י״ג בכסלו ה׳תשע״ח (December 1, 2017)

Shevuot 3a-b: Two That Are Four – With Hair

The placement of Massekhet Shevuot in Seder Nezikin – the Order of the Mishna that deals with civil law – can be explained because some of the laws that apply to oaths are connected with courtroom activities (e.g., oaths taken by litigants as part of the court process, or someone who swears that he does not have testimony to offer). Our Gemara wonders why we find Massekhet Shevuot immediately following Massekhet Makkot within Seder Nezikin.

According to the Gemara on today’s daf, the juxtaposition of these two tractates is based on stylistic concerns. One of the last Mishnayot in Massekhet Makkot teaches the law restricting the way a Jewish man can cut his hair, and there, too, we find that two laws of hair-cutting extend to a number of laws, similar to the list of “two that are four” rules in our Mishna (see yesterday’s daf).

According to the Torah (Vayikra 19:27) – lo takifu pe’at roshkhem ve-lo tash’ḥit et pe’at zekanekhah – a man cannot round off the edges of his head, nor can he destroy the growth of his beard. The Mishna in Massekhet Makkot (20a) teaches that the prohibition against rounding off the edges of one’s hair applies to the two sides of his head, while the prohibition regarding the beard relates to five different points – two on each side and one on the chin. The former forbids cutting the hair at the temples so that the back of the ear and the forehead are “evened out”; the latter forbids the points on the face where there is an accumulation of hair.

The Gemara in Kiddushin (daf 35) concludes that since the Torah used the term lo tash’ḥit (do not destroy) with regard to cutting one’s beard, the prohibition regarding shaving one’s beard would only be with a razor, which is mash’ḥit (destructive), but mispara’im ke-en ta’ar – a scissor-like cutting action that removes hair – is permitted. Based on this, most rishonim permit shaving one’s beard if it is done using that method, but they still prohibit cutting one’s payot against the skin even mispara’im ke-en ta’ar, since regarding this halakha the Torah forbids the very act of hakafah (rounding the “corners”.) The Rambam, however, disagrees, apparently because he takes the juxtaposition of bal takif and bal tash’ḥit very seriously, concluding that all of the laws of one apply to the other, as well. Thus, just as one’s beard can be cut with a scissors, so one’s payot can be cut with a scissors. [Note that in the famous portrait of the Rambam he does not appear to have payot.]

Previous
Next