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Pushing Off the Upsherin

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Question:  A woman has a son with adorable blond curly hair.  She is finding it enormously difficult to cut her son’s hair at age three.  Can she push off the upsherin for this reason?

Answer:  Let’s first get some background.  The minhag of delaying the first haircut is one of Chassidim, sefardim, and also anshei maaseh.  The purpose of it is to train children in the minhag of being careful not to violate the prohibition of cutting off the payos.

Rav Chaim Vital attests that his Rebbe, the Arizal performed his son’s haircut at Meron following the known custom.

The custom seems to be entrenched in the very words of the Mechaber, Rav Yoseph Karo himself [ Shulchan Aruch OC 531:6]. The Minhag is further discussed in the Be’er Heitev 531:7.  The Gan HaMelech cited there writes that one may push off an upsherin [that falls earlier] until Chol HaMoed.  This is, apparently, in order to enhance the Yom Tov.  The Gan haMelech writes that one should not, however, do it earlier.  It should also be done through a Jewish barber.

Rav Boruch Sperber zt”l (1875-1962) in his responsa Afrekasta D’anya (Vol. I #161) writes that it may only be done for a great need such as enhancing the Yom Tov or to celebrate it on LagBaOmer to perform it at Meron on the yartzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

The Ramah in Yoreh Deah 245:8 citing Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508) writes that immediately upon the child turning three years of age – one begins to teach him the letters of the Torah.

Rabbi Dovid HaLevi (1586-1667), author of the TaZ, writes that there is an allusion to this from the verse (Vayikra 19:23) three years they shall be areilim.  “When you come to the Land and you plant any food tree, you shall surely block its fruit – ve’araltem; it shall be blocked from you for three years, not to be eaten.”

Furthermore, since it is done for the purpose of chinuch in the Mitzvah of not cutting the peyos – this is a Mitzvah in the Torah and is considered chinuch for the lo saasehs in the Torah too.  Since the cutting of hair, and beginning of teaching Torah go hand in hand – the indication is that it should not be delayed at all.  The Vilna Gaon cites the Midrash Tanchuma that the verse is also referring to young boys – who do not yet know Torah – and the fourth year –  the father sanctifies him to Torah.

The Gemorah in Psachim (68b) states, “Beloved is a Mitzvah in its time.”  Rav Yeshayah Slomovitz in his Avnei Shoham (#99) further writes that it is improper to keep a child in a state of “Arelus” longer than necessary.

What happens if the child turns three on, say, Erev Sukkos?  The Chuster Rav, Rabbi Moshe Grunwald zt”l (1853-1910), in his Arugas HaBosem responsum [OC 210] writes that one does not do so before its time, citing a number of proofs from the halachic concept of Orlah. The Klausenberger Rebbe in his responsum Divrei Yatziv (#91 in Hashmatos) also writes that one does not cut the hair earlier and he should wait until Chol HaMoed.  Rav Vosner zt”l in his Shaivet haLevi (Volume VIII #206) however, seems to indicate that this may not necessarily be the case.  He questions that Arugas HaBosem’s proof from Orlah and points out that there are cases of Orlah where it is shorter than three years! He also cites the ruling of the Satmar Rebbe cited in Tiferes Naftali page 86 that when the third birthday falls on a Shabbos, there may be an inyan of Kavod Shabbos to perform the haircut on Erev Shabbos – Friday.

It seems that this issue of doing it a day or two before the third birthday or afterward is one of the halachic debates which exist between Klausenberger Chassidim and Satmar Chassidim.


It would seem from all of this that, no matter how cute the child is, one should not delay the haircut unless there is halachic reason in which to do.  As an aitza tova, you could video the event and take a number of pictures before the actual haircut and save some of the hair.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

13 Responses

  1. Adorable blond curly hair is for girls, not boys.
    What would the Klausenberger Rebbe have said if he was told that the parents are encouraging their child with the issur of lo silbash?
    Is it possible that he would have said that if the parents can’t control themselves they should cut the hair as soon as it starts getting long?
    Minhagim are nice when done properly. Once the materialistic feelings get mixed in they can easily wander into dangerous territory.

  2. For a very different perspective on this issue, see “Shroshei Minhag Ashkenaz” by Rabbi Hamburger, 3rd volume.
    This discussion is far from complete without it.

  3. I think the post was meant for those who keep this custom. It is clearly not a halacha and not mentioned in the Gemara or Rishonim. Just google “first haircut traditions” and you’ll see that many cultures and religions have some rite connected to the first haircut. It’s hard to understand that the purpose of the Jewish custom “is to train children in the minhag of being careful not to violate the prohibition of cutting off the payos” when the child is only 3 years old. Sound more like a סיבה למסיבה.

  4. It would have been nice to mention that the Lithuanian Gedolim שמיפיהם אנו חיים , did not practice this minhag. No need to glorify it. Unfortunately, in the last generation it has become a cute fad for the yeshivishe community.

  5. to rational:
    The “Yeshivish” customs and behaviors of today hardly resemble the customs of pre-war yeshivas and definitely do not resemble those of the Yeshivas of Mir and Brisk. The three year haircuts are just one of many such items. Rather many of the details that mark today’s “Yeshivish” were copied from the chassidim during the late 60’s and early 70’s.

  6. Thanks to rational for bringing up such an important point. Today in the big melting pot of America the choshuva way of life of lita got confused with something modern for example a heimishe or chasidishe person that became more modern is called he became litvish I personally don’t know anyone more Frum than the briskers and chazonishniks yet they are both far from heimish or chasidish so let’s not be embarrassed of keeping our minhagim of not doing an upsherin and not be from today’s people who have no tradition so they pick and choose from all different minhagim. Each shevet in klal Yisroel has their avodah lets all do ours proudly and not put down others and be zoiche to be mekadesh Shaim Shomayim and bring good hashpaos to yidden

  7. Omg israeli charedi.

    Are you telling me that the the only way a nazir is allowed to grow his hair long, is by being oiver the issur of lo silbash, so its kind of like an aseh being docheh a lo saase?

  8. Right on silentmoishe and Yechiel stone! Bring back the pride of the Litvish, Yekke and Sefardi minhagim of yesteryear. We don’t have to keep checking behind our backs to see what the “heimishe” are up to.

  9. avreichamshlomo
    I did not say that there was a problem with long hair being lo silbash (though the mishne berura in hilchos tefillin strongly discourages it for other reasons). I also would dare not disagree with the Klausenberger Rebbe.
    What I said was that the mother’s obsession with it because it’s adorable blond and curly may be more spiritually detrimental to the child than the benefit of waiting until he was three and that the Klausenberger Rebbe may have recommended that she cut it sooner rather than on time in this situation.
    I’m also curious what he would have said about those that put various girls’ hair implements on their boys’ heads instead of using a simple rubber band when necessary.

    P.S. A standard nazir is for only 30 days. Even a permanent nazir could cut his hair once a year.

  10. This is a very strange discussion and I’m more than a little disappointed in Rabbi Hoffman. Few of those references discuss waiting until three to cut a child’s hair. Rav Chaim Vital is probably the most well known mekor and he says nothing about three years of age, only that the ARI Z”L had a minhag to give a child a haircut on Lag B’Omer in Meron.

    To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Upsherins weren’t a very common minhag until the last few decades. Before then it was only some Chassidim and some Sephardim that held of some version of the minhag. There certainly wasn’t any of this “Yehoreig v’al yaavor” when it comes to cutting hair before or after the third birthday.

  11. Hello Silentmoishe
    Yes, I am well aware of the changes in customs over the last 30-40 years. It has become somewhat of an exercise in social and religious bullying directed at those who don’t get with the program.
    Examples: The upsheren, payos, gebrochts, very specific (don’t dare deviate) gifts to the chosson and kallah before, during, and after the engagement, gifts in the yichud room, dressing of the baby at a bris and pidyon, and the list goes on. Bewildering.

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