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I recently asked a friend why it was not permissible to shave with a regular razor and he said because it destroys the hair follicle. However the follicle sits further inside the skin where no razor not standard or electric could reach. So why is an electric razor allowed and not a regular razor?

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I don't think your friend is correct that standard razors are forbidden because they destroy the hair follicle. Proof is that plucking (pulling) hair manually is allowed despite pulling out the follicle (see here and here).

What is forbidden is to shave "the corners of the head and of the beard" (based on Vayikra 19:27: You shall not round off the side-growth on your head, or destroy the side-growth of your beard.) This is understood as cutting hair with a blade (SA YD 181, see here for a translation).

There is indeed a dispute amongst poskim whether shaving is allowed with scissors (see details e.g., here on Halachipedia). So the question to answer for those who allow electric razors, is whether they are closer to a razor (blade) or to a scissor.

Tzomet is an Israeli group of rabbis, researchers and engineers that study new technology in relation to halacha. They explain their position that electric razors are permitted (note that shaver = razor)

There is no discernable difference, from the physical or halachic point of view, between various models of electric shavers. If the "result" is what is important, all types of shavers would be prohibited for use, since none of the shavers leaves hair that can be pulled or that can be felt with the hand.

However, the question of whether shavers can be used is based on the definition of "scissors that are like a razor" and this depends on the mode of operation and not on the result. If the cutting is performed by two or more edges coming into contact, the machine is defined as scissors and not as a razor.

In all the electric shavers, the cutting process is one of contact between a moving blade and the head (a metal screen). Thus, from the point of view of the action performed, these machines are scissors. And this is the basis of our current position.

In our opinion, almost every type of electric shaver which operates as described above can be used.

  • Because of the dispute regarding electric shavers, someone published a "kosher shaver" list several years ago. There's also a poster that I have seen in a few Jewish barber shops that explain which areas of the head may be cut. – DanF Dec 7 '17 at 15:56
  • @DanF you might be thinking of this for the list of shavers and here for the barber poster – mbloch Dec 7 '17 at 16:34
  • Thanks. Yes, that's the barber poster (I didn't realize that Chazaq composed it. They're near my neighborhood and they are a terrific organization.) Didn't know about the list on Tzomet, and that's a good page to help me practice my "modern" Ivrit. – DanF Dec 7 '17 at 17:17
  • THis answer says nothing about why it is forbidden, though. – Al Berko Dec 10 '17 at 0:10
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    @AlBerko Yes it does. I'm sorry you are having trouble reading such a clear and well written post. It is forbidden to use a razor, as this post indicates, because the verse prohibits razors in particular. The question, is which shaving implements are considered razors, or sufficiently similar to razors, to be included. The post indicates, that the determinant is not reaching the follicle, as the OP assumed, but on whether the cutting is performed with one blade, or multiple blades. – mevaqesh Dec 10 '17 at 0:32

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