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Payot (also peyot, payos, peyes, ) is the Hebrew word for sidelocks or sidecurls. Payot are worn by some men and boys in the Orthodox Jewish community based on an interpretation of the Biblical injunction against shaving the "corners" of one's head. Literally, pe'ah means corners, sides or edges. There are different styles of payot among Haredi, Yemenite, and Hasidic Jews. Yemenite Jews called their sidelocks simanim, literally signs, because their long curled sidelocks served as a distinguishing feature in Yemenite society.

Rabbinical interpretation

The Torah says, "You shall not round off the פְּאַ֖ת peya of your head" (Leviticus 19:27). The word peya was taken to mean the hair in front of the ears extending to beneath the cheekbone, on a level with the nose (Talmud - Makkot 20a). The Mishnah interpreted the regulation as applying only to men. Thus it became the custom in certain circles to allow the hair over the ears to grow, and hang down in curls or ringlets. According to the Shulchan Aruch, cutting the sidelocks was a heathen practice.


From a mystical perspective, payot were believed to separate the front part of the brain, used for abstract thought, from the back part of the brain that governs the body. As kabbalistic teachings spread into Slavonic lands, the custom of payot became entrenched, even though Tzar Nicholas I forbade the practice in Russiamarker in 1845. In the Crimeamarker, Crimean Karaites did not wear peyos, and the Crimean Tatars consequently referred to them as zulufsız çufutlar, meaning Jews without peyos, to distinguish them from the Krymchaks, referred to as zuluflı çufutlar, meaning Jews with peyos. The Hasidic and Yemenite Jews let their sidelocks grow particularly long. Some Haredi men grow sidelocks, but keep them short or tuck them behind the ears.


Brisker Peyot tucked behind the ears
  • Yemenite - The Yemenites wear distinctive long and thin twisted locks, often reaching to the upper arm. The actual area where the hair grows and where the ringlet begins is neat and tidy. Since the Yemenite Jews are one of the most historically isolated Jewish communities, and one of the oldest, a number of claims have been raised that their style of peyos must have been the style which was used in Judah, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple.
  • Chabad-Lubavitch - The Chabad-Lubavitch movement generally have Peyos that start from the top of the temple, hanging down until the bottom of the ear. Usually, the peyos are not very noticeable once a man has grown a beard, as they look as if they are the beginning of the beard.
  • Breslov - The Breslov dynasty of Hasidic Jews sport long and thin locks, the rest of the hair of the head are completely shaved, differing from the Yemenite style in that the upper section, where the hair actually grows, is much more thick and frizzy before descending into the actual locks.
  • Belzmarker - The Belz dynasty wrap their sidelocks around their ears a number of times.
  • Gur - The Ger dynasty raise their sidelocks from the temples and tuck them under a yarmulke. The Ger dynasty was almost annihilated by the holocaust, and most of the survivors moved to Jerusalemmarker; their sidelock style originated in their native Polandmarker as a mechanism to avoid antagonism from non-Jews, and consequently it hasn't usually been followed since the relocation to Jerusalem.
  • Skver - The Skver dynasty twist their sidelocks into a tight coil, and leave them protruding in front of the ear.

The Lithuanian Jews were less influenced by Kabbalistic practises, but still retain sidelocks to a degree, in a small number of variant styles:
  • Lithuanian - The Lithuanian Jews often cut their sidelocks, but leave a few short strands uncut, and neatly place them behind the ear; this style is most commonly found among yeshiva students, who sometimes remove the uncut strands when they have grown sideburns.
  • Brisk – The Brisk movement, which is distinct from Hasidic Judaism, brush their hair straight down, usually so that it reaches to the ear lobe; sometimes, some of the sidelock is not cut, and is curled back behind the ear.

See also


  1. Side Curls
  2. Jewish Encyclopedia
  3. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah:181

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