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According to Rav Wikipedia, the upsherin is a custom that was brought from Muslims to Palestinian Jews to Tzfat Sephardim to Chasidim.

Recently, I've noticed mainstream (non-charedi) Orthodox Jews also holding upsherins. How and when did this come to be standard practice? How widespread is it?

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  • Very related (though not quite a dupe because this one's specifically about contemporary America): judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/13106/…
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 9 '13 at 17:14
  • @IsaacMoses The accepted answer there are chassidic sources. Jan 9 '13 at 17:17
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    I don't know that this is "standard practice." I went to one 15 years ago and have been to a couple more recently. But I also know people int he community who are not doing it. How is one to determine a standard minhag? Is this aspect of the question answerable?
    – rosends
    Jan 9 '13 at 19:36
  • @Dan That's a good question. I think that if you can show it's not standard practice, that would answer the question. "Standard practice" here has a flexible definition, but I guess I mean "When did this become something that people would say 'Jews do this' instead of 'Chasids do this'?" Jan 9 '13 at 22:05
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    Here is a nice shiur on the history of Upherin, given be Rav Zvi Ron. ustream.tv/recorded/16106874 Jun 9 '13 at 20:14
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I'll try to explain this (without any sources, sorry!) as best as I can as a practical matter in modern circles in the United States (and elsewhere).

First, many non-charedi Orthodox Jews in America maintain older customs.

Second, some "neo-Hasidic" (or "Modern-Hasidic") Orthodox Jews (I'm not using any accepted nomenclature, just calling it as I see it, but I'm referring to the growing trend of people taking influence from a blend of Hasidic customs and teachings) have also embraced the practice.

Still other have embraced the practice for the symbolism of 'Orlah (not taking fruit from a tree for three years), since both people and the Torah are compared to trees.

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  • I understand all of that. I also understand that the growing percent of charedi teachers in MO schools (and of charedi rabbis in congregations of MO-niks) mean that charedi customs seep into MO culture. But I'm wondering when this custom became seen as "it's something we do" where "we" means MO Ashkenazi Jews. This question is entirely sociological, so I don't expect a traditional source here. Jan 9 '13 at 17:34
  • So you want a year/decade/era?
    – Seth J
    Jan 9 '13 at 18:05
  • a documented year/decade/era would be sufficient. Better would be a timeline of adoption, but some things are just not fully traceable. Jan 9 '13 at 18:08
  • I mean, I can document a year on this page if you want. What type of documentation are you looking for?
    – Seth J
    Jan 9 '13 at 18:27
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Rabbi Menachem Mendel Poliakoff from Baltimore wrote a sefer about the practices in Lithuania and more importantly, in the yeshivas. In the sefer he says that prior to WWII no Ashkenazi Jew had ever heard of it. In fact, he cites the source as being a pagan one (and proves it from a mishna describing idol worshippers only cutting their hair on one of their holidays). It is unfortunate that many MO Jews have begun doing this, thinking that they are acting yeshivish when in fact the real and legitimate yeshivas of old would have shunned this custom.

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  • There are much better sources to cite on the matter than that Mishna.
    – Double AA
    May 31 '13 at 7:29
  • @DoubleAA I think your argument is with the rav, not the poster. But what sources would you cite? May 31 '13 at 14:37
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    "no Ashkenazi Jew": did you mean "no non-hasidic Ashkenazi Jew"?
    – msh210
    Jun 2 '13 at 5:43
  • @CharlesKoppelman Look at any of the downvoted answers here judaism.stackexchange.com/q/8212/759
    – Double AA
    Jun 2 '13 at 9:37

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