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If someone has thin hair that easily comes out are they allowed to put their hair in a ponytail or remove the ponytail if the intention is not to take out any hair?

  • there is a general principle that doing an action that 'may' result in a melacha is fine, but something that will 'definitely' result in a melacha (psik reisha) is typically forbidden, depending on the specifics. – jj2 Aug 25 '15 at 17:37
  • Is judaism.stackexchange.com/q/57485/5275 dupe or related? – DanF Aug 25 '15 at 17:51
  • @Hugh, citation needed. – msh210 Aug 25 '15 at 17:55
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I am extracting several answers from this article that may be relevant:

May one use a ponytail holder to make a ponytail in her hair on Shabbat?

Making a ponytail and using a ponytail holder is permitted on Shabbat, as this is unlikely to cause the removal of hair (Yalkut Yosef, 303:15).

So, in general, you can make a ponytail. However, since you stated that it is quite likely that your hair may fall out,

May one stroke his beard on Shabbat?

Strictly speaking, it is permissible to stroke one’s beard on Shabbat, despite the possibility of hairs being detached, because the person neither intends to remove hair nor has any interest in doing so, and this outcome is not guaranteed to occur. Nevertheless, Hacham Ovadia Yosef (in Yalkut Yosef) rules that it is preferable to avoid stroking one’s beard on Shabbat.

So, it is really based mainly on the intent, and since you have no intent to remove your hair, there is a leniency.

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    RE: Your last line "mainly on the intent". I don't know exactly how to measure what's considered 'mainly' vs. 'partly', but, even in your answer, it says that there is a second qualification that affects permissibility: guaranteed outcome. The action needs to be unintended, as well as not guaranteed, for it to be permissible. One without the other doesn't work. – Salmononius2 Aug 25 '15 at 18:47
  • @Salmononius2 Thanks. I never knew about that nuance. Is there some source that explains this rule in a bit more detail? – DanF Aug 25 '15 at 18:49
  • A lot of ink has been spilled on that topic. It's known as Psik Reisha (literally: Remove the Head. A shortening of the rhetorical question "Psik Reisha Velo Yamus?" "Can you remove the head [of a chicken] and it won't die?"). It's one of the biggies of Hilchos Shabbos, so it's discussed in several places. As with just about anything Shabbos related, a good place to start looking would be Rabbi Ribiat's 4 volume 39 Melochos book. – Salmononius2 Aug 25 '15 at 19:06
  • @Salmononius2 Thanks. I have that series home. Not easy reading b/c of the vast array of topics, but he does explain things quite well. (Not that I condone them, but, I somewhat understand why many Jews choose to violate Shabbat.) – DanF Aug 25 '15 at 21:19

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