01. Gozez (Shearing)

The melakha of Gozez (shearing) is the removal of things that grow on the body, such as hair, nails, warts, loose skin, and the like. In contrast, one who actually cuts skin and draws blood transgresses the prohibition of Ĥovel (see below 20:9.) For the Mishkan, lamb’s wool was sheared and then made into thread that was used to make the curtains. Similarly, hair was sheared from taĥash skins so that the skins would be smooth and thus fit for use as curtains in the Mishkan. We see that sometimes shearing is done in order to use material that is attached to a body, as is the case when sheep’s wool is needed to make thread, and sometimes it is done to remove something unwanted, as is the case when removing unwanted hairs to improve animal skins (Rivash; BHL 340:1 s.v. “ve-ĥayav”).

Unlike the melakha of Kotzer, where the prohibition applies only if one cuts off a plant from its life source (below 19:6), here the prohibition applies to shearing wool from the skin of a dead animal as well, because even after an animal’s death there is still a purpose to shearing its wool. Therefore, one should be careful not to pull out threads from a fur coat or a leather carpet (MB 340:5). If doing so serves a purpose, the prohibition is by Torah law; if there is no purpose, the prohibition is rabbinic.

Included in the melakha of Gozez is plucking feathers from a chicken. However, one may pluck feathers from a cooked chicken. This is because after a chicken is cooked it is considered food, and the prohibition of shearing does not apply to food (R. Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim [Aderet], Oveir Oraĥ §366; Har Tzvi, Tal Harim, Gozez 3).

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