By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times
For those who just want the bottom line – the answer is “Yes.” You can get a haircut on Friday this year after davening – even if its only the 31st day of the Omer. What about Thursday night?
For those who are curious about the analysis – read on. There is a fascinating Remah (in Orech Chaim 493:2) that tells us that when LaG BaOmer falls on Sunday, the custom is to allow getting a haircut on Friday on account of Kavod Shabbos. The Ramah seems to cite the Maharil as the source for this ruling. In fact, the parenthesis indicating the source – was not penned by the Ramah but rather by a later editor.
A MIS-TRANSCRIBED LETTER
Indeed, if one looks at the Maharil, one sees no such indication in his writings that this is correct. What then is the source? It comes from some place else – it comes from the Mahariv – not the Maharil. Apparently, there is a mis-transcribed letter that has entered into our Shulchan Aruch.
Poskim and Gedolei HaRoshei Yeshiva have given two explanations for the ruling found in the Ramah.
THE SLAP IN THE FACE EXPLANATION
One explanation is that since one is shaving and getting a haircut on Sunday, and Shabbos is right beforehand, it seems to be a “slap in the face” to the Shabbos that one did not get a haircut for the holiest day of the week too. In other words, it is the comparison that would be drawn from the Sunday holiday to the gift that Hashem gave us – the Shabbos.
THE HOLINESS BEGINS EARLY EXPLANATION
Another explanation is that LaG BaOmer is actually a holiday, where the holiness of that holiday begins at Mincha on the previous day. One does not recite Tachanun, for example, on the Mincha that immediately precedes LaG BaOmer. Since this is the case, one would technically have been permitted to shave and get a haircut on Shabbos. The only problem, of course, is that it is a violation of Shabbos.
And herein lies our heter. Since it is forbidden to do so on Shabbos – the minhag is to permit it on the day before – so that it could be done for Shabbos. This is the explanation of the Mahariv’s position.
IS IT IDEAL?
What is interesting to note is that, although the Ramah cites sources that it is the minhag to permit these haircuts, is it ideal?
Rav Elyashiv is quoted by one of his students, Rabbi Avrohom Hillel Weinberger, author of HaGaos VeHosafos (as cited in Ashrei HaIsh p. 430) that although it is permitted it is “not mehudar” and it is preferable, rather, to get the haircut on Sunday.
This position comes as a shock to most people. How so? Well firstly, the Mishna Brurah does not mention at all the notion that it is “not Mehudar.” Secondly, it has been the minhag of all Bnei Yeshiva to follow this ruling of the Remah – ostensibly not only because it was permitted, but because it involved issues of Kavod Shabbos.
DEBATE AS TO THE ACTUAL REASON FOR MINHAG
It is this author’s suggestion that the issue is actually a matter of debate between the Poskim of yesterday and Rav Elyashiv zt”l. Rav Elyashiv might hold of the second explanation of the Mahariv – that we just do it on Friday because we cannot do it on Shabbos. The Mishna Brurah and the Gedolei HaRoshei Yeshiva who permitted it fully in the past would hold of the first explanation of the Mahariv that it is a bit of a Bizayon to Shabbos to get a haircut the next day, but not for Shabbos itself.
CHOFETZ CHAIM HELD OF FIRST ANSWER – RAV ELYASHIV THE SECOND
Regardless, all authorities agree that it is permitted to do so. Some say that one should precisely because of the issue of Kavod Shabbos – Rav Elyashiv holds that ideally one shouldn’t. This author would like to suggest that the Mishna Brurah’s silence here, and his ruling elsewhere regarding Rosh Chodesh on Sunday indicates that the Chofetz Chaim was not in agreement with the view of Rav Elyashiv here.
One can certainly shave and get a haircut on Friday this year (According to Rav Mordechai Bunim Silverberg, Rav Shteinman permitted it even on Thursday night). Kikar Shabbat reports that they have a ruling from Rav Chaim Kanievsky that it is permitted on Thursday night as well. Rav Ovadia Yoseph Yechaveh Daas IV #32permits it only when one is unable to do so on Friday. Other Sefardic Jews wait until the morning after lag baomer. Some question the Thursday night heter, however. The OU Halacha Yomis reports that Rav Shmuel Vosner zt”l held that ONE MAY NOT DO SO on Thursday night (MiBais Levi, Nissan 5758 p.87 note 3). One should, of course, ask one’s own Rav or Posaik as to whether they agree with the idea that the Chofetz Chaim’s silence indicates that he disagrees with Rav Elyashiv’s point that it is not Mehudar, and as to whether they are permitted to do so on Thursday night as well.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org