י׳ בשבט ה׳תשע״ח (January 26, 2018)

Avoda Zara 11a-b: The Haircut Holiday

We have learned that it was forbidden for Jews to engage in business with pagans for three days before their holidays. The Mishna (8a) lists a number of such holidays, as well as a number of days on which no business can be done, although it would be permissible to do business on the days that preceded them. Such holidays included the day that a man’s beard or blorit were cut. The Gemara on today’s daf quotes baraitot that explain that these holidays took place on the day that the beard was cut and the blorit was left, as well as on the day that both the beard and the blorit were cut.

In Rome it was common practice for the day that the Caesar’s beard was cut – either as an indication of entrance into manhood or for some other reason – to be considered a festival; sacrifices to pagan gods were part of the ceremonies, which included special religious services aimed at the Roman goddess of fortune who was appointed as responsible for beards, Fortuna barbata – “Fortune of the Beards”. Similarly, many individuals established these days as days of personal or family celebration.

Many suggestions are offered to define the term blorit, but no word in Greek or Latin is a perfect match for it. The hairstyle involved allowing the hair to grow long particularly on the sides and in the back of the head, and the hair was tied and braided into different shapes. Later on, the braided hair was shaved off in a special pagan festive ceremony. This ceremony was most often performed in honor of the Egyptian goddess Isis and her son, the Egyptian deity Horus. During the period of the Mishna there was a growing movement throughout the Roman Empire that introduced Eastern beliefs and practices in concert with the local pagan ones. Thus, the worship of Isis became popular throughout the Roman Empire.

Previous
Next