Origin of the Hair Cutting Custom
Hamodiah, April 1999
The first testimony written about the hair cutting custom was by Ha’Ari (the greatest Kabbalist in Zefat) as presented in the Gateway of Intentions for his pupil Rabbi Chaim Vital “In the matter of the custom that is customary in Israel to visit on Lag Ba’Omer the tombs of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Eliezer his son who are buried in Meron and as is known and to drink and be merry there. I saw my teacher of blessed memory Ha’Ari who went there once on Lag Ba’Omer, he and all his family, and he stayed the first three days of that week, and it was the first time that he came from Egypt. And Rabbi Yonatan Shagish told me that in the first year before I went to him, to study with my teacher of blessed memory, that he led his small son there with all his family, and there they shaved his head by the known custom, and he made a day of feasting and drinking.... Also Rabbi Avraham Halevy testified that in the year that I mentioned he also went and I wrote all this down to show that there is a basis for this custom. This act was in the year 5330 approximately. According to Rabbi Chaim Vital it seems that during the time of Ha’Ari there was already a custom as “a known custom” and it would seem that it was an ancient custom, even going back to the first days. Ha’Ari came from Egypt to Meron to carry out the known custom on the day of feasting and joy.
The hair cutting ceremony – the first hair cut: Hassidim and Kabbalists customarily do not cut the hair of a son until he is three. There are those who do the “hair cutting” at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Lag Ba’Omer. With great ceremony they shave the heads of the young boys thus only the side locks remain and then they make a prayer.: A pleasant prayer when shaving the boys May it be Before You, my Lord and Master, thanks to all the righteous and just ones since the day that the world was created and until its end, and thanks to our holy and pure Torah, and to your commandments and your holy names, and thanks to the commandment of the side lock, as you commanded us in your Torah “do not cut your hair at the side of your heads”, and thanks to the holy righteous one our teacher and our rabbi and the crown of our head. As the young boy was granted side locks, shall he also be granted the Torah and a wedding and to do good deeds, and in the life of his father and the life of his mother, Amen Selah, and sing Halleluya.