Shaving on Chol Hamoed

From Halachipedia

The rabbis forbade shaving on Chol Hamoed so that a people make sure to shave before Chol Hamoed.[1] It is a mitzvah to shave in preparation on Yom Tov but as is often the case people get busy and procrastinate. If it were permissible to shave on Chol Hamoed people might delay and not shave before Yom Tov and wait for Chol Hamoed. Since it is a mitzvah to shave in preparation on Yom Tov in order to ensure that people do this, the rabbis forbade doing so on Chol Hamoed.

Tosfot[2] wonders why Chazal needed to enact this restriction; shouldn't shaving be forbidden because shaving involves melacha and melacha is forbidden on Chol Hamoed?[3] Tosfot answers that it isn't an issue of melacha on Chol Hamoed since it is a tzorech hamoed to cut one's hair on Chol Hamoed. Ritva[4] answers that shaving makes a person's body look presentable and doing melacha to make oneself like nice is similar to ochel nefesh (preparing food). Just like it is permitted to do melacha to prepare food for one's health and physical pleasure, so too is it permitted to do melacha to beatify one's body.

Is Cutting One's Hair like Shaving?

Tosfot[5] has a discussion if this prohibition applies only to shaving or even to cutting one's hair on their head. One opinion is that cutting one's hair is equivalent to shaving one's beard. Just like it is a melacha to cut one's beard and permitted for tzorech hamoed, so too it is a melacha to cut one's hair and permitted for tzorech hamoed. Nonetheless, it is forbidden to shave or cut one's hair because of the rabbinic restriction to ensure that a person cut his hair before Yom Tov. According to this approach, those who are exceptions to the rabbinic restriction of shaving because of extenuating circumstances (as will be explained) also may cut their hair. This is logically the simplest opinion, just equating shaving with cutting hair.

The next opinion holds that it is a melacha to cut one's hair and cutting one's hair does not qualify as a tzorech hamoed. Since some people don't cut their hair and their hair looks nice when it is long it isn't a tzorech hamoed to cut it.[6] According to this approach, even someone in an extenuating circumstance and may shave, may not cut his hair.

The last opinion is that since it is tzorech hamoed to cut one's hair it isn't a melacha to do so. This opinion goes one step further; it is even permissible for everyone to cut their hair and there's no rabbinic restriction since it isn't so necessary for people to cut their hair before Yom Tov. Since a person doesn't look so unkempt without cutting their hair Chazal did not require him to cut his hair before Yom Tov and therefore there is also so rabbinic restriction of cutting one's hair on Chol Hamoed. The halacha follows the first opinion to equate shaving and hair cutting.[7]

Is It Permitted to Shave if Someone Shaved before Yom Tov?

Rabbenu Tam[8] writes that it is permitted for someone who shaved before Yom Tov to shave on Chol Hamoed. Since the restriction was only instituted in order to encourage people to shave before Yom Tov, if a person did so, then the restriction doesn't apply to him. Furthermore, if he shaved before the Yom Tov and then the hair grew back and now it is Chol Hamoed he is considered in an extenuating circumstance since he couldn't have done anything to prevent the hairs from growing back. Just like the Mishna mentions several cases of people who were in extenuating circumstances and may shave on Chol Hamoed, this person is also in an extenuating circumstance. However, Or Zaruah disagreed. He held that it is forbidden to shave on Chol Hamoed even if he shaved before Yom Tov. Even though he is in extenuating circumstance that his hair grew back since after he while shave people won't know why he was permitted to shave he is forbidden to shave lest people mistakenly think shaving is permitted on Chol Hamoed. A further proof that it is forbidden is from the fact that the Mishna enumerated several cases of who may shave on Chol Hamoed and this case is not included. Hagahot Ashri, Hagahot Maimoni, Mordechai, and Rashba disagree with Rabbenu Tam. Shulchan Aruch[9] codifies the opinion of those who are strict, and neither does he, Rama, Magen Avraham, or Taz mention Rabbenu Tam's leniency.[10]

Nodeh Beyehuda[11] defends Rabbenu Tam by explaining that if a person shaved on Erev Yom Tov he indeed fulfilled the rabbis mandate and there's no reason for the rabbinic restriction to apply to him. The fact that this case is not enumerated in the Mishna is because even though it is permitted of the rabbinic restriction, nonetheless, it is forbidden to shave because of the melacha involved in shaving. Shaving on Chol Hamoed is not a tzorech hamoed once he shaved before Yom Tov since at that point his beard isn't going to be so long. Therefore, Nodeh Beyehuda stipulated that it is permitted to shave on Chol Hamoed if he shaved before Yom Tov as long as the person that he gets to cut his hair doesn't have money for food. Since such a barber may do melacha on Chol Hamoed to make money for food, there is no issue with the melacha involved in shaving in such a circumstance. Nodeh Beyehuda explains that there's no concern people will misunderstand why he shaved because people in his town will know that he shaved before Yom Tov. Chatom Sofer,[12] however, writes that he only permitted this in extenuating circumstances and for people who were representing the Jews in the government and had to shave.[13]

Chatom Sofer disagreed with Nodeh Beyehuda. He explains that even though he fulfilled Chazal's mandate by shaving before Yom Tov, still he may not shave since people won't know why he was permitted to shave. Even if his townspeople know that he shaved before Yom Tov visitors will not and might misunderstand why he was allowed to shave. Most achronim disagree with Nodeh Beyehuda.[14]

Is It Permitted to Shave if Someone Shaves Everyday?

In 1948, Rav Moshe[15] wrote that the reason that the rishonim disagreed with Rabbenu Tam is because not everyone will know why he was permitted to shave. However, today in America where everyone or most people who shaves does so every day or at least once every three days. That being the case, anyone who shaved before Yom Tov fulfilled the mandate of Chazal and the restriction shouldn't apply. Also, people will understand why he is allowed to shave since they know that those who shave do so regularly and will presume that he shaved before Yom Tov. Therefore, they'll understand why he shaved and there's no reason to forbid shaving. Also, it isn't any issue of melacha to shave since it is a tzorech hamoed to look presentable on Chol Hamoed. Even though Nodeh Beyehuda wrote that it is not a tzorech hamoed to shave on Chol Hamoed once a person shaved before Yom Tov that changes in every time and place. Since today people see the idea of shaving regularly as a need it qualifies for a tzorech hamoed. Nonetheless, Rav Moshe concludes that he doesn't generally allow people to shave on Chol Hamoed unless there is a big need. Rav Soloveitchik,[16] however, felt that indeed Rav Moshe's argument is correct and it is permitted to shave. Since it is permitted to shave there is no reason to be stringent not to shave and in fact it is an obligation to shave on Chol Hamoed since it is an honor to shave for Chol Hamoed and the second days of Yom Tov.

Rav Shalom Massas[17] and Rav Meir Mazuz[18] disagree with Rav Moshe. Rav Ovadia[19] is also strict and does not allow shaving on Chol Hamoed even for someone who shaves regularly, but writes that a person shouldn't protest those who are lenient since he thinks Rav Moshe's argument makes sense. Rav Shlomo Zalman,[20] Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky,[21] Rav Shternbuch,[22] Bear Moshe,[23] and Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Karp[24] are all strict either because of the minhag is to be strict or because they disagreed with Rav Moshe's proofs.

Rabbi Karp[25] explains that the rishonim who disagreed with Rabbenu Tam did so because Chazal included everyone in the rabbinic restriction except for those who were in an extenuating circumstance. Since this leniency is based on the fact that he shaved before Yom Tov it doesn’t qualify for a leniency. Also, it isn’t considered an ones that he shaved and the hair grew back. Lastly, he argues that since the generation today is stricter and since most people don’t shave every day it is forbidden for everyone.

Peninei Halacha and Dvar Chevron OC 1:543 allow shaving on Chol Hamoed for someone who shaves every day and shaved before Yom Tov like Rav Moshe. Dvar Chevron quotes that Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank who is lenient.


Dvar Chevron writes that it is forbidden to shave on Pesach for those who keep the first half of sefira.

Can a Man Shave for a Date on Chol Hamoed?

Rav Ovadia[26] allowed a man who shaved on Erev Yom Tov to shave on Chol Hamoed for a date if he's concerned that he's going to get rejected if he doesn't shave. The same applies to a man meeting his engaged finance.

Is Shaving Armpit Hair or Other Hair like a Beard?

Kaf Hachaim[27] writes that it is forbidden to cut any hair on one's body on Chol Hamoed.[28] However, Chiko Mamtakim[29] argues that cutting other hair on one's body is permitted for any reason. Hilchot Chag Bchag[30] is strict like Kaf Hachaim for other hairs, except for women. Pitchei Teshuvot[31] is lenient.


  1. Moed Katan 13b
  2. Moed Katan (14a s.v. vshaar and s.v. vmenudah)
  3. In fact, Tosfot's first comment is that shaving is melacha and permitted for tzorech hamoed. However, in his second answer (according to the emendation of the Bach) it isn't a melacha but it is a tircha. Even so, it should be forbidden because tircha is forbidden on Chol Hamoed, but is permitted because of tzorech hamoed.
  4. 14a s.v. vshaar
  5. Moed Katan (14a s.v. vmenudeh)
  6. This point is elaborated upon by Igrot Moshe OC 1:163.
  7. Mishna Brurah 531:3, Kaf Hachaim 531:4. Fascinatingly, Mishna Brurah (Shaar Hatziyun 531:3) writes that it is obvious that shaving and hair cutting are the same and doesn't note that Tosfot deliberated on this point.
  8. cited by Hagahot Ashri (Moed Katan 3:1)
  9. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 531:2
  10. Mishna Brurah 531:4 and Kaf Hachaim 531:7 accept Shulchan Aruch and no one classic disagreed to hold like Rabbenu Tam by itself.
  11. Nodeh Beyehuda OC 1:13
  12. Chatom Sofer OC 1:154
  13. Hagahot Yom Tov to Nodeh Beyehuda 13 writes that although some claimed that Nodeh Beyehuda retracted at the end of his life from his leniency, other deny such a claim.
  14. Kaf Hachaim 531:7
  15. Igrot Moshe OC 1:163
  16. Nefesh HaRav (p. 189), Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (p. 25), Rav Aharon Lichtenstein (cited in Techumin 2:133 note 37)
  17. Tevuot Shemesh 55-56
  18. Mekor Neeman 1:498
  19. Chazon Ovadia (Yom Tov p. 190-192)
  20. Halichot Shlomo (Tefillah p. 236 fnt. 27)
  21. Emet L'Yakov (siman 531 fnt. 485)
  22. Moadim Uzmanim (v. 8 siman 297)
  23. 7:20
  24. Hilchot Chag Bchag pp. 242-7
  25. Hilchot Chag Bchag pp. 247-227  
  26. Yabia Omer 11:52 cited by Tiferet 531:4
  27. 531:4 quoting Pitchei Olam based on Tosfot (Moed Katan 14a s.v. umenudeh)
  28. Magen Avraham 531:12 implies that according to Sefer Pardes any other hair is forbidden to shave and according to the halacha it is permitted.
  29. cited by Tiferet 531:4
  30. p. 240-1
  31. 531:4