b’h’i

1. Can a man remove hair any hair on his body that he wants?

2. If eyebrow hair bothers a man can he remove it?

Answer:

The Torah prohibits a man from beautifying himself in the manner of women, and it is therefore prohibited to shave one’s body in places that it is the way of women (and not men) to do so. The Talmud (Nazir 59b) specifies pubic hair and armpit hair as being prohibited for men to shave. According to Rashba (Vol. 4, no. 90; see also Beis Yosef, Yoreh De’ah 181, and Bach 181:8-9), this prohibition applies to the entire body. However, the Rambam (Idolatry Chap. 12:9) writes that the prohibition (in his opinion, rabbinic) applies specifically to places that it is the custom of women alone to shave. This is also the ruling of the Rema (Yoreh De’ah 182).

Therefore, if it is generally accepted for men to remove hair in a given part of the body, it is permitted to do so. For parts of the body where it is not generally accepted for men to remove hair, it is forbidden to do so for the sake of beautification, but it is permitted to do so if one requires this for purpose of medical treatment, or other non-beautifying purposes (see Darchei Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 182, concerning shaving arm-hair for somebody who is ashamed; see also Tosafos, Shabbos 50; Iggros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 2:61; Seridei Eish Vol. 2, no. 40 — the final two sources refer to the prohibition of coloring one’s hair, and write that it is permitted for non-beauty purposes).

Note that according to several authorities, the concept of something that is “generally accepted” to do is defined by the ways of Jews, and not by non-Jews alone.

The same principles apply to eyebrows. To my knowledge, it is still the general manner for women to trim eyebrows, and it would therefore be prohibited to trim them for the purpose of beautification, but permitted if they cause embarrassment or physical disturbance.

3 Responses to “Removing Body Hair/Eyebrows”

  1. “Therefore, if it is generally accepted for men to remove hair in a given part of the body, it is permitted to do so”(however if it is not generally accepted for men to remove hair in a given part of the body it would be forbidden to do so)

    Note that according to several authorities, the concept of something that is “generally accepted” to do is defined by the ways of Jews, and not by non-Jews alone

    so for it to become permitted to remove body hair from a certain place, for non-medical puropses, i would have to wait for other jews to be over the issur of removing that hair, and when enough people are over the issur it would now become permitted for me to remove that hair?

    • This is a good question: How does the practice change, if there is initially a prohibition. However, experience shows that it does. Presumably, non-Jewish fashions filter in to Jewish society (at the beginning to the weaker layers of society), and this changes the halachic status.

  2. Re: Yosef Lewinson’s question and Rav Pfeffer’s answer. I was wondering about similar issues for a while and baruch shekivanti to Rav Pfeffer’s basic answer. It would appear that Rav Pfeffer’s approach would also be necessary to explain changing norms in Chukos Ha’Akum and Tznius. In both of these, there are absolutes: practices rooted in idolatry for the former and certain parts of the body for the latter. But there are also many subjectives: modes of dress for chukos ha’Akum and covering below the elbow, etc. for tznius. But how did this become a Jewish norm if not for those who violated the halacha? Presumably one would have to resort to Rav Pfeffer’s answer.

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