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Grooming and Eyebrow Removal


What are the halachic parameters of ‘lo tilbash’ for men? and with regards to grooming?

(In our society) can a man remove eyebrow hair, due to bother or embarrassment, not to look like a woman but so that they are not excessively thick?


1. The question of removing eyebrows

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 Shulchan Aruch and 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.

2. Grooming in General
For grooming in general, the leniency for acts that are generally performed by men follows the ruling of the Rema (Yoreh De’ah 156:2), who writes that in places where men look in the mirror, it is permitted to do so. As noted, this is also the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 182:1) with regard to shaving body hair.
However, the Chafetz Chaim (Nidchei Yisrael,Tiferes Adam, chap. 6) writes that one should not beautify himself at all (his discussion is styling one’s hair), because the concept of self-beautification is a womanly act. This approach is also taken by the Vilna Gaon (156:7), both authorities proving the point from a Gemara in Shabbos (50b).

Although the halachic ruling follows the Shulchan Aruch and Rema, and wherever a certain type of grooming is common to men it would be permitted (though it is worthy to be stringent for the opinions of the Vilna gaon and the Chafetz Chaim), this would only be true if enough men follow the practice that it is not considered “womanly.”

However, as noted, the prohibition applies only to acts that are performed for the purpose of beautification (seeShabbos 50b; Shaarei Zevulun, p. 146).

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  1. 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.

    1) does this include secular Jews?
    2) and what % of jewish men is required to give the heter? Let’s say 25% of jewish men pluck hairs between eyebrows. Is that enough to allow all?

    Personally I don’t wax or use tweezers, I got take razor and it takes two seconds . Woman spend a lot of time and wax and shape them so I think this also should be a factor on HOW it’s done no?

    1. 1) No, this includes only observant Jews. It has to be “generally accepted” for the Jewish community.
      2) It doesn’t depend on a percentage, but on the question of something being “normal” or being “odd” or outlandish. If nobody (in the community) would raise an eyebrow (pardon the expression) at a man grooming his eyebrows, this will indicate that this is “normal practice” even among men.
      The question of how it is done will not usually figure. The act of “female beautification” (achieving the result) is forbidden, even if is done in an original manner.

  2. Today there are equal amount of men that tend to there eyebrows as women.

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