ח׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ג (November 22, 2012)

Shabbat 50a-b: Male Grooming

On today’s daf the Gemara turns its attention to the use of soap and similar cleansing agents on, some of which may act as depilatories that will remove hair. For example, the Gemara discusses the use of berada – made up of aloe, myrtle, and third violets – which is determined to be permissible to use.

The Gemara relates that Ameimar, Mar Zutra, and Rav Ashi were sitting on, and they brought berada before them for washing. Ameimar and Rav Ashi washed with it; Mar Zutra did not wash. Ultimately the Gemara concludes that Mar Zutra refrained from the use of berada all week long.

Mar Zutra holds in accordance with that which was taught in a baraita:
A person may scrape off dried excrement crusts and scabs of a wound that are on his flesh because of the pain that they are causing him. However, if he does so in order to clean and beautify himself, it is prohibited.

According to the tanna of this baraita, it is prohibited to adorn or beautify oneself, as the verse: “Neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment” ( 22:5) prohibits dressing or conducting oneself in the manner of women. This source is understood to prohibit not only members of one gender from wearing clothes unique to the other gender, but also prohibits men from wearing ornaments or undergoing cosmetic treatments unique to women. According to some authorities, any ornament or treatment that has no health benefit is by definition a practice unique to women and a man who engages in those practices violates the prohibition.

This is not the only position, however.

The Gemara asks: And Ameimar and Rav Ashi, who permit use of berada, in accordance with whose opinion do they hold? They hold in accordance with that which was taught in a: A person must wash his face, his hands, and his feet every day for the sake of his Maker, as it is stated: “The Lord has made everything for His own purpose” (Mishlei 16:4).

Every beautiful thing that exists in the world sings the praise of God Who created beautiful things. Therefore, it is appropriate for one to beautify himself in praise of God.

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