a) Cutting hair (even just a single one) from a human or animal with a hair-cutting instrument such as scissors or hair clipper is the melacha mid’oraisa (i.e. major category, prohibited from the Torah) of ‘gozez’ (shearing). However, pulling out the hair is not gozez mid’oraisa in most instances, because a living creature suffers pain when its hair is pulled out. It is therefore not the ordinary manner of removing hair (with the exception of tweezing eyebrows, etc.) Even so, any method of hair removal, including pulling out hair, is at least Rabbinically prohibited, due to its similarity to the melacha mid’oraisa of gozez.
b) Combing or brushing hair is (related to) the melacha of gozez because the act of combing and brushing will inevitably pull out hair (and is considered a ‘p’sik reisha’ – inevitable consequence.) This presents a serious dilemma for girls and unmarried women who do not yet cover their natural hair and feel the need to brush and style their hair. However, there is a permissible method of brushing hair on Shabbos (if the rules are followed carefully.) There are three conditions for permissible hair-brushing; all three conditions must be met… Only brushing may be permitted; combing is prohibited under all circumstances.
i) Soft-bristle brush. Only a very soft bristle brush (preferably a baby brush, not ordinarily used for adult brushing) may be used…
ii) Gentle brushing. The brushing must be gentle and only at the top of the hair, not close to the scalp. If the brushing is too vigorous, or too close to the scalp, it is likely to cause hair to be pulled out, even with a soft brush.
iii) Brush designated for Shabbos use. The brush to be used on Shabbos should be designated beforehand for Shabbos use only. (Note: According to some poskim, an individual who knows that any brushing – even when done gently – will pull out some hairs may not brush his/her hair at all. These persons should consult a halachic authority before brushing their hair on Shabbos.)
c) Cutting nails or skin. Cutting to remove finger- or toenails with an instrument (even a knife) is gozez mid’oraisa. Similarly, filing one’s nails is also gozez mid’oraisa because the tiny shavings are being removed with an instrument. However, biting one’s nails is not gozez mid’oraisa, because this is not an ordinary method of trimming nails properly (i.e. it is a ‘shinui’ – lit. change from the ordinary method). Similarly, cutting and peeling off the fingernails of one hand with those of the other is not an ordinary method of trimming nails. Even so, all of these examples are Rabbinically prohibited due to the similarity to the melacha mid’oraisa.
d) Removing warts and dead skin. Just as trimming nails is prohibited, so is the cutting of warts, pimples or loose bits of skin – even if dried up. One must be especially careful not to bite any loose skin on his lips or gums (even if their presence is disturbing), because this too is ‘gozez’. (Note: According to some poskim, this is prohibited mid’oraisa!) Similarly, pulling or rubbing off loose skin from between fingers and toes is forbidden.
to be continued ...