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shaving with a razor blade


Rabbi David Sperling

Elul 6, 5773
Hi, When I do not shave for a while shaving with my electric shaver can be a mission. I know I can use a blade on my neck. How high can I go? What parts of the face/neck are mutar to shave with a blade? Many thanks!
Shalom, Thank you for your question. You are correct in that one may not shave their face with a razor. The source for this is found in the Torah - "You shall not round the corners of your head, and do not destroy the corners of your beard" (Leviticus 19:27). The Talmud (Makkot 20a) explains that there are five "corners" of the beard – the upper and lower part of each cheek, and the chin where both cheeks come together (Rashi). The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 181:11) writes "There are 5 "corners" to the beard, and there are many opinions about where exactly they are, therefore those who are G-d-fearing hold by all of them and do not put a razor to their beard at all, even under the throat." Based on this, one should refrain from shaving the front of the neck with a razor. However, there are various opinions (as the Shulchan Aruch writes), especially in connection with shaving below the chin, from the chinbone down including the throat, and I have seen in the writings of several rabbis who permit using a safety razor (as opposed to a straight razor) on the hair that grows below the chin bone. This is based on the fact that the Rema (ibid,10) writes that the area of the throat is more lenient than the rest of the beard (in the question of what type of scissors may be used) because this area "is not in essence the place of the corners of the beard". Your question indicates that you have heard of this opinion. If you were taught this, or are accustomed to use a razor on your throat, then you may continue to do so, but you should make certain that you go no higher than the chin bone, and do not pull the skin that normally sits above this bone down below it to shave it. In my opinion however, because you are able to use an electric shaver, albeit with a bit of difficultly, you should be strict and not use a razor even on the throat. However, one may use a razor on the back of the neck, which is not considered the throat. Further, it is permitted to shave the mustache with a razor, as it is not a "corner", but there are some authorities, however, that forbid using a razor on any part of the body, even the mustache (see the Be'er Hetev (6) ibid). Blessings.
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