Initially, the custom of upsherin was vivid in Sephardim circles. Chaim Vital, who lived at the turn of the 17th century, wrote in Sha'ar HaKavonot that Isaac Luria cut his son's hair on Lag B'Omer according to the well known custom, which makes it quite probable that the upsherin has connections to Kabbalah.

In the 19th century the custom was adapted by the Askenazim. Hasidic Jews interpreted the precept toward the Bible, the Third Book of Moses (19:23), to be more precise. According to the analogy, a child under three, just like a tree in its first years, is unaware of what they see or hear. It is not before the third birhday anniversary when they start to comprehend the surrounding world and speak for themselves. When the first haircut is done, the child’s parents familiarize them with religious life, teaching him first prayers. Additionally, the boy receives his first tzitzit (a rectangular shawl with a hole for the head with tassels) and a kippa.

The festive celebration, which takes place either at home or in a synagogue, is opened by a rabbi or other respected pious person. The first cut is taken on the forehead, where later a tefillin is placed. Later the scissor are passed around the family members and friends. The rules of the upsherin are governed by Jewish law (Halakhah.) The hair after the ceremony is called payot. Cut hair is kept by the famimly or mayb be donated to relief organizations.

During the ceremony it is highlighted that the child is going to begin religious studies from that moment on. The boy sings Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe. In the past the child’s fingers were dipped in honey and placed on Hebrew letters, which symoblized the sweet taste of studying. Nowadays, the kid is given Torah-like lollipops or cakes with a Torah on it.

In liberal and reform circles, the upsherin is organized also for girls.

For more information please visit: Deena Yellin, Postrzyżyny żydowskiego chłopca , Chabad Lubawicz Polska; What is Upsherin?

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