The Rishonim write that one should not take a haircut during the Omer period. As we learned above (sec. 3-4), Sefardim observe this prohibition until the morning of the thirty-fourth day of the Omer. Ashkenazim, on the other hand, keep it until the morning of the thirty-third, while some allow haircuts starting from the night of Lag B’Omer. One may rely on those who rule leniently, if necessary (see above, note 5).
Only regular haircuts, that entail an aspect of joy, are prohibited, but it is permissible to trim one’s mustache, if it interferes with one’s eating. Similarly, one who gets headaches when his hair is overgrown, or one who has sores on his head, may cut his hair during this period (based on S.A. 551:13, M.B. 21, and B.H. ibid.; Sefer Pesach KeHilchato 12:8-9).
Both men and women are included in this prohibition. However, a woman may cut her hair for purposes of modesty. For example, if her hair comes out of her head covering, she may cut it (S.A. 551:13, M.B. 79). It is also permissible to cut or pluck hair in order to avoid embarrassment. Therefore, women may pluck their eyebrows or remove facial hairs (Piskei Teshuvot 493:7, quoting R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach; see also Iggrot Moshe, Y.D. 2:137).
One may not cut children’s hair, as well, during this period, but if there is a great need – to prevent them from suffering – it is permissible (see S.A. 551:14, M.B. 82).
The main participants of a brit milah – the father of the child, the sandak, and the mohel – may cut their hair in honor of the occasion (M.B. 493:12; we will discuss the law of Yom HaAtma’ut below, 4:11). According to Ashkenazi custom, one may take a haircut in anticipation of Rosh Chodesh Iyar when it falls out on Shabbat (M.B. 493:5). Sefardim act leniently in this regard only under pressing circumstances (K.H.C. 493:42). 1
Those who follow the customs of the Ari z”l are careful not to take haircuts the entire Omer period, until the day before Shavu’ot, when they cut their hair in honor of the holiday. According to the Ari, one should not get a haircut even for the sake of a brit milah. The only exception is giving [first] haircuts to young, three-year-old boys on Lag B’Omer (K.H.C. 493:13; see below, 5:6, regarding the chalakah [or upsherin] custom).
- According to Ashkenazi custom, one may shave and take a haircut in honor of Shabbat when Lag B’Omer falls out on Sunday (Rama 493:2). Sefardi custom, on the other hand, prohibits this. If Lag B’Omer falls out on Friday, however, even Sefardim allow one to take a haircut and shave on that day (S.A. 493:2). ↩