat Yom Tov, 7:21 writes:

כא  הַזָּבִים וְהַזָּבוֹת וְהַנִּדּוֹת וְהַיּוֹלְדוֹת וְכָל הָעוֹלִים מִטֻּמְאָה לְטַהְרָה בְּתוֹךְ הַמּוֹעֵד, הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ מֻתָּרִין לְכַבַּס.  וּמִי שְׁאֵין לוֹ אֵלָא חֲלוּק אֶחָד, הֲרֵי זֶה מְכַבְּסוֹ.  מִטְפְּחוֹת הַיָּדַיִם וּמִטְפְּחוֹת הַסְּפָרִים וּמִטְפְּחוֹת הַסִּפּוּג, הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ מֻתָּרִין לְכַבַּס; וְכֵן כְּלֵי פִּשְׁתָּן, מֻתָּר לְכַבְּסָן בַּמּוֹעֵד, מִפְּנֵי שְׁהֶן צְרִיכִים כִּבּוּס תָּמִיד, אַפִלּוּ נִתְכַּבְּסוּ עֶרֶב יוֹם טוֹב.
Since linen clothing, etc., needs constant washing, even if they were washed from erev Yom Tov, it is permitted to wash them during chol hamoed. Rav Kapach writes on this:
: ומינה לאותם הנוהגים להתגלח בכל יום, לדעת רבנו אין איסור להתגלח במועד‎"
I could imagine a rejoinder that that sort of clothing existed in the time of Chazal and were therefore obviously not included as part of the injunction, while shaving as practiced today was not envisioned by Chazal, such that they would not think to exclude it. And I can imagine a rejoinder to that, in turn.

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