Payot

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Payot (Hebrew: פֵּאָה ‎‎; plural: פֵּאוֹת ), also pronounced pe'ot, peyot; or payos, peyos, peyois, payois in Ashkenazi pronunciation, is the Hebrew word for sidelocks or sidecurls. Payot are worn by some men and boys in the Orthodox Jewish community based on an interpretation of the Biblical injunction against shaving the "corners" of one's head. Literally, pe'ah means "corner, side, edge". There are different styles of payot among Haredi, Yemenite, and Hasidic Jews. Yemenite Jews call their sidelocks simonim (סִימָנִים ), literally "signs", because their long-curled sidelocks served as a distinguishing feature in the Yemenite society (differentiating them from their non-Jewish neighbors).

Rabbinical interpretation

The Torah says, "You shall not round off the pe'at (פְּאַת) of your head" (Leviticus 19:27). The word pe'at was taken to mean the hair in front of the ears extending to beneath the cheekbone, on a level with the nose (TalmudMakkot 20a). [2] The Mishnah interpreted the regulation as applying only to men. Thus it became the custom in certain circles to allow the hair over the ears to grow, and hang down in curls or ringlets. According to Maimonides, shaving the sidelocks was a heathen practice. There is considerable discussion in the halachic literature as to the precise location of the payot and of the ways in which their removal is prohibited. [3]

History

As kabbalistic teachings spread into Slavonic lands, the custom of payot became accepted there. In 1845, the practice was banned in the Russian Empire. Crimean Karaites did not wear payot, and the Crimean Tatars consequently referred to them as zulufsız çufutlar ("Jews without payot"), to distinguish them from the Krymchaks, referred to as zuluflı çufutlar ("Jews with payot"). Many Hasidic and Yemenite Jews let their sidelocks grow particularly long. Some Haredi men grow sidelocks, but keep them short or tuck them behind the ears. Even among Jewish groups in which the men do not wear noticeable payot, often, the young boys do wear them until around the age of bar mitzvah.

Styles

The lengths and maintenance of the payot vary noticeably among Jewish groups:

  • The Belz Hasidim are careful to never trim their payot; rather, they wrap their sidelocks around their ears as many times as necessary.
  • Many Breslov Hasidim wear long twisted locks as did their Rabbi, Nachman of Breslov. However, others wear their payot in different styles in line with the teaching of Rabbi Nachman that his followers should not have a uniform garb.
  • The Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim's payot are not evident, but they exist. So long as there is hair around the ear and behind it that can be plucked out, that is considered payot.
  • Some Gerer Hasidim raise their sidelocks from the temples and tuck them under their yarmulke. Others, especially in Israel, let them hang down.
  • The Skver Hasidim twist their sidelocks into a tight coil, and leave them protruding in front of the ear.
  • Some traditional Yemenite Jews still wear distinctive long and thin twisted locks, often reaching to the upper arm. The actual area where the hair grows and where the ringlet begins is neat and tidy.

Most other Hasidic groups wear their payot down and curled.

The Lithuanian Jews were less influenced by Kabbalistic practises, but still retain sidelocks to a degree, in a small number of variant styles:

  • Lithuanian Jews often cut their sidelocks, but leave a bunch of strands uncut, and place them behind the ear; this style is most commonly found among yeshiva students, who sometimes remove the uncut strands when they have grown sideburns.
  • The Brisk movement's members brush their hair straight down, usually so that it reaches to the ear lobe; sometimes, some of the sidelock is not cut, and is curled back behind the ear.

See also

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