Hair - שֵׂעָר

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)


I. Hair in the Tanach. 11

II. Maturity is determined by hair 21

III. Head vs. Hair Covering. 26

Headcovering in Jewish Law.. 27

Men. 27

The Source. 29

Women. 30

The Sotah. 30

IV. Tzitzith. 30

V. Cutting hair 30


In this study I would like to try to understand what the Torah and our Sages reveal about hair. I would like to understand the purpose of hair and why we cover our hair sometimes.


The Hebrew word for hair, “se’ar - שֵׂעָר”, has the same letters as the word “shi’ur” meaning a measured portion.


Narrowness is associated with the spiritual energies of harshness, of din (judgment). Therefore, the narrowness of any physical thing, such as hair, indicates that it contains the spiritual energies of harshness. Every physical item is a reflection of the deep mystical mechanisms of its underlying spiritual essence. Rabbi Nachman taught that because HaShem’s life-sustaining light is so powerful, it must be constricted, filtered, and diluted. Human hair accomplishes this through its spiritual mechanism of constriction, thus HaShem’s light is absorbed into the body through the hair. We will also see later, that hair moves energy both in and out of the body.


According to the Kabbalah, in a spiritual sense hair is the waste product of the brain. Long strands of hair in men may act as ropes to which negative influences may take hold. This is considered particularly true regarding the hair at the back of the neck near the brain stem, which is the point of connection between the brain and the rest of the body. Harmful influences seek to attach there in order to “sever” a healthy connection between the spiritual and physical, effecting a sort of spiritual decapitation.


Interestingly, the Zohar[1] differentiates between the rest of the hair and that at the sides of the head and the beard. This hair is said to originate from holy sources and projects positive spiritual energy: “The hair locks are shaped and hang in wavy curls from one side to the other side of the skull. This is what is written, ‘His locks are wavy’....They are situated hanging in curls, because they flow forth from great springs of the three divisions of the brain. From the spring of the first space in the skull, [Chachmah - wisdom]....From the second space, [Binah - understanding]....From the third space, [Da’at - knowledge] go forth thousands of thousands of rooms and chambers, and the hairs flow forth continuously from all. Therefore, these locks (of the beard) are curls upon curls.”


Halakha requires Sefardi women to cover their hair. Halakha also requires all Jewish men to cover their heads. There is a BIG difference between covering a woman’s hair and covering a man’s head.


The hair of a woman which derives from nukva[2] of Atzilut,[3] must be covered, since it can allow for the sustenance of negative forces.


The Torah’s attitude towards hair seems to have different ways of treating hair:


  1. The Nazir’s hair is holy and is cut only at the end of his vow.
  2. The Levites in the desert had to shave their hair.


When the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf, they used the spiritual energies of constriction, derived from the celestial mechanism called the “upper hairs”, to place their trust and belief exclusively in an idol. This tainted the “upper hairs”, for their energies of constriction and limitation were to be the channel only for exclusive belief in HaShem. Since the Levites were strongly connected to the constricting energies of the “upper hairs”, they were able to maintain their focus solely on HaShem and remain loyal to Him. Therefore, the Levites were the only ones who did not sin with the Golden Calf and, in fact, they helped Moshe to destroy it. However, the sin of the Golden Calf severely damaged and polluted the holy constricting energies of the “upper hairs”. As a rectification, since the Levites’ spiritual essence is integrally related to the “upper hairs”, when they were sanctified to serve in the Tabernacle and assist the kohanim (priests), they were commanded by HaShem to shave off all of the hairs of their bodies.


  1. The beard and payot should not be touched.
  2. A woman’s hair must be covered.
  3. The hair of the leper must be shaved.
  4. The hair of Samson was the source of his strength.


Again, the Hebrew word “se’ar - שֵׂעָר” is translated as “hair.” The first use, in the Torah, of the Hebrew word for hair relates to Esav who was born hairy as the Torah relates:


Bereshit (Genesis) 25:25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.


The letters of the Hebrew word for “hair” (se’ar - שֵׂעָר) are the same as that for the Hebrew word for “gate” (sha’ar): שער (shin-ayin-reish). This suggests that hair acts like a gate. Just as a gate act as a connection between those inside and those outside, so too does hair act as a connection between two domains.


Kabbalistically, hair (se’ar) represents ‘din’, just as barley (se’ora) does, which is why it was the Omer-Offering between Pesach and Shavuot, during which time 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died for less than perfect ‘social’ behavior.


Literally, the word ‘din’ means ‘judgment,’ but it refers to the light within creation that tends to constrict the light of HaShem rather than reveal it, as does the light of Chesed. Hair, for specific reasons, represents this light and therefore by cutting it, the light of Gevurot is being tempered somewhat and rectified. By growing his hair, the nazir is increasing his power of tzimtzum, that is, his power of constraint.


The plain meaning of Bambidbar (Numbers) 6:2 is that a Nazirite is warned not to consume wine seeing that anyone who allows his desire for wine and alcoholic drink to determine his actions will give in to other temptations involving matters which are forbidden even in moderate quantities, to lead him astray. The reason the Nazir has been commanded to grow his hair long is that long hair causes people to worry, and the Torah wants the Nazir to worry about not breaking the constraints of his vow. When he looks dishevelled due to his unruly hair he will also abstain from other activities which reflect dishonour upon man. Hair is perceived as the remnant and excess of "smouldering" physical forces that the body emits. [I believe that the fact that both nails and hair have to be trimmed, (and are phenomena which continue to grow even after death for some time) are viewed as reflecting the preponderance of physical forces within us. It is interesting that we find in the Talmud[4] that Jewish women were generally devoid of pubic hair and under-arm hair which was taken as a sign of their moral superiority in matters of chastity. See my article on hair in "The Just lives by his faith." Ed.][5]


The reason the Nazir must not drink wine or become ritually impure is to keep his distance from forces which are beholden to the "left side" of the emanations, the part which is perceived of as representing spiritually negative influences. On the other hand, he is warned not to shave as hair represents strength as we know from Samson. The moment Samson agreed to have his hair cut his "spiritual" strength disappeared and he was no better than any other ordinary mortal. He regained his prowess only after his hair had grown back.[6] As I have mentioned previously, hair grows incessantly and continues to grow even after death if the corpse is in a moist environment. Each single hair is a symbol of the far-flung activities of the Lord, activities which deal with minute details, just as every single hair seems by itself insignificant. Hairs represent continuous development in all directions of the globe. As a reminder of this concept of G-d the "All-Present", the Nazir is commanded to give the hair full and unrestrained opportunity to keep growing This is the mystical dimension of the words ראשו שער פרע גדל. The Nazir is cautioned not to destroy any part of his hair by means of a razor seeing that "it is the crown of G-d on his head" (verse 7). Were he to cut this hair this would be equivalent to heresy practiced by an ordinary Israelite, something which the sages called הנטיעות קצץ "destroying saplings planted by G-d through cutting them (spiritually)". It is similar to separating the holy name of the Lord from His "branches". When Samson allowed his hair to be cut his physical strength departed from him immediately and the prophet Samuel (himself a Nazir and author of the Book of Judges) describes what happened to him in these words: ותאלצהו. "she nagged him constantly." The word has a connotation of the attribute of Justice, i.e. the sages suggest that when reading these words we should reverse the letters צ-ל to read the word as ותאצלהו, as if it meant that Delilah had succeeded in denying Samson the spiritual input which had been the source of his physical prowess.[7]



The central physical function of the hair on the head is to protect the head from moisture. In fact, a gland is attached to the follicle which moisturizes the hair. Furthermore, the hair on the head serves to protect the head from the sun’s rays.


Hair signifies a very diminished form of life force: it is constantly growing, but can be cut without causing pain. It therefore signifies the transference of a highly limited and diluted level of life force from the area of the body from which it issues.


The beard thus signifies HaShem’s attribute of mercy. Elsewhere, the Arizal describes the thirteen “rectifications” or “tufts” of the beard, and how each one corresponds to one of the thirteen attributes of mercy.


The analogy is that, just as a man’s and woman’s head grows hair, so, too, is there a concept of “hair” in the world of the Sefirot. And, just as hair sits on top of a man, like a crown on the holiest part of his body, his head, so, too, does hair sit on top of the uppermost sefirah, Keter, also called “Crown”. In fact, its level in creation is so high, that, for the most part, we are forbidden even to make reference to it.


However, whereas human hair may serve little function other than for appearance-sake, or to keep us warm, in the Sefirot, the “hair” functions like little spiritual pipes, through which the light of HaShem can begins its descent to the lower Sefirot, and, eventually, us. In other words, Sefirical hair represents the spiritual interface between a sefirah, and the one after it, a kind of spiritual interface. This is true whether we are looking at the entire, overall, general scheme of Sefirot, or, the smaller sub-systems of Sefirot that exist within each one, like between Chachmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding).


The Gemara, in Sotah 10a, relates that Shimshon received all his power because he never cut his hair. The hair is an extension of the eyes; that is why we don’t cut our hair during Sefirah.


The Arizal says in his Sefer HaLikutim, (Sefer Shoftim,) that even when a person falls to wherever he falls to, he must never say, “it is right in my eyes”, this is my path. He must, instead, say and know that he doesn’t know why HaShem did this to him, he doesn’t know why he fell. If he says, “it is right in my eyes”, then he falls completely. That was why they cut off Shimshon’s hair, because the hair is an extension of the eyes’ vision. When he blemished his eyes, his strength was compromised and they were able to cut his hair.




Bamidbar 5:11-15 HaShem told Moshe, “Speak to the Children of Israel, and tell them about when a man’s wife deceives him, and another man lies with her carnally and defiles her, out of sight of her husband and closed off somewhere, and no witnesses against her can be found He must bring his wife to the priest


This is the law of the Sotah, the suspected adulteress, and the parsha then goes on to detail the procedure for determining her innocence, or guilt.


These are the ones who go out (are divorced) without a ketuba Those who break laws which are Da’at Moshe or Yehudit What is an example of Da’at Yehudit? A woman who goes outside with uncovered hair Wait! [The prohibition against] uncovered hair is from the Torah, as it says, “[The kohen shall have the woman stand before HaShem] and uncover the head of the woman.[8]


Kethuboth 72b [IS DEEMED TO BE A WIFE’S TRANSGRESSION AGAINST] JEWISH PRACTICE? GOING OUT WITH UNCOVERED HEAD. [Is not the prohibition against going out with] an uncovered head Pentateuchal; for it is written, And he shall uncover the woman’s head, and this, it was taught at the school of R. Ishmael, was a warning to the daughters of Israel that they should not go out with uncovered head? — Pentateuchally it is quite satisfactory [if her head is covered by] her work-basket;1 according to traditional Jewish practice, however, she is forbidden [to go out uncovered] even with her basket [on her head].


Part of the procedure of humiliation of the Sotah was the uncovering of her hair, which, we are assuming, was covered to begin with. But, perhaps all women covered their hair in Moshe’s time, including single women? As a matter of halachah? Hardly; it is extremely unlikely that only part of the halachah would still survive, that part which only pertains to married women.

the different layers that make up our skin



The obligation to cover one’s hair after marriage is based in the Oral Law. We have a tradition that all details of the Oral Law are, at least, hinted to in the Written Law, on the level of either remez, drash, or sod. What part of the Written Torah can be considered the basis for the Oral Law halachah of a married woman covering her hair?


Can there be a more direct, more obvious source in the Written Torah than the verse commanding the uncovering of the Sotah’s hair (5:18), as if to say: You have acted as a single women through your act of infidelity, and now your hair covering, the symbol of your relationship with your husband, shall also be removed.




Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:5 All the days of his vow to be a nazir, no razor shall go across his head until the fulfillment of the days of being a nazir. He shall be holy; the hair of his head shall grow wild (perah).


The nazir may not cut the hair “on his head”. The head is the seat of the brain and intellect. The hair, which covers the cranium and thus surrounds the brain, is, at least symbolically, an outgrowth and development of the perspicacity which lies within. The hair, when cut, represents a boundary, a limit. By abstaining from cutting his hair, the nazir manifests a presence that permits his intellect to burst forth beyond its usual parameters.


Following on the heals of the mitzva of the Sotah is the halachah regarding the Nazir, the man or woman who vows to abstain from wine and wine-related products, and several other restrictions due to the person’s changed spiritual status.


One such restriction of being a Nazir is the halachah to not take care of one’s hair; it is to grow wild, just like the Sotah’s hair becomes when unwrapped by the priest:


Bamidbar (Numbers) 5:18 The kohen shall have the woman stand before HaShem and uncover (pharah) the head of the woman.


There is a clear connection between the two parshiyot, for, in each case, the words are spelled, peh-reish-ayin. This is aside from the other important connection the Talmud makes between the Sotah and Nazir:


Why is [Tractate] Nazir [in the Book of Women]? The Tanna is basing himself upon the posuk: If she does not find favor in his eyes, because she has acted unfaithfully[9]. What caused her to sin? Wine! As it says: All who see the Sotah in her predicament takes an oath to abstain from wine.[10]


In fact, the letters peh-reish-ayin, are the basis of the word used to describe the licentiousness (or, in this context, the constraint of licentiousness; see Rashi) of those who worshipped the golden calf while Moshe was away from the camp, on top of Mt. Sinai:


Shemot (Exodus) 32:25 Moshe saw that the people had been restrained (parah), because Aaron had restrained (paroah) them by doing only a small part of what some demanded to be done.


Not coincidentally, these letters are also the root letters of the word “Pharaoh”, the very symbol of immorality and sensual living from which the Jewish people were supposed to have fled! Certainly, given the emphasis Western Society places on hair care (a multi-billion dollar industry while people starve from want of basic foods in other parts of the world), and the role the appearance of hair plays in the attraction of men for women and vice versa, one can see how hair can symbolize sensuous living, and narcissist behavior, as the Talmud portrays:


Lets look at those who took Nazirite vows:


Shoftim (Judges) 16:15-21 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death. So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to HaShem since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that HaShem had left him. Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison.


So, Samson the judge lost his strength (God is our strength) when he lost his hair. We also see that there were others who derived strength with HaShem by taking a nazirite vow and letting their hair grow. John the Baptist was probably the most famous nzir.


Luqas (Luke) 1:8-17 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, He was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name Yochanan (John). He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”


Shabbath 50b A nazirite may cleanse [his hair] and part it, but he must not comb it. Rather both are according to R. Judah, yet two Tannaim differ as to R. Judah’s view: one Tanna holds that in R. Judah’s view they [natron and sand] smooth, while the other Tanna holds that in R. Judah’s view they do not smooth. How have you explained them? As agreeing with R. Judah! Then consider the second clause: ‘But the face, hands, and feet are permitted’; but surely it removes the hair?-If you wish, I can answer that it refers to a child; alternatively, to a woman, another alternative, to a eunuch [by nature].


The Nazir, who seeks to purify himself and come close to HaShem, separates himself from three things: Cutting the hair, drinking wine, and becoming tameh (ritually impure through contact with the dead).


These three separations correct blemishes in the three worlds of Thought, Action, and Speech.


Thought: Hair grows from the head, the seat of thought. Thus, cutting the hair represents correcting imperfections in the sphere of thought.


Action: Tumah corresponds to the sphere of action. The principal source of Tumah results from contact with a dead body, for before its passing, the body was the epitome of life and action.


Speech: Wine represents the function of speech. Hence the saying: “Enter the wine - exit the secret”. Secrets are communicated by words. By speech. Correction in the sphere of speech is effected by abstinence from wine.


Corresponding to these three worlds are the three korbanot (offerings): Olah (burnt), Chatat (sin), and Shlamim (peace). The Olah corrects faults in the thought; Chatat, in action and Shlamim, in speech.


Yochanan (John) was a prophet who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. We find that he was the greatest man born of woman:


Matityahu (Matthew) 11:7-15 As Yochanan (John)’s disciples were leaving, Yeshua began to speak to the crowd about Yochanan (John): “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than Yochanan (John) the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of Yochanan (John) the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until Yochanan (John). And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear.


It appears that this vow of separation may be related to his greatness.




Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:1-3 HaShem told Moshe, “When either a man or a woman vows to become a nazir, abstaining in honor of HaShem, he must abstain from wine, wine-brandy...”


In a sense, Birchat Kohanim (Priestly blessing) represents the summary of all that came before it in the parsha, especially with respect to the laws of the nazir.


There are two main identifying factors about the nazir: he does not cut his hair and he abstains from consuming wine and related products (such as grapes). What does one have to do with the other? The connection will become clear from what follows:


Literally, the word ‘din’ means ‘judgment’, but it refers to the light within creation that tends to constrict the light of HaShem rather than reveal it, as does the light of Chesed. Hair, for specific reasons, represents this light and therefore by cutting it, the light of Gevurot is beening tempered somewhat and rectified. By growing his hair, the nazir is increasing his power of tzimtzum, that is, his power of constraint.


As the Talmud points out and Rashi mentions, the nazir abstains from wine because he witnessed an episode of the sotah who sinned through wine. The nazir is forced to let his hair grow to provide a counter-balance to what he is retracting from, to maintain his free-will capability.


(We do not become nazirim today without a Temple.)


The following Talmudic source spells out just how much this is so by revealing the role of a married woman’s hair covering:


Eiruvin 100b Ten curses came to Chava [for eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil] She must cover like one in mourning (Rashi: It will be embarrassing to go out with her hair uncovered).


Why would the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil necessitate such a response from HaShem? Because, as the following Talmudic passage reveals, the calm and orderliness of Chava’s hair was part and parcel of woman’s creation, and HaShem’s gift to the first wife of history:


Bereshit (Genesis) 2:20-22 HaShem caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept. He then took one of his sides, and after, closed the flesh in its place. HaShem built (vayivein) the side into a woman, and He brought her to the man.


Berachot 61a Rebbi Shimon ben Menasi elucidated: Why does it say, “vayivein” (“and He built,” as opposed to the normal “vayitzar,” “and He formed”)? We learn from this that The Holy One, Blessed is He, braided Chava’s [hair], and then brought her to Adam.


Hence, we learn, that the status of a woman’s hair changes at the time she is married to her soul-mate. The “reigning in” of her hair symbolizes the discipline she brings to herself and to her family upon making the commitment to a single male. And through this, we shall see, she brings blessing to herself, her husband, and her entire family, even affecting the uprightness of her descendants!


For, the word “yivein” is also in common with the word “binah,” or “understanding,” referring here to the woman’s “Binah Yesayrah”, the “Extra (Intuitive) Understanding” with which a woman, particularly at marriage, is endowed. She gains this extra insight to help her husband steer the family correctly across the waters of confusion of everyday life, and it is, according to this, intricately dependent upon her covering of her hair.


The only question is, why the hair, of all parts of the body? It is the least attached (you can pull out plenty without major consequence to your health)! To answer this question, and pull the whole matter together under one covering, we will have to consult the more esoteric side of Torah.


Bereshit 1:26-27 HaShem said, “Let us make Man in Our image, in Our likeness” HaShem created mankind in His image; He created him in the image of HaShem, male and female.


Up until this point, we have only seen sources that the covering of a married woman’s hair is a Torah mitzva, and, that it is elucidated in the Mishna and Talmud. And, even though there are many who wish to dispute this halachah today, they must understand that they are also taking on the entire line of Torah transmitters, the greatest Hakhamim (Rabbis) the Jewish people have ever produced.


Furthermore, there is a concept that, although the same mitzvot apply in all generations (except for those related to the Temple service), some prove to be more of a test for one generation than for other generations. Eretz Israel, and hair covering are proving to be tests of Jewish spirituality specifically in this post-war generation.


But why should a woman’s hair represent so much? Like for all of Torah, the clearer, more esoteric explanation lies in the realm of Kabbalah, the ULTIMATE source of ALL Torah concepts.


As the Zohar explains, when the Torah says that man was created in the “image of HaShem,” it means, more precisely, in the image of the Sefirot. Sefirot are spiritual emanations, and they act like spiritual transformers to “filter” the light of HaShem, so that we, the world, and our free-will can exist. Otherwise, the Torah intimates and Kabbalah explains, HaShem’s light would remain too pure and lofty for anything physical to exist. The ten Sefirot are in descending order:


(Ain Sof, or, HaShem’s light)

Keter (Crown)

Chachmah (Wisdom)

Binah (Understanding)

Chesed (Kindness)

Gevurah (Strength)

Tifferet (Beauty)

Netzach (Dominance; Eternity)

Hod (Glory)

Yesod (Foundation)

Malchut (Kingship)


According to Kabbalah, the Sefirot are arranged in the spiritual realm in a similar fashion to how man has been formed in the physical realm, and that it is to this established reality that the term “in the image of HaShem” refers. This puppet-like correspondence allows creation to be spiritually, and ultimately, physically responsive to the deeds of man (e.g., when a person sins with his hands, then, it damages the part of the Sefirot that correspond to the hands, etc.). The correspondence is as follows:




Keter (Crown)

Chachmah (Wisdom)

Binah (Understanding)




Chesed (Kindness)

Gevurah (Strength)

Tifferet (Beauty)




Netzach (Dominance; Eternity)

Hod (Glory)

Yesod (Foundation)




Malchut (Kingship)


I have said in one paragraph what is the subject of many central and deep books, and would require just as many to fully explain this idea. However, it suffices to set up the analogy that, just as a man’s and woman’s head grows hair, so, too, is there a concept of “hair” in the world of the Sefirot. And, just as hair sits on top of a man, like a crown on the holiest part of his body, his head, so, too, does hair sit on top of the uppermost sefirahm, Keter, also called “Crown.” In fact, its level in creation is so high, that, for the most part, we are forbidden even to make reference to it.


However, whereas human hair may serve little function other than for appearance-sake, or to keep us warm, in the Sefirot, the “hair” functions like little spiritual conduits, through which the light of HaShem can begins its descent to the lower Sefirot, and, eventually, us. In other words, Sefirical hair represents the spiritual interface between a sefirah, and the one after it, a kind of spiritual interface. This is true whether we are looking at the entire, overall, general scheme of Sefirot, or, the smaller sub-systems of Sefirot that exist within each one, like between Chachmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding).


I did not choose Chachmah and Binah randomly; I did so because, when dealing with the Sefirot as worlds of their own, Chachmah plays the role of the “father” (“Abba”) within the system, and, “Binah” plays the role of the “mother” (“Imma”) within the entire system. The six Sefirot from Chesed through Yesod are viewed as their “offspring.”


Hence, in the Sefirot, Chachmah receives less distilled, more abstract light from Keter, its prime source of light, and passes it on to Binah, which receive it somewhat “filtered” by Chachmah. However, it is Binah’s role to filter the light additionally, this time enough to pass it on to the children Sefirot below, which represent the world in which WE live (six Sefirot, six days of creation, six millennia of human history).


It works no differently, or should work no differently, in the ideal human family.


It has been the role of the husband to learn and gather information necessary for the survival of society in general, and his family in particular. However, the intelligence of children usually does not permit them to relate to the knowledge of an adult in its pure form. Such knowledge, which MUST be learned by children for the sake of their futures, must be “filtered” and adapted, something usually done best by the female world.


In other words, within the family structure, the wife/mother acts as an interface between the husband and children, more than intelligent enough to understand her husband, and, perfectly capable of relating to her children on all levels. It is this way in the physical family because it is this way in the Sefirical family.


Therefore, if the analogy is carried to its logical end, then, just like the “hair” of Binah acts as the interface and medium through which to bring over the light of Chachmah (Wisdom) to the level of Binah (Understanding), so, too, does the hair of a married woman represent her connection to and willingness to receive the “light” of her husband,  and ONLY her husband.


In fact, the letters of the Hebrew word for “hair” (se’ar) are the same as that for the word “gate”(sha’ar): shin-ayin-reish. As is well known in Kaballah, on the level of Binah, there is something referred to as the Nun Sha’arei Binah, The Fifty Gates of Understanding. On an exegetical level, it could be read, “The Fifty Hairs of Understanding,” suggesting that, just like a gate acts as a threshold between two domains, so, too, does hair (at least when it comes to Sefirot).


In other words, every man represents a “Chachmah” that belongs to a system, or family, of its own. Likewise, every woman represents a “Binah” that also belongs to a particular sub-system of Sefirot, and the concept of a zivug (“soul-mate”) is the concept of pairing up the right Chachmah with the right Binah. The covering of the woman’s hair AT MARRIAGE signifies SPIRITUALLY and PHYSICALLY the special and unique connection between a specific Chachmah and Binah, husband and wife.


However, before a woman is married, she is in a position to receive wisdom from many sources, her father, her mother, teachers, some of which may be female OR MALE, and her exposed hair signifies this. However, once she is married (something, the Talmud reveals, with which HaShem is directly involved; Sotah 2a), she is,  theoretically at least, supposed to look to her husband as her prime source of abstract knowledge for her own personal growth and to filter to her children to build them up.


This is also why the process of marriage is called “kiddushin”, which means “sanctification”, as in the woman is “sanctified” to a single man.[11] 


Thus, according to Kabbalah, the covering of a married woman’s hair, leaving the viewing of her hair permissible only to her husband (and, technically, her father as well), physically symbolizes her devotion to her own personal source of Chachmah. However, perhaps, more importantly, SPIRITUALLY, it solidifies the connection between herself and her husband in the Sefirot, which, understandably, can have long term and eternal ramifications; it can affect the “shalom bayit” (peace in the house) in this world, but worst, it can eternally weaken the connection to her husband in the World-to-Come!


To the extent that a married Jewish woman covers her hair, that is the extent to which it affects the spiritual bond between herself and her husband, and, as we will learn from Kimchit, her children as well.


This is why the hair of the Sotah was uncovered. Whether she actually lay with another man or not, she had allowed herself to end up in a predicament that could very well have led to such a violation of her marriage and society. She may have enjoyed short term pleasure, but, she learns the hard way, she has damaged the long term connection to her husband in the world within which no yetzer hara (evil inclination) operates, and, true and honest relationships are desired and enjoyed forever, if they are cultivated and preserved in this world.


It will be a time when external beauty will be a thing of the past, because inner beauty, the kind that emerges from one’s commitment to values higher than one’s self, will brilliantly shine. How we deal with ourselves, our appearances, and our relationships in this world is the deciding factor regarding what we will be dealt in the future world, what we will be able to enjoy FOREVER in the World-to-Come.


And, given the emphasis on physical appearance today (boy, does the yetzer hara have a strangle hold on us), clearly one’s willingness to go against the tide and reign in her hair counts for a tremendous amount in Heaven, just like those who give up some material comfort to pursue the spirituality of Eretz Israel (the land of Israel). At a time when the source of human dignity, man’s gift of godliness, is all but destroyed, to rebuild human dignity means the world to HaShem and the world He created.


One of the most famous “hair-stories” in the Talmud is that of Kimchit, the mother who merited to have seven sons become Kohen Gadol (High Priest) during Temple times. They asked Kimchit, “What did you do to merit such reward?” She answered them that the beams of her house -- something a woman is supposed to build with her Binah Yesayrah, never saw the braids of her hair.[12] Even in her most private moments, she strove to keep her hair covered.


BatSheva, says the Midrash, was no different. For, even when she washed her hair, she had her attendant hold a towel over her hair so that it not become overly exposed, even IN HER HOUSE. It was King David, whom, while shooting at a bird and missed, instead hit the towel and caused BatSheva’s hair to become temporarily revealed.


David HaMelech (the King) took this bizarre act of Divine Providence to be a sign from Heaven that she was ready to be taken to him as a wife, even while she remained married to her former husband, Uri the Hittite. Heaven, however, looks at this event as punishment for David’s haughtiness, and it led to all kinds of problems for him afterward.


Hence, we see that, just as Western Society makes a big deal about women’s hair, so, too, does the Torah. However, unlike Western Society, which promotes the “right” of a woman to allow her hair to be “paruah”, the Torah emphasizes the need to use hair as a symbol of commitment and self-discipline.


In a very real sense (more than is proper to discuss in this forum), Chava, the first woman, was also the first Sotah. She had acted more loyal to the snake than to her own husband, from whom she had been built and brought to by HaShem Himself! No matter what Adam had failed to teach her, still, she ought to have consulted with him before eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Therefore, is it any wonder that when a married woman properly covers her hair, it is also an important part of the rectification for what went wrong in the Garden.


I. Hair in the Tanach


Lets examine some of the places where hair is found in the scriptures.




The Torah forbids the cutting of hair as a sign of mourning:


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 14:1 Ye [are] the children of HaShem your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.


In the Talmud, cutting the hair as a sign of mourning was forbidden:


Mo’ed Katan 14a R. Phineas raised all objection: ‘Every one of those mentioned [by the Sages] as being permitted to crop his hair during the festival [week] may [likewise] crop his hair during the [thirty] days of his mourning’; [which means conversely] that every one of those who is forbidden to crop his hair during the festival [week] is [likewise] forbidden to crop his hair during the [thirty] days of his mourning.


Mo’ed Katan 14b A mourner is forbidden to cut his hair, because since the Divine Law ordained the sons of Aaron: Let not the hair of your heads go loose, we infer that for everybody else [cutting the hair] is forbidden.


Vayikra (Leviticus) 10:1-7 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before HaShem, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of HaShem and consumed them, and they died before HaShem. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what HaShem spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’“ Aaron remained silent. Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered. Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt, and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and HaShem will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the house of Israel, may mourn for those HaShem has destroyed by fire. Do not leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting or you will die, because HaShem’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.


Why does HaShem make mention of the Kohen Gadol’s (High Priest’s) hair? Why not tell Aaron not to mourn in sackcloth and ashes?


Tamei (unclean) vs. Tahor (clean)


Notice the connection, in the next passage, between being unclean and doing the things that were forbidden to Aaron:


Vayikra (Leviticus) 13:40-46 “When a man has lost his hair and is bald, he is clean. If he has lost his hair from the front of his scalp and has a bald forehead, he is clean. But if he has a reddish-white sore on his bald head or forehead, it is an infectious disease breaking out on his head or forehead. The priest is to examine him, and if the swollen sore on his head or forehead is reddish-white like an infectious skin disease, The man is diseased and is unclean. The priest shall pronounce him unclean because of the sore on his head. “The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.


Notice that the cleansing of the above infectious person also involves removing the hair which had been left unkempt.


Vayikra (Leviticus) 14:1-20 HaShem said to Moses, “These are the regulations for the diseased person at the time of his ceremonial cleansing, when he is brought to the priest: The priest is to go outside the camp and examine him. If the person has been healed of his infectious skin disease, The priest shall order that two live clean birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop be brought for the one to be cleansed. Then the priest shall order that one of the birds be killed over fresh water in a clay pot. He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the infectious disease and pronounce him clean. Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields. “The person to be cleansed must wash his clothes, shave off all his hair and bathe with water; then he will be ceremonially clean. After this he may come into the camp, but he must stay outside his tent for seven days. On the seventh day he must shave off all his hair; he must shave his head, his beard, his eyebrows and the rest of his hair. He must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water, and he will be clean. “On the eighth day he must bring two male lambs and one ewe lamb a year old, each without defect, along with three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and one log of oil. The priest who pronounces him clean shall present both the one to be cleansed and his offerings before HaShem at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. “Then the priest is to take one of the male lambs and offer it as a guilt offering, along with the log of oil; he shall wave them before HaShem as a wave offering. He is to slaughter the lamb in the holy place where the sin offering and the burnt offering are slaughtered. Like the sin offering, the guilt offering belongs to the priest; it is most holy. The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. The priest shall then take some of the log of oil, pour it in the palm of his own left hand, Dip his right forefinger into the oil in his palm, and with his finger sprinkle some of it before HaShem seven times. The priest is to put some of the oil remaining in his palm on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. The rest of the oil in his palm the priest shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed and make atonement for him before HaShem. “Then the priest is to sacrifice the sin offering and make atonement for the one to be cleansed from his uncleanness. After that, the priest shall slaughter the burnt offering And offer it on the altar, together with the grain offering, and make atonement for him, and he will be clean.


Vayikra (Leviticus) 14:9 On the seventh day, he shall shave off all his hair, his head, his beard, his eyebrows, and all his hair shall he shave off.


If the metzora has to shave his entire body - “all his hair”, as part of his purification, why does the Torah specify “his head, his beard, his eyebrows”?


The head represents haughtiness. He held his head high over others, thinking himself better. Through his mouth, framed by his beard, he spoke gossip and slander. Under his eyebrows, his eyes narrowed in jealousy. It was that jealousy that engendered the wish to destroy another’s reputation, which can be done with just the raising of an eyebrow.


Did you notice the similarity between the use of the blood for an unclean person and the use of the blood at Aaron’s consecration? Let’s look at Aaron’s consecration:


Vayikra (Leviticus) 8:22-24 He then presented the other ram, the ram for the ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on its head. Moses slaughtered the ram and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Moses also brought Aaron’s sons forward and put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet. Then he sprinkled blood against the altar on all sides.


It is almost as though the unclean person is unfit for service. His fitness for service seems to be dependent upon being clean and upon having the blood placed in the appropriate places. The kempt hair seems to be important to HaShem in the case of Aaron, because he is consecrated. The unkempt hair seems important to HaShem, because he is unfit for service. The hair seems in some way to connected with service to HaShem. It also seems to be something that can not be cleansed, and therefore must be cut off when we are made fit for service to HaShem.


HaShem begins Vayikra (Leviticus) 19 with these words:


Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:1-3 HaShem said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, HaShem your God, am holy. “‘Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am HaShem your God.


Later, in that same chapter, he says:


Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.


Vayikra (Leviticus) 21:5 “‘Priests must not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards or cut their bodies.


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 14:1 You are the children of HaShem your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead, For you are a people holy to HaShem your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, HaShem has chosen you to be his treasured possession.


The inference is that if we obey HaShem we will be holy. Can you see how the observation of this command will “set you apart to HaShem”?


The Nazir


The Nazirite vow seemed to place an emphasis on the hair and on the grape plant.


Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:1-21 HaShem said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to HaShem as a Nazirite, He must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. “‘During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to HaShem is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long. Throughout the period of his separation to HaShem he must not go near a dead body. Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head. Throughout the period of his separation he is consecrated to HaShem. “‘If someone dies suddenly in his presence, thus defiling the hair he has dedicated, he must shave his head on the day of his cleansing--the seventh day. Then on the eighth day he must bring two doves or two young pigeons to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The priest is to offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering to make atonement for him because he sinned by being in the presence of the dead body. That same day he is to consecrate his head. He must dedicate himself to HaShem for the period of his separation and must bring a year-old male lamb as a guilt offering. The previous days do not count, because he became defiled during his separation. “‘Now this is the law for the Nazirite when the period of his separation is over. He is to be brought to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. There he is to present his offerings to HaShem: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering, a ram without defect for a fellowship offering, Together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and a basket of bread made without yeast--cakes made of fine flour mixed with oil, and wafers spread with oil. “‘The priest is to present them before HaShem and make the sin offering and the burnt offering. He is to present the basket of unleavened bread and is to sacrifice the ram as a fellowship offering to HaShem, together with its grain offering and drink offering. “‘Then at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that he dedicated. He is to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering. “‘After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair of his dedication, the priest is to place in his hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and a cake and a wafer from the basket, both made without yeast. The priest shall then wave them before HaShem as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine. “‘This is the law of the Nazirite who vows his offering to HaShem in accordance with his separation, in addition to whatever else he can afford. He must fulfill the vow he has made, according to the law of the Nazirite.’“


If a person makes a vow to become a Nazir without stipulating a time period, his Nezirus lasts for a period of thirty days. During this period, the Nazir is not allowed to:

1. Cut his hair;

2. Become unclean by touching or being in the same room as a corpse; or

3. Consume any products of the grapevine.


When a Nazir completes his period of Nezirus, he must offer three sacrifices: a male sheep as an Olah, a female sheep as a Chatat, and a ram as a Shelamim (peace offering). Together with the Shelamim he brings 6 and 2/3 Esronot of fine flour which are made into twenty loaves of Matza, ten Challot (unleavened loaves) and ten Rekikin (flat Matzot). He then shaves his hair and burns it under the pot in which the Shelamim is cooked (Bamidbar 6:18).


The hair seems to be like a sacrificial animal. The hair is “consecrated”.


Lets look at hair from a “proverbial” sense:


I Shmuel (Samuel) 14:41-45 Then Saul prayed to HaShem, the God of Israel, “Give me the right answer.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken. Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” So Jonathan told him, “I merely tasted a little honey with the end of my staff. And now must I die?” Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.” But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die--he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as HaShem lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.


I Melakim (Kings) 1:51-52 Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’“ Solomon replied, “If he shows himself to be a worthy man, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.”


II Luqas (Acts) 27:30-36 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away. Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food--you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.


Luqas (Luke) 21:12-19 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.


Daniel 3:24-27 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire, And the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.


This is weird: not a hair of our head will perish, even if they put us to death!


Not losing a single hair from your head seems to indicate that you will not be hurt. It is almost as though a hair is the least part of a person. In this next passage we see that the destruction of a person is equated with the destruction of his hair:


Tehillim (Psalms) 68:20-21 Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign HaShem comes escape from death. Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies, the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.


Lets look at some miscellaneous verses on hair:


Mishlei (Proverbs) 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.


Mishlei (Proverbs) 20:29 The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.


Hair is related to a woman’s glory:


Yeshayah (Isaiah) 3:16-26 HaShem says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; HaShem will make their scalps bald.” In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, The earrings and bracelets and veils, The headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, The signet rings and nose rings, The fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses And mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls. Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.


I Corinthians 11:1-16 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Mashiach. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you. Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Mashiach, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Mashiach is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, But that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice--nor do the churches of God.


In 1 Corinthians 11:7 the word “cover” means:


2619 katakalupto, kat-ak-al-oop’-to; from 2596 and 2572; to cover wholly, i.e. veil:-cover, hide.


This obviously does not mean that a man may not wear a hat as can be see from:


Shemot (Exodus) 28:4 These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests.




Shemot (Exodus) 28:36-40 “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO HaShem. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to HaShem. “Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer. Make tunics, sashes and headbands for Aaron’s sons, to give them dignity and honor.


This word “headbands” means:


4021 migba`ah, mig-baw-aw’; from the same as 1389; a cap (as hemispherical):- bonnet.




Shemot (Exodus) 29:8-9 Bring his sons and dress them in tunics And put headbands on them. Then tie sashes on Aaron and his sons. The priesthood is theirs by a lasting ordinance. In this way you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.




The head seems to be important in:


Matityahu (Matthew) 5:36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.


Hair is also the target for grief and anger:


Ezra-Nechemiah (Nehemiah) 9:1-4 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.” When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.


Ezra-Nechemiah (Nehemiah) 13:23-26 Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.


Yeshayah (Isaiah) 15:1-3 An oracle concerning Moab: Ar in Moab is ruined, destroyed in a night! Kir in Moab is ruined, destroyed in a night! Dibon goes up to its temple, to its high places to weep; Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba. Every head is shaved and every beard cut off. In the streets they wear sackcloth; on the roofs and in the public squares they all wail, prostrate with weeping.


Yeshayah (Isaiah) 22:12-14 Lord, HaShem Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!” HaShem Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, HaShem Almighty.


Yirimiyah (Jeremiah) 48:35-38 In Moab I will put an end to those who make offerings on the high places and burn incense to their gods,” declares HaShem. “So my heart laments for Moab like a flute; it laments like a flute for the men of Kir Hareseth. The wealth they acquired is gone. Every head is shaved and every beard cut off; every hand is slashed and every waist is covered with sackcloth. On all the roofs in Moab and in the public squares there is nothing but mourning, for I have broken Moab like a jar that no one wants,” declares HaShem.


Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 7:12-19 The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd. The seller will not recover the land he has sold as long as both of them live, for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. Though they blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd. “Outside is the sword, inside are plague and famine; those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves of the valleys, each because of his sins. Every hand will go limp, and every knee will become as weak as water. They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved. They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them in the day of HaShem’s wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin.


Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 27:25-32 “‘The ships of Tarshish serve as carriers for your wares. You are filled with heavy cargo in the heart of the sea. Your oarsmen take you out to the high seas. But the east wind will break you to pieces in the heart of the sea. Your wealth, merchandise and wares, your mariners, seamen and shipwrights, your merchants and all your soldiers, and everyone else on board will sink into the heart of the sea on the day of your shipwreck. The shorelands will quake when your seamen cry out. All who handle the oars will abandon their ships; the mariners and all the seamen will stand on the shore. They will raise their voice and cry bitterly over you; they will sprinkle dust on their heads and roll in ashes. They will shave their heads because of you and will put on sackcloth. They will weep over you with anguish of soul and with bitter mourning. As they wail and mourn over you, they will take up a lament concerning you: “Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surrounded by the sea?”


Amos 8:9-10 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign HaShem, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.


The lack of hair was also used as a taunt. (see also our study on forty-two:


II Melakim (Kings) 2:23-24 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of HaShem. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.


The Levi’im were shaved. They were to be the recipients of the blessing brought to the Beit HaMikdash by the service of the Kohanim. Therefore, in their inauguration rite, they were shorn of their hair. It was this that Korach objected to. He did not want to “receive” from Moshe. He wanted to be the “giver”, the mashpia. Korach’s very name had the same letters as “Kerayach” – hairless, bald. In his very essence lay the potential of being a great recipient of the life force received from Moshe Rabeinu. He failed his test.


In this next prophecy hair is used to represent HaShem’s people:


Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 5:1-17 Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair. When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair with fire inside the city. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city. And scatter a third to the wind. For I will pursue them with drawn sword. But take a few strands of hair and tuck them away in the folds of your garment. Again, take a few of these and throw them into the fire and burn them up. A fire will spread from there to the whole house of Israel. “This is what the Sovereign HaShem says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees. “Therefore this is what the Sovereign HaShem says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you. “Therefore this is what the Sovereign HaShem says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. Therefore in your midst fathers will eat their children, and children will eat their fathers. I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the winds. Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign HaShem, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will withdraw my favor; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword. “Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged. And when I have spent my wrath upon them, they will know that I HaShem have spoken in my zeal. “I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by. You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke. I HaShem have spoken. When I shoot at you with my deadly and destructive arrows of famine, I will shoot to destroy you. I will bring more and more famine upon you and cut off your supply of food. I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I HaShem have spoken.”


Why do we learn about hair, and not about skin, eyes, or other parts?


Daniel 7:9 “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.


In the following passage, why did she use her hair and not her cloak or a towel - This was HER HOUSE. Why did she use her hair????


Yochanan (John) 12:1-8 Six days before the Passover, Yeshua arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Yeshua had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Yeshua’s honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Yeshua’s feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Yeshua replied.” [It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”


Why does hair show up six days before Passover?


The Apostles seem to equate hair with the other things that a woman covers herself with.


I Timothy 2:9-10 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, But with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.


I Tzefet (Peter) 3:1-5 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, When they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands,


* * *


The following section was an adaptation of shiur by the Alter Rebbe by Yitzchok D. Wagshul.


Even though the Torah and mitzvot as we known them are enclothed in worldly form, such as laws of what is forbidden and what is permitted, and expressed through physical objects like coins for charity, and so on, this does not alter their essential character as HaShem’s very “intellect”. Chassidic philosophy frequently uses an analogy to hair in making this point. The hair on one’s head grows outward through miniscule openings, and has so little of the body’s life-force in it that one can cut hair without feeling pain. This is in sharp contrast to what is on the other side of those tiny holes: the brain, which is the very center of the body’s vitality. Viewing the hair of one’s head as though it had pushed through the barrier of one’s skull and were a visible, tangible extension of the brain into the outside, hair serves as a metaphor for the way HaShem lets unimaginably refined and lofty degrees of holiness find expression even in the “lowest” places. No one suggests that hair contains anything of the brain itself, or is comparable to the brain in any other way, but we can still say that if it derives from the brain, it is “of the brain,” so to speak. To apply this to the Torah and mitzvot, while it is true that they are thoroughly bound up with this physical world, they “derive from the brain”: the Torah and mitzvot as we know them are nevertheless visible, tangible manifestations to this lowly, “outside” world we live in of the rarified holiness within that deepest and most concealed “brain”: the spiritual level associated with HaShem’s chachmah, or “wisdom.”


II. Maturity is determined by hair


Berachoth 24a The Master said: ‘If his children and the members of his household were minors, it is permitted’. Up to what age? — R. Hisda said: A girl up to three years and one day, a boy up to nine years and one day. Some there are who say: A girl up to eleven years and a day, and a boy up to twelve years and a day; with both of them [it is] up to the time when Thy breasts were fashioned and thy hair was grown.[13]




The sacrifice of the omer was brought from barley (a less affluent crop than wheat, more difficult to digest, and used more to feed animals than for human consumption). Therefore, during the days of counting it is not permitted to cut the hair or marry.




Payot - Sidecurls worn by Ultra-Orthodox men and boys.

Payot - corners; therefore, earlocks of hair.


Q-5: What is the significance of the untrimmed beards and sidecurls?

A-10: The payot (sidecurls) and beard are worn in obedience to this commandment in the Torah:


Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:27 You shall not round the corners of your heads, nor mar the edges of your beards.


The Mishna tells us that there are five corners to the head:






Rashi, on Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:27 tells us about the corners:


the edge of your beard [meaning:] The end of the beard and its borders. And these are five: two on each cheek at the top [edge of the cheek] near the head, where [the cheek] is broad and has two “corners” [i.e., extremities, one near the temple and the other at the end of the cheek bone towards the center of the face]—and one below, on the chin, at the point where the two cheeks join together.[21] 


Makkoth 20b OR ROUNDS THE CORNER OF HIS HEAD. Our Rabbis taught: ‘The corner of his head’, is the extreme end on one’s head: and what is [rounding] the extreme end on his head? If he levels his temple-growth from the back of his ears to the forehead.


Rashbam states that the top pe’ot (corners) of the beard are at the place where the cheeks join the temples, the two lower pe’ot are at the borders of the mustache on either side of the mouth, and the fifth is at the bottom. Rashbam describes the location as “at the bottom,” not explaining exactly where. The Rosh and the Tur both explain the location as being the point where the chin meets the throat.


The “corners of the head” are the area above the ears. Together, both the curls and the untrimmed beard are a symbol of obedience to the laws of HaShem. Many Hasidic men also cut the rest of the hair very short. This is not really required, but is more comfortable under a hat. Also, some Hasidim see the entire haircut, very short hair with beard and payot, as part of the “uniform” of their group.


The minimum length for payot (pronounced PAY-us) is long enough that you can grab a hair and bend it towards its own root -- which comes out to be just about below the earlobes. But there are other opinions also, and many Hasidim wear them longer. Some men curl them carefully and let them hang conspicuously in front of the ears, while others tuck them behind the ears or up under their yarmulke (skullcap.) Again, this is a matter of style and, in some cases, personal preference.


Lubavitcher Hasidim, however, do not wear payot, except for the young boys until the beard grows in. And some non-Hasidic Orthodox wear them also, including many Sephardic and Yemenite Jews. So you really cannot tell if somebody is a Hasid just because he has payot.




The hair corresponds to the spiritual connections that link a person to his spiritual essence above. When the hair is in order, the physical and spiritual worlds mesh. Both the king and the Kohanim are required to cut their hair regularly as a sign of the orderly bond to the spiritual world that is necessary to properly fill their exalted positions of authority.


A nazir must let his hair grow wild to signify the short-circuit that necessitates his temperance. At the conclusion of his lesson in self control, he shaves his hair to signify a new beginning, a total reorganization and rewiring of his physical-spiritual bonds. The hair is then burnt under the pot in which his shelamim offering is cooked to signify this new found harmony.




Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 70b In regard to the upper Adam, the union of male and female is at first only distantly alluded to in the words “this is the book”, but after they produced offspring they are called openly “Adam”. Then it is said that God made man in the “likeness” of God. By the word “likeness” we are to understand a kind of mirror in which images appear momentarily and then pass away. According to another explanation, the word “likeness” refers to the union of male and female organs: and so the Master affirmed. Furthermore: “This is the book of the generations of Man”, viz. the book which reveals the inner meaning of the features of man, so as to teach the knowledge of human nature. The character of man is revealed in the hair, the forehead, the eyes, the lips, the features of the face, the lines of the hands, and even the ears. By these seven can the different types of men be recognized. The Hair: A man with coarse, upstanding, wavy hair, is of a truculent disposition. His heart is as stiff as a die. His works are not upright. Have no fellowship with him. A man with very smooth, sleek and heavy-hanging hair, is a good companion, and one benefits from association with him. When left to himself he is not quite reliable. He cannot keep secrets unless they are of great importance. His actions are sometimes good and sometimes the reverse.



Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 71a ‘A man whose hair lies flat, yet is not sleek, is fearless and insolent. He has a strong desire to do good, for he perceives the beauty of goodness, but alas! his good intentions are never realized. In his old age he becomes God-fearing and pious. Great secrets are not to be entrusted to him, but he is safe enough with small ones. He can make much out of little and his words are listened to with respect. He is under the esoteric sign of the letter Zain, according to the scheme which our Master has taught us.


‘A man whose hair is black and extremely glossy will succeed in all his doings, particularly in secular matters such as commerce, for instance. He is generous. But he prospers only as an individual; anyone associating himself with him will also have success, but not for long. He is also under the letter Zain.


 One whose hair is black but not glossy is not always successful in mundane affairs. It is good to associate oneself with him for a while in business matters. Should he be a student of the Torah he will succeed in his studies, and others who will join him will likewise succeed. He is a man who can keep a secret, but not for long. He is of a despondent nature, but will prevail against his enemies. He is under the sign of the letter Yod when it is not included in the letter Zain, but is numbered independently among the small letters.


‘A man who is bald is successful in business, but is not straightforward. There is always a scarcity of food in his house. He is hypocritical; that is, when his baldness begins in youth. If he becomes bald in his old age he changes and becomes the opposite of what he was before, for good or for ill. This, however, only refers to the baldness which occurs on the forehead, at the spot where the phylactery is put on. Otherwise, it is not so. He is not


Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 71b deceitful, but is given to backbiting and insinuation. He is occasionally sin-fearing. He is under the sign of the letter Zain when it includes the letter Yod. So much for the mysteries revealed by the diflferent kinds of hair, mysteries revealed and entrusted only to those well versed in holy lore, those who comprehend the ways and mysteries of the Torah, by which they may find out the hidden propensities of men.




3: A minor - Since we derive the principle determining who is qualified to write Tefillin from a verse in the Torah, we require that the scribe must be unquestionably a legal adult, that is, he must have produced two pubic hairs and also have reached the age of thirteen. If we doubt whether he has produced two pubic hairs, then he is not qualified to write Tefillin [as opposed to other areas of halacha, where we assume a thirteen year old has produced them] unless:


a) he has a substantial amount of facial hair, even if these hairs are very small[22] [we can thus assume that pubic hairs have appeared], or


b) he has already lived over half of the average human lifespan [i.e he has reached the age of 35 yrs and 1 day - see explanations below], or


c) Signs that he is a ‘Soris’ have appeared, as discussed later in Siman 55:5.


We should severely reprimand those scribes who allow thirteen year old youths to write Tefillin without properly verifying whether they have developed the requisite signs of physical maturity. See above in the Mishna Brura, Siman 32:103 what I wrote in the name of the Levush concerning this matter, and see also the Biur Halacha [in which the Chofetz Chayim rules that if an eighteen year-old wrote Tefillin passages and cannot be checked for two adult hairs, one need not be strict after the fact about the validity of the Tefillin].


4: Education - In truth, even a thirteen year old is not qualified to write Tefillin if we don’t know whether he has produced two pubic hairs; however, the difference is, that if we see a small beard on a young man who wrote the Tefillin after he had turned thirteen, we assume that he already had hair when he wrote them [Choshen Mishpat, Siman 35]. This assumption would not help with a boy who wrote Tefillin before he turned thirteen, because any hair that appears before the age of thirteen has no effect on the boy’s status.


Hair Tubes


The Levites were commanded to constantly shave all the hair off their bodies. Hair is like a narrow tube that constricts the life-force which passes through it. Evil attaches itself to the extremities of the hair where it can nurture off the diminished light. To eliminate that possibility, the Levites shaved.


The Kohanim, though, assisted the Levites in the Temple service. When Levites lifted certain offerings, the Cohens first placed their hands under the Levites’ hands. Together they would raise the sacrifice.


The principle here is that in order to elevate the physical to spiritual, the act must be preceded by an influx of G-dly Kindness from above. That’s why the Kohanim, representing Kindness, helped the Levites.




In a positive sense, the concept of hair refers to “the thirteen hairs of the beard” which are representative of the thirteen attributes of mercy, a Divine influence that is unlimited in nature.


In regard to pulling out the hairs of the beard, the Arizal writes that, it is strictly prohibited to pull or uproot even one of the hairs anywhere on the beard, because they are “pipes for a divine flow.” (They are a path by which the Divine blessings and revelations are channeled to a person.)


One aspect of the flow of Divine energy between the partzufim is reflected in the hair. Hair is seen as a hollow channel filled with Divine “light.” However, since it is possible to cut the hair without experiencing any pain (which is of course not the case with any other part of the body), the life-force present within hair is seen to be extremely attenuated. The force flowing through hair is thus highly contracted, a manifestation of the power of gevurah and judgment. (Judgment in the sense of being strictly rationed and apportioned).


The mystics say that wherever we have hair it is a place where energy flows out. Hair is a channel that conveys the glow, the power, the energy outward to the whole body. All organs that reach out and produce in the world, have hair at their base. This is why males have more hair than females. The male is the one who goes out into the world. The female is the one who is hidden (in the home) and receives inwardly. This explains why, in Ashkenaz minhag, unmarried women do not cover their hair and why married men cover their hair with a tallit in prayer. This is also the reason why married women cover their hair; because in marriage they arise to such deep power that their hair needs to be covered so that this power is not revealed. The hair is a revelation of the outflow of energy. Men are weaker spiritually and only rise to power in marriage.


Hair, in men, is concentrated in three areas, the head, at the root of the arms, where they attach to the body, and the reproductive organs. Hair represents internalism spreading outwards, away from its source. Basically the principle of being mashpia. It is to be found mainly in men, who are considered the mashpia[23] in the relationship between zachar[24] and nekeiva,[25] and in the areas of the body that represent flowing outward. In the place of the mind and speech, at the root of human acts, and the source of reproduction.[26]


Men have more hair than women because they transmit energy, at first, to the world. The woman is the one who receives the energy. The head which is the source of energy outflow for the body has more hair than anywhere else, in men. Men do not have the spiritual sensitivity to transmit this energy to the world except after marriage, at the highest point of meditational concentration during the Shemone Esre. This is why they cover their head with the Tallit during this prayer. Women are so much more spiritual that they manifest this energy when they become married.


The aura, or glow, of the body is damped down when the hair is covered.


Our hair works like an antenna, drawing in energy. (Married women’s hair draws more energy than single women’s, thus they should cover their heads.)


The beard is seen in Kabbala as the seat of mercy (rachamim). Kabbalistic works identify thirteen components of the beard (either tufts or parts of the face that are devoid of hair and thus outline the beard), corresponding to HaShem’s thirteen attributes of mercy (Exodus 34:6-7). Indeed, Arich Anpin connotes “patience” a concept closely allied to that of mercy. The thirteen components of the beard of Arich Anpin are called mazalot (sing. mazal), which means a “source of flow” or influence.


The following was translated from Likutei Torah by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky:


“Kabbalists ascribed mystical power to the beard and hair. They sometimes called God `Atika Kadisha’, the Holy Ancient One, symbolizing HaShem’s most transcendent manifestation as a beard with thirteen curls, representing the attributes of divine mercy, Exodus 34:6-7).[27]


Now, the light that issues from the beard, via the hairs, is called mazal, because it “flows” drop by drop.


The word mazal in Hebrew is derived from the root nun-zayin-lamed, which means “to flow.” A mazal is a spiritual conduit of Divine life force, which flows from it to some other level.


To explain: The light of the Infinite One [first] becomes manifest in the head of Arich Anpin, in which are situated the brains. When it then seeks to be manifest [further, down] through the throat, which is narrow, the light bursts forth [through the skin] as hair. This is the origin of the beard.


The thirteen tufts of the beard of Arich Anpin are synonymous with the thirteen attributes, or aspects, of Divine mercy:



Exodus 34









and gracious

the lack of hair in the middle of the mustache



the hair under the lower lip



the lack of hair in the middle of the hair under the lower lip


abundant in kindness

the hair of the jaw bone


and truth

the lack of hair on the cheeks


storing kindness

the upper layer of the beard


to thousands

the short hairs between the upper and lower layers of the beard


bearing iniquity

the small hairs near the throat


and transgression

the fact that these small hairs are all of equal size


and sin

the lack of hair in the mouth


and acquits

the lower layer of the beard


III. Head vs. Hair Covering


As you know, a wig or hat, is for women. A Kippa or Yarmulke is for men. It is a very important mitzva. It goes all the way back to the beginning of time, as is explained in the Book of Bereshit (Genesis), the First Book of the Bible.


When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they brought death, destruction and darkness into the world. In their shame, they covered their heads, as atonement for the lack of respect they showed to HaShem. When they experienced their first night, they thought they were dying for their actions, and started to dig graves for themselves. This is when HaShem told them that they will not die, daytime and nighttime are a natural order of things.


Women – Hair Covering


In Talmudic times, women always covered their hair.[28] Some aggadic sources interpret this custom as a sign of a woman’s shame and feeling of guilt for Eve’s sin. Should a woman walk bareheaded in the street, her husband could divorce her without repayment of her ketubah.[29] By the sixteenth century, praying with the head uncovered was considered to be a heathen custom.


Girls did not have to cover their hair until the wedding ceremony.[30] In some contemporary Sephardic communities, however, it is the custom for unmarried girls to cover their heads.


Some Hakhamim compared the exposure of a married woman’s hair to the exposure of her private parts since they felt that a woman’s hair could be used for erotic excitement.[31] They forbid the recital of any blessing in the presence of a bare headed woman. Pious women even took care to not uncover their hair in their house. This was particularly true of Kimhit, the mother of several high priests (Yoma 47A, Lev. R 20:11).


The general custom was to appear in public and in the presence of strange men with covered hair. it gradually became accepted to be the general traditional custom for all Jewish women to cover their hair.[32] 


Rabbinic literature teaches that it is sinful for a Jewish woman to be seen by any man other than her husband, or to listen to the recital of prayers without her head covered. The Talmud also forbade a man to recite prayers in front of any woman who was not fully dressed and this included his wife’s head covering. The Zohar called the covered hair of the head of the wife, “The chastity of the house.”


The hair of Nukva and of Zeir Anpin have the quality of judgment (din). Yet, Nukva, associated with the woman, is of a less severe quality and is only in need of being covered. This covering of the female’s hair in normative Jewish law, applies to married, divorced, or widowed women. In Kabbalistic practice these women’s hair are meant, within the bounds of practicality, to be covered entirely, and to be covered, ideally, nearly always with the exception of bathing.


Keeping this in mind throughout every generation, we also cover our heads, to always remember Who hears us, Who sees us, and Who takes notes of all our thoughts and actions.


Men - Head Covering


The normal Jewish head covering is called: Yarmulke in Yiddish, Kipa in Hebrew, and Skullcap or Hat in English.


A man’s hair is of a different variety from a woman’s. His judgments (din) expressed on the hair of most of his head, with exception of the sideburns (peyot), are considered in need of nearly complete elimination. This especially is the case if his soul is rooted in the distinctly aggressive dimension of the super-soul-root of Cain, the killer of his brother Abel. In the context of what has been said in regards to woman, the message is clear. A man, who is an embodiment of Zeir Anpin, needs to remove his judgments, i.e. hairs of most of his head, in order to rectify his nature. Men, it should also be noted also cover their hair.[33]


One should not walk bare-headed (the distance of) four cubits.”.[34] 


“Nowadays there is a definite prohibition...(not only to walk a short distance, but) even to sit (in the house) bare-headed”.[35] 


“Small children should (also) be brought up to cover their heads”.[36] 


The basic halacha of covering the head for men is that it is forbidden to walk four cubits (about 8 feet or 2.5 meters) with an uncovered head. According to some authorities it is forbidden to go any distance at all without a head covering. It is even considered improper to sit in one’s home with an uncovered head.


It is also forbidden to say a prayer with the name of HaShem or to study Torah without a head covering.


The Talmud says, that the mother of Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak would not allow him to go with his head uncovered for she said, “Cover your head in order that you should have the fear of heaven upon you.” Another basis given for this practice is to avoid the customs of the non-Jews.


Headcovering in Jewish Law[37]


There are two separate issues of covering the head in Judaism, one for men and one for women.




The basic halacha of covering the head for men is that it is forbidden to walk four cubits (about 8 feet) with an uncovered head. (According to some authorities it is forbidden to go any distance at all without a head covering. It is even considered improper to sit in one’s home with an uncovered head.)


It is also forbidden to say a prayer with the name of HaShem or to study Torah without a head covering.


This practice is understood from the requirement that the Priests wear a hat (mitre or bonnet) when they serve in the Temple:


Shemot (Exodus) 28:3-4 And thou shalt speak unto all [that are] wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And these [are] the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.


Shemot (Exodus) 29:4-10 And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod: And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre. Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour [it] upon his head, and anoint him. And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them. And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest’s office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons.


Shemot (Exodus) 39:27-30 And they made coats [of] fine linen [of] woven work for Aaron, and for his sons, And a mitre [of] fine linen, and goodly bonnets [of] fine linen, and linen breeches [of] fine twined linen, And a girdle [of] fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, [of] needlework; as HaShem commanded Moses. And they made the plate of the holy crown [of] pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, [like to] the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO HASHEM.


Vayikra (Leviticus) 8:13 And Moses brought Aaron’s sons, and put coats upon them, and girded them with girdles, and put bonnets upon them; as HaShem commanded Moses.


2 Shmuel (Samuel) 15:30-32 And David went up by the ascent of [mount] Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that [was] with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up. And [one] told David, saying, Ahithophel [is] among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O HaShem, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. And it came to pass, that [when] David was come to the top [of the mount], where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head:


Zecharyia (Zechariah) 3:1-8 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of HaShem, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And HaShem said unto Satan, HaShem rebuke thee, O Satan; even HaShem that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: [is] not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of HaShem stood by. And the angel of HaShem protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith HaShem of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they [are] men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.


Now, we have seen that the priests ALWAYS wore a hat when they served and prayed. With this in mind, consider that all of the Bne Israel are a kingdom of priests:


Shemot (Exodus) 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These [are] the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.


What is a “prayer closet”?

Matityahu (Matthew) 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou ast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy ather which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.


The prayer shawl is called a talit. The word talit contains two Hebrew words; tal meaning tent and it meaning little; thus, little tent. Each man had his own little tent. (Hakham Shaul was a Jewish Pharisee, but also a tentmaker. Many believe that he made talitot, not tents to live in.)


When a Jewish man puts on his talit (prayer shawl) for shacarit, the morning prayers, he closes himself in and shuts out the world. This effectively becomes his “prayer closet”


So, what exactly is Hakham Shaul talking about in this next passage? Is he changing the Torah? Is he telling us to do something that is not commanded in the Torah?


I Corithinian 11:1-10 Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Mashiach. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered [them] to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Mashiach; and the head of the woman [is] the man; and the head of Mashiach [is] God. Every man praying or prophesying, having [his] head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with [her] head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover [his] head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on [her] head because of the angels.


1 Corinthians 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having [his] head covered, dishonoureth his head.


2596 kata, kat-ah’; a prim. particle; (prep.) down (in place or time), in varied relations (according to the case [gen., dat. or acc.] with which it is joined):-about, according as (to), after, against, (when they were) X alone, among, and, X apart, (even, like) as (concerning, pertaining to, touching), X aside, at, before, beyond, by, to the charge of, [charita-] bly, concerning, + covered, [dai-] ly, down, every, (+ far more) exceeding, X more excellent, for, from, godly, in (- asmuch, divers, every, -to, respect of),, after the manner of, + by any means, beyond (out of) measure, X mightily, more, X natural, of (up- ) on (X part), out (of every), over against, (+ your) X own, + particularly, so, through (-oughout, -oughout every), thus, (un-) to (- gether, -ward), X uttermost, where (-by), with. In composition it retains many of these applications, and frequently denotes opposition, distribution or intensity.


The Source


The source for not walking four cubits with the head uncovered is the statement in the Talmud that the mother of Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak would not allow him to go with his head uncovered for she said, “Cover your head in order that you should have the fear of heaven upon you.” There is another statement that Rav Huna brei d’Rabbi Yehoshua would not go four cubits with his head uncovered.




Women who are or have been married (widows and divorcees) are required to cover their hair. A woman who has never been married does not have to.


The Sotah


The Talmud in Ketuvot 72a states that the source for this prohibition is from BaMidbar 5:18, which deals with the laws of a sotah, a suspected adulteress, and states, “The priest shall stand the woman before God and uncover her hair...”. Rashi[38] provides two explanations for the Talmud’s conclusion, one, that from the fact that she is punished midah kneged midah (measure for measure) for exposing her hair to her paramour we see that this is prohibited and, two, from the fact that we expose her hair we see that under normal conditions a Jewish woman’s hair should be covered.


The Hebrew word for hair is se’ar, שער Sin-Ayin-Raish, which has the same letters as gate, sha’ar, spelled Shin-Ayin-Raish, because hair is like a gateway to the siechel, the part of the human mind through which daat works. It is also the root of se’ir, שעיר Sin-Ayin-Yud-Raish, the goat through which atonement on Yom Kippur was also achieved. The word barley, se’orah, which was the offering the Sotah brought for atonement, is a similar word.


According to Kabbalah, these letters are associated with din, judgment. Maybe the issue is a message to the entire nation in a more general sense, for we know that at the End of Days, it will be a time of judgment and therefore a time to use judgment. Life is a process of birrur, separation, and all the crisis Jews undergo are to force us to decide where we stand with the issues of Torah.


IV. Tzitzith


Hair and Tzitzith seem to be related:


6734 tsiytsith, tsee-tseeth’; fem. of 6731; a floral or wing-like projection, i.e. a fore-lock of hair, a tassel:-fringe, lock. ^ Tsiyqelag. See 6860.


Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:38-40 Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of HaShem, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.


Yehezekel (Ezekiel) 8:3 And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where [was] the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy.


V. Cutting hair


Ta’anith 17a BOTH THE MEN OF THE MISHMAR AND THE MEN OF THE MA’AMAD MAY NOT CUT THEIR HAIR NOR WASH THEIR CLOTHES, BUT ON A THURSDAY THEY MAY OUT OF RESPECT FOR THE SABBATH. What is the reason? — Rabbah b. Bar Hana said in the name of R. Johanan: In order that they should not enter on their week of duty in an unkempt state.


Our Rabbis have taught: A king cuts his hair every day, a high priest on the eve of every Sabbath, all ordinary priest once in thirty days. Why has a king to cut his hair every day? — R. Abba b. Zabda said: Scripture says, Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty.[39] Why has a high priest [to cut his hair] on the eve of every Sabbath? — R. Samuel b. Isaac said: Because the Mishmar changes every week. Whence can it be adduced that an ordinary priest [must cut his hair] once in thirty days? — It is to be adduced from the analogous use of the word pera’ in connection with the Nazirite [and the priests]. Of the priests [it is written], Neither shall they shave their heads, ‘nor suffer their locks [pera’] to grow long;[40] and of the Nazirite it is written, He shall be holy. he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long [pera’];[41] as in the case of the Nazirite the period of growing his hair is thirty days so too must it be in the case of the ordinary priest.


Ta’anith 17b An objection was raised against this: The following [priests] incur the penalty of death,those who are intoxicated with wine and those whose hair has grown long. With regard to those who are intoxicated with wine, it is expressly stated, Drink no wine nor strong drink,[42] but whence do we adduce that this also applies to those who grow their hair long? For it is written, Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long,[43] and the next verse states, Neither shall any priest drink wine when they enter into the inner court; thus, those who grow their hair long are likened to those who are drunk with wine, just as those who are drunk with wine incur the penalty of death so too those who grow their locks long. Now can we not carry the comparison even further [and say] that just as those who are drunk with wine profane the service, so too should those who grow their hair long profane the service? — (No; [the two] are likened only with regard to the penalty of death but not with regard to the rendering of the service profane).




Mo’ed Katan 8b AND A RON WITH THE DEAD [BODY] CLOSE BY IN THE COURT [YARD]. We learn here what our Rabbis taught [elsewhere]: ‘They [may] do all that the dead requires, they cut his hair and wash a garment for him and make him a box of boards that had been sawn on the day before the Festival. Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel says, they [may] even bring trees and he saws them [into] boards in his house, behind closed doors’.


The Shuchan Aruch says:


One who takes a haircut must also wash his hands once, even if only part of his hair was cut. This applies even when someone else cut his hair. The one who gave the haircut must also wash his hands, for he touched the other person’s hair.




The Levites are “taken” (8:6), i.e. persuaded that they’re fortunate to specially serve HaShem, despite the difficulty and loss of worldly grandeur entailed (Rashi)-- this implies that they had and may have natural grave doubts about their role; per Ohr Hachayim, they’re “taken” away from ordinary society-- per Abarbanel, to form a separate camp. ALL Levites are sprinkled with water of purification, in case ANY are unclean by intimate contact with the dead (Rashi; why this matters is unclear; per Abarbanel, it’s symbolic of their new higher state (cf. the priests’ consecration sin offerings, Lev. 9:2, and requiring conversion of all Ethiopians); first their bodies (except concealed parts-- e.g. armpits and genitals) are shaved, as in purifying a m’tzora, even if he is a nazir-- they forego casual pleasures, superfluous as hair, in their new role (Abarbanel). Hair’s the symbolic barrier between them and Israel, to be removed (Hirsch)!




Daat means marriage. Daat means procreation. Daat comes to a boy when he reaches the age of thirteen because that is the age when we get pubic hair. Daat REQUIRES pubic hair.


Hair grows at the root of organs that affect the world.




Cutting the hair of a three year old male, for the first time, on Lag B’Omer:  The source of the custom is the Zohar, which bases it on the combination of a couple of verses. In prohibiting the chopping down of fruit trees for wood (which actually refers to unwarranted waste in general) the Torah writes “For man is a tree of the field.” Step two: the Torah prohibits eating of the fruit of a tree for the first three years. Based upon the connection implied by the first verse, there exist mystical reasons not to cut a child’s hair for three years. I don’t know why it would apply to boys and not girls, but that is the practice.


Tied to the notion of upsherin (from the same root as the English “to shear”) is the idea that this is the beginning of the child’s education. He is taken to learn aleph-bet on that day. This again implies a boys-learn-Torah association, suggesting a reason why girls don’t have an upsherin, but the verses don’t imply anything about this second custom.


Also, with the first haircut comes the first opportunity to keep the mitzva of not cutting peiyot (side-burns). Tzitzith are worn for the first time as well. Hirsch notes that the fruit of the first three years is called ‘Orlah’, just as the skin removed during circumcision, as well as the prophetic/poetic image of the orlat haleiv, the callus of insensitivity that one must remove from one’s heart. Here, we talk about “orlat harosh”, symbolically removing the impediment to understanding. Rav Hirsch ties this in to the notion of peiyot, which provide a visible line, reminding you of the separation between the animal and human parts of our psyche.


This cutting of hair is the third in a series of “cuts” which symbolize the movement of the child away from his mother’s womb and into the Jewish community, a “coming out” of sorts. The first is the cutting of the umbilical cord at birth; the second is the circumcision, a marking in the private realm; and the third is the hair, which is in the public realm.




Korach” means to be bald.




Mitzva number 149 according to the Sefer HaChinuch prohibits the Kohanim from entering the Beit HaMikdash wearing long hair.




Division Of Adam’s Soul


(The soul of) Adam HaRishon divides into 248 “limbs” just as a body does. There is another type (of source of soul) as well, and that is the countless “hairs” that hang on him.


That is, his soul. We are referring to the spiritual counterpart of hair.


All the sparks of the individual souls in this world are from these levels from Adam HaRishon. All of the specific souls and levels of souls that will later go into bodies born from Adam HaRishon are called “Soul-Roots,” and are drawn from these levels of Adam HaRishon.


To know the root of a soul of a particular person you will need to recognize into whom the specific sparks of the limbs and hairs of Adam HaRishon divided. These are the Soul-Roots that came from him, and it is the same with each limb, as Chazal understood the verse, “Where were you when I founded the earth?” (Iyov 38:4).




The Jews are called Israel because the letters can be switched around to form the words, Li Rosh (“to me as a head”). The head has three parts: the brain, the skull and the hair. The brain is the source of reason, and the skull represents will. Hair represents the Chochma which is revealed to us (the Torah) – just as hair receives a minute amount of Chayot from the brain. Thus, the revelation of the “hair” is in Gan Eden (since Torah is studied there) and the revelation of the brain (hidden Chochma) and of the skull (will, Mitzvot), will be revealed when Mashiach comes.




The Sefer [book] “Taamei Ha-Minhagim” mentions that it was a “known custom” to travel to Meron on the anniversary of the death of Rashbi [Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a beloved leader who died on Lag b’Omer almost 2300 years ago]. People would bring their little children for their haircuts and they would celebrate. The haircut was called a chalaka. The etymology of the word is as where Yaakov is called ish chalak, smooth [man]. The implication is that they would shave off more hair than we do today.


Several sources point out the juxtaposition in Sefer Vayikra [the book of Leviticus], Perek [chapter] 15 of the mitzva [commandment] of orlah [leaving the produce of trees for three years] and peyot [leaving the corners of fields unharvested for the poor]. Just as the tree is off limits for three years until it is considered mature, so too do we wait for a child to mature three years before making peyot [in this case, the “corners” of a child’s hair, earlocks, which are left slightly longer].


This idea is developed in conjunction with the pasuk [verse] in Devarim [Deuteronomy] (20:20, which compares man to the tree of the field).


The significance of the number three can be connected on several fronts. There is the Midrash of how Avraham discovered HaShem at the age of three. The number three establishes a chazakah [strengthening; doing the same thing three times is considered to give it almost the status of an oath]. In fact, Lag b’Omer is thirty-three.


Returning to a concept we mentioned earlier, man is compared - on many levels - to a tree. In fact, if we go back to the six days of creation, we see that trees were created on the 3rd day.




The Midrash adds a curious detail to God’s creation of the first woman. The Sages explained that ‘God building the rib’ meant that He braided Eve’s hair before bringing her to Adam.


Berachoth 61a R.Simeon b. Menasia expounded: What is meant by the words, ‘And the Lord built the rib’? It teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, plaited Eve’s hair and brought her to Adam; for in the seacoast towns ‘plaiting’ [keli’atha] is called, ‘building’ [binyatha].


The Midrash brought a linguistic proof, since the word for ‘braid’ in one language is ‘binita’, similar to the Hebrew word ‘binyan’ (‘building’).


This idea that braiding hair is a form of building is not just a quaint notion; it has legal ramifications. The Talmud states that it is forbidden to braid hair on Shabbat, since braiding constitutes building.[44] 




Hair represents inessential outgrowths of the personality which can lead to sin. Until such outgrowths have been removed by shaving, i.e. removed totally, the metzora had not yet been fully re-instated in Jewish society. After that, he has to occupy himself with Torah, symbolized by his immersion in water.


The subsequent return to “the camp” is also a remez (a hint) to the “higher” world to which the soul has now been restored. His return to this stage is still only tangential, peripheral; he does not yet occupy his rightful place within it. After a further, more lengthy period of time has elapsed (characterized in the Torah by the number seven), he can rid himself of all his hair on all parts of his body. This means that he divests himself of all that is extraneous, non-essential, and therefore apt to lead him astray. At that point no hint of his affliction remains, and the rehabilitation process has been successfully completed.


Midrash of Rabbi Moshe Alshich on the Torah, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.




Mystical Significance of Hair

by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria


From Taamei Hamitzvot, parashat Kedoshim, in the Writings of the Ari. Translation and commentary by Zachariah Goldman


Do not cut off the hair on the sides of your head. Do not shave off the edges of your beard. (Lev. 19:27)


From the  Arizal:


When performing a mitzva, a person should do so to fulfill the will of his Creator, Who commanded him. For example, when a man’s hair is cut, he should bring to mind that he will not allow the hair of the sides of his head to be shaved, nor the hair of his beard.


The mystical explanation is the following: There are the three types of hair of the head - those associated with Arich Anpin, Zeir Anpin and  Nukva. However, the hairs of Arich Anpin are of a quality of complete mercy and are all channels of lights that allow the lights to descend below; it is not appropriate to cut them. Therefore, the nazirite whose hair signifies  Atik [associated with Arich Anpin] does not cut his hair at all, as has been explained regarding the commandment of the nazirite. However, in Zeir Anpin it is fitting to cut of the hair of one’s head, particularly someone whose soul is rooted in the root soul of Cain.

“ The beard hairs are channels of divine spiritual abundance... “ 

It is proper for a man to intend, when getting his hair cut, that he is a reflection of  Zeir Anpin, and that he is removing all the judgments from himself by means of the razor [in Hebrew, “t’ar”], which has the numerical value of the divine name Ado-nai. This numerical equivalency is achieved when each letter of this divine name Ado-nai is spelled out in full, and the total numerical value of each letter is added up. Ado-nai transforms the judgment; therefore, it has the numerical value of “razor” [“t’ar”] to remove the judgments...


T’ar” is spelled: tav (400), ayin (70), reish (200), with a total numerical value of 670 plus 1 for the entirety of the word, equaling 671.


Ado-nai” spelled-out is : alef (1), lamed (30), pei (80), dalet (4), lamed (30), tav (400), nun (50), vav (6), nun (50), yud (10) vav (6), dalet (4), with a total numerical value of 671


However, you already know that the head [of a person] incorporates allusions to the ten sefirot, and that its allusion to malchut constitutes the secret of the Sides of the Head. Thus, “side” [in Hebrew, “peah”] has the numerical value of the divine name  Elohim, and “peah” is always in malchut.


Peah” is spelled pei (80), alef (1), hei (5), with a numerical value of 86.


Elo-him is spelled alef (1), lamed (30), hei (5), yud (10), mem (40), also with a numerical value of 86.


However, there is no sustained existence to the world except through the judgments, and it is not fitting to remove them completely. To that end, we need to retain only the dimension of malchut [i.e. peah], but this applies only to the head of Zeir Anpin [man]. However, Nukva [woman] does not shave her head. The reason is that since she corresponds to Nukva, and since all the judgments are in  Asiya [related to Nukva], were she to remove the judgments from the head of Nukva, there would not remain any judgments in the world. Accordingly, a woman needs to keep her hair and does not shave her head.


My master was extremely careful not to get a haircut after midday, that is after the time arrives for praying the Large Mincha. Even on the eve of the Shabbat [Friday afternoon], he was cautious.


It is fitting that a man not uproot any hair from his beard at all, for the beard hairs are channels of divine spiritual abundance. He should intend that the top of the beard is the First  Tikun.


The divine nameE-l”, in the secret of the  Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, and the hair of the beard on the left and right is twice the numeric value of the Hebrew word for “beard” [“zakan”], which is also the numerical value of the divine nameSha-dai”.


Zakan” is spelled zayin (7), kuf (100), nun (50), and when doubled has a numerical value of 314.


Sha-dai” is spelled shin (300), dalet (4), yud (10), also with a total numerical value of 314.


Together the beard as a whole is “E-l Sha-dai”. For this reason a man should be mindful at all times not to grasp his beard so that he does not uproot any hair from it.


Section I: Practices


Before we explore the spiritual insights of the  Arizal’s teaching, we need first to understand what, in practice, our options are. We will start first with an examination of normative  Halacha (Jewish Law) and then discuss Kabbalistic and Chassidic practices rooted largely in the teachings of the Arizal.


According to Jewish Law, women are permitted to shave their own facial hair,[45] and to shave the sides of their head.[46] Women are not allowed to shave (with a razor) any Jewish man’s beard or peyot, i.e. side locks.[47] According to some authorities, men are permitted to trim or completely shave their beard with either a scissors or an electric shaver that employs a scissor-like cutting mechanism.[48] These lenient authorities maintain that the  Torah’s prohibition applies only to using a razor in the prohibited zones on the man’s beard and head.[49] 


A man may allow his hair to grow in a moderate way, as long as: there is no impediment due to hair thickness to his putting on the head Tefillin, he does not wear long hair to emulate women, and his hairstyle does not follow uniquely gentile fashions. When a man or a woman gets a haircut, or a man trims or shaves his beard, each should have this done by a person of the same sex..


Kabbalistic and Chasidic practice don’t avail themselves of these lenient halachic opinions,[50] and so Kabbalistic principles differs in the following ways:


1. A man does not shave, nor permit others to shave, his beard at all, with the exception of the mustache that overlaps the top lip, and this is only to be trimmed to above the lip with a scissors.[51] 


2. According to some, a man does not allow his peyot, i.e. the hair of his temples and upper sideburns between forehead to back of ears (i.e. sides of the head) to be trimmed[52] except when the peyot extend past the length of the beard and then are trimmed with a scissors.[53] 


3. A man should keep the hair of his head short (Ibid.), with the exception of course of the peyot and beard.


Section II: Spiritual Insights


The path of Kabbala is a profound, yet subtle spiritual path, nestled within the heart of Torah. The mitzvot explored here will distinguish clearly between a person, whose commitment to Torah is limited to the keeping of the letter of the Divine Law, and a person whose commitment soars to the level of passionate harmony with the spirit of the Divine Law.


Any part of the natural order can be perceived in a variety if ways. Hair, the subject of our exploration here, is no exception. For a scientist, hair is seen and understood in terms of its function in the human body; for a swimmer, in terms of its implications on the speed of the race; and for an advertising executive, as an instrument to attract customers. All these perspectives are understandable, yet far removed from how a Torah practitioner and Kabbalist relates to hair.


The Kabbalist, analogous to the scientist, is interested in understanding hair’s spiritual dimension and function. Analogous to the swimmer, he is interested in how hair allows him to maneuver through the spiritual realm. Given the nature of hair, in what way does it obstruct the spiritual journey; in what way can it expedite it? The Kabbalist, like the advertising executive, is interested in attracting divine spiritual abundance and seeks to promote practices that facilitate that aim. These parallels reflect the statement of King Solomon, “One opposite the other did HaShem make.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14) The wise will understand.


Many people today experience and relate to their hair as an important expression of their self and something that is integral to their self-esteem. Thus for moderns, it should be reiterated that the Torah gracefully allows them to keep their hairstyles. This is the case provided the hairstyles conform with basic Torah norms of modesty and with the laws relating to shaving and haircuts that we have seen above and will explain later. There is an element of the Torah, the Tree of Life, that makes space for a spectrum of people who are all in different places along the spiritual path. The disciple of Kabbala, representing the epitome of spiritual aspiration in Torah, seeks from the depths of Torah a way of relating to hair that brings greater spiritual purpose, understanding and maturation.


What is first made clear in the Arizal’s teaching is that all hair, whether that of a man or a woman, has besides any physical qualities and psychological significance a distinct spiritual quality. This quality for a man and a woman are different in degree but not in kind. However, whether for men or for women, this quality can actually be different in kind, as we see with the attainment of the nazerite. The nazerite’s hair is transformed from the quality of din (judgment) to that of rachamim (mercy) by their ascetic and spiritual practices. This transformation of the hair from din (judgment) to rachamim (kindness) explains the commandment (Num. 6:5) upon the nazerite to grow his hair long and thus to manifest the supernal rachamim latent within the divine persona (partzuf) of  Atik Yomin that he has come to, in miniature, be expressed through their hair.


Initially, students of Kabbala need to develop this sensitivity to hair’s spiritual quality and then they can start developing their appreciation for the Arizal’s understanding and mappings of these various gradations of hair and the directives that follow from them.


First, it should be said that Kabbala has a complex yet ultimately simple understanding of HaShem. Accordingly, it calls upon us to emulate, and, so to speak, embody, a greater range of divine personas, or in proper Kabbalistic terminology, partzufim. In other words, in normative Torah[54] we are bidden to emulate HaShem in terms of specific character traits, all having their specific parallels in the sefirot (Tomer Devorah). So too here, we are called to touch a more subtle dimension of HaShem’s manifestation of Himself in creation and our psyche.


The Arizal, in the teaching above, refers to three partzufim:  Nukva,  Zeir Anpin and Arich Anpin. Here, we will deal with the first two, given that the nazerite’s vow is not desirable for most contemporary Jews.[55] 


Nukva” is Aramaic for “female”, and is also known as the  Shechina (indwelling Divine Presence). It is a feminine/receptive dimension of the Creator’s sefirotic personality, so to speak. Nukva corresponds to the sefira of malchut. How does the Kabbala reconcile the concepts of femininity and kingship equally associated with Nukva? Quite simply, Kabbala sees monarchy as depending on a kingdom, something that can only be given to the King, in a desired fashion, through the willing reception on the part of a people of the kingdom. Thus, it is said about Nukva/malchut, “There is no King without a nation” (Kad HaKemach, Rosh Hashanah  Ayin, alef). Nukva is also as referred to as “bat” (“daughter”) or “Knesset Yisrael” (“the Community of Israel”) and represents the collective soul of the Jewish people. Although Nukva is receptive / feminine to the Godly dimensions above, it is active / masculine in relation to those below it.


Zeir Anpin” is Aramaic for “Small Face” and represents the small face of HaShem. Zeir Anpin is how HaShem appeared to the Jewish people in the image of a young warrior with black hair.(See Shaar Hakavanot, Inyan Chag Hashavuot, for quotation of famous  Midrash.) This prophetic glimpse of divine imagery was perceived at the crossing of the Red Sea when the Egyptians were drowned. It is possible that this dimension of HaShem is seen as the small face because it does not reflect the wholeness of the divine intention in relation to Creation. Rather, it is but a small dimension of the Creator’s sefirotic projection. Zeir Anpin is also known as Holy One, blessed be He” and is a masculine/active dimension of the Creator’s sefirotic persona. Zeir Anpin is known as “ben” (“son”) and is associated with the six sefirot of chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod and yesod.


Before we explain the nature of the hair of Zeir Anpin and Nukva, it is necessary to first explain the concept of hair as it pertains to the partzufim. First, though, it needs to be said that each partzuf is composed of ten sefirot, which have both Mochin (consciousness) and middot (attributes). In name, the Mochin are: keter, chochma, bina and the middot are: chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod and yesod.  Malchut, as we have said, is receptive. These sefirot are depicted by analogy to a human like form. Thus hair is also part of the human being and is viewed as reflective of the divine hair. One could look at our hair as being a poor analogy of the “real” divine hair. The hair of the partzufim is said to originate in the excess of the Mochin’s processing and receptivity of the divine light from the Ein Sof.[56] 


The hair of Nukva and of Zeir Anpin have the quality of judgment (din). Yet, Nukva, associated with the woman, is of a less severe quality and is only in need of being covered. This covering of the female’s hair in normative Jewish law, applies to married, divorced, or widowed women. In Kabbalistic practice these women’s hair are meant, within the bounds of practicality, to be covered entirely, and to be covered, ideally, nearly always with the exception of bathing.


[Note: See  Zohar, parashat Naso 125b -126b, regarding spiritual importance and ramifications of women not covering their hair both at home and outside. See Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 75:2 regarding extent that hair should be covered according to Zohar; also see Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim 36; also Igrot Moshe, Even HaEzer, vol. I, 58 for strict and lenient Halachic views. See Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 21:2 and Bayit Chadash on Tur ad loc. for requirement of hair coverings for women who are: married, divorced, widowed or single if not virgins. For this last inclusion, see  Mishna Berura, Orach Chaim 75:11, Helkat Mechokek, Letter 2 and Shevut Yaakov vol. I, 103. There is room for leniency here from for widows, divorcees, and presumably single women. See Igrot Moshe Even HaEzer, vol. I, 57 and more so Igrot Moshe Even HaEzer, sect. 32 par. 4. In practice, one is advised to ask one’s local Rav. There are stricter opinions see Yabiah  Omer 4:3.]


A man’s hair, though, is of a different variety. His judgments (din) expressed on the hair of most of his head, with exception of the sideburns (peyot), are considered in need of nearly complete elimination. This especially is the case if his soul is rooted in the distinctly aggressive dimension of the super-soul-root of Cain, the killer of his brother Abel. In the context of what has been said in regards to woman, the message is clear. A man, who is an embodiment of Zeir Anpin, needs to remove his judgments, i.e. hairs of most of his head, in order to rectify his nature. Men, it should also be noted also cover their hair (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 2:6 and see Shabbat 156b) and contrary to much popular lay opinion, this head covering is ideally supposed to cover the majority of his skull (Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 1:1). Nor should a man walk four ammot (approximately six feet) without a head covering, or make a blessing without a head covering (Ibid.). In particular, Kabbalists wear especially large head coverings, almost equaling those of women’s requirement.


Not so the hair of the man’s beard. Here we are instructed that a man’s beard represents channels for divine abundance and reflect supernal G-dly qualities of kindness and trust, which men are called to embody. With regards to the man’s beard, he is encouraged to let it grow unhindered. Here there is also the need for sensitization that beard hair is not something to pull, when debating a Talmudic argument, or to comb, for the cultivation of even a spiritual neatly kept image. Rather, a man is called to a radical experience of what Job stated, “From my flesh I will see HaShem.” (Job 19:26) We can explain this verse as referring to the experience of the spiritual and G-dly potential in the human body.


When the Arizal teaches that the hair of the head is of the quality of judgment, perhaps this is also tacit recognition, in one respect, of the intimate association of hair with ego. For anyone living in the Western world such a connection between hair and ego is beyond need of demonstration. Likewise, is the understanding nothing more than ego limits a person. The hair of the head, located as it is on the top of the human body, can be perceived as the keter (literally “crown”) of negative human ego. Interestingly, a woman, who expresses the divine persona of Nukva, is required to cover her hair on the head but is not to eliminate it. In actuality, the opposite is true. She is discouraged from making herself hairless, given the need for her embodiment of a tamed force of judgment in this world. Women are rooted in the left side of the Tree of Life and correspond to the gevura. Her gevura needs to be contained but not eliminated. Men are rooted in the Right side of the Tree of Life, and find their source in the chasadim; therefore, their gevurot/dinim, i.e. the hair of their heads, needs to be eliminated largely but not completely.


How is it that our hair has come to embody the quality of judgment? And is this the way of responding to this reality? Kabbala explains that anything with a dominant quality of judgment, like hair, is inherently vulnerable to exposure and damage from the “Other Side” i.e. Evil. That there is evil in the world and that the world is in such a spiritually collapsed state of existence is a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. (Derech Hashem 1:3:8) Needless to say, before their fall Adam and Eve did not cover their hair, as they were both naked (Gen. 2:25), free of sexual lust and ego.[57] 


We, as fallen human beings seeking redemption, need to respect the situation that we, as part of archetypal Adam and Eve, have collectively created. We need to work with this reality towards  Tikun. Abrogating the covering of one’s hair, for a man or a woman, in the present time, in the name of feminism or some preemptive neo-messianic spirit, when evil has yet to be eradicated, feeds the “Other Side” with exactly what it desires: the power of judgments. The Zohar states quite clearly that when we expose the judgments below, we cause a descent of the judgments above, in Nukva and Zeir Anpin, into this world below. These then later wreak havoc on our lives.


In the words of the Zohar: “Disruption of spiritual consciousness will befall a man who allows his wife to expose her hair; this [the proper covering of a woman’s hair] is one of the foundational principles of modesty. A woman who let’s her hair be seen in order to appear attractive causes poverty to her home, spiritual inferiority to her children and causes a negative spiritual influence to reside in the home... If all this in one’s own house certainly in public places and certainly other brazen acts of immodesty....” (Zohar, parashat Naso 125b-126b)


Section 3: Meditation Instructions


When a man is beginning to have his haircut, he should intend:


1. To fulfill the will of his Maker in not having the corners of his head shaved with a razor.


2. To fulfill the will of his Maker in not having his beard cut by a razor.


Besides these preparatory meditations, he can intend:


1. To remove the judgments from his head to the extent that he does.


2. To do the meditation while reflecting on the above gematria of the word “toar” (“razor”- see Part 1) and name of HaShem.


Throughout the day, a man can attune to his beard, as an expression of the divine names E-l Sha-Dai. This should not be done in the bathroom or an unclean place. While contemplating, a person can focus on opening his heart in kindness, and developing his inner strength, thus becoming more truly trusted as a vessel for the Divine Will.


A woman, when putting on her hair-covering, can intend to conceal and sweeten her judgments. She can also contemplate ways in which she can appropriately manifest her inborn quality of gevura. Hair, as a clearly sexual dimension of her existence, can suggest a meditation focused on the partial concealment of her physical self so that her spiritual self can illuminate creation with greater clarity.


The goal of the Kabbala is the transformation of a human being into a chariot for the Divine. Hair, an aspect of our existence that has been exiled into banality and perversion, in Kabbala is recognized for its spiritual power, properties and potential. Contemporary Jewish spiritual seekers are encouraged to work with this Kabbalistic tradition and experiment with its fruits.


Although the experience of Divine Law is at times experienced as an external imposition on the self, experience shows that with the humbling of the heart and the opening of the mind Divine Law, is in actuality a greater, albeit often more concealed, expression of the soul’s knowledge and intuitive wisdom.


by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai  



Tazria (Leviticus 12-13)


 Does Your Hair Hang Low...?


 Zohar, parashat Tazria, page 48b


Translation and commentary by Simcha Treister


“ Hair is engendered by the excess of consciousness that surges from the intellectual sefirot...”       


Within this general section of the  Torah, are the laws that deal with purification, among which are the requirements that the hair be shaved. The holy  Arizal explains in Mevo Shearim, Gate 5, Part 1, that the higher partzufim of the sefirot in the spiritual worlds also have hair. This hair is engendered by the excess of consciousness that surges from the intellectual sefirot of chochma and bina.


The hair is like a fiber optic that is a hollow tube with very fine light emerging from the end, or mouth, of the hair. In the spiritual realms, these hairs are a result of waves of Mochin Dekatnut, or constricted, self-centered consciousness. A person emitting this type of consciousness causes black hairs to grow on his spiritual counterpart. These black hairs become a breeding ground for other external negative forces and a place for attachment of harsh judgement. These hairs are the roots of the judgments in  Zeir Anpin. The external forces, or kelipot, don’t receive their life force from the Holy partzuf of Zeir Anpin itself, rather they receive a tiny amount of life-force from the light emerging at the ends of the hair.


“ When the hair is cut off from Zeir Anpin all judgments are sweetened...”       


 Rebbe Shimon said that words “Dina Kashia”, or “harsh judgement”, refer to the judgements aroused from below - by  Mochin Dekatnut - that causes hair to grow on the head of Zeir Anpin. Now when those below return to proper consciousness of the Divine, they cause this hair to be shorn off from the head. Clipping the hair below denies the kelipot, or external forces of consciousness, from having a hold on the source of consciousness from above. It is interesting to note that one of the more common sights at a revivalist Baal Teshuva meeting is a young person with a pony tail having it publicly cut off and placing on a kipa!


When the hair is cut off from Zeir Anpin all judgments are sweetened and the negative forces below in the physical world have no place to establish a foothold. This is why Zeir Anpin is then called “pure”, in Hebrewtahor”, because it has been purified from the attachment of these negative forces.


It is not called “pure” until it has been removed from the aspect of impurity generated by the kelipot attached to it. When it emerges from this attachment, it is called “pure”. This is the meaning of the words “Who can give pure from impure?” (Job 14:4) It was certainly in a state of impurity because of the attachment of these external forces. An example is like lice which breed in hair and disappear when the hair is cut, as they live only in the hair not on the head itself. The head remained clean but was made unclean by the life-forces breeding in the hair surrounding it. This is also hinted in the verse:


Vayikra (Leviticus) 13:40 And the man whose hair has fallen off his head is bald and is pure.




This study was written by

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(Greg Killian).

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[1] Zohar, Ha’azinu states:

1. The hairs are places of harsh judgment, as in the verse, “for He crushes me with a tempest” (Job 9:17), where the Hebrew word for tempest is phonetically similar to the word for hair.

2. Hair at the back of the neck indicates harsh judgment as in the verse, “and they have turned their back to me and not their face” (Jeremiah 32:33).

3. There are no judgments in the hair of the beard. - Regarding the curls of the hair on the sides of the head and the beard, see Zohar, Naso.

[2] Nukva = Lower light

[3] Atzilut is the world of Divine emanation.

[4] Sanhedrin 21

[5] Torah Commentary, by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher, translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Page 1919

[6] Judges 16:17 as well as Judges 16:22

[7] Torah Commentary, by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher, translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Page 1919

[8] Bamidbar 5:18, Ketuvot 72a

[9] Devarim 24:1

[10] Nazir 2a

[11] Kiddushin 2b, see the second Tosfot there.

[12] Yoma 47a

[13] Ezekiel 16:7

[14] The side growth descending over the junction of jaw-bone to the skull.

[15] There are several explanations: (i) The corners mean the ‘regions’, directions of the beard: two side-whiskers; two running parallel with the jaw to the sides of the mouth; and one on and under the chin (R. Han.). (ii) Two upper junctions of the jaw to the skull, in the region of the eyes; two corners of lower-jaw below the lobes of the ear; and one on the chin. (iii) Two corners of the lower jaw-bone under the ear; two ends of the jaw-bone nearing the chin; and the chin. (Rashi — RIBN, on the text.) V. R. Shimshon (of Sens) and Raabad (of Posquieres, Beaucaire) on Sifra, Lev. XIX, 27; Asheri Mak. III, 2, and R. Jacob’s Summaries (there) No. 5 and Tur, Y.D. 181.

[16] Var. lec.: ‘R. Eleazar’.

[17] In a single movement.

[18] Var. lec.: ‘R. Eleazar’.

[19] Tweezers, the Roman volsellae, hairpluckers.

[20] Or possibly the Roman radula, a kind of shaving spoke.

[21] Torath Kohanim 19:74; Mak. 20b

[22] Sema, on Choshen Mishpat 35

[23] Mashpia is a giver and Mekabel is a receiver.

[24] zachar = male

[25] Nekeiva = female

[26] Rav Moshe Shapiro

[27] Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols, p.18, entry: “Beard.”

[28] Ned. 30b; Num. R-9:1 6

[29] In Ket. 7:6, the term “daat Yehudit” means that a woman should not spin or have her hair uncovered in the street.

[30] Ket. 2:1

[31] Ber 24a

[32] Sh. Ar. EH 21.2

[33] Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 2:6 and see Shabbat 156b

[34] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Ch. 2

[35] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Ch. 8

[36] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Ch. 2


[38] Rabbi Shlomo Yitchaki, 1040-1105, author of the primary commentary on the Talmud.

[39] Isa. XXXIII, 17.

[40] Ezek. XLIV, 20.

[41] Num. VI, 5.

[42] Lev. X, 9.

[43] Ezek. XLIV, 20.

[44] Shabbat 95a

[45] Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 181:3 see Veyesh Osrim & 181:11 and the Arizal quoted above

[46] Ibid.181:6

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid. 181:3,10 and Har Tzvi, Y.D. 143

[49] Makot 20A,  Rambam, Avodat Kochavim 12:6

[50] Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 181:3 see Veyesh Osrim & 181:11 and the Arizal quoted above

[51] Writings of the Ari, Taamei Hamitzvot, parashat Kedoshim.

[52] Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 181:11

[53] Writings of the Ari, Ta’amei Hamitzvot, parashat Kedoshim.

[54] Rambam, Sefer Mitzvot, Mitzvah 8

[55] Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 203:7

[56] Otzrot Chaim, Derush Adam Kadmon, pg. 6

[57] See Guide for the Perplexed, ch. 2