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I have been reading from a sefer called Hadras Ponim-Zokon (link online-https://koshershaver.info/) stating that it is completely asur gamur to shave, possibly even with scissors. The Targum Yonason, who was a tanna, forbids even scissors, because of Lo Silbash

I myself am still a bachur and never shaved M'Safek, but I read in Orchos Yosher, which R' Chaim Kanievsky ruled in his perek on shaving, that scissors is asur. And he brings a story from the Gemora (Berachot 11a) that two tannaim, Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Elazarben Azarya, were davening maariv, and one stood up for Shma, to show that the Halacha follows Beis Hillel. The other Tanna said to him- You are like one who has a full beard, and people ask- why don't you cut your beard? and he says because some people use a razor, and are oiver on a D'Oiraisa.

Here is an image from the sefer where Rav Chaim said this:

quote 1 from Rav Chaim quote 2 from Rav Chaim

My question is about this proof. Shouldn't this gemara prove the opposite, that scissors are mutar, because he said that some use a razor and are oiver, with the implication that other than a razor is mutar?

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  • Please include your sources, specifically for the interpretation that יהיה כנגד המשחיתים refers to shaving with a razor. Rashba just says he grew out his beard to counter those who shave, and Rashi explains the whole analogy differently.
    – shmosel
    May 21, 2023 at 22:26
  • In the artscroll Orchos Yosher, the translation is 'Since there are those that destroy their beards completely' May 22, 2023 at 1:14
  • And Mashchis refers to a razor, and a woodplane/tweezer May 22, 2023 at 1:15
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    Note that the referenced Targum Yonatan is al hatorah, which is not a Targum created by Yonatan ben Uziel. He only created the one al haneviim. So it's not a tanna's position, but a centuries-later one.
    – Harel13
    May 23, 2023 at 6:01
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    @YaacovDeane the question is in the last paragraph: "I read in Orchos Yosher ... that scissors is asur ... But shouldn't this [the story brought from the gemara] prove that scissors are mutar, because he said that some use a razor and are oiver, but other than a razor [e.g. scissors] is mutar?"
    – Joel K
    May 23, 2023 at 12:15

3 Answers 3

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I've edited the question to include the text of Orchos Yosher.

I believe that Rav Chaim's point is much narrower. He is not trying to prove from this that cutting with a scissors is forbidden. Rather, he is trying to bolster the idea that nowadays, we should act counter to those who are embarrassed about their beards. We should show everyone that the mitzvot commanded by the Torah are dear to us.

To reinforce this point, he brought Berachot 11a:

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן, בֵּית הִלֵּל אוֹמְרִים: עוֹמְדִין וְקוֹרִין, יוֹשְׁבִין וְקוֹרִין, וּמַטִּין וְקוֹרִין, הוֹלְכִין בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְקוֹרִין, עוֹשִׂין בִּמְלַאכְתָּן וְקוֹרִין. וּמַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה, שֶׁהָיוּ מְסוּבִּין בְּמָקוֹם אֶחָד, וְהָיָה רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל מוּטֶּה, וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה זָקוּף. כֵּיוָן שֶׁהִגִּיעַ זְמַן קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע, הִטָּה רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר וְזָקַף רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל. אָמַר לוֹ רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה לְרַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל: יִשְׁמָעֵאל אָחִי, אֶמְשׁוֹל לְךָ מָשָׁל לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה — מָשָׁל לְאֶחָד שֶׁאוֹמְרִים לוֹ זְקָנְךָ מְגוּדָּל! אָמַר לָהֶם: יִהְיֶה כְּנֶגֶד הַמַּשְׁחִיתִים. אַף כָּךְ אַתָּה, כָּל זְמַן שֶׁאֲנִי זָקוּף — אַתָּה מוּטֶּה, עַכְשָׁיו כְּשֶׁאֲנִי הִטֵּתִי אַתָּה זָקַפְתָּ.

The Sages taught in a baraita that Beit Hillel say: One may recite Shema in any situation: Standing and reciting, sitting and reciting, reclining and reciting, walking and reciting and even working and reciting. And in the Tosefta an incident is related where two tanna’im, Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, who were both disciples of Beit Hillel, were reclining at a meal in one place together with their students, and Rabbi Yishmael was reclined as was the customary dining position, and Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya was upright. When the time to recite the evening Shema arrived, Rabbi Elazar reclined to recite Shema in accordance with the opinion of Beit Shammai, while Rabbi Yishmael sat upright to recite Shema. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya appeared to take offense, and said to Rabbi Yishmael: Yishmael, my brother, I will tell you a parable to which this is similar. It is comparable to a situation where one to whom people say as a compliment: Your beard is full and suits you. That man says to them: May it be against those who shave and destroy their beards, i.e., the only reason I grow my beard is to irritate those who cut their own (Rashba). You are the same. As long as I am upright, you are reclined, and now when I reclined lauding your conduct and emulating you, you sat upright as if to demonstrate that whatever I do, you do the opposite.

The idea here is that the person had a rather full and long beard, and was complimented for it, זְקָנְךָ מְגוּדָּל. He responded that the reason he grew his beard out so much was to counter those who shave improperly.

Rav Kanievsky's focus in citing this gemara is NOT on whether there are some who might act properly (e.g. with a scissors, if that were the case). Though he does add the words legamrei, that they destroy it entirely, that they don't have any beards at all. Rather, it is that this fellow in the analogy acted lehach'is. And so too, he says, we should act lehach'is.

Your question is whether the focus on countering those who destroy it entirely should be evidence that with scissors are permitted. Maybe, though note that he is talking about lehaktin, to trim, and not necessarily to get to the bare skin.

Also, while earlier positions set out in the sefer are that it would be forbidden because of lo tashchit, or chukat goyim, or lo yilbash, here his point is that this person in the analogy was proud of the mitzvot, and so went counter to what others were doing (to the level of prohibition). So from a hashkafic approach we shouldn't trim.

Comments and other answers have already written counter to the sefer Hadras Ponim-Zokon. I'll add that I concur with the disagreement with the sefer. The Targum Yonatan on Chumash is properly called Targum Yerushalmi, since Yonatan ben Uziel didn't translate chumash. Further, there are many valid counterarguments to the positions set out in the sefer, and many major talmidei chachamim through the generations who permitted, based on alternative understandings of gemaras. The sefer is a polemic, and doesn't admit the potential validity of the other positions. Meanwhile, we pasken like Bet Hillel in part because they first mentioned the positions of Bet Shammai.

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Welcome to Mi Yodeya! Using scissors does not violate the aveirah of Ba'al Tashchis, which refers to shaving one's beard. The sources you quote say there may be other problems, such as appearing feminine, or other people assuming you shaved in a forbidden way.

It should be noted that while many Israeli Charedi poskim and Chassidim are adamantly against shaving and consider electric shavers to be no better than razors, the American (non-chassidic) minhag is to rely on Rav Moshe Feinstein's heter to use some shavers. Before electric shavers, bochurim in yeshiva would use depillatory creams. Photos of European pre-War yeshiva bochurim bear this out. (Including one of Rav Aryeh Leib Steinman zt"l.)

In Slabodka yeshivas, which have a strong emphasis on appearing neat, they insist strongly on bochurim shaving. I heard from a former talmid of Slabodka in Eretz Yisroel that in his day, bochurim with beards could not get aliyos. In Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, Rav Dovid Kronglass zt"l used to allow bochurim to shave in honor of Shabbos even during Sefirah. The yeshiva still has a strong emphasis on being clean-shaven.

One of the greatest Kabbalists of all time, the Ramchal, did not have a beard, at least early in life. See here.

So definitely ask a Rav before deciding on your own whether or not to grow a beard.

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  • How does this answer the question?
    – shmosel
    May 23, 2023 at 5:04
  • @shmosel It looks like the question was edited after I wrote my post. So I'll just say that I agree with Josh Waxman's answer.
    – N.T.
    May 23, 2023 at 20:30
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My understanding of R. Chaim (at least in the piece brought in the question) is as follows:

Technically, trimming the beard with scissors is permitted. However, since we live in a generation where many remove their beards in a forbidden way, it behooves us not to use scissors, even though it is permitted,

להראות לפני הכל שהמצות שצותה תורה להצטיין בזה האיש יהודי חביב אצלינו ואין אנו מתבישין בהן ח"ו

to show everyone that the mitzvot which the Torah commanded us so that a Jewish man is distinguished are precious to us, and we are not embarrassed of them, G-d forbid.

So yes, scissors are permitted, but R. Chaim still encourages that they not be used.

This, then, is like the story in Berachot. Although the man could have used scissors to trim his beard, he preferred to let it grow long, to show that he was different from those who shave their beards in a forbidden way.

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  • Exactly. It's a matter of good policy.
    – Shalom
    May 23, 2023 at 14:04
  • Where is it written that Rav Moshe ever gave a heter? May 25, 2023 at 21:15
  • @Yeshivishbuchor I didn’t mention Rav Moshe anywhere in this answer…
    – Joel K
    May 27, 2023 at 18:42
  • I'm just asking stam May 28, 2023 at 21:43

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