Since the earliest days of record, women have spent time “doing” their hair. While some generations have favored simple styles (like the “bob” of the 1930s), others relished incredibly intricate “dos.” Throughout every phase, however, the braiding of hair has always been both practical and popular.

For Jews observing the laws of Shabbat, hair care can require a little more thought. For instance, one must be careful about pulling hair out, which is considered similar to the prohibited act of shearing. Therefore, when brushing on Shabbat, one should use a soft-bristle brush.

Braiding, likewise, may also be an issue.  While most people associate braiding one’s hair with weaving, the sages of the Talmud actually connected the act of braiding hair to the m’lacha (creative labor prohibited on Shabbat) of building (boneh):

“She who plaits [on Shabbat, is liable for violating] the prohibition of building. Is this then the manner of building?-Even so, as Rabbi Simeon ben Menassia expounded (on Genesis 2:22): And the Lord God built (yee’ven, from the same root as boneh) the rib [. . . into a woman]: this teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, braided Eve[’s hair] and brought her to Adam, for in the sea-towns braiding is called ‘building’” (Talmud Shabbat 95a).

While this may seem like a fanciful interpretation, it actually presents several important concepts. The first, in relation to Shabbat, is the connection of braiding to building on Shabbat. The second, however, is the importance of shalom bayit (peace in the house), for God took the time to help Eve prepare herself before being introduced to Adam.

NOTE: As with all Treats dealing with halacha (points of Jewish law), one should consult one’s local rabbi for practical application.

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