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A BIT OF BACKGROUND

I know that in Jewish law there are some ritual requirements, positive duties caused by time, which obligate men but not women. The gemara mentions this idea both in the context of consistent examples and in the context of exceptions, ritual requirement which do obligate women, such as kiddush on Shabbos. For a few examples see Kiddushin 29a, Kiddushin 33b, Berachos 20b, Shabbos 23a, Pesachim 108b, Succah 28a, Rosh Hashanah 33a, Succah 38a, Kiddushin 34a, Arachin 3.

But in general, there is a presumption of equal rights (Bava Kamma 15a, citing Num 5:6, Ex 21:1, Ex 21:29), and prohibitions usually apply to men and women equally.

THE REAL QUESTION

So why are women permitted to cut their payot (sideburns)? The commandment involved there is not a positive time-bound commandment; it's a prohibition!

I don't mean to ask philosophically why God made it that way (like "Taamei HaMitzvot"). I'm asking what is the Derasha or verse that Talmud (etc.) uses to derive it.

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Kiddushin 35b addresses this:

חוץ מבל תקיף ובל תשחית כו': בשלמא בל תטמא למתים דכתיב (ויקרא כא, א) אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן בני אהרן ולא בנות אהרן אלא בל תקיף ובל תשחית מנלן § The Gemara asks: Granted, a woman of priestly lineage is not obligated in the mitzva of: Do not contract ritual impurity from a corpse, as it is written: “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None shall become impure for the dead among his people” (Leviticus 21:1). This verse teaches that the prohibition applies to the sons of Aaron, but not the daughters of Aaron. But from where do we derive the prohibitions of: Do not round the corners of one’s head, and: Do not destroy the corners of your beard?

דכתיב (ויקרא יט, כז) לא תקיפו פאת ראשכם ולא תשחית את פאת זקנך כל שישנו בהשחתה ישנו בהקפה והני נשי הואיל ולא איתנהו בהשחתה ליתנהו בהקפה The Gemara answers that this is as it is written: “You shall not round the corners of your head and you shall not destroy the corners of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27). The juxtaposition of the two prohibitions teaches that anyone who is included in the prohibition against destroying the beard is included in the prohibition against rounding the head. And since women are not included in the prohibition against destroying, they are also not included in the prohibition against rounding the head.

ומנלן דלא איתנהו בהשחתה איבעית אימא סברא דהא לא אית להו זקן ואיבעית אימא קרא דאמר קרא לא תקיפו פאת ראשכם ולא תשחית את פאת זקנך The Gemara asks: And from where do we derive that women are not obligated in the prohibition against destroying the corners of one’s beard? The Gemara answers: If you wish, propose a logical reason, as ordinarily women do not have a beard. And if you wish, cite a verse that teaches this point, as the verse states: “You shall not round the corners of your head [roshekhem] and you shall not destroy the corners of your beard [zekanekha]” (Leviticus 19:27).

  • In short, women are exempt from pe’os because they are exempt from the prohibition against tum’as meis, which, in turn, is because of a gezeiras hakasuv. – DonielF Sep 3 '17 at 4:26
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    @DonielF no, that is incorrect. It is because they are exempt from destroying the corners of the beard which is either a sevara or a gezeirat hakatuv – wfb Sep 3 '17 at 15:34

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