Question:

My son is 18 years old and he has down syndrome. He doesn’t speak much. He doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand mourning the bais hamikdash nor shabbos melachos. We need to shave his face at least once or twice a week. He looks much younger that an 18 year old because he is short. My wife feels it is important that he be clean shaven so that when he interacts with people in public he will make a good impression on them. In addition, she makes sure he is always dressed in clean clothing. She feels that if he doesn’t shave during chol hamoed and during the 9 days he will have a small beard and people will be repulsed by his appearance and this may have a negative effect on him. He will look like a child with a beard. For these reasons, is it permissible for us to shave his beard on these days?

Answer:

You are asking an interesting question, is it permitted to shave a katan (child), or in this case a shota (mentally incapable) on chol hamoed or the nine days. Let’s look at your questions one at a time.

Regarding Chol hamoed, we are not allowed to shave or give haircuts even in order for the person to look good on chol hamoed. However, the Shulchan Aruch says that it is permitted to give a haircut to a katan, and the Mishna Berura says that this is only if the hair is bothering him. In your instance the katan is not bothered at all by the hair, rather you are, and it is only temporary, so it is skeptical if the heter will apply. Another source for a potential heter would be because R’ Moshe Feinstein zt”l wrote regarding businessmen shaving on chol hamoed, that in instances where it is needed and the person shaved before yom tov, that it is then permitted. However he does say there that this heter is really only if it is a great need or a lot of pain, and it is hard for me to say that his is indeed the case over here. Therefore, I can’t give you a clear answer regarding chol hamoed.

Regarding the nine days, since he is like a katan, it is permitted to shave him during the three weeks and nine days, but not during the week of Tisha B’av. (If Tisha B’av is on Wednesday, then he can’t be shaven from after Shabbos.) as we can not give a haircut to a katan during this week. Although he is not at a level of being taught about the churban, but since even he isn’t shaving, it causes people how will look at him pain, since they will know that it is because it is now a sad time.

Best Wishes

Sources:

Orach Chaim 531-6, M:B 531-15, Igros Moshe O:CH 1-163. Shulchan Aruch 551-14, M:B 551-82.

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