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Popular Questions

Peyos - Sidelocks

What is the meaning of the long curls worn by religious Jewish men?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Torah says, "You shall not round off the peyos of your head" (Leviticus 19:27). The word peyos refers to sideburns. The exact definition of sideburns refers to the hair in front of the ears that extends to underneath the cheekbone which is level with the nose (Talmud – Makkot 20a). The Talmud explains that this law only applies to men, not to women.

Maimonides explains that the prohibition of "rounding" prohibits the complete removal of the sideburns, by any means. However, it is permitted to trim the sideburns using scissors or a beard trimmer.

The remaining hair should minimally be long enough that each hair can be folded back down to its root. Rabbinical authorities recommend cutting no shorter than 1/2 a centimeter to avoid any possibility of going below this limit. Using shaver setting #2 (1/4" = 6mm) is a good way to guarantee this. (See Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 181:9, Pe'at Zekainecha p. 30 with footnote 27.)

Even though sideburns are enough to satisfy the Torah requirement of peyos, many Jews grow their peyos long as a way of emphasizing the commandment (peyos sounds like pious, right?!), or simply of Jewish identification. Some will curl their peyos, while others while tuck them behind their ear. It's just a matter of individual taste, or communal custom.

Hair is also a symbol of vanity, a preoccupation of how one looks. The prohibition against cutting off the peyos reminds a person that he shouldn't overrate his looks when wishing to express himself, rather he should depend on intellect and good character. (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, 19th century Germany)

From a mystical perspective, peyos separate between the front part of the brain which is used for abstract thought (i.e. spirituality), and the back part of the brain that governs the body.


Mezuzahs During Renovations

We will be moving into our new home shortly. We will be moving into the downstairs only while the main floor is being renovated. Does it require mezuzahs before we move in? Also, the downstairs will be painted at a point after we have moved into it, at which point we will temporarily move out.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Mazal tov on your new purchase first of all! May you and your family build a wonderful Jewish home in your new residence.

In terms of mezuzot, parts of the house that you will not be using at all – whether to live there or keep your furniture, do not require a mezuzah, since in such a state it is not yet considered your home. The mitzvah of mezuzah is an obligation on the dweller not the dwelling (Talmud Pesachim 4a). Thus, if you own a completely unused house, it does not require mezuzot.

The same is true if you are renovating part of your existing home and you move out beforehand and empty it of all its furnishings.

If, however, you will still be using the room somewhat and/or keeping your furniture there, then a mezuzah is required. It should be kept up as long as possible and only removed when it is actually in the way of the work (such as during painting).

After the remodeling and when you are ready to move in (or move your furniture in), you should put up mezuzot, reciting the blessing beforehand. You should do so even if the room earlier had mezuzot since there was a long interruption. If you only had a room painted and the mezuzah was off for a day or less, it’s questionable if a new blessing should be said. Therefore, it’s better to say a blessing for a room which certainly requires a mezuzah and have in mind that it will be for that mezuzah as well (which you should affix immediately after). Another recommended idea is to have the mezuzah checked while it’s down, and then – since it was possibly invalid beforehand – a blessing is certainly required upon reaffixing it.

(Sources: Talmud Pesachim 4a, Pitchei Teshuva 289:1, Yabia Omer III Y.D. 17.)


Kosher Species

Has anyone ever published an exhaustive list of all the kosher species?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Torah (Leviticus 11:3) lists the characteristics of permitted animals as those with fully split hooves, who also chew their cud (ruminants). Kosher animals are always mammals and herbivores. The kosher animals commonly eaten today are the cow, goat and sheep. Buffalo meat, which has higher protein and lower fat content than cows, is becoming increasingly popular. Deer meat (venison) is a delicacy, but is rare to find due to the difficulty in properly containing the deer in order to shecht it (kosher slaughter).

As for birds, the Torah enumerates 24 forbidden species, and the Talmud explains that, among other signs, all birds of prey (vulture, hawk, eagle) are forbidden. In practice today, we eat only those birds for which there is an established tradition that the bird is kosher – e.g. chicken, turkey, duck and goose.

As for "kosher eggs," they must come from a species of kosher bird (e.g. chicken).


Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. For genealogy questions try JewishGen.org. Note also that this is not a homework service!

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