The Upsherin – What are the Origins?

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    Reb Eliezer

    The malach teaches the child the Torah in the mothers womb and then he forgets it. This shows that he has the ability to learn it. I heard a logic that the child is in aveilus (not cuting hair) for forgetting the Torah, so they don’t cut it until he can learn Torah again at age three when he can start talking clearly.


    The makor has little to do with the minhag. The Shaarei Teshuva mentions (I think Misha Berura chelek gimmel) that the Ari Z”L’s son went to the kever RASHBI on Lab B’Omer to give his son his first haircut.

    Somehow that turned into “No haircuts until three then a big party”.

    Reb Eliezer

    Yserblus123. did you look above where I quote the Sharei Teshuva and the Midrash Tanxhuma?

    Eliyahu A

    Your quote from Wikipedia’s article on Upsharin based on Prof. Yoram Bilu of anthropology and psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem saying that Upsherin “probably modeled on the Muslim custom of shaving male children’s hair in saints’ sanctuaries, was practiced by native Palestinian Jews (Musta’arbim) as early as the Middle Ages”, is completely wrong. I have lived among the Musta’arbim, I’m a descendant of Musta’arbim, we never heard or practiced such custom of Upsherin. The custom is a Hasidic custom from the 18th or 19th century.

    Over 20-30 years ago I was reading a Sefer of responsa, I saw a a response written by a Hassidic Rebbe (unfortunately, I don’t remember his name) to a letter by one of his followers asking him what to do with his son who is almost 1 year old and does not want to sit still for a haircut. (As usual Hassidic Jews, don’t do anything, even as mundane as a haircut, without asking their rebbe what to do)

    The Rebbe in this response, that I saw and read with my own eyes, wrote that a child who is 1 year old, is not mature enough to have a haircut, maybe by age of 3 he will be more mature and will sit still to have a haircut. Adding to his response, that that’s why our Sages, instructed us to start teaching our children to say Kriat Shema and have them wear Talít Kattan by age 3, because a child is more mature, therefore it’s better to wait until the child is 3 years old to cut his hair; he will sit still and will let the barber cut his hair.

    The Rebbe continues in his response that we can bring a Ra’ya (example) from the Mitzvah of Orla, based on Midrash Tanhuma, that we wait also 3 years of Orla, then the 4th year is Kodesh Hillulim, then we can also cut the hair.

    My humble opinion is that Orla is not a good example for Upsherin, because even in the 4th year we cannot use the fruit for our benefit, only in the 5th year, therefore based on this example, the Upsherin should be at age 5.

    The Rebbe, continues and brings another example from the ARI Z”L that he took his son to Meron and made a special celebration of cutting his son’s hair. Therefore, it would be proper to make a celebration when cutting the hair at age 3 since it’s also the age in which we teach the child to begin with Torah phrases like מה טובו אהליך יעקב and תורה צווה לנו משה.

    Again in my humble opinion, the Rebbe may not have know that the ARI Z”L took his son at age 1 not 3. Rabenu Hayim Vital writes “I accompanied my teacher when he took his son at age 1 to Meron to cut his hair.” So the whole premise of the Rebbe response to wait until age 3, cannot be based on the ARI Z”L.

    To conclude, I agree that the Upsherin is not based on anything holy or Rabbinic, except on a “common sense” advice by a rebbe to a perplexed follower who did not know what to do with his 1 year old son who did not want to sit still to get a haircut. It is certainly not based on the Jewish Musta’arbim custom, because that custom does not and did not exist among them.


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