Upsherin - Tisporet - Chalaka

There is a custom that has been practiced by many Jews throughout the entire world for generations, a ceremony celebrating the first haircut of a boy at the age of three. The primary purpose of the hair cutting is for the intention of leaving and essentially revealing the Peyot/sidelocks. Shortly, we will explore the intention and relevance of the Peyot.

The Yiddish name for this ceremony is Upsherin (in Hebrew, 'Tisporet', and for many Arabic speaking Jews, known as 'Chalaka'), derived from the German words Sheren/shear and Auf/off.

While not Talmudic-based, this custom of celebrating a first hair cut seems to have been around for hundreds of years. The student of R. Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572) writes that his teacher took his family and his young son to Rabbi Shimon's gravesite in Meron on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, the day marking the passing of the 1st-century Sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. There he performed his son's first hair cutting with great joy and festivity, "according to the well-known tradition."

In the Torah, we find that Abraham made a great feast the same day that Yitzchak/Isaac was weaned. (Gen. 21:8) The great 11th-century commentator, R. Shlomo Yitzchaki, otherwise known as Rashi, writes that it was when Yitzchak became two years of age, as he entered the age of three. Perhaps this indicates a time of celebration, marking a transitional moment in a child's maturation.

...a child at the age of three passes through a major transitional period...

Clearly, a child at the age of three passes through a major transitional period, the journey from babyhood to childhood. It is a time when the child is weaned from being completely dependent on the mother to functioning as an independent being, as we will explain shortly.

This transitional period is somewhat related to the first hair cutting of the boy. In earlier traditional sources, there is discussion as to what age parents should give their boy his first hair cut. One source writes as early as thirteen weeks, two years, while others explore the "ripe old age" of five. Most commonly today, the first hair cut is given at the age of three. Select Chassidic groups perform the Upsherin when the child enters the third year, on his second birthday, while most traditions celebrate on the child's third birthday. [In Israel, there is a strong tradition to do it at the burial site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron, especially on Lag b’Omer — KOL]

Drawing a parallel between human beings and their environment, a correlation between trees and humans arises. According to Torah law, (Lev. 19:23) we may not indulge in the fruit of trees that were planted for the first three years; this injunction is referred to as the laws of Orlah, literally translated as concealment. It is the fruit of the first three years that are off limits for human consumption; similarly, the child's hair should be left alone for the first years of life, and only afterward can it be cut.

[Excerpted from the author’s book, Upsherin: Exploring the Laws, Customs & Meanings of a Boy’s First Haircut (available for purchase at //
Click here to read the article in tis entirety, including Kabbalistic insights.]