Potential Problems with Electric Shavers

My friend told me that he just brought his new electric shaver to his rabbi to have it checked as to whether it’s kosher. Is he being overly scrupulous or can there be an issue with the kashrus of some electric shavers?

In a previous Halacha Yomis we mentioned the stringency of the Terumas HaDeshen (295) “that it is forbidden to use a pair of scissors if the lower blade (the one close to the skin) is sharp enough to cut the hair by itself were it to be used as a razor. (The Rama (YD 181:10) accepts this stringency of the Terumas HaDeshen). Thus, if we were to find a shaver where the surface that touches the skin is so sharp that it is capable of cutting the hairs in the manner of a razor, it would be assur (forbidden) to use this shaver according to the Terumas HaDeshen. This would be true even if the actual cutting is accomplished by the movement of the blades along the inside of that surface in the manner of scissors”. (Rav Belsky, zt”l in Shulchan HaLevi pages 127 – 128).

Rav Belsky, zt”l ruled that since rotary blade shavers and straight vibrating blade shavers do not contain any razor-sharp pieces and operate strictly on a scissor principle they satisfy the requirements of the Terumas HaDeshen and are thus permitted for use. On the other hand “micro-screen” shavers may be problematic since some companies claim that the screen itself is razor-sharp …. (and the surface of the screen is against the skin), with the internal blades pressing the hairs against the sharp edges of the screen’s perforations. “This presents a formidable problem according to the Terumas HaDeshen. Even according to those who argue with this stringency, if the micro-screen is sharp enough that hairs could be cut by simply sliding it along the skin, it might be classified as a full-fledged razor”. While Rav Belsky. zt”l felt that the companies’ claims as to the razor-sharpness of the micro-screens are “unsubstantiated” he concludes, “Nevertheless, one who is reasonably cautious might still want to refrain from using “micro-screen” shavers because of the companies’ claims.” (ibid p. 128)

Concerning the “lift and cut” shavers, Rav Belsky writes: “The “lift and cut” shaver presents more of a problem. Based on the company’s description, these shavers possess an internal double-blade, the first of which catches the hair and then pulls it beyond the screen and into the shaver. The second blade is then able to cut the hair (by itself without the use of the screen, which is not a scissor action)……Accordingly, it might be forbidden to shave with such devices, even according to the Shulchan Aruch, and certainly according to the Terumas HaDeshen. Removing the hair-catching spring blade would eliminate the concerns” (ibid p. 128).

Based on the complexities mentioned above Rav Belsky, zt”l felt that one should have his shaver approved by a competent halachic authority to make certain that it is a “kosher” shaver.

The Gerald & Karin Feldhamer OU Kosher Halacha Yomis is dedicated to the memory of Rav Yisroel Belsky, zt"l, who served as halachic consultant for OU Kosher for more than 28 years; many of the responses in Halacha Yomis are based on the rulings of Rabbi Belsky. Subscribe to the Halacha Yomis daily email here.