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Peyot (but not Peyote)


I’ve heard that the longish curls which Orthodox Jewish men wear are called “Peyot”. Why do they have them, why are they called peyot, and are they related to peyote? Thanks.

AskTheRabbi.org answered:

The Torah teaches:

“Do not cut off the hair on the sides of your head…”  (Leviticus 19:27).

A Jewish male must leave sideburns (peyot which means “corners”) down to the joints of the jaw that are opposite the ear, approximately a third of the way down the ear.

The custom to wear longish peyot is mentioned in the Talmudic commentary of Tosefot, compiled in Touques, France, approx. 1300 CE :

“One has to be exceedingly careful not to remove his peyot even with a scissors because they are like a razor; therefore the accepted custom has been to leave long peyot on children when they have their first haircut.”  (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Nazir 41b)

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in his commentary on the Torah suggests that peyot form a symbolic separation between the front part of the brain and the rear part. The front part is the intellectual, the rear part is the more physical, the more sensual. The wearer of peyot is thus making a statement that he is aware of both facets of his mind, and intends to keep them to their appointed tasks.

And to answer your last question – assuming you were being serious – these peyote are not related to peyote!

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