Is it halachically permissible for a Jewish barber to use a razor to shave a gentile customer's face?

  • 5
    Why wouldn't it be? The non-Jew has no prohibition against shaving, and the Jew is only commanded on himself (do not destroy the corners of YOUR beard). Aug 9, 2016 at 20:00

2 Answers 2


Wikipedia's article on הקפת הראש והשחתת הזקן says:

מחמת האיסור על המסתפר, אסור להסתפר גם על ידי גוי. מאידך, לרוב הדעות מותר ליהודי לגלח את פיאותיו של גוי, או של אשה, מאחר שהמסתפר אינו חייב במצווה

 ואין זה דומה לילד קטן, שאסור לגלח את פיאותיו למרות שאיננו חייב [במצוות, מאחר שהקטן עתיד לגדול ולהגיע לכלל חיוב במצווה.[51

Because the issur applies to the one whose hair is shaved, the hair which may not be removed (=peyos) may also not be removed by a non-Jew. On the other had, according to most opinions, it is permitted for a Jew to remove the peyos of a non-Jew or a woman since they are not limited by this mitzvoh.

This does not compare to a small child whose peyos may not be removed even though he is no yet covered by the mitzvos, since he will grow up and come to be covered by the mitzvoh.

The source is Shulchan Oruch Yorei Dayoh 181 (5)

המקיף את הקטן חייב. (אבל מותר להקיף את העובד כוכבים או את האשה (ב"י בשם הרא"ש) ויש מסתפקים בדבר [ב"י בשם י"א

Someone who removes the peyos of a child is guilty but it is allowed to remove the peyos of a non-Jew or a woman – but there are those who are unsure of this law.

So according to most opinions it is halachically permissible for a Jewish barber to use a razor to shave a gentile customer's face.

  • rashi BM 10a וקטן דנקט משום דסתמא גדול לא שביק לאקופי נפשיה: I was also writing an answer but you are faster. this is the svara of rav Ada Bar Ahava, but Rav huna think that because the Katan is not Bar Onshin, woman can shave it
    – kouty
    Aug 9, 2016 at 20:56

This excellent question is almost asked by Tosfot in Massechet Nazir 57b, paragraph "Verav Ada Bar Ahava".

  1. Here is a brief introduction of the pre-requisite to understand the topic.

    • The Gemara develop explanations of a verse (Leviticus 19, 27):

      לֹ֣א תַקִּ֔פוּ פְּאַ֖ת רֹֽאשְׁכֶ֑ם וְלֹ֣א תַשְׁחִ֔ית אֵ֖ת פְּאַ֥ת זְקָנֶֽךָ ׃ ‏

      You shall not

      • round the corners of your heads,
      • nor shall you mar the corners of your beard.
    • Two separate prohibitions who are linked in their rules, because affixed one to another (this principle of learning verses is called "Hekesh").

    • The first prohibition to round "the corners of your heads" has two particularities:
      • the plural form,
      • the use of "תקיפו" and not "תוקפו".
    • To deal with these parts of knowledge, we learned in Gemara two ways:
      • the opinion of Rav Huna (which seems adopted for Halacha),
      • the opinion or Rav Ada Bar Ahava.
    • Lets explain only the opinion of Rav Huna on which the OP is based. A part of the bellow is true for R.A.B.A. too.
      • According to Rav Huna, when someone, A round the corner of someone else, B both are guilty. So there are two prohibited 'activities', to round and to leave someone rounding you.
      • the hekesh teach us that this separation is also true for maring beard.
      • The hekesh teach us that the two prohibition of rounding head and mar beard are exclusively turned toward men and do not concern women.
      • So Rav Huna said that an adult man who round the corners of the head of a child is guilty because of the rounding prohibition which is independent, despit that the rounded is not guilty (a child is never guilty).
  2. Here is a snippet of the Tosfot. containing your question (but concerning rounding head which is equivalent to maring beard):

    וא''ת ולרב הונא דלא מקיש מקיף לניקף ואע''ג דניקף לאו בר חיובא הוא מיחייב מקיף אם כן המקיף את העובד כוכבים לחייב כמו המקיף לקטן ודוחק לחלק משום דקטן אתי לכלל חיוב דהשתא מיהא לאו בר חיובא הוא וטעמא דרב הונא לא תלי בהכי אלא משום דלא מקיש מקיף לניקף ונראה להר''ף דיש לומר הואיל וכתיב פאת ראשכם אישראל קאי קרא ולא אעובד כוכבים וצ''ע במקיף את האשה אי מחייב כמו בקטן לרב הונא:

    According to Rav Huna {Tosfot and Poskim follow the opinion of Rav Huna}, who doesn't make equivalence between rounder and rounded, and despite that the rounded is not concerned by the prohibition, the rounder is guilty, so, the one which rounds a non-Jew need to be guilty.

    A non convincing answer is to say that a child is not concerned but will be concerned by the prohibition when he will grow up. This answer is not valuable because Rav Huna is reasoning about the present situation (child = non-Jew).

    Rabenu Perets answered that the verse "The side of your heads" is refering to Jewish people only and does not concern non-Jews. But reflection is needed concerning the case of a man who rounds a woman according to Rav Huna.

To explain this we should know a couple of sentences from Rav Huna, we will show them following the view of the above cited Tosfot.

אמר רב הונא, המקיף את הקטן הרי הוא חייב. ‏ R'Huna said: One who rounds [the head of] a minor is guilty.

רב הונא סבר: (ויקרא יט) לא תקיפו פאת ראשכם ולא תשחית [את] פאת זקנך - כל שיש לו השחתה יש לו הקפה, והני נשי הואיל וליתנהו בהשחתה ליתנהו נמי בהקפה R'Huna holds that [the verse,] Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard, [signifies] that to whomsoever marring is applicable, rounding is applicable, and since marring does not apply to women, rounding, too, does not apply to them.

But a woman who rounds a child is not guilty because women are excluded from the prohibition of shaving beard, and who is excluded from shaving beard prohibition is excluded from the two rounding head prohibitions.

So a Jewish man who is not excluded from the beard shaving prohibition remain always guilty for rounding prohibition, no matter with who. He is prohibited to shave a woman or a non Jew. But in conclusion Tosfot explains that the verse of rounding describe only situation inside Jewish population and a situation between a Jewish barber and a gentile client is not included.

All this is for rounding, but for beard also it seems equivalent, because of the comparison between the two.

3 .From this Tosfot, it can be answered that a Jewish Barber is permitted to use a razor to shave a gentile customer's face.

  • finished and clarified
    – kouty
    Aug 10, 2016 at 11:36

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