Traditional Jews often wait until a boy’s third birthday before cutting his hair. This is called “Upsherin” – a Yiddish word meaning to “cut off.” The custom is first mentioned in “Sha’ar HaKavonot” by Rabbi Chaim Vital, the student of the great 16th century Kabbalist, the Arizal.
Why on his third birthday? Because the third birthday is a significant stage in the life of a Jewish boy. It is then that he officially begins his Torah education, and starts to wear a kippah and tzitzit. ,
On a developmental level, three years old is a key transition time. Until now, the boy was a baby – blanket, bottle, diapers. Now he is ready to move into the world of friends, school, etc. Cutting his hair at this time makes a strong emotional impression on the child. He knows that he is advancing to a new stage of maturity, and this helps him live up to the new role.
Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi, the 16th-century founder of the celebrated Lurianic School of Kabbalah, was instrumental in constituting the ritual in its present form. The ritual remained primarily a Sephardi custom following Luria, but in the last 200 years it became widespread among East European Hasidim. From Palestine it spread to the Diaspora communities, where it was usually celebrated in a more modest family setting.
Rabbi Chaim Vital wrote in Sha’ar Ha-Kavanot that “Isaac Luria, cut his son’s hair on Lag BaOmer, according to the well-known custom.” This is one of the earliest mentions of the custom. We know from traveler’s diaries that by the 18th and 19th centuries, the hilula at Meron on Lag BaOmer with bonfires and the cutting of children’s hair had by then become an affair of the masses.
Nowadays it is customary at the Lag Ba’Omer celebrations by the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in Meron, Israel , that three year old boys are given their first haircuts while their parents distribute wine and sweets. Similar upsherin celebrations are simultaneously held in Jerusalem at the grave of Shimon Hatzaddik for Jerusalemites who cannot travel to Meron
When you want to save these precious moments in your child’s life, the book Mazal Tov Baby’s First Record Book beautifully and conveniently stores your child’s memorable firsts. With a pertinent biblical quotation written in Hebrew and English on each page, Mazal Tov is a confirmation of Judaism, tradition and Israel.
Individual pages begin with “I was born on”… “My first haircut”… “Our family tree”… to “My marriage” and more. (Also available in English, Spanish, French and German).
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