Why is a Nazir not allowed to cut his hair?
Question submitted to “Ask the Rabbi” by:
City: Lynchburg, Virginia
“Why is one of the requirements of the Nazarite vow for a man not to cut their hair?
What is the significance of side curls?”
Rabbi Tully Bryks responds:
A Nazir is someone who obligates himself to refrain from certain material pleasures that are normally permitted. The prohibitions include:
- No grapevine products, including alcohol, grapes and raisins
- No haircuts or shaving
- No coming in contact with Tumah (impurity) that derives from dead bodies
As a general rule, becoming a Nazir is frowned upon in Judaism, as we believe that G-d gave us this world to enjoy! To help bring this point home, after completes their vow of being a Nazir (the default length is one month), the Nazir must shave off all his hair and then bring a Korban Chatas (a sin offering), in recognition that it was not ideal. However, if taking a vow to become a Nazir will protect someone from a sin, then it would be permitted and even commended. The example given by the Jerusalem Talmud Nedarim (vows) 29A is a case when one witnesses a woman going through the Sotah process (the result of infidelity). One possible explanation is that at such a juncture, he may be enticed to sin as well. By immediately taking a Nazarite vow, he will be less likely to succumb to his temptations. And this would provide an answer to your hair question as well, since by having to shave off all of his hair at the culmination of his 30 days, he would now be in a less likely position to get entangled with infidelity himself.
Regarding your second question about Peyos (side curls), the Torah commands men “not to cut off the hair on the side of your heads.” There is a difference of opinion as to how far down the side this prohibition extends. A common interpretation is that the prohibition extends down to the joints near our ears, which is why observant men typically don’t have very short sideburns. Others, including many in the Hassidic community, understand that it extends much further, which is one of the reasons for the custom of Peyos. There is much symbolism to this practice as well.
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