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Shaving to Avoid Irritation

Good day,

I have a following situation: I am keeping mizvot but here is my problem: in Leviticus 19:27 it is said: don’t cut the hair on the side of your head and don’t trim your beard. You know I have a following situation: from my childhood, whenever I let my hair grow long, some red spots and irritation used to begin appearing on my head skin, it was not a dreaded skin disease but just red spots with a white stuff in it, but still it simply wouldn’t go away. So 10 years or so ago I started to simply shave off my hair compltely and whenever I did this those red spots and irritation disappeared untill the new growth of my hair. And I also shave off my beard because whenever it grows long enough, the irritation and red spots appears on my chins as well. But now, one year or so ago I am beginning to keep the mitzvot of the Torah and just quite recently I learn about the mitzva not to cut the hair and not to trim the beard. However, on the other side in Leviticus 14 it goes about the cases of dreaded skin disease and it is said that whenever one has it, one should shave off all his hair and so on. Of course, my case is not the one of the dreaded skin disease, but still I continue to have an irritation on my head and face skin whenever I let my hair grow long. So from not a very long time ago I started growing and not cutting the hair just on the side of my head, just a narrow strips on my temples, bur I still do completely shave off my beard simply because if I wouldn’t, it becomes very uncomfortable and irritating just in a matter of just few days for the reasons stated above. So my question to you is this: how do I get out of this situation? Because, to tell you quite frankly this problem began to torment me some time ago and that unpleasant feeling appears to be growing: on the one side I am keeping Torah mitzvot (and intend to go on doing this for the rest of my life and in the next ones as well!) but on the other side I do shave off my beard because of the reason explained above. Can you please help me with that? What does Torah exactly say about this? In Hebrew language I mean? I wish I could have found it myself but the thing is that I don’t know Hebrew and I live in a quite hostile environment here in Siberia (you know, unfortunately my exile still continues (although on 23.06.2011 I became 40 years of age) and no one seems to be able and/or willing to help or do anything about this!).

Yous faithfully,

Sergei Osankin


First of all, I want to offer sincere and heartfelt wishes and admiration at your acceptance of a Torah life, in conditions surely not simple. I hope and pray that you will continue to go from strength to strength!

Concerning your question:

Unlike the hair on the side of the temples (the pei’ot ha-rosh, which go down to place where the skull meets the jawbone), It is okay to continue to shave off your beard completely. The question is how to shave it off.

The most ideal way is to use “shaving cream” that removes all the hair from the face. This method is permitted according to all authorities, because it does not involve any cutting (razor) action.

Some authorities, most notably Rav Moshe Feinstein, have permitted the use of electric shavers, and some rely on this ruling for today’s shavers. The possible exception is the lift-and-cut shavers, which should not be used (see, where a method of ‘kashering’ lift-and-cut shavers is presented). Outside of Israel, many are lenient to use modern shavers, even when a close shave results.

Many modern authorities (in particular the major poskim of Eretz Yisrael) are stringent with regard to regular electric shavers that give a close shave. The general custom in Israel is to be stringent in this matter.

I wish you much success once more, and please be in touch if you require further clarification.

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  1. Dear Rabbi, I noticed in your responsa about shaving you commented that all rabbaim hold that using cream to removove the beared is mutar by all opinions. Please allow me to correct this statement, The Ben Ish Chai in Torah Lishmah responsa 215 said the use of cream is assur and the Saba Kadisha Rabbi Alfundari in Amudie Arazim p.52ff Said those who rule that cream for shaving is mutar has ruled in error. I also believe the Michat Elezar ruled against it but dont Know were the exact sorce is. Please let me know if im mistaken.
    Sincerley Shmuel Sophar

    1. I am not familiar with the sources you mention. However, I imagine that they rely on kabbalistic, rather than strictly ‘halachic’ sources. Based on certain kabbalah traditions, a person should not touch his beard at all, regardless of the method. There is no difference, according to this, between shaving and trimming one’s beard. For a person who is not particular about this kabbalah-based stringency, I believe there is no opinion that prohibits the use of cream. Please let me know if you know otherwise.

  2. Rav Avrohom Kalmanowitz, rov of Rakov and Tiktin and later rosh yeshiva of Mir in NY also assers using cream.

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