SALT - Parashat Acharei Mot - Kedoshim 5781 / 2021
The Torah in Parashat Kedoshim (19:35-36) introduces the prohibition against having false weights and measures, and it concludes with a reference to the Exodus from Egypt: “You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest eifa and an honest hin; I am the Lord your God who had has taken you from the land of Egypt.”
Rashi cites from Chazal two explanations for why the Exodus is mentioned in the context of this particular prohibition. First, Torat Kohanim comments, “On this condition I have taken you from the land of Egypt – on the condition that you accept upon yourselves the command of [honest] measures, for whoever acknowledges the command of [honest] measures acknowledges the Exodus from Egypt, and whoever denies the command of [honest] measures denies the Exodus from Egypt.” According to Torat Kohanim, the Torah makes mention of the Exodus in this context because we were taken from Egypt precisely for this reason – to conduct ourselves honestly. Rashi then cites the Gemara’s remark in Masekhet Bava Metzia (61b) explaining that the miracle of the night of the Exodus demonstrates God’s knowledge of otherwise hidden information. God delivered a plague upon the firstborn of Egypt, killing all biological firstborn, showing that He was able to determine which Egyptians were truly their fathers’ firstborn. Likewise, the Gemara comments, God knows which measuring devices had been secretly manipulated in order to distort the measurement in the shopkeeper’s favor, and He will punish the shopkeeper accordingly.
Ibn Ezra offers a different explanation, suggesting that the Exodus is mentioned not in reference to the prohibition against false weights and measures, but rather in reference to the preceding verses (19:33-34), which forbid mistreating a foreigner. The Torah commands us to protect the rights of foreigners because we were foreigners in Egypt, and it is in regard to this command, Ibn Ezra writes, that the Torah then recalls the Exodus.
Finally, Ketav Sofer writes that this conclusion may perhaps be understood in light of the Gemara’s understanding of the expression “hin tzedek” in this verse to mean that one’s “hein” – “yes” – should be honest (Bava Metzia 49a). According to the Gemara, the Torah commands here not only having accurate measuring equipment, but also following through on one’s promises and commitments. Ketav Sofer thus suggests that the Torah mentions the Exodus in this context to emphasize that God fulfilled the promise He had made to Avraham that He would free His descendants from bondage (Bereishit 15:14). Tradition teaches (based on Yechezkel, chapter 20) that Benei Yisrael were not worthy of their miraculous redemption from Egypt, as they had embraced idol worship and other sinful elements of ancient Egyptian culture. Nevertheless, God released them from bondage in fulfillment of His promise to Avraham. He did not renege on his promises due to Benei Yisrael’s sinfulness, and instead did precisely what He had said He would. Hence, Ketav Sofer writes, the Torah here emphasizes that we must keep our word and fulfill our promises even when we can come up with an excuse not to. The strict standard of integrity demanded by the Torah requires us to follow through on our commitments even when we feel justified in violating them. We should never make excuses for dishonesty; even when we think we have good reason not to keep our word, we must remember the strict ethical standard to which we are held, and do our utmost to meet the Torah’s high expectations.
The Torah in Parashat Kedoshim (19:18) presents the famous command of “ve-ahavta le-rei’akha kamokha” – “you shall love your fellow as yourself,” an imperative listed by the Rambam as one of the 613 Biblical commands (asei 206). The Rambam explains that this mitzva requires that “one’s love and compassion for his fellow shall be like his love and compassion for himself, with regard to his money, his body, and everything in his possession – if he likes something, then I should like it, and everything I wish for myself, I shall likewise wish for him.”
The Chafetz Chaim, in his Shemirat Ha-lashon (Sha’ar Ha-tevuna, chapter 5), applies this command to require judging our fellow’s faults and mistakes charitably. He explains that if we had done something wrong, and we know that a group of people are speaking about the incident, we would desperately wish that somebody would approach that group and speak in our defense. We would want the group to take into account mitigating factors and to understand why and how the wrongful act was committed, rather than be condemned and scorned because of what we did. By force of the command of “ve-ahavta le-rei’akha kamokha,” then, we are required to respond in this precise fashion to the faults and misdeeds of other people.
A likely source for the Chafetz Chaim’s remarks is the Semak (“Sefer Mitzvot Katan”), who writes (in mitzva 8) that the obligation to judge others favorably is included in the mitzva of “ve-ahavta le-rei’akha kamokha.” As the Chafetz Chaim explains, this mitzva requires us to try to view others in a positive light just as we would want others to view us favorably.
Interestingly, however, the Semak later (224) includes judging favorably in a different mitzva, the command which appears several verses earlier in Parashat Kedoshim (19:15): “be-tzedek tishpot amitekha” – “you shall judge your fellow justly.” Like the Rambam (asei 177), the Semak maintains that this command includes both the requirement for judges to conduct trials fairly, giving each litigant an equal opportunity to present his case, as well as the obligation for all people to judge their peers favorably. In concluding his discussion about this obligation, the Semak explains the reason for this requirement: “Because as a result of judging him favorably, he will think, ‘No one sins besides me,’ and he will then return to his Creator, lest he tilt the scales to guilt for the entire world.” Here, the Semak posits that judging people favorably is necessary as a motivator to avoid wrongdoing and to maintain high standards for ourselves. If we judge others critically, such that we view most people as sinners, then we will not feel driven to live righteously. But if we look at others with esteem, and judge their actions favorably, then we will want to adhere to the high standards which we attribute to the people around us.
It turns out, then, that according to the Semak, judging favorably is required both as part of our interpersonal obligations, as well as for our own spiritual wellbeing. We must give people the benefit of the doubt because we want others to do the same to us, and also to help ensure that we hold ourselves to the high standards we see others maintaining.
The Torah in Parashat Kedoshim presents the command of orla, forbidding benefit from fruit produced by a tree during the first three years after it is planted. Introducing this command, the Torah writes, “When you enter the land and plant any fruit tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden…” (19:23).
The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 25:3) comments in regard to this verse, “At the very beginning when the world was created, the Almighty first involved Himself only in planting, as it is written, ‘The Lord God planted a garden in Eden’ (Bereishit 2:8). You, too, when you enter the land, you shall first involve yourselves only in planting.” According to the Midrash, when the Torah says, “When you enter the land and plant any fruit tree,” it actually means that when Benei Yisrael enter the land, the first thing they should do is plant trees. The Midrash remarks that this is how we fulfill the command, “You shall follow the Lord your God” (“Acharei Hashem Elokeikhem teileikhu” – Devarim 13:5), which requires us to follow God’s example.
The obvious question arises, what is so significant about planting, such that the Midrash demands that this must be the people’s first priority upon entering the Land of Israel? And in what way is this following the Almighty’s example?
Rav Zecharia Tubi suggests explaining the Midrash’s comment in light of the remarks of the Midrash Tanchuma to this verse:
The Almighty said to Israel: Even though you will find it [the land] filled with all goodness, do not say, “I will sit [idly] and not plant.” Rather, make a point of planting, as it says, “You shall plant any fruit tree.” Just as you entered and you found plantings which others planted, you, too, shall plant for your children. For a person shall not say, “I am elderly – how many more years will I live? Why would I stand and exert effort for others? Tomorrow I will die…” Rather, just as he found [what others had planted before him], he should continue and plant, even when he is elderly.”
The Midrash Tanchuma concludes that just as God planted trees here in this world for human beings, even though He obviously has no need for trees, we, too, must plant for others, even if we will not benefit from it.
Accordingly, when the Midrash speaks of planting as a fulfillment of the mitzva to follow God’s example, it refers to the obligation to “plant” for future generations. When Benei Yisrael entered the land, they were to recognize the need to build the country not only for themselves, but also for all future generations. Although they found homes, warehouses, orchards and cisterns with enough resources to sustain them (Devarim 5:10-11), they were to immediately proceed to build, plant and cultivate the land for their descendants. The Midrash here teaches that our lives must be geared towards not only caring for ourselves, but also for our nation’s future. We are to ensure to provide not only our needs, but also those of later generations. Just as we have benefitted from the work done by our predecessors, the foundations they laid upon which we have been able to build, we are to “plant” for our descendants, following the example set by God Himself who created a beautiful world for countless generations of mankind.
The Torah in Parashat Kedoshim (20:7) commands, “Ve-hitkadishtem vi-hyitem kedoshim” – “You shall sanctify yourselves, and you shall be sacred,” reiterating the imperative stated earlier, in Parashat Shemini (11:44.)
The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 603) notes the Torah’s special emphasis in presenting this command, repeating “ve-hitkadishtem” and “vi-hyitem kedoshim.” Whereas the concept of sanctity is repeated twice in this command, the message delivered to the Babylonian Emperor Nevukhadnetzar (Daniel 4:14) makes mention of sanctity only once in reference to the angels in the upper worlds – “u-meimar kadishin she’eilta.” The Midrash explains: “In the upper worlds, among which the evil inclination is not found, they have but one sanctity… But in the lower worlds, since the evil inclination is found among them, if only two sanctities would be effective…” At first glance, this means that here, in our world, given our natural human vices and sinful instincts, we need repeated emphasis of the obligation to live Godly, spiritual lives, whereas the heavenly beings, who, quite obviously, do not have negative impulses, do not require such repetition.
However, Rav Shmuel Borenstein of Sochatchov, in Sheim Mi-Shmuel, explains the Midrash’s remark differently. He notes the famous verse in the beginning of Parashat Kedoshim (19:2) which commands, “You shall be sacred, for I, the Lord your God, am sacred.” The Sheim Mi-Shmuel explains: “Just as God, may He be blessed, is unlimited, without any boundary or enclosure, so shall you be sacred, without any precise measure or boundary.” There is no fixed definition of the requirement to be “sacred”; its parameters are unlimited, just as God is unlimited. The command of “kedoshim tiheyu” (“You shall be sacred”), the Sheim Mi-Shmuel writes, demands that we work to become greater than we currently are. The Torah emphasizes that this command was presented “el kol adat Benei Yisrael” – “to the entire congregation of the Israelites,” and is thus relevant to each and every person. As such, the Sheim Mi-Shmuel writes, the practical requirements of this command must, necessarily, depend on every individual. Clearly, the Torah cannot demand the same level of “sanctity” from youths in the early stages of their spiritual development as it does from elder scholars who have spent their lives immersed in studying and teaching. This command, then, requires every person at every stage to always reach higher, to work toward spiritual advancement, one small step at a time. This, the Sheim Mi-Shmuel suggests, is the meaning of the verse, “Ve-hitkadishtem vi-hyitem kedoshim.” It commands that even after we’ve achieved “ve-hitkadishtem,” and achieved a level of sanctity, “vi-hyitem kedoshim” – we must continue moving forward and reaching higher.
Accordingly, the Sheim Mi-Shmuel writes, when the Midrash contrasts this command with the description of the angels, it alludes to one of the most important distinctions between human beings and angels – the distinction between the human capacity for growth, and the static nature of angels. The angels are “sacred,” but have no ability to progress. We, however, even after achieving “sanctity,” are able and expected to achieve even higher spiritual levels. The command of “kedoshim tiheyu,” according to this approach, means precisely that we must always work to progress further in our spiritual development. Just as God has no limit, we never reach an endpoint in our religious growth. As much as we’ve achieved, and as gratified as we should feel over our achievements, we are to always set our sights higher, and work towards continued growth, each and every day.
Parashat Kedoshim begins with the famous command of “kedoshim tiheyu” – “You shall be sacred.” The two most common explanations of this command are those presented by Rashi and the Ramban. Rashi, based on Torat Kohanim, explains that the Torah speaks here of refraining from forbidden sexual conduct, limiting oneself to permissible sexual relationships. To substantiate this interpretations, Rashi points to several instances where the concept of “kedusha” (“sanctity”) is mentioned in reference to sexual restraint. Later in Sefer Vayikra (21:7-8), where the Torah introduces the restrictions on whom a kohen may marry, it adds, “for I am the Lord who has declared him [a kohen] sacred” – indicating that a kohen’s special stature of kedusha requires special restrictions with regard to marriage. Similarly, Rashi explains, the command of “kedoshim tiheyu” refers to the sanctity of resisting temptation, controlling our base desires and refraining from forbidden sexual activity.
The Ramban, in one of the most famous passages in his Torah commentary, explains this command differently. He notes that although Rashi’s understanding appears to be based on Torat Kohanim, there is an important difference between Torat Kohanim’s formulation and Rashi’s comments to this verse. Torat Kohanim explains “kedoshim tiheyu” to mean “perushim tiheyu” – that we must live with self-discipline and self-restraint. Rashi seems to have assumed that this refers specifically to restraining sexual urges, though, as the Ramban observes, Torat Kohanim makes no mention of this particular form of restraint. Accordingly, the Ramban explains that “kedoshim tiheyu” commands us in a more general sense to limit our indulgence in worldly delights. While we are certainly entitled and encouraged to enjoy worldly pleasures, the Ramban understands “’kedoshim tiheyu” as warning against excessive indulgence. As the Ramban famously writes, without this command, it would be possible for a person to strictly adhere to all the Torah’s laws while still living an unholy life, spending his time pursuing physical pleasure instead of devoting himself to loftier endeavors. “Kedoshim tiheyu” instructs that we must avoid preoccupation with even technically permissible worldly delights, so that we live noble, dignified, “holy” lives dedicated to the service of the Almighty.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski boldly suggested that these two understandings of the Biblical imperative “kedoshim tiheyu” are, in fact, very closely related. In order to withstand temptations, Rav Twerski writes, one must cultivate within himself a “sense of kedusha,” an awareness of his inherent sanctity. Rav Twerski draws a comparison to the way any religiously-conscientious Jew would immediately recoil at the thought of bringing a sacred article – such as a Torah text or pair of tefillin – into the restroom. An awareness of these articles’ unique stature of sanctity is so deeply ingrained within our minds that we could never allow ourselves to defile that stature by bringing it into a restroom. Rav Twerski writes that when we develop a similar awareness of our own inherent sanctity, stemming from the divine image with which we are all endowed, we would never allow ourselves to defile that sanctity through indecent behavior. We are more likely to successfully exercise self-restraint if we live with a keen awareness of our noble and sacred essence, which must be maintained and must not be violated through indulgence in sinful pleasures.
The way this sensitivity is cultivated, Rav Twerski writes, is found in the Ramban’s understanding of “kedoshim tiheyu.” If our religious devotion is limited to the technical observance of the laws, scrupulously fulfilling our formal duties and avoiding prohibited acts, but we excessively indulge in, and place inordinate emphasis upon, physical enjoyments and material comforts, then we are, in Rav Twerski’s words, “devoid of kedusha.” As the Ramban warns, it is possible to live an unholy life even while remaining within the technical limits of Halakha. And when we do so, Rav Twerski writes, we fail to develop what he calls “a feeling of kedusha,” an awareness of our inner sanctity which is necessary to withstand sinful temptations. In this sense, Rashi and Ramban do not argue, but rather express two aspects of the same requirement. We are to cultivate an awareness of our innate stature of kedusha through avoiding excessive preoccupation with worldly pleasures, and this awareness will, in turn, help us overcome the challenges that arise in our quest to adhere to the Torah’s code of decency and morality.
The Torah in Parashat Kedoshim (19:27) introduces the prohibition of “lo takifu pe’at roshekhem,” which forbids “rounding” the hair of a man’s head by removing the sideburns, the hair that grows alongside the ears.
The Gemara in Masekhet Makkot (20b) cites a berayta stating that when somebody shaves a person’s sideburns, both the “makif”’ and the “nikaf” – meaning, the person who performed the act, and the one to whom it was done – are liable to punishment. The question is then raised as to how the nikaf could be liable for an action performed by another person, and the Gemara brings three explanations offered by various Amoraim. The first posits that this berayta follows the minority opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, who maintains that a violator is liable to punishment even in the case of a “lav she-ein bo ma’aseh” – a prohibition transgressed passively, through inaction. According to Rabbi Yehuda, one who has his sideburns removed is liable to punishment for violating “lo takifu” even though he performed no action in violating this command. Hence, one possibility of explaining the berayta is to claim that it reflects Rabbi Yehuda’s position. A second possibility, proposed by Rava, is to explain that the berayta actually refers to the case of somebody who removed his own sideburns, and it means that he is liable to two sets of lashes – one for removing sideburns, and another for having his sideburns removed. The third view is that the berayta speaks of a case where the individual whose hair was cut assisted the barber through some action, and so they are both liable to punishment, as both were actively involved in this forbidden act.
The Rambam (Hilkhot Avodat Kokhavim 12:1) follows the final view, and rules that if a person removes somebody else’s sideburns, the barber is liable to punishment, but the other is not unless he was actively involved. The Ra’avad clarifies that nevertheless, although the one whose sideburns are removed is not liable to punishment if he did not assist the process in some way, he has transgressed the Biblical prohibition of “lo takifu” by virtue of his having allowed this to happen. A number of commentators to the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, including the Mabit, in his Kiryat Sefer, and Rav Avraham de Boton, in his Lechem Mishneh, understood that the Rambam concurs with the Ra’avad’s view. According to this opinion, one who allows somebody to remove his sideburns transgresses this prohibition even if he performs no action to facilitate the removal of his sideburns, notwithstanding the fact that no liability to punishment is incurred without some action being performed.
Rav Yosef Karo, however, in his Kessef Mishneh commentary, disagrees. He contends that in the Rambam’s view, one whose sideburns are removed by another person does not violate Torah law unless he plays some active role. The Noda Bi-yehuda (Mahadura Tinyana, O.C. 76) suggests drawing proof to the Kessef Mishneh’s position by contrasting the Rambam’s comments in this context and his comments elsewhere, in Hilkhot Chameitz U-matza (1:3). There the Rambam writes that if one possessed chameitz before Pesach and did not eliminate it before the onset of the holiday, then he has violated the prohibition against owning chameitz on Pesach, though he is not liable to punishment, since he did not perform any forbidden action. In that context, the Noda Bi-yehuda observes, the Rambam makes it clear that the Torah prohibition is transgressed despite the fact that the violator is not liable to punishment since he performed no action. It stands to reason, then, that if the Rambam felt the same about one who passively allowed his sideburns to be removed, then he would have clearly stipulated as such, just as he did in regard to one who failed to eliminate his chameitz. The fact that the Rambam did not clarify this distinction would seem to indicate that in his view, one who remains entirely passive while his sideburns are removed does not violate the Torah prohibition.
The Noda Bi-yehuda acknowledges that the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Makkot, noted above, at first appears to indicate otherwise. After all, the first view cited by the Gemara explains the berayta as reflecting Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion that one is liable to punishment for Torah violations even if they are committed passively. This certainly seems to suggest that the Gemara took it for granted that even the “nikaf” is in violation of the Torah command, and the question that needs to be answered is why he is liable to punishment, considering his passivity when the violation occurred. By introducing Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion as a possible explanation of the berayta, the Gemara appears to work off the assumption that the “nikaf” is guilty of a violation, regardless of whether he is liable to punishment for this violation. (Indeed, as the Noda Bi-yehuda references, the Ritva proves on this basis that a passive “nikaf” is in violation of the prohibition.)
To answer this question, the Noda Bi-yehuda posits that as a rule, a Torah violation cannot be transgressed without performing any action, unless the Torah makes it clear that it is. For example, by stating that it is forbidden to have chameitz in one’s possession on Pesach, the Torah in effect establishes this prohibition as an exception to the general rule, one which can be violated through inaction – by failing to eliminate one’s chameitz. Similarly, the Torah in several places forbids leaving sacrificial food over beyond its deadline, making it clear that one commits this violation passively, by failing to consume the food in time. With regard to the prohibition of “lo takifu,” the Noda Bi-yehuda writes, the Gemara initially assumed that since the Torah employed the plural form (“takifu,” as opposed to “takif”), and thus addresses both the “makif” and the “nikaf,” this prohibition, too, is transgressed even through inaction. The fact that the Torah directed this command even to the “nikaf,” a passive participant in this process, indicated to the Gemara that this prohibition falls under the exceptional category of prohibitions which can be violated even without performing an action. And so the Gemara at first ascribes the berayta to Rabbi Yehuda, who maintained that when such violations occur, the violator is liable to punishment. The next two opinions cited by the Gemara, however, reflect a fundamentally different understanding. They counter that when the Torah directs itself to the “nikaf,” it speaks specifically to a “nikaf” who plays an active role – either one who removes his own sideburns, or one who actively assists the barber who removes his sideburns. These two views express an entirely new perspective, seeing “lo takifu” as a standard prohibition, which can be violated only through a concrete action, and not through inaction. Hence, as the Kessef Mishneh understood from the Rambam’s formulation, one who passively allows his sideburns to be removed does not violate Torah law at all.
Yesterday, we noted the prohibition of “lo takifu pe’at roshekhem,” which forbids “rounding” the hair of a man’s head by removing the sideburns, as the Torah commands in Parashat Kedoshim (19:27). As we saw, the Rambam (Hilkhot Avodat Kokhavim 12:1) follows the view in the Gemara (Makkot 20b) that if one removes another person’s sideburns, the one who performed the act is liable to punishment, whereas the person whose sideburns were removed is liable only if he actively assisted the process, such as by turning his head. According to some Acharonim, the Rambam concedes that even if the person remained entirely passive throughout the process, he has violated the Torah prohibition, notwithstanding the fact that he is not liable to punishment since he performed no action. However, Rav Yosef Karo, in his Kessef Mishneh commentary, maintains that in the Rambam’s view, one who passively allows his sideburns to be removed does not violate Torah law at all. As we discussed at length yesterday, this understanding was followed later by the Noda Bi-yehuda (Mahadura Tinyana, O.C. 76).
According to this view, it would appear, one may summon a gentile to remove his sideburns, provided that he – the Jew – remains entirely passive and does not actively participate in the haircutting process at all. Since the prohibition against removing sideburns is not binding upon non-Jews, this should be allowed according to Rav Yosef Karo’s understanding of the Rambam. (Of course, even this view would forbid asking a fellow Jew to remove one’s sideburns, due to the prohibition of “lifnei iver lo titein mikhshol,” which forbids encouraging or facilitating sinful behavior.)
Regardless, Rav Yosef Karo does not follow this view in his codification of the laws of haircutting in Shulchan Arukh (Y.D. 181:4). There he writes explicitly that it is forbidden to even passively allow somebody to remove one’s sideburns, and thus one may not have this done even by a gentile.
This question appears to be debated by the Shakh and Taz, in a different context. Later in the Yoreh Dei’a section of the Shulchan Arukh (198:21), the Taz addresses the case of a woman who needs to immerse on Shabbat or Yom Tov, and failed to cut her nails before Shabbat or Yom Tov. As the Rama (Y.D. 198:20) writes, it is customary for women to cut their fingernails before immersing, due to the possible presence of dirt behind the fingernail would could constitute a chatzitza (obstruction) and thus invalidate the immersion. The Taz cites and disputes an opinion that if the woman must immerse on Shabbat or Yom Tov, when nail-cutting is forbidden, and she neglected to cut her nails before Shabbat or Yom Tov, she should ask a non-Jewish woman to cut her nails for her. In the Taz’s view, this ruling is incorrect, for two reasons. First, since removing the nails is not strictly required, we should not suspend for this purpose the rabbinic prohibition of amira le-nokhri (asking a gentile to perform on Shabbat an action forbidden for Jews). Secondly, the Taz writes, the woman will most likely end up assisting the non-Jew by moving her hands to make the nails more accessible, in which case she would be in violation of Shabbat. The Taz references the halakha that one who has his sideburns removed violates the prohibition of “lo takifu” if he assists the barber in any way, and draws a comparison between such a case and the situation of a woman having her nails cut by a non-Jew on Shabbat. In the latter case, too, if the woman actively involves herself in the slightest way, she would be in violation of Shabbat.
It seems clear from the Taz’s discussion that in his view, one whose sideburns are removed without his performing any action does not violate the Torah prohibition of “lo takifu.” The Taz compares this case to that of a woman who has her nails cut by a gentile on Shabbat, and his concern is only the likelihood that she would assist in some way – clearly indicating that if she does not assist the gentile cutting her nails, she does not violate Shabbat. As the Taz views this case as halakhically comparable to the case of having one’s sideburns removed, we may deduce that in his opinion, one violates the Torah prohibition only if he performs some action contributing to the process.
The Shakh, in his Nekudot Ha-kessef critique of the Taz, strongly disagrees with the Taz’s view. Among the arguments advanced by the Shakh is that the situation of removing sideburns is not comparable to having one’s nails cut by a gentile on Shabbat. Citing Rashi’s comments to the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Makkot, the Shakh explains that the Gemara understood the command of “lo takifu” as directed towards both the person removing the sideburns and the person whose sideburns are removed. The latter’s active involvement is needed only for liability to punishment, which (according to the majority view among the Tannaim) requires an action. When it comes to other prohibitions, however, one who assists the violator is not considered to have transgressed the prohibition, and thus a woman who allows a non-Jew to cut her nails on Shabbat does not violate Shabbat even if she performs an action to help facilitate the nail-cutting. It is clear from the Shakh’s understanding of the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Makkot that in his view, even passively allowing the removal of one’s sideburns is forbidden, and active involvement is needed only for liability to punishment.
Rav Asher Weiss references these and other sources in a letter written to a patient who underwent surgery on his earlobe, and only once he was on the operating table was told that his sideburns would be removed to take skin to be grafted on the earlobe. After the procedure, the man wondered whether he was in violation of the prohibition of “lo takifu” by allowing this to happen. Rav Weiss noted that according to the Kessef Mishneh’s understanding of the Rambam’s ruling, no violation was committed, since the patient was under anesthesia during the entire procedure and thus clearly played no active role to assist in the removal of his sideburns. And even according to the Shulchan Arukh’s ruling, that even passively allowing the sideburns’ removal is forbidden, it could perhaps be argued that one cannot, by definition, be guilty of wrongdoing which occurs while he is asleep (not to mention when he is under sedation). Nevertheless, Rav Weiss concluded that this situation should certainly be avoided, and patients requiring such a procedure should request in advance that skin be grafted from somewhere else so their sideburns would not be removed.
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