Friday, November 24, 2006

Minchas Chinuch - darkei emori

Since it is Thanksgiving (actually, the day after), special thanks to Bill Selliger for making my Minchas Chinuch learning that much easier – and on that note…
The gemara (B”K 83a) writes that someone who is “misaper kumi”, gets a specific type of haircut that shaves the forehead, has violated the issur of chukos ha’akum (darkei Emori) because that haircut was a specific non-Jewish practice (see Rashi). However, the gemara notes that someone who is “karov l’malchus”, who represents the Jewish people before non-Jewish kings, is permitted to take this type of haircut to conform with the societal norm. The Minchas Chinuch (262) asks how this can be permitted – how can the Chachamim allow a violation of an issur d’oraysa for the sake of appearance? The Bais Yosef answers that “hatzalas yisrael” is different. Minchas Chinuch quotes a second answer from achronim that the entire issur of darkei emori is b’geder “masaro hakasuv l’chachamim”, defined by the limits set by the chachamim, who in this case excluded krovim l’malchus from the issur. This is implied by Tosfos in B”K who writes that kerovim l’malchus were not included in the original gezeirah. Minchas Chinuch does not elaborate further, but there seems to be a significant difference between these answers: if “hatzalas yisrael” is the heter, the permissibility for kerovim l’malchus to get this haircut should apply only to the narrow range of cases where Jewish life is threatened unless represented before the Kings court.


  1. yehuda11:45 AM

    The teratz of 'lo mosran hakosev ellah l'chacomom' is not just the achronims.The Beis Yosef himself as well as other noshe keilim YD 178 say it.Another nafke mineh listed there is that since its 'mosran l'chacomim'we don't add anything that doesn't fall within the categories listed by chazel.

  2. Is "hatzalas" necessarily defined that narrowly? Or could it apply to such things as (in medieval times) removing the threat of a special tax on Jewish communities? Also, it might be the case that the karov l'malchus felt themselves obliged to abide by the norms of Gentile society in order to maintain their positions of influence--that is, if they did not adopt the practice, then their ability to intercede for a Jewish life when those cases arose would suffer.

    Are you aware that the haircut you describe was a standard Roman haircut in imperial and early Byzantine times?
    (And also in early medieval Europe).

  3. >>>Is "hatzalas" necessarily defined that narrowly?

    Good point, especially since the gemara seems to make a blanket allowance for any "kerovei malchus".

    >>>Are you aware that the haircut you describe was a standard Roman haircut in imperial and early Byzantine times?

    Now I am : )