Inspired by this answer, I'm curious. We hold that hair of a married woman is 'Ervah (ערוה). Yet it is not 'Ervah for an unmarried woman. According to the Gemara in Shabbath (Bab. 95a), braiding the hair is "building".

Now, ממה נפשך -- if it is part of the human body, why is braiding it "building"?

If it is not part of the human body, how can it be 'Ervah?

  • 7
    Who said building cannot be done with body parts?? – Dov F Jan 18 '13 at 16:19
  • 2
    @SethJ Your thumb is cold. – Dov F Jan 18 '13 at 18:29
  • 3
    @SethJ Whether or not your body accepts taste seems to have absolutely nothing to do with if you can build with it l'inyan shabbat. I don't see any reason to assume Melachot can't be done with the body (Gozez and Dash come to mind) nor any reason why being a part of the body is a prerequisite for erva status (consider a Niddah's colorful clothes or a Playboy magazine). Additionally, we might consider hair part of the body for some things (Mikva) but not others (Kevura). – Double AA Jan 18 '13 at 21:44
  • 5
    Voice is also not part of the body, yet קול באשה ערוה. – Fred Jan 20 '13 at 18:45
  • 2
    @SethJ I'm skeptical of the question's premise, but I didn't downvote... yet (bwahahaha). I think you should provide some source that suggests that 1.) ervah generally only applies to body parts (which I doubt in part because of קול באשה ערוה (Berachos 24a)), and 2.) boneh cannot be effected with the body (which I doubt because of the last Rashi on Kesuvos 6b (s.v. Chayyav)). – Fred Jan 21 '13 at 22:52

To answer a mistaken premise of the question -- boneh is possible on the human body.

See Shabbos 107a:

המפיס מורסא בשבת אם לעשות לה פה חייב אם להוציא ממנה לחה פטור

If someone pops a pimple on Shabbos -- if he did so to make an opening, then he is liable for punishment; if he intended to remove the pus from inside, he is not liable

Rashi there says:

חייב. משום בונה פתח או משום מתקן כלי מה לי לתקן מכה מה לי לתקן כלי

He is liable: because of boneh or because of metaken kli (fixing/creating a vessel); what does it matter if he fixed a kli or a wound? (both are fixing things, and are therefore forbidden)

So we see that boneh is possible on the human body, and thus the fact that boneh is possible doesn't detract at all from hair being a body-part.

(all translations mine)

  • I thought Rashi there explained that "making an opening" meant להכניס ולהוציא, but I might be thinking of a Rashi on a different gemara where מפיס מורסא came up. If you could help me out with that, I would greatly appreciate it :) – MTL Jan 4 '15 at 5:36

Hair is part of the body. The Gemara (Sukkah 6a) calls it טפל לבשרו; secondary to the flesh, but clearly a legitimate part of the body, as it needs to be included in tevila (ibid).

As to why @SethJ heard that a married woman's hair is ervah and not an unmarried woman's, the source that hair is ervah is Berachos 24a. The Mordechai there cites a Ra'avya (an opinion echoed by various rishonim) that things which in any particular society people are used to, do not retain the status of ervah, despite the Gemara naming them so. So it's really a case of the chicken and the egg; the single women do not uncover their hair because it isn't ervah; rather it isn't ervah because they uncover their hair.

I fail to see how any of this would have bearing on Hilchos Shabbos.

  • How can you effect Boneh with a part of your body? – Seth J Jan 18 '13 at 17:04
  • 4
    @SethJ Why not? What is the basis of your premise that you cannot? I don't think it needs to be said that the "building" we are talking about is more a legal term than simply one you can find defined in Webster's dictionary. – Dov F Jan 18 '13 at 18:28
  • No, it has to be something that was found in Binyan HaMishkan. Which is to say, building as we know it, and virtually identical to Webster's definition of same. – Seth J Jan 20 '13 at 17:47
  • 1
    Come on. They didn't build with electric drills in the mishkan either, yet we apply the principle of 'building' to building with an electric drill, because there is no halachicly significant difference. You have not shown that there is a halachicly significant difference between building with sticks and stones and building with body parts. You've merely made a rhetorical remark. – Dov F Jan 20 '13 at 18:02
  • 1
    I see what you did there... – Seth J Mar 3 '14 at 3:23

As explained in the Mishna Berurah siman 303 #82 the reason braiding hair would be Boneh rather than Oreig is specifically because it is attached to and part of the human body. This then would not be a contradiction to the fact that it is an erva, but rather a complimentary idea.

  • The Mishna B'rura implies that one reason why a person would not be biblically liable for braiding attached hair is that the braiding is meant to be temporary, whereas someone weaving disconnected hairs together would be liable if they are weaving something that is meant to be lasting. So the fact that it is connected to the head has no intrinsic impact on whether a person is biblically liable for braiding (except that the violation is boneh with attached hair but it is oreig with disconnected hair). – Fred Feb 23 '15 at 6:34
  • @Fred I'm not sure what you mean to say. The op was wondering concerning hair if boneh and erva are a stira. I quoted the point from the M.B. which shows this assumption is incorrect and the only reason to even discuss if it is related to boneh at all is because it is connected to the body, not in spite of that fact. The details of what the M.B. actual point was is not what I wanted to bring out. I was focusing only on the boneh aspect. – user6591 Feb 23 '15 at 16:34
  • I see. I was confused since I read your phrasing as implying that attachment to the body makes boneh d'oraisa intrinsically inapplicable. Perhaps consider rephrasing "one of the reasons braiding hair is not Boneh on a deoraisa level is specifically because it is attached" to "the reason braiding hair is Boneh rather than Oreig is specifically because it is attached". – Fred Feb 23 '15 at 20:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .