New York – Haircuts on Friday Before LaG BaOmer – a Halachic Analysis


    Photo ilustrationNew York – There is a fascinating Remah (in Orech Chaim 493:2) that tells us that when LaG BaOmer falls on Sunday, the custom is to allow getting a haircut on Friday on account of Kavod Shabbos. The Ramah seems to cite the Maharil as the source for this ruling. In fact, the parenthesis indicating the source was not penned by the Ramah but rather by a later editor.

    Indeed, if one looks at the Maharil, one sees no such indication in his writings that this is correct. What then is the source? It comes from the Mahariv.

    Poskim and Gedolei HaRoshei yeshiva have given two explanations for the ruling found in the Ramah. One explanation is that since one is shaving and getting a haircut on Sunday, and Shabbos is right beforehand, it seems to be a “slap in the face” to the Shabbos that one did not get a haircut for the holiest day of the week too. In other words, it is the comparison that would be drawn from the Sunday holiday to the gift that Hashem gave us – the Shabbos.

    Another explanation is that LaG BaOmer is actually a holiday, where the holiness of that holiday begins at Mincha on the previous day. One does not recite Tachanun, for example, on the Mincha that immediately precedes LaG BaOmer. Since this is the case, one would technically be permitted to shave and get a haircut on Shabbos. The only problem, of course, is that it is a violation of Shabbos.
    And herein lies our heter. Since it is forbidden to do so on Shabbos – the minhag is to permit it on the day before – so that it could be done for Shabbos. This is the explanation of the Mahariv’s position.

    What is interesting to note is that, although the Ramah cites sources that it is the minhag to permit these haircuts, is it ideal?

    Rav Elyashiv Shlita is quoted by one of his students, Rabbi Avrohom Hillel Weinberger, author of HaGaos VeHosafos (as cited in Ashrei HaIsh p. 430) that although it is permitted it is “not mehudar” and it is preferable, rather, to get the haircut on Sunday.

    This position comes as a shock to most people. How so? Well firstly, the Mishna Brurah does not mention at all the notion that it is “not Mehudar.” Secondly, it has been the minhag of all Bnei Yeshiva to follow this ruling of the Remah – ostensibly not only because it was permitted, but because it involved issues of Kavod Shabbos.

    It is this author’s suggestion that the issue is actually a matter of debate between the Poskim of yesterday and Rav Elyashiv. Rav Elyashiv might hold of the second explanation of the Mahariv – that we just do it on Friday because we cannot do it on Shabbos. The Mishna Brurah and the gedolei HaRoshei yeshiva who permitted it fully in the past would hold of the first explanation of the Mahariv that it is a bit of a Bizayon to Shabbos to get a haircut the next day, but not for Shabbos itself.

    Regardless, all authorities agree that it is permitted to do so. Some say that one should precisely because of the issue of Kavod Shabbos – Rav Elyashiv holds that ideally one shouldn’t. This author would like to suggest that the Mishna Brurah’s silence here, and his ruling elsewhere regarding Rosh Chodesh on Sunday indicates that the Chofetz Chaim was not in agreement with the view of Rav Elyashiv here.

    The author may be reached at [email protected] and welcomes discussion on this issue.

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