Question about Jewish sidelocks

I’ve noticed that those Jews who wear sidelocks (unsure what sect or denomination) tend to have their sidelocks in a single long curl. I assume this is deliberately curled. Am I correct? What’s the significance of the sidelock and curl?

A picture for further discussion: ;j

Curly hair is common among Jews. When I had long hair, the curls looked exactly like that.


“Thou shalt not round the corners of thy head.”

The locks are called paias (I’m almost sure that spelling is wrong. Sadly my bookshelves are no help in the matter and my search page has been hijacked. It’s pronounced PAY-uhs.

It’s traditional to let a boy’s hair grow for a while, years in some cases, then cut everything except the paias.

I’m not sure about the curl. For the past two years or so, I’ve just been letting my hair grow. I was stunned to look in the mirror one day and find that it curled into paias on its own.

As to the significance of the lock in the first place, it’s an interpretation of Leviticus 19:27, particularly common to Hasidic sects:

The significance of the sidelocks is the injunction in Leviticus 19:27, “You shall not round out the corners of your head, and you shall not destroy the corners of your beard.” This essentially forbids Jews from shaving certain spots on the head with a razor, amongst those the spots commonly referred to as sideburns. While it is permitted (according to Jewish law) to trim it with a scissors or electric shaver (at least, those which act more like a scissors than like a razor - there are certain types of electric shaver considered “kosher” and certain types not), many pious Jews, most notably members of Hasidic sects, consider the sidelocks to be a mark of Jewish distinction and will not trim them at all, even though it is technically permitted.

The reason they’re curly is because that curling them tightly is the easiest way to keep long sidelocks neat and out of one’s way.

Doc Cathode:

Specifically, three years. This is because immediately prior to the verse in Leviticus that refers to not cutting the payos (the more usual English transliteration) is a passage which speaks about laws of fruits grown in Israel. Those laws are that the first three years that the tree produces fruit, that fruit is forbidden in any benefit, and then in the fourth year, the fruit is holy and must be eaten in the Temple vicinity. (from the fifth year onward, the fruit can be freely used) A kabalistic interpretation says there is a hidden allusion in those verses which indicates that until a child is three years old, he cannot effectively be trained in religious observance, but upon beginning his fourth year, he should be “made holy,” i.e., trained.

Since the first commandment that follows this allusion is to not cut the payos, it is traditional in many Jewish families (including my own) to not cut a boy’s hair for three years, and then on or around his third birthday, his hair is cut for the first time, but not the payos, thus making a show of fulfilling that commandment. Many of us make a large party on the occasion of the “upsherin” (Yiddish word meaning “cutting of hair” - or “shearing”, so to speak. Careful to choose a reputable barber who won’t rip you off…don’t want to get fleeced! :)) and decorate a Hebrew book of some sort (these days, usually a laminated Aleph-Bais poster) with honey and have the child lick the honey off the letters, introducing him to the sweetness of Torah study and observance. goes into more detail on Upershin.

NOTE- I do not agree with or endorse all views expressed on the rest of the site.

Brilliant stuff, thanks.

I think the curl is pretty natural in many cases. If you’ve got any curl to your hair, that’s what will happen to your sideburns if you don’t cut them. I myself let everything grow for a while in college and got invited to innumerable Hillel dinners despite being almost pure Irish Catholic in background.

On the curling note – my best friend’s eldest son sleeps in his mother’s old sponge rollers to keep his payos tidily curled. His little brother has curlier hair and just gets touch-ups with his mother’s old curling iron. :smiley: