THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Close Shaves
This week’s Shailah comes from a Groissah Minuval who is obsessed with small, vibrating electronic devices and their importance in keeping his wife satisfied.
My Dear Morah D'Asra Rav HaGaon Schmeckelstein,
Thank you so much for your words of inspirational Toirah D'Moishe Rabbeinu, Alav HaShalom.
I have a question regarding shaving. It has been brought to my attention that some electric shavers are not technically kosher. There is a website that I heard about -- www.koshershaver.org -- and the site says I have to send in my shaver to be broken in order to be "kosher." The site offers the opinions of different Poskim about electric shavers. The Poskim differ on what is considered OK out of the box and what is not. It's enough to make my head spin 360 degrees and violently vomit green slime, preferably on a priest.
(I only know about the site from some random guy I met at the Mikvah; as a Ben Toirah I would never go on the Internet other than to wax my Makom HaMilah during my wife's two weeks of untouchability, which, coupled with her prior and post mood swings, leave me a window of about 3.5 hours a month to be Mekayaim the Mitzvah of Peru U'Rvu).
My wife prefers my cheeks to be smoother than my Einicle's bottom, so with much regret I cannot grow a full Santa type beard or even a scraggly Chabad one. There is only one shaver she likes me to use, and she complains that my five o'clock shadow irritates her skin if she ever touches me by accident, Chass V’Shalom. The shaver I use is not on the list of "acceptable" styles according to KosherShaver.Org. So the question is: Do issues of Shalom Bayis trump all, or not? Because anyone who has been married for more than 10 minutes can tell you that if your wife isn't happy, you won’t be either.
My itchy face anxiously awaits your Teshuva.
Your Minuvaldic Talmid
Menachem Mendel ( from the Kotzker side)
Sent from my iPad
Dear Reb Menachem Mendel,
Thank you for your very important, practical question. Finally, FINALLY one of my Minuval Talmidim asks me something critical, related to Halchah LeMaiseh. And this is a very important question: I am currently sitting in Geneva as part of a secret team trying to negotiate peace between the Israelis and the Iranians in order to avert a global nuclear holocaust. In my spare time, I am raising money for starving children in Africa. And I am working tirelessly to support the Romney campaign, so he can go on to defeat that Islamic Fundamentalist—Reverend Wright Supporting--Israel Hating--Born Outside of the US—Communist--Socialist—Marxist--Tax Raising—Gas Price Raising—Auto Industry Bailing Out—Health Care Providing—Barack HUSSEIN Oibama.
But you have given me perspective: I will set aside all of my other activities so that I can answer your Shailah about whether your electric shaver is Koisher. Yes, that is an excellent use of my time.
But before that, I must ask you one question: You signed your note, “Sent from my iPad”. Is that a secret message to other iPad users? Is that intended to hint that you are a purchaser of the new Artscroll Shas iPad App that every Schmuck with a Yarmulke has sent me an e-mail about? Or is that a declaration of your commitment to surfing porn in bed, Chass V’Sholom? Which is it? Well, if your iPad cover is stuck to the screen, I guess we’ll know the answer…
In any case, to put it simply, your electric shaver is absolutely not Koisher. The exact reasoning is the subject of a Groisse Machloikess. The Tzitz Eliezer holds that an electric shaver is not kosher because it neither chews its cud nor has split hooves. But the Schvantz Mordechai holds that your shaver is Traifus Mamesh because it has neither fins nor scales. So eating your shaver is completely out of the question.
If, on the other hand, you are asking whether one may use an electric shaver to shave his face, well, that is an entirely separate Shailah. As you may be aware, the Toirah tells us explicitly, “Loi Tashchis Ess Payass Ziknechah, U’Payass Ziknum Loi Yigalchuh”, “You shall not destroy the corners of your hair, nor shall you shave the edges of your beard" (VaYikrah Yud Tess, Passook Chuff Zayin). This and similar Pesukim have traditionally been interpreted by CHAZAL as a proscription against shaving one’s face with a blade.
Of course, this was the subject of a debate in the time of the Mishnah. The Tannah Kammah holds that this Passuk indeed refers to shaving one’s facial hair. He made this Psak while visiting his parents at the Primate House in the Teveriah Zoo.
However, Rebbe Yishmael holds that Payass Ziknechah does not refer to one’s facial hair. Noting that the Toirah uses neither the term “Panim”, “face”, nor “Se’arois”, “hair”, Rebbe Yishmael holds that the word should not be read as “Zakahn”, meaning “beard”, but rather “Zakayn”, meaning “old person”. So the Passuk should be understood as commanding, “You shall not destroy the corners of your old people, nor shall you shave the edges of your old people”, meaning that you should not eliminate old people from your population, even though they drive at 5 miles per hour on the highway, argue in the supermarket about the price of a pack of gum, and take up valuable rent controlled apartment inventory. Rather, you should treat your elders with respect, especially if you are in line to receive a sizable inheritance.
The Gemarrah notes that we indeed hold like the Tanna Kammah, and cites a Braisah that tells us that Rebbe Yishmael stated his Sheetah when he was 106 years old and was being forced to enter a nursing home after kicking his home health aide in the stomach when she tried to change his adult diapers. (According to RASHI, that bitch had it coming to her. But according to TOISFOIS, Rebbe Yishmael was actually trying to dance for joy, since this was the first time a woman had touched his Schvantlach in 45 years.)
Many of CHAZAL speculate as to why the Toirah is opposed to a man shaving his beard. According to the Chazoin Ish, a beard is considered an integral part of a man’s body, so its removal is prohibited. He was also a prominent opponent of circumcision. In addition, he insisted that his wife never shave her legs. Only in his fourth year of marriage did he realize that he was married to a golden retriever.
The Sforno believes that a beard is intended to distinguish between a man and a woman. He of course lived in a part of Italy where a woman with a B Cup was considered to be large breasted, and where the Yeshiva Buchrim had long hair, had beautiful hourglass figures, and insisted on taking off each others’ Tfillin, slowly, if you know what I mean.
The RAMBAM holds that the reason one is not allowed to shave his beard is because it resembles the customs of Catholic priests, who are typically clean shaven. Of course, the RAMBAM lived in the Muslim world, so probably never met a Christian in his entire life. But he was renowned for aspiring to always distinguish himself from the Gentiles. He refused to eat white bread and mayonnaise, he never drank gin and tonics, he liked to fix his own car, and when his five year old son was kidnapped and held for ransom by a group of brutal pirates, he insisted on getting a 20 percent discount on the ransom as a “finders fee”.
Rabboisai, in our era of modern convenience and modern sensibilities, it would be quite easy to dismiss the call for intentionally damaging the blades of a brand new shaver as an asinine prescription based on medieval interpretations of an ancient cultic law that was never well understood in the first place. But many contemporary Poiskim believe that such sacrifice is indeed a modern manifestation of Karbanois, Biblical and Temple era animal sacrifice.
Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah holds that every new portable electronic device should similarly be damaged as a Zeycher LaMikdash. In fact, when he bought his first iPhone, he immersed it in the Mikvah and let it sit there overnight, and then posted the pictures it had taken underwater to his Kosher MILFs Facebook group.
Reb Yoisaiph Katzsky holds that all electronic devices, large and small, should somehow be “broken in” before use. He once smashed his 47 inch LCD panel TV over his own head in order to shatter the screen. He also proposed leaving his brand new car running for 12 hours in the garage, with his mother-in-law asleep in the back seat.
Rabbi Betzalel Kupkayk, however, believes that there is no requirement to damage an electric shaver, since its blades cannot cut beard growth without the use of an electricity powered mechanism. In short, the action that an electric shaver produces is akin to grinding, rather than cutting with a blade, which is why electric shavers can never provide a shave as close as a real blade, and are therefore Koisher to use LeMehadrin Min HaMehadrin Min HaMehadrin. However, rather than prescribe specific brands of electric shaver that are permissible, Reb Betzalel proposes the “Snatch Test”: If a man’s wife or girlfriend can use an electric shaver on her Makoim Erva -- a very delicate and mysterious place -- and get as close a shave as a blade, the shaver is traif. But if the shave is not as close as a blade, then the shaver is Koisher.
And to support the Frum community’s Halachic concerns on this topic, Reb Betzalel has set up his own free informational site, similar to the WWW.KosherShavers.Org site: His site is called WWW.KosherSnatch.Org. KosherShavers.Org offers a free service whereby people send in their shavers to have their blades inspected. However, KosherSnatch.Org gives instructions for how to conduct the Snatch Test at home, and offers a free service whereby people send in pictures of their wives’ and girlfriends’ shaved Snatches to be inspected. He posts many examples of the results of the Snatch Test on his site, which can be viewed for a subscription fee of only $4.95 per month. What a Tzaddick!
With regard to your second question about Shalom Bayis – making sure that your wife is happy, I suggest you use the services of another web site: WWW.AdequateSchvantzlach.Org. This is a site for Jewish men to send in pictures of their Schvantzlach for inspection. Men with large Schvantlach are encouraged to stand up to their wives. But men who suffer from small Schvatzlach and are incapable of standing up to their wives are advised to grow a bigger pair.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.