Today is National No Beard Day.
The Torah states in Leviticus 19:27: “Do not cut the hair on the corners of your head; Do not cut the corners of your beard.” This is one of the rare prohibitions in the Torah that only applies to men.
The “corners of your head” is understood to refer to one’s sideburns, from the cheekbone up to the ear. Chassidic Jews take upon themselves a kabbalistic stringency to not cut the sideburn hairs at all, leaving them long enough to either curl, wrap behind their ears, or tie behind their heads underneath a yarmulka/kippa.
Not cutting the corners of your beard accounts for the Torah’s prohibition on using a razor to remove hair from five points on the face. For hundreds of years this meant that Jewish men were always bearded. The development of depilatory powders gave Jews the possibility of being clean shaven, but the powders were often pungent and sometimes dangerous to the skin. The development of the electric shaver made shaving both halachicly permissible and pleasant. Unlike a straight razor that lifts the hair from the skin and cuts it below the surface, the electric razor uses a scissor-like motion that cuts against the shaver’s guard (metal against metal) instead of against the skin.* It is, however, customary for Chassidim to maintain full beards.
*Taking technological advances into consideration, one should make certain that this is the way the electric shaver actually performs.
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