For other uses, see Payot (surname).
Halakhic texts relating to this article
Torah: Leviticus 19:27
Babylonian Talmud: Makkot 20a
Mishneh Torah: Avodath Kokhavim 12:6
Shulchan Aruch: Yoreh Deah 181

Payot (Hebrew: פֵּאָה; plural: פֵּאוֹת), also pronounced pe'ot, peyot; or payos, peyos, peyois, payois in Ashkenazi pronunciation, 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 "corner, side, edge". There are different styles of payot among Haredi, Yemenite, and Hasidic Jews. Yemenite Jews call their sidelocks simonim (סִימָנִים), literally "signs", because their long-curled sidelocks served as a distinguishing feature in the Yemenite society (differentiating them from their non-Jewish neighbors).

Rabbinical interpretation

The Torah says, "You shall not round off the pe'at (פְּאַת) of your head" (Leviticus 19:27). The word pe'at was taken to mean the hair in front of the ears extending to beneath the cheekbone, on a level with the nose (TalmudMakkot 20a).[1] 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.[2] According to Maimonides, shaving the sidelocks was a heathen practice.[3] There is considerable discussion in the halachic literature as to the precise location of the payot and of the ways in which their removal is prohibited.[4]


The Yemenite Jews have an ancient history of payot, one of the first recorded mentions of them was recorded during the birth of Islam by Abdullah ibn Masud, who was reported to have referred to Zayd ibn Thabit as a former Jewish boy with two payot.

"I read the Quran while this Zayd was still a boy with two locks of hair playing among the Jewish children in the literacy (or Torah) school (maktab)."[5]

As kabbalistic teachings spread into Slavonic lands, the custom of payot became accepted there. In 1845 the practice was banned in the Russian Empire.[2] Crimean Karaites did not wear payot, and the Crimean Tatars consequently referred to them as zulufsız çufutlar ("Jews without payot"), to distinguish them from the Krymchaks, referred to as zuluflı çufutlar ("Jews with payot"). Many 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. Even among Jewish groups in which the men do not wear noticeable payot, often the young boys do wear them until around the age of bar mitzvah.


Young hasid wearing twisted payot
Brisker peyot tucked behind the ears

The lengths and maintenance of the payot vary noticeably among Jewish groups:

Most other Hasidic groups wear their payot down and curled.

The Lithuanian Jews were less influenced by Kabbalistic practises, but still retain sidelocks to a degree, in a small number of variant styles:

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Payots.
  1. "Shaving in Judaism". 2009-06-11. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
  2. 1 2 Jewish Encyclopedia
  3. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah:181
  4. "''Halachos Of Payos Harosh''". Retrieved 2013-11-10.
  5. Lecker, Michael (4 October 1997). "Zayd B. Thābit, "A Jew with Two Sidelocks": Judaism and Literacy in Pre-Islamic Medina (Yathrib)". Zayd B. Thābit, "A Jew with Two Sidelocks": Judaism and Literacy in Pre-Islamic Medina (Yathrib). University of Chicago Press. JSTOR 545994.
  6. (Sichot Haran?); The Master of Prayer (from Tales of Rabbi Nachman), where the Master is "not particular about garb at all; see for a video showing a variety of styles among Breslevers.
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