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Mar 29, 2009

The "Chalake-less Chalaka"

The "chalake" is basically the first haircut a young lad gets when he turns age 3. They make it into a big ceremony. The kid goes to the rebbe wrapped in a tallis. The tallis is meant to cover his face so that he should not see anything impure on the way. The rebbe cuts the first lock of hair, and then begins the aleph beis with the boy. They read the aleph-beis together, sing a little bit, read some psukim, including the first pasuk of Vayikra and Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe... and pass out some honey cake.

In our family we have two problems with the above:
  1. We are not hassidic, modern-day litvishe (who have taken many sfardi and hassidic customs - many minhagim that are based in kabala) or sfardi, so we do not wait until the kid is age 3 to cut the kids hair.
  2. Even if we did wait, it can easily be a stretch for a kid in our family to have enough hair for a chalake...
My little boys 3rd birthday is coming up a couple days before Pesach. That falls out when the kids are already on vacation. The teacher offered to either push off the chalake until afetr Pesach or do push it up to before Pesach (i.e. today). My wife chose for logistical reasons to push it up to today.

Considering the above, my son was about to have a "chalake-less chalake". We brought him to school with honey and a honey cake. The rebbe from the kindergarten came into the nurdery for the event. He sat with him, and did not cut his hair.... They did the aleph-beis together, the honey cake, the psukim and all the rest.



in case he was not feeling enough pressure to perform, Big Brothers pour it on...

33 comments:

  1. Rafi-

    Mazel Tov and Harbei Nachas!

    I guess this could also be a chumra...having an "opsherin" even when not cutting hair.

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  2. Mazel Tov!

    Although not chasiddish either, we took on parts of the upsherin. We dropped the tallis, but keep the honey on the letters.
    Though I haven't heard the honey cake part.

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  3. Mazel tov and lots of nachas! And good for you for not bowing to the pressure to grow your kids hair out.

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  4. it is such a haven for lice. bad enough the girls have long hair, why anyone would want their boys to also have it is beyond me....

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  5. I know. But i thought you lose your charedi licence if you don't go with the flow, as it were.

    My brother became an ffb charedi, our family is no minhag for this, we're not sfardi though my maternal grandfather is chassidish. But all their boys have long hair till three and upsherins. Go figure.

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  6. I think most would say I am driving without a license...

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  7. Correct me if I'm wrong but your boys' got some modern-day litvishe payos behind their ears. And that sure looks like modern-day litvishe garb you're wearing. Sounds like you're picking and choosing your modern-day litvishe minhagim (but of course, we all do that, don't we?). Reason no. 2 could have sufficed.

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  8. reason #2 was for humor (though it is true. If he does not have enough hair by age 3, how does he have enough hair for a haircut at age 1.5?

    anyway, that has become a fairly standard style of dress. My kids go to a haredi school, and I dress fairly regular, and when I go to the school I try to make sure to remember to wear a hat and jacket.

    Heck, I have a yemenite neighbor who dresses like that. I have Morrocan neighbors who dress like that. Who doesn't nowadays in thsi type of community?

    Anyways, I am really yekkishe. Real yekkes always wore hats and jackets.

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  9. !מזל טוב
    May you have a lot of נחת from him and from all your children!

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  10. fairly standard style of dress... for a modern-day litvishe. Sefardim (morrocans, yeminites, etc.) dress that way because of the litvishe influence.

    your kids' schools - chareidi - read: modern-day litvishe (chassidish?)

    you may dress "normal" (you forgot to limit that to, "during the week" - because on shabbos, at bar mitzvah's etc. you do wear the litvishe garb - not only at the school), but your kids' payos - that's not yekkish, it's... you guessed it - modern day litvishe.

    and by the way, real yekkes' hats don't look like that - much smaller rim, and more often than not, a different color, and often a different style as well.

    oh, and a real yekke would have used the etymologically german word, "upsherin", not chalaka.

    you may not want to admit it, but you're picking and choosing your modern day litvishe minhagim, so don't say that you've got a problem with the chalaka minhag because it's not your minhag. just call a spade a spade - you passed down some bad hair-growth genes to your kids, and that's all.

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  11. I disagree. I am yekkish with a number of yekkish minhagim. I did not grow up in a yekkishe community, so I did not grow up with yekkish customs of davening and othe rcommunal influenced minhagim. We do keep most personal minhagim of yekkim.

    Hat styles are a matter of style and times. I do not wear the hat because I am a yekke. Rather because I learned in Litvishe yeshivas. When I said yekkes always wore hats it was to say that the hat is not exclusive to the litvishe.

    Yes, some of what I do, much of what I do, is mostly influenced by Litvishe standards, as that is the community I live in and the communities I have grown up in.

    About the term chalake, I used the Hebrew term for it. That is what it is called here for the most part.

    And while I did pass down bad hair genes, if we wanted to do a chalake, it would not be a big deal. We don't do it, because it is not our custom. Do I do other things that are not purely yekkishe and more litvishe. Yes - as I said I grew up only in Litvishe communities. That is the problem of the melting pot of America, and the melting pot of the yeshiva system.

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  12. So I don't understand why you disagree - your roots are german, you keep various german minhagim, but you also keep various litvishe customs.

    Payos - definitely not a yekke custom, yet your kids grow them. tell me - why that and not the chalaka/upsherin?

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  13. well, i wasn't going to sound as aggressive as blackkbelt, but i have to agree with his thoughts - you traitor you........

    the point of living in a non shtetl setting is that everyone can look and behave in their own family customs - even in school. you are supposed to teach your kids that if this is our minhag, it's beautiful and we don't need to look like that or like him. your version of community is the same problem you complained about yeshivos - they destroy family minhagim. you are teaching your kids that our family minhagim are subservient to the communities or to the communal "look".

    tsk tsk

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  14. Kin-ayn-a-hora!
    My grandson's hair was grown for 3 years and the other is also growing hair. It did not come from any of the grandparents but perhaps some of the great grandparents. We are such a hodge-podge of ashkenazi (our 3 daughters-in-law as well) that we don't know what customs might have been followed in Europe. My sons are doing it because they like the idea (neither of them are in what I would call a Litvish yeshiva and I don't really know where they got it. They both said that if the kid gets lice or grows so much hair that it's uncomfortable, they'll cut it before 3. Meantime that hasn't happened.
    Lots of naches from all your kids!

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  15. why the payos? because my wife likes them. and because it is the standard here and the kids like to fit in with their friends. My wife has not yet gotten me to grow them out though...

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  16. the only thing I object to is the suggestion that I take minhagim by "pick and choose". I have my minhagim I grew up with, but the overwhelming majority are minhagim that were naturally adopted as being in yeshiva, growing up in a melting pot (and thereby not knowing a specific minhag and just doing what everyone else was doing - the majority of american minhagim are like that I think), etc.

    So we dont do "chalake" because we never did, but kids go to a litvishe school because where else should they go? There is no yekkishe school here or in most of the world and I never went to one. Should they go sfardic? DL? why is a different choice better than litvishe vis a vie the minhag aspect of it? the kids have peyos because they go to a litvishe school and that is the style nowadays - kids usually like to fit in with their friends. It would not bother me if they did not want the peyos, but they have them because that is the community they are growing up in. I would not call the peyos as a minhag per se, but a social style. I see no importance in it at all.

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  17. so what's the chiluk between "yes" payos and "no" chalaka?

    it would fit just the same if you would replace the word "payos" with "chalaka" in the below paragraph:
    "the kids have peyos because they go to a litvishe school and that is the style nowadays - kids usually like to fit in with their friends. It would not bother me if they did not want the peyos, but they have them because that is the community they are growing up in. I would not call the peyos as a minhag per se, but a social style. I see no importance in it at all."

    so, again - why the payos and not the chalaka? is it any more than - because you (your wife) likes the payos idea and not the chalaka idea???

    if not, well that's what i call picking and choosing. you call it what you want.

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  18. with peyos the kid goes to school for 8 years, high school for another 3-4, then yeshiva gedola for however long. a kid will want to fit in for that period of time. and there is no minhag against it.

    with a chalake - the kid maximum has long hair for three years, usually for considerably less, and in our family it would be "long" for maybe a year. and it is up to age 3. who does he need to fit in with before age 3 that he will have social problems without the chalake? it is short term, and it has no ramifications. So why do something that is not our minhag.

    with peyos, we did not have peyos because we had a minhag of no peyos. We did not have long peyos because it was not the style where we grew up and in the environment we grew up in. my brothers in law all have long peyos. By the time I was in yeshiva gedola many of my friends had long peyos. I even tried it for a short while. We had no specific minhag on the matter - it was just a matter of social environment.

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  19. "with peyos, we did not have peyos because we had a minhag of no peyos." should really say "with peyos, we did not have peyos because we had "a specific minhag of no peyos".

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  20. BBS, I'm not sure why it's necessary to get all accusatory on Rafi. There's nothing really holy about charedi minhagim today ie: it's not like charedim today are upholding age-old mesora that they lovingly learned at their zayde's knee (my own zayde from Munkatzch can't figure out why so many frum boys don't work). It's a hodge-podge of minagim that essentially define a "social style" of a particular community, as Rafi said. So i'm not sure what you're trying to insinuate with your "picking and choosing" taunts.

    It almost sounds like you're accusing rafi of ch'vsh "picking and choosing" mitzvot too, that he's not really committed to being frum if he picks and chooses his random charedi minhagim.

    He wants his kids to fit in, so he's willing to forgo those minhagim that don't wouldn't brand his family too much of an outsider. So what? The chiluk between yes payos and no upsherin is that he doesn't mind first and he doesn't care for the second. It's really as simple as that.

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  21. anyways, I am not aware of any actual minhag of having long peyos among litvishe jews. Look back at pictures of old litvishe jews and of old litvishe yeshivas from the early 1900s and you will see none of the bochurim sporting long peyos.

    Perhaps Brisk had such a minhag, but most of Lita did not. The fact that Litvishe have become so associated with such peyos is more of adoption a social style, perhaps stolen from a hassidic minhag, that happened very late in the 20th century (perhaps the mid 1980s, maybe even a bit later). Long peyos is far from being a litvishe minhag.

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  22. Abbi: I agree with you. I think Rafi's "chiluk between yes payos and no upsherin is that he doesn't mind first and he doesn't care for the second." But Rafi wouldn't agree. He says that bottom line its a minhag thing.
    Anyway, don't read into what I am saying more than just the pashut pshat.

    Rafi: Why do you say that it was social environment that determined your lack of payos growing up in Chicago, but it wasn't social environment (rather, a specific minhag to the contrary) that determined your lack of chalaka?

    You are probably correct that the payos minhag of the modern-day litvishe was gleaned from the chassidim. And if that's true, then all the more so that as a descendant of german jews, your minhag is actually *not* to have payos, just like it is *not* to have a chalaka.

    Unless your father (or grandfather) actually told you that you have no minhag either way for payos but you davka do not to chalakas, I still don't see why you think that there is a distinction.

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  23. i hate the look of little boys with long hair. (fortunately) my husband didnt grow up frum so since "it wasnt his minhag" we didnt do that with our boys. however quite a few ppl told me that its "minhag yerushalayim" to grow boys hair until 3. um - since when? why do ppl feel the need to fit everyone into one mold?
    we did do a version of your chalake-less chalakeh and it was really nice for our boys.

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  24. 2 things. first of all, what's a nurdery? is that for kids who can't make it to the cool gannim?
    2nd, I like it how we can't see your face. it keeps that mystery thing going

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  25. anon - you must be one of the few people who still don't know me or what I look like. It does keep a certain sense of intrigue though...

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  26. actually anon, if you'd see his face, you'd know why it's hidden.......

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  27. Rafi,

    Mazal Tov and shkoyach to you. It's nice that the important parts of the ceremony (i.e., the Torah) have been preserved, even in the absesence of the sartorial pretext.

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  28. Rafi - Anyways, I am really yekkishe. Real yekkes always wore hats and jackets.

    Well, certainly the jacket* :-)

    Mazal Tov - Good looking boy! We have twin three year old boys.

    I think most would say I am driving without a license...

    Are you at all worried that future shidduchim for your kids might be affected due to your level of non-conformance?

    Mark



    * Anyone who knows the etymology of the word Yekke will have to chuckle.

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  29. Mark - no I don't. So they'll marry people who don't care about that.

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  30. In some areas, the Yekkes have the custom of the upsherin (plus the vimpel).

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  31. in what places? I have found differences among yekkishe minhagim, and the differences are usually based on location - which part of Germany they were from...

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  32. Good God, I had no idea of the intricacies...and none of it based in Torah. I think I'll go not boil my kid in its mother's milk...

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  33. Good grief I had no idea of the intricacies, and none of them related in any way to Torah. I think I'll go not boil my kid in its mother's milk...

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