Reviews in Brief – The Halachic Haircutting Handbook

The Halachic Haircutting Handbook: A Breakthrough Exposure of an Obscure Mitzvah (Second Edition)

By Rabbi Chaim and Binyamin Jachter
Kol Torah, 2023
107 pages

Over the past few years, a plethora of books and articles—most of them sent to my house without my permission by an enthusiastic opponent of shaving—have been published that argue that halachah forbids men from shaving their beards. Kabbalah in general, and Chassidic thought in particular, emphasize the spiritual importance of a man’s beard. For this mystical reason, many men never trim their facial hair at all. However, the current argument claims that it is forbidden to shave for halachic, not mystical, reasons.

This is puzzling to many because common practice in the yeshivah community for at least a century is that beards are for married men. The yeshivah in Slabodka required single men to remove their facial hair unless they came from Chassidic families. Even after the advent of the electric shaver, this common practice continued for decades. Most yeshivot now allow for more personal autonomy on such issues, but the clean shaven look is still standard.

The current would-be debate revolves around the permissibility of electric shavers. In a short but powerful book, Rabbi Chaim and Binyamin Jachter review the debate among posekim whether use of an electric shaver constitutes a violation of the prohibition to shave with a razor (Vayikra 19:27). One aspect of the debate is whether the Talmud allows shaving with scissors. Another aspect is which, if any, electric shavers operate like scissors. Those who permit shaving with scissors would allow an electric shaver that functions in a scissor-like manner. In a surprising breakthrough, Rabbi Jachter and Binyamin Jachter spoke with engineers and examined videos of shaver tests to clarify exactly how they function. Their unequivocal conclusion is that facial skin does not provide enough resistance for an electric shaver to cut against. Rather, all electric shavers function like scissors.

After showing their evidence to a number of leading rabbis and posekim, the unanimous conclusion is that these electric shavers are permissible. The authors conclude that almost all electric shavers are permissible and add that while they use the word “almost,” they are not aware of any electric shaver that is forbidden. This does not mean that men must shave their beards or that there is no room to choose to be strict regarding the opinion that shaving with a scissor is forbidden. However, the authors emphatically demonstrate that there is ample room to permit using any electric shaver currently on the market.


Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and runs He is a member of the Jewish Action Editorial Board.

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