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In this pdf compilation provided by Koshershaver, it makes the claim that Sephardim cannot shave because

1) Rav Ovadia in Yabia Omer said that a razor that removes more than a stubble is like a razor

2) Rav Yitzhak Yoseph quoted his father saying that people shouldn’t rely on such Heterim

3) Maran said in a shiur on Mossei Shabat Naso 5768 that all electric shavers are assur and fall under the prohibition of shaving ones beard (source is in Yom l’Yom issue 1002, the text in Hebrew is on page 27 in the pdf)

4) Maran’s grandson, Rav Ovadia Yosef Tolidano, said in the name of his grandfather in a teshuva (where?) that heters for shavers should not be relied upon anymore

Based on this evidence, it would seem that many people are seemingly commiting borderline Assur DeOrayta aveirot almost everyday. Is that indeed the case here, and should I stop using electric shavers?

Also in all of the pictures of my male ancestors, they had beards (they trimmed them, but never removed them), and I was taught that you have to follow your minhag, because minhag (מנהג) backwards is גהנם (Gehinom), and you get the picture.. So even if they were allowed, would my minhag would prevent me from shaving with electric?

  • Shalom Kapin, you ask a great question. For now, I'll add that Rav Yitzchak Yosef always quotes his father's allowing them to rely on Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank until they got married and then pushing them to stop shaving. Be'emet, though, he seems to assume the Hetter is still kayam and reliable lemaaseh. Rav Toledano is the author of Shu"t Meshiv Mishpat, among other Sefarim, which you can purchase from him in Ramot and probably in some stores. I find it annoying how the author of this pamphlet did not quote Rav Yitzchak fully. – MDjava Jun 25 at 1:42
  • What was his full quote – KapinKrunch Jun 25 at 2:07
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    Rav Yitzchak repeats the exact same Motzei Shabbat shiurim every year. He's said many times that one can rely on Rav Frank. This author clearly does not listen consistently and just found one time where it was discussed. Also, I cannot find a relevant Teshuva in Meishiv Mishpat or on din.org.il/author/otolidano where Rav Toledano discusses this... – MDjava Jun 25 at 3:38
  • For example: youtube.com/watch?v=-60EP_igo1k Also note: ykr.org.il/question/5739 and the formulation in Yalkut Yosef YD 181:2 yalkut.info/… – MDjava Jun 25 at 3:44
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The pamphlet makes a great case but it overstates it a bit. Yabia Omer 9:10 speaks for itself. Initially Rav Ovadia believed it was asur but seeing that the minhag of tremendous segments of klal yisrael including the most religious (see there for examples such as the Or Letzion and students in Radin) he was compelled to write his teshuva. He is adamantly upset with a sefer he saw that blasted those who were lenient because it isn't fair to ignore such a strong minhag. There are some factors to be lenient. 1) The biggest is that of the perisha, ketav vhakabbalah, and Rav Moshe who say that any scissor action is permitted irrelevant of the result. Rav Ovadia disagrees based on a tosfot nazir and therefore if there's no stumble it is asur. Yet, it is still a possible approach. 2) Finally Rav Ovadia is satisfied with the Har Tzvi who allows shavers based on pesik reisha.

The conclusion of Yabia Omer is that in cases of need such as for parnasa or kibbud av vem one has what to rely on to be lenient. The same can be found in Yalkut Yosef Kitzur S"A YD 181. If Rav Ovadia actually retracted he would have written about it in a teshuva and R' Yitzchak Yosef would amend Yalkut Yosef. The statements to the contrary in a motzei shabbat shiur by Rav Ovadia prove only that it is a serious issue and everyone who is ready to be strict should be encouraged to be strict. The other quotes in the pamphlet can be explained similarly.

In terms of application one point is in order. In Israel (which Rav Ovadia was addressing) having a beard in the workplace isn't strange and there's not the same pressure that exists in America. In America, if you're a doctor, lawyer, etc in offices with non-Jews there is a tremendous pressure to shave to look neat.

In terms of minhag, I don't think that the pictures create any binding minhag for you. First they might not have minded having a beard. They might have thought it was better to avoid but not that it was actually asur. Even if it was their minhag it isn't clear that the minhag of a father is binding on a child (see Pitchei Teshuva YD 214 as to whether the minhag of a family is binding or only minhag of a community).

Certainly it is worthwhile to be strict but it is a great personal question and the best thing to do is to ask your Rav.

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    Welcome Ike! Hope to see you around – Double AA Jun 25 at 12:27
  • So when he mentioned in the shiur that they are assur, he didn’t mean for everyone? Is that what you’re saying? – KapinKrunch Jun 27 at 2:30
  • The translations are not honest. "Safek Gadol" does not equal "Assur" - just read the Teshuva that Ike cites. The text even says how one should not shave all the way down. I don't see that as categorical, bemichilat the author. Rav Yitzchak Yosef said "Raui veNachon" - again, not a prohibitive ruling, rather a very strong recommendation not to get involved in a major Machaloket risking an Issur DeOraita. The rulings on the books, as cited from Rav Ovadia and Rav Yitzchak's Sefarim are completely in line with the Hebrew quotes. The English ones are not. – MDjava Jun 27 at 14:51

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