Monday, November 18, 2013

Where Should my Payos (Side Locks) Go? In Front or in Back?

ט"ז לחודש התשעי תשע"ד

Life In Israel: Rav Chaim Kanievsky says wearing peyos in front of ears will give good health
November 17, 2013

I need some help here...

A yeshiva bochur who has bad health conditions went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky asking for a bracha.

Rav Kanievsky told him that if he would take his peyos out from behind his ears and keep them in front, he would be healed.

This yeshiva bochur later went to Rav Shteinman and asked the same - a bracha for his health, and mentioned that Rav Kanievsky had told him to wear his peyos out front, though he said he is embarrassed to do so.

Rav Shteinman said he should not be embarrassed but should wear his peyos out front, as instructed by Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the "Minister of Torah", and he will have good health because of it.

Rav Chaim's opinion seems to be known that peyos should be worn in front of the ears, and people should not be embarrassed by their Jewish appearance. (cont.)

(source: Kikar and Bechadrei - though Bechadrei  relates the story slightly differently)

Esser Agaroth (2¢):
I have heard that their are Qabbalistic reasons for putting payos behind the ears, not allowing the hair of the head to touch the spiritual hair of the beard. This has never made sense to me, since most hassidim keep their payos upfront, apparently without such fear, and they most certainly take Qabbalah under serious consideration with regards to custom.

I have also heard some say that they put behind their payos behind their ears, simply because they can get in the way.

As you know, I am not the biggest fan of segulos. So, when these highly respected rabbis suggest that arranging ones payos* (or simanim*to the Yemenites) will have a positive influence on ones physical health, I am skeptical.

Payos in front of the ear, or in back of the ear,
that is the question.

Mental health is another story. And as such, I believe that there is definitely something in what these gedolim say.

"Rav Shteinman said he should not be embarrassed but should wear his peyos out front, as instructed by Rav Chaim Kanievsky...."

We are Jews, living in Eretz Yisra'el, the [only true] Jewish Homeland. In which other lands are the people embarrassed to wear traditional clothing and hairstyles? I cannot think of any.

Only in Israel, where the influence of about 2,000 years of galuth (exile) still prevails, do we seem to have this problem,...or rather, problems.

1. Collective low self-esteem, reflected in "embarrassment" over appearance, and preferring the "castrated"/hidden, payos look, over "prominent" payos(Note: Non-analytically oriented psychotherapists, please humor me here. Fake therapists, it's time to stop that anxiety-provoked giggling, and go back for more training.)
a. I wonder how this is reflected in the differences in marital relationships between those communities which are predominantly "in front of" and those which are "in back of." Feminism has clearly snuck in through the backdoor of many Litvish and Modern Orthodox communities, particular the English-speaking ones. It is nor longer pashut as to who "wears the pants" in the family, some cases, literally so.
b. Perhaps this is also reflected in miqwah/mikveh behavior. However, I cannot be sure. Most, but not all, of the "in front of"'s follow the custom of not covering oneself in the miqwah, showing that we are not embarrassed by our brith milah of Avraham Avinu. Do the "in back of"'s tend to be those uptight ones in the miqwah? Like I said, I cannot be sure.
2. Collective co-dependence, reflected in how we view ourselves through the eyes of the goyim, and seek their validation, rather than producing it internally.

How we dress and style or cover our hair, are only two of the symptoms of these psychological conditions.

There are more.

I will conclude this somewhat serious piece with a not so serious conclusion.

I once witnessed a hassidishe friend of mine from Me'ah She'arim criticizing his grandson for arranging his payos behind his ear...

If you keep them that way, they will end up looking like question marks.

Sure, I know that his reaction was the response of American parents to their children making unattractive faces at others: "If you do that enough, your face will stay that way."

Nevertheless, we can learn something from this. Hassidim are often accused of living galuth (exile) mode. Yet, wearing their payos in front of their ears, clearly runs against the grains of fear of the goyim and desires to assimilate amongst them.

As Jews, if we have questions, we should ask them, rather than keep them buried inside to fester, only manifesting themselves through a permanent imprint in our hairstyles.

Food for thought.


*payos: Yid. (Heb. payot) "corners"
**simanim: Heb. -"signs"


GoldieZP said...

I LIKE THIS! Our soon to be 4 year old is wear his peyos in front as he goes to a chassis cheder - his abba is litvish and has no problem with this

Devash said...


Jewish/Mystical-Teachings said...

I asked my father (R' Salman Mutzafi) as well as the Ben Ish Hai's grandson [R' David Hayim].
They both said he never had PEYOT (side locks) behind the ears. And this subject is well known:
"For the sages of the East never practiced it." (For the Qaballa forbids it!
אנחנו הספרדים נוהגים כאבותינו שלא האריכו את פאותיהם על פי הזוהר
והאריז"ל הביא ש-"פאה" = "אלקים" ואין לגדלם ארוכות.
אין על פי הקבלה שום שיעור לאורך פאות הראש, ועל זה אמרו בדרך מליצה:
"אלו דברים שאין להם שיעור הפאה"...

Unknown said...

Aaron - what is the source for the Hebrew quote? It seems to be suggesting not to have peyot at all, which the Ben Ish Chai b'pherush says otherwise. I saw a t'shuva from him that he said peyot are the insignia of a Jew and it's praiseworthy to grow them (though he didn't clarify on which side of the ear - I think somebody told me he would tuck them into his turban but I can't verify that)

Jewish/Mystical-Teachings said...

The Ben Isha Hai on the verse "Mukhtar BeNimuso" [crowned in mannerism] explains: this means that Mordekhai HaYehudi had thick Peyot, which could even be seen amongst a crowd of 100 ministers. Thereby standing out as a proud Yehudi.

Jewish/Mystical-Teachings said...

read: Pey'ot - the sidelocks

According to ZOHAR Nasso...

Outlining said...

What is your opinion, then, on "Beged Ivri"?


Esser Agaroth said...

If you are referring to the company, I do currently have an opinion to express.

However, if you are referring to Jewish men wearing an outer, four cornered garment of minimum shiur requiring tzitziyoth, I am for it.

The works of HaZa"L contain many examples of men doing just this.

We no longer have to hide our tzitziyoth, for fear of looking different, and risk getting beaten up for sticking out. In Israel, I strongly believe that we encourage this.

On Shabbath, I wear a such a garment, and am looking for fabric to make or have made a weekday garment.

I can never understand men who fold up their talithoth on Shabbath and carry it home, instead of wearing it.

I am long overdue in writing my post on "Jewish Clothing."

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