Friday, June 10, 2011

Question of the Day: Women Shaving During the Omer

I apologize for today's post being a bit late, but I always write my Friday posts on Thursdays instead of scheduling them ahead so that I can write something related to my week. Unfortunately, thanks to a dead car battery, I didn't get back from my camp Shavuot experience until around 2:30am. But the three hours of driving gave me time to think. (See, e.g., Halachic Discussion: Moshiach)

So here is a new question. During Sefira (aka the Omer), men generally don't shave, though there are exceptions to the rule. But what about women? My understanding is that the rule doesn't apply to women either because of a) it's a time bound mitzvah, so women are generally except, or b) it only applies to the face, so women can still shave their legs and underarms. However...what about women who have embarrassing facial hair issues? Being human, I'm sure they would probably continue to shave it in order to avoid embarrassment even if the halacha applies to women shaving their faces.

Thoughts? I'm sure this has come up somewhere. It just has to have.


  1. 1. The issue of time bound exemption does not apply for this is not a commandment but rather a rabbinic decree. Even had it been a command, it would be a negative command and women would not be exempt.
    2. Most authorities permit unseemly facial hairs on women, for a number of reasons. 1. Its embarrassing and was therefore not included. (Even moustache hair is permitted if it makes eating difficult.)2 Its not included because it is not referred to as "shaving". 3. "shelo tisganeh al baalah".
    Good luck!

  2. LOL, thankfully this is not a personal problem! But to clarify, do you mean in #2 that shaving would be permitted? As written, it says the rabbis allow women to have facial hair :P

  3. You don't have to let this through moderation.

    Few points. Yeshivaman is right about timebound exemptions only referring to positive commands, but this is not a mitzva, or really even a halacha. It's a custom - even for men. This is why men can be lenient for shaving for work or other such things; some men shave on Friday since looking well groomed in honor of Shabbat would seem to be a greater priority than adhering to a custom.

    Secondly, arguably for women it's a grooming issue in an entirely different manner from men.

    IIRC Yeshivaman is referring to a responsum by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein which advances these three reasons why grooming for women is permitted during Sefira. The second that he mentions is that when "shaving" is prohibited by rabbinic decree or custom them had in mind men removing their facial hair, which we generally call "shaving," not the occasional woman who has a problem area which she deals with. Perhaps a good analogy is plucking eyebrows. That's hair removal, but it's not a haircut!