Posted by: gruvenreuven | August 25, 2008

Upsherin – A New Beginning

What a Cute Little Girl!

Hair in the eyes, ponytail holders, & clips..

Well.. No more!

After - Before

After - Before

When our son was born on 8-Av-5765, my wife and I made a commitment to follow the Minhag (custom) of an Upsherin for him. Our son’s Upsherin would probably be the first Upshering in both our families since my great grandfather ( And who really knows if he even had one). Simply put, an Upsherin is an inaugural hair cutting ceremony held on a Jewish Boy’s 3rd Birthday. As my son was born the day before Tish B’av, a period in which we do not take hair cuts in order to remember and morn the destruction of both Holy Temples, we had to postpone the Upsherin. We didn’t mind. We became accustom to his long flowing hair.

The Upsherin is a relatively modern tradition that has only really been traced back as far as the 17th century. Upsherin, is Yiddish and literally means to Shear Off. The minhag is Kabalistic in origin and is taken loosely from the Torah in the book of Leviticus (19:23) where we are instructed that we are not permitted to eat the fruit that grows on a tree for the first three years.

In the Torah, human life is sometimes compared to the growth of trees. We learn that Torah is like the earth that provides us nourishment, and we are the trees that spring forth. As our children are our fruits, we apply the above torah principle to the cutting of our children’s hair. Thus little boys are not given their first haircut until the age of three. To continue the analogy, it is hoped that the child, like a tree that grows tall and eventually produces fruit, will grow in knowledge and Mitzvot, and someday have a family of his own. The Upsherin then marks a male child’s entry into the formal educational system and the commencement of Torah study.

The day of the Upsherin began like most Sunday mornings as I rushed off to Shul at 7:30am for Shacharis. This week however, I didn’t stay for our Sunday learning as I went over to the Kosher Acme Market to pick up our spread. 15 pounds of cold cuts, salads, 10 loafs of bread and the Birthday cake. (A fest for 40!) I would have been surprised if everything was ready when I arrived, so the cake needing to be decorated didn’t put a crimp into my timeline at all.

As we were holding the Upsherin at my sister-in-law’s house, our plan was to take two cars as I was 50 minutes from home in the opposite direction. I would bring the food and my wife the boys. About 15 minutes into my wife’s trip I called her to tell her I forgot our son’s Kippah & Tzitzit. We were planning to present these to him after his hair cut. My wife kindly drove back to fetch those items. Of course my son had other plans.

We will be forever grateful to my sister-in-law and her Husband for allowing us to use their home for the Upsherin. As we are in the process of buying a house, saving $500 bucks on a hall was a big win for us. But more importantly her house is much more inline with respect to our family’s location. That being the case, this would allow for more family to attend. I guess that meant a lot of our local guests weren’t up for the 1:15 minute schlep to Richboro, but we did have a full family turn-out (from my wife’s side) which is most important. Sadly my parents couldn’t make the trip up from Florida due to health reasons, but we did have my other sister-in-law and Nephew in from Bat-Ayin Israel.

As the guests arrived, I thought I was a real Talmid Chacham. I thought I knew it all. Certainly I wasn’t going to make the same mistake I made at his Bris. There was no way I was going to stand between a simcha gathering of Jews and a Buffet table as I deliver a 20 minute D’var. No, this time I had it all figured out.

For the Upsherin, I was going to have everyone eat first, then I would say a few short words explaining the procedures of the Upshering, it’s Kabalistic roots and what it means for a child to formally start his Jewish Education.

I had plans, and my son saw to it that “a few short words” meant exactly that. In hindsight, I probably should have delivered my D’var before we gathered my son and sat him down in “the Chair”. (Actually Mom had to sit and hold him as he was not too keen in having his hair cut.)
During the Bris, my father had the honor of being the Sandak. He held my son during the circumcision and made sure to hold him still so the Mohel could act on my behalf. I now joke that my Dad had an easier time holding him for the Bris then my wife for his hair cut.

For the Upsherin, my plan was to have everyone take a snip of my son’s hair. The first cut honor went to my father-in-law. This first cut is special in many ways, as not only is it the first cut but it’s done in a spot above his forehead between his eyes. This will be the spot where my son in 10 years Mertz Hashem will lay his Rosh Tefillin.

In furthering my son’s education in Mitzvot we instructed him in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah. After each person cut his hair, they were given coins to place in our Tzedakah box for charity. We did this to teach my son the importance of this mitzvah. Hashem gives us all a livelihood. He provides some more and some less, it’s our job in this world to complete his work and level things out by helping others in need. What better first Mitzvah lesson then that!

My son was then supposed to sticker the person cutting his hair with a Hebrew letter sticker. Well, I think that will need to wait shortly in furthering that aspect of his education as he had no interest in playing letter games with everything going on. Not to fear as he was showered with Hebrew Letter gift/games for his birthday. Matter of fact we were playing a candy-land alef-beis game just the Shabbos before.

Surprisingly, and with a little holding, everyone DID get a turn. When all was said and done, I attempted to present my son with his first pair of Tzitzit and Kippah. The same Kippah & Tzitzit that my wife drove back to get. Well, he was having none of that and when the cutting was done, he was done, promptly running out of the room as I tried to place the Kippah on his head.

The rest of the party was more to his liking. We had a Magician come to entertain the kids (and Adults). It was a great show, complete with a live rabbit and other assortments of illusions. The funny part of the show was pointed out to me by my Friend. The Magician was doing his thing with the TV behind him. If you looked just right, you could catch his back in the reflection of the Television. Ah, so that’s how it’s done!

Magic of David Scott
Magic of David Scott

After the Magic show, and everyone was settled down, we had a friend who is a professional Hairdresser came and fixed up my son’s hair in a more private setting. This was a little easier for him, although during the ride home he did tell me he “wants his hair back”.

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches

After three years of Hippy Hair, it’s funny to see my son walk around the house. It’s easy to stare at him, but before you can vocalize “Hey, who’s the new kid”. My son will turn around and show you he’s still the same sweet Mench, full of that same energy and love he always had…. Just with a lot less hair.



  1. Ohmygosh he is SO handsome! He looks so bright-eyed in the after picture. I love his pouting in the video, too 🙂 I know that pouting style well, as I mastered it as a child!

    Thank you for sharing this special moment with us … it’s so nice to be a part of your life if even via the web for now! Mazel tov!

    I’m curious, of course, to see how the NEXT haircut will go 😉

  2. I think the haircuts get easier as they go… i know they did for me. I had a Pony tail for 18 years while I followed the Grateful Dead. The day I cut it off (And donated it to locks of love) was a traumatic day for me. I remember walking out of the shop, and then telling myself “no you have to go through with it”. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be 3, and only know long hair. I cut it off as I was becoming frum and it was getting in the way of me putting on tefillin properly.

  3. Thank you for sharing that story and video, it was such a wonderful experience. Is he happily wearing kippah and tzitzit? I know it usually take a little while for them to get used to wearing it all the time.

    Mazel tov!!! Please keep us posted with photos and news about your boy’s conversion journey.

    Let me know your e-mail, I’d love to e-mail you my unique story.

  4. Mazel tov!

    So cute: “I hate my haircut” – bli ayin haroh, seriously cute and cool kid!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Also loved mums nervousness and shouting at bubbe and bubbe just laughing – it’s such a family scene, I was laughing out loud – boruch HaShem, you’re really blessed to have all your family together to experience that day!

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